Apple’s 10.5-inch iPad Pro has everything needed to be a powerful notebook computer except a keyboard. The Brydge 10.5 can handle that part: it’s a high-end accessory that turns Apple’s tablet into a clamshell laptop.
Does this add-on live up to its $139.99 price? Read on to find out.
There are plenty of iPad keyboards, but virtually all of them add a kickstand to the tablet. By contrast, the Brydge 10.5 converts the iPad Pro into a clamshell, with all the inherent design advantages. Think of it as the other half of the computer: the tablet goes into a pair of clamps that also function as hinges.
Naturally, the length and width of this add-on are the same as the iPad Pro: 9.9 by 7.0 inches. The extra width is the hinges. And the Brydge 10.5 is so slender that when attached to the tablet they are just 0.5 inches thick.
The biggest drawback of this accessory is weight. As with any clamshell, users need to be able to tip the display back, and the keyboard base has to have enough heft to hold it up. In other words, it has to be heavier than the tablet: 1.25 pounds.
We have the silver version of this keyboard, and Brydge did an excellent job matching the colors of the iPad. Like Apple’s tablet, it’s also available in dark grey, gold, and rose gold.
The iPad Pro and the Brydge 10.5 come together only at the hinges, so the tablet gets only marginal protection. The screen is covered, but the sides and back are exposed. Still, that means that all the ports are easily available.
But not everything is as easily accessible. With iOS 11, the Dock became an important part of controlling an iPad, and pulling up the the Dock requires sweeping one’s finger up from the bottom. This gesture is still doable, but the Brydge 10.5 was clearly designed before sweeping up from the bottom of the screen was a thing. Thankfully, double tapping on the Home button that’s part of the keyboard will bring up the Dock.
The hinge/clamps on the Brydge 10.5 are what set this device apart from rival iPad keyboards. It’s no surprise they are patented.
They hold the tablet firmly, and are padded so that they don’t scratch the glass or metal finishes on the device. In the time we used this accessory, it never slipped out of the clamps. If they do become loose from long use, a firm squeeze without the iPad inserted will tighten them gain.
At the same time, removing the computer from the Brydge 10.5 is easy: just pull firmly but carefully to slide it out of the clamps. This allows the iPad Pro to still be used as a tablet.
The hinges can rotate a full 180 degrees, giving users the maximum choice in what angle to view their display. And the hinges are quite firm, so that the iPad is held steady, even when the screen is tapped on.
The keys on this accessory fit in a 9.0 by 3.8 inch area.That makes this keyboard 18% smaller than a full-size desktop keyboard. Most keys are 0.6 by 0.6 in. with about 0.15 in. of key separation. Key travel is acceptable, but not great. People with average or smaller hands won’t have aproblem with it, but it can feel cramped to those with big hands. No “hunt and peck” typist will have a problem.
The version sold in the U.S. has the standard QWERTY layout, and there’s room for a set of direction keys.
Above the number/symbol keys is a convenient row of function keys. The most useful of these is the replacement Home key mentioned earlier, but there’s also a controls for multimedia playback, screen brightness, and a few more.
Of course, a premium keyboard like this one has a backlight. This is white, and extends evenly across all the keys. There are three brightness levels, plus off.
Brydge 10.5 Trackpad
People who try this accessory sometimes ask why it doesn’t include a trackpad, as that would be an ideal addition to the iPad Pro. That’s true, but this feature request actually needs to Apple, because iOS doesn’t support trackpads or mice. Maybe someday this will be a feature in iOS 12, 13, etc., but in the mean time adding a trackpad to the Brydge 10.5 would be a complete waste.
Brydge 10.5 Performance
This keyboard doesn’t use the Smart Connector that Apple added to the iPad Pro models specifically to attach external keyboards. Brydge says this is because this port wasn’t designed to allow keyboards to swivel–Apple’s own Smart Keyboard offers only one viewing angle–so there’s no other option for the Brydge 10.5 than Bluetooth.
Apple integrated support for Bluetooth keyboards into iOS many years ago so there’s no additional software to install, and we ran into no problems getting this accessory to communicate with the iPad.
Still, wireless keyboards need their own batteries, and to preserve them will shut themselves off when not in use. This means that Brydge 10.5 users can’t just come back after a coffee break and start typing; they need to tap their keyboard and wait a second or so while the accessory wakes up and reconnects to the iPad Pro. This isn’t onerous, but it’s somewhat irritating.
Brydge 10.5 Battery Life
Speaking of the battery, Brydge promises that a single charge of this item’s battery will last for up to 12 months when used for 2 hours each day. Naturally, we can’t test that claim, but we can say that Bluetooth accessories draw little power, and our test Brydge 10.5 is still going strong after several days of heavy use.
Just keep in mind that using the backlight at full power for long periods will quickly drain the battery. Although Bluetooth isn’t a big power drain, LEDs use more.
Recharging is done through a microUSB port on the right side. It would have been nice if the Brydge 10.5 used the same connector as the iPad, but Apple would have charged Brydge an arm and a leg for using a Lightning connector.
More than any other iPad keyboard we’ve used, the Brydge 10.5 looks like it was created by Apple to make its tablet into a 2-in-1. It fits better with the 10.5-inch iPad Pro than Apple’s own Smart Keyboard. We find it to be a nearly ideal way to add a keyboard to this device.
It’s too bad the design absolutely requires this accessory to add so much weight.
At $139.99, the Brydge 10.5 is comparably priced. The Apple Smart Keyboard for the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is $159. The ZAGG Slim Book Wireless Keyboard and Case for this tablet is $119.99.