The debate over whether Apple’s iPad Pro can replace your laptop isn’t going to end anytime soon. My advice? Use Apple’s largest tablet however you see fit. For me, that means using it like I use a MacBook, complete with keyboard and trackpad.
I usually use Apple’s $350 Virtual Keyboard for iPad Pro, but over the past few weeks I’ve been testing the more affordable $250 keyboard Brydge Max + for iPad Pro. The Max+ does everything Apple’s keyboard can, and even does some things it can’t, making it an alternative for those who can’t spend $350 on an accessory.
Who, what and how?
Who is it for: The Brydge Max + for iPad Pro is for people who want to use their iPad more like a laptop. It’s a full-size keyboard with trackpad that makes it easy to navigate iPadOS, as well as type long articles, email, or spend time chatting in Messages.
What you need to know: The Brydge Max+ comes in three different colors and costs $250. It uses Bluetooth 5.0 to communicate with the iPad Pro, but without lag or excessive battery drain thanks to custom firmware.
How does it compare: Apple’s Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro costs $350, but connects directly to the iPad Pro via the Apple Smart Connector on the back of the tablet. The Brydge Max+ works in a similar fashion to any Bluetooth keyboard, but with firmware customized to ensure a quick connection and seamless touchpad gestures. In addition to adding a keyboard and trackpad, the Max+ adds an extra layer or layer of protection, which doubles as a case – which Magic Keyboard does, it just doesn’t offer as much protection.
Where is it obvious? Brydge inspired by the design of the Max + keyboard – Apple’s MacBook line. The exterior is a slightly darker space gray, and the keys, although thicker, look like what you’d find on a MacBook. The same can be said about the trackpad located just below the keyboard – it looks like that of a MacBook.
At the top of the keyboard is a row of function keys, each with a specific purpose. For example, there’s a home button, one that instantly locks your iPad, another to adjust keyboard brightness, media controls, and a power button. The power button has a small LED indicator built into it that lets you know when the keyboard is in pairing mode or low on battery.
Using the Max+ keyboard in the last week makes me wish Apple’s Magic Keyboard had a row of function keys, like the Max+ had. Apple’s Magic Keyboard doesn’t have any of that; it’s a keyboard with the fewest keys possible, for better or for worse. Without a row of function keys, you have to reach up and swipe down at the top-right corner of the screen to see the Control Center, which houses things like media controls or using the trackpad to interact. with the same interface. There are function buttons directly on the keyboard that allow you to quickly press play/pause, adjust screen brightness or volume while keeping your hands on the keyboard.
Attached to the hinge is a back plate with a cutout for the iPad Pro’s rear camera. The plate has some magnets in it to hold the iPad in place as you adjust the viewing angle. Max+ is just as easy to adjust as the Magic Keyboard, but it offers more viewing angles. The magnets are very strong and it takes a bit of effort to peel the iPad off of it. When closed, the Max+ acts as a protective case for iPad Pro when you carry it around or put it in your pocket.
Speaking of carrying it around, the Max+ is heavy. It weighs 2.1 pounds, while the iPad Pro weighs 1.51 pounds. Combine the two and you have a 3.61-pound device that is now 3.5 pounds heavier than the 14-inch MacBook Pro.
Set up and use Brydge Max + is an easy but iterative process. After attaching it, I powered on the keyboard and held down the Bluetooth button until the indicator light flashed blue. A few taps on the iPad then and the pairing is complete.
With the keyboard connected, I installed the Brydge Connect app, which is very important, it is the gateway to updating the Brydge keyboard and ensuring compatibility with iPadOS. In the past, updates have limited or even broken some of the functionality of the Brydge keyboard. However, the company was able to release regular updates to address any bugs or issues.
When I opened the app, I was told that I had a firmware update pending. I followed the instructions in the app, which asked me to plug in the keyboard and then tap a few buttons to start the installation. Once all was done, I had to unpair the keyboard from my iPad Pro, restart it, and then re-pair the keyboard with my tablet. Generally, the setup and update process takes about 10 minutes. The Magic Keyboard has no batteries or Bluetooth – you simply place your iPad Pro on the back, it’s magnetically held in place, and your iPad immediately starts communicating with it via the Smart Connector. You don’t have to mess around with software updates or the like. It’s super easy and very Apple-like.
Typing on the keyboard isn’t as smooth as on Apple’s Magic Keyboard. Apple’s products have slim, chiclet-style keys with very little movement – like the rest of the company’s keyboards. However, the Brydge Max+ has taller keys with more travel and a reassuring click, but not as loud when pressed. The keys are evenly spaced and large enough that I don’t find myself blindly searching for the next letter. My finger naturally fell where I expected.
The trackpad is large, and there’s plenty of space to use any of the gestures iPadOS supports. Brydge has a full list of gestures you can use, like swiping up with three fingers to quickly see the app switcher or swiping down with two fingers to open Spotlight and search for files and apps. application on your iPad.
However, I’m a bit confused about the trackpad – when you tap on it to select something, it makes a very loud click and it’s really annoying.
In spite of Max + uses Bluetooth to communicate with the iPad Pro, without any lag when typing or using the trackpad, and without excessive battery drain. Between Bluetooth 5.0 and Brydge’s firmware customizations, the keyboard stays on and connects to the iPad for four hours for instant feedback. After four hours, you’ll notice a slight lag after the first keypress or touchpad interaction while the two devices reconnect. But then the four-hour timer starts again, in which you will have instant communication. I had to hand it over to Brydge – using a Bluetooth keyboard with an iPad has always caused a sluggish experience, sometimes with connection issues, or even lag when typing messages.
As for battery life, Brydge claims the Max+ battery should last for three months. I haven’t tested Max+ in a long time, so I can’t confirm if that’s a realistic estimate. But I can say this: I’ve owned and used Brydge keyboards in the past, and their battery life has consistently met or exceeded whatever the company cites.
If you’re looking for a keyboard for your iPad Pro, $250 Brydge Max Keyboard + is a worthy alternative to Apple’s $350 Virtual Keyboard. With the Max+, you get dedicated function keys, more viewing angles, and long battery life at a lower price point. But you’re giving up a direct connection to the iPad Pro via Apple’s Smart Connector, along with the promise that Apple’s Magic Keyboard won’t be hit by software updates. That said, the Brydge team has done a tremendous job in rolling out firmware updates.