Review: Brydge Air for iPad Air and iPad Air 2

The iPad may not be a proper laptop computer, but with a keyboard case, it can get bloody close, and Brydge’s take doesn’t just make it act like one, but look like a MacBook, too.

Is this the best iPad computer case, or just a near approximation to a computer?

Features and performance

Owners of the iPad know all too well just how versatile their tablet actually is.

Sure, it’s a content consumption device made for the taking in of videos, of audio, of video games and the like, but it can be so much more, and thanks to the processing technology inside and the creativity and ingenuity of app developers, you can make an iPad Air and Air 2 do so much.

With the help of a keyboard case, though, it can actually be a replacement for a laptop, and since the iPad first came out, case makers have been dabbling in this category. You find them in plastic variations and metal variations, but they all come generally try to make them based off the same formula: throw the iPad into a case and connect the keyboard to that.

Australian-owned Brydge has a different idea of how a keyboard case should work and is attaching the keyboard directly to the iPad without any need for a plastic bumper or wraparound case, and that’s part of what makes this gadget stand out from the plethora of keyboard cases out on the market today.

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One other thing that makes the Brydge stand out from its cousins over at Logitech, Incipio, and Belkin is the inclusion of a speaker, something keyboard cases aren’t usually equipped with.

We’ll hazard a guess that Brydge has done this to make the keyboard feel more like a proper computer, because that’s the general impression you get about the aluminium keyboard section: it is basically a splitting image of a MacBook Pro bottom, except with the stylisation of the iPad Air 2.

Still, this inclusion of an extra element means your microUSB charge port is essentially charging two things, with the speaker and a small sound system also part of the package alongside that keyboard.

So you get two things for the price of one. Is it worth it, or are there better options out there?

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First things first, there’s the keyboard, and for a keyboard case, this is a pretty important aspect to deal with, so let’s take a gander at that.

Brydge hasn’t just slapped a bunch of keys together and hoped for the best, but has looked at what makes an Apple computer good and more or less crafted something with that attention to detail.

So forget about the plastic and look to metal, because that’s what Brydge has built here, with a unibody aluminium block serving as the main body for the keyboard, with individual island-keys sitting inside that metal block.

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There’s a little more in this, mind you, but we’ll get to that shortly, but the keyboard is where it’s at, offering a decent amount of travel with a solid click to each letter. In fact, the keys appear to be raised at a similar height to what we see on Apple’s own keyboards, giving people something familiar if they’re coming from an Apple keyboard already.

Bluetooth will connect this keyboard to the iPad, but that’s only to send data, and you need a way of connecting the tablet physically to the keyboard.

To make this happen, Brydge has built in two little metal claw pieces decked in rubber that allow you to slide the tablet into place and hold it there when you’re typing.

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There’s no external case or wraparound plastic body here, and you merely push the tablet into place and then align the screen to sit in between the edges of these joints, which also act as the hinge for the case.

It’s definitely an interesting case design, though aligning is very much a manual thing, and one that you’ll need to do on a regular basis.

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Interestingly, the keyboard even offers a modicum of backlighting, with three brightness options, though they’re all fairly dim, truth be told, something we think comes from the lights not really pushing up past keys and creating much of an outline.

In many ways it can come off feeling like an after thought, like the Caps Lock key which lacks a light to tell you when it’s activated and offers no on-screen hint that it might actually be on.

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The other function keys are all pretty much as you’d expect them, though, from the brightness controlling to the on-screen keyboard, while the media and volume controls do exactly what you’d think, controlling pause and playback and sending the volume up and down.

Our one quibble with the Brydge keyboard comes from the Bluetooth, which doesn’t always feel on-target.

We think we’re on the money with this one, because while the woes of Bluetooth could be something occurring for either the tablet maker (Apple) or the keyboard maker (Brydge), we think after trying and frequently using enough keyboard cases, Brydge is the focus on this one, with delays from Bluetooth coming from this keyboard case.

They’re not bad delays, mind you, with one or two letters lost in translation from the connection, but it is something you may notice over extended use. We certainly did.

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