- Slim and lightweight
- Very attractive, solid design
- Backlit keyboard
- Uses Bluetooth rather than Smart Connector
- Protects only the front of the iPad
- High price
Quick TakeBeautifully designed and solidly made, the Brydge 12.9 is one of the best options for converting a 12.9-inch iPad Pro into an iOS-powered laptop, albeit an expensive one.
There are numerous options for turning a 12.9-Inch iPad Pro into a 2-in-1 tablet/laptop. The Apple Smart Keyboard is best known, the Brydge 12.9 deserves some attention, as it boasts a casing milled from a solid block of aluminum and backlit keys.
Note: Those who have the smaller version of the iPad Pro should read our Brydge 9.7 Review.
Build & Design
The Brydge 12.9 attaches to one edge of Apple’s tablet with a pair of rubberized clamps that also function as hinges. This makes the iPad and its keyboard into a clamshell that looks a bit like a MacBook. The two go together so well that some observers might be confused into thinking that the combination is a laptop running iOS.
Brydge offers this product in silver, space grey, and gold to match the colors of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
The accessory has exactly the same length and width as its matching iPad, 12 x 8.75 inches, so it can completely cover the front of the tablet, protecting the screen when it’s being transported. However, there’s no coverage for the back or sides of the computer.
The Brydge 12.9 is 0.25 inches thick, so when it’s closed down over the iPad Pro the combination is just a touch over half an inch. That’s not including the hinges, which bring the total width up to about 0.75 inches.
The body of this product is machined from a block of high-grade aluminum, and it feels very, very solid. It’s as lightweight as it can be, but still adds 1.58 pounds to the tablet, so together they total just over 3 lbs. Brydge couldn’t shave pounds off this keyboard because it needs to support the iPad Pro when it’s open; if the base weighed less, the clamshell would tumble over.
As it is, the iPad and Brydge 12.9 offer excellent “lapability”; they can be easily used together when held in one’s lap. On a desk or table, the tablet is held up firmly, so that the screen doesn’t wiggle during typing.
The dual hinges set the design apart from most of its rivals. They clamp the tablet and keyboard together, as well as swiveling to make the combination function like a clamshell laptop. Unlike a traditional laptop, however, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro can be separated from its keyboard with a tug, allowing it to be more easily used for reading ebooks, playing games, or just casual web access or social networking.
The clamps are cushioned with rubberized plastic inserts, and hold the iPad firmly without scratching its finish. If the clamps get loose, a squeeze tightens them.
The hinges can rotate 180 degrees, giving the Brydge 12.9 a far wider range of viewing angles than most tablet keyboards, and even some laptops. There’s a caveat though: past about 140 degrees, the weight of the iPad becomes too much for the hinges and the tablet will slowly rotate on its own until it’s lying flat.
The base cannot rotate a full 360 degrees, so that the keyboard is behind the display. However, the iPad Pro can be removed from the clamps, flipped around, and then reinserted. Brydge’s designers don’t espouse this because, in this arrangement, the outer hinges cover the lower corners of the display. Nevertheless, we find it useful for watching video as well as drawing with the Apple Pencil.
Opening the clamshell automatically activates the tablet, and closing it puts it back to sleep.
There are five rows of letter and number keys embedded in the Brydge 12.9, as well as a sixth row of function keys. Most are 0.6 x 0.6 inches, with 0.1 in. of space between them. The keyboard itself stretches across 10.7 in. and is 4.1 in. high. What all these specs mean is that this keyboard is similar in size to one designed for a desktop, just without the number pad.
Brydge’s designers included backlights for the keys, so typing in dimly lit areas is easier. There are three levels of brightness, but the only color option is white.
The function keys are very convenient, allowing audio volume and display backlight adjustments, plus there’s a set of multimedia controls. An extra Home key is one of the most useful additions.
The Brydge 12.9 communicates with Apple’s tablet over Bluetooth 3.0, which is how iPad add-on keyboards have worked for years. Support for this type of wireless accessory is built into iOS, and it functions exactly as designed. Pairing the two is simple and needs to be done only once.
That said, Apple added the Smart Connector to the iPad Pro series specifically for add-on keyboards, but the Brydge 12.9 doesn’t use it. If it did, this accessory wouldn’t need its own battery, and there would never be the short delay required every time a Bluetooth device is activated.
We asked several volunteers to try typing on this keyboard, and the comments were universally positive. In our testing, we experienced no problems with dropped or repeated characters.
Brydge says this accessory will last for up to 3 months on a single charge. Presumably, this will be affected by the keyboard backlighting, as this can be a significant drain.
Pressing the battery key gives a rough indication of remaining power. After our testing over four days, frequently using the backlights, the charge had just dropped below 75%.
The list price for the Brydge 12.9 is $189.99. For comparison, the Apple Smart Keyboard for the iPad Pro 12.9 is $169, while the ZAGG slim book for this model is $139.99.
Although Brydge’s offering is the most expensive of these, it’s the only one made primarily of aluminum rather than plastic so there’s some justification for the premium price.
The Brydge 12.9 is beautifully designed and solidly made. Any executive who wants to convert a 12.9-inch iPad Pro into an iOS-powered laptop should seriously consider it.