For many, the iPad is a multi-purpose device. While a lot of work can be done with the touch screen alone, some people enjoy the ability to type on a physical keyboard. The BrydgeMini from Brydge lets you turn your iPad mini into something much more like a small MacBook.
Like other iPad friendly keyboards, this one connects via Bluetooth. However, instead of just being a secondary accessory, the BrydgeMini attaches itself to the iPad. Not only does this give the iPad a protective case over the glass, it creates a device that can be used on a desk, in your lap, or just about anywhere that you might normally use a laptop.
In the box, the BrydgeMini comes with a Micro USB cable for charging, and a set of shims to insert into the case’s hinges. The iPad itself easily slips into the hinge. Once in position, you can squeeze the hinge to tighten the case’s grip on the iPad. When not in use, you can simply fold the two together into a closed position.
The keyboard itself has all of the keys and buttons you come to expect from a Bluetooth keyboard. The top row of buttons are useful and similar in view and function to a MacBook keyboard.
From left to right, you have the home button, power/lock button, and a keyboard backlight button. Pressing it will go through four backlight brightness levels: low, medium, high, and off. Next, you have two buttons to raise or lower the brightness of your iPad screen. To the right of that is a keyboard button, which will either bring up the on-screen keyboard or dismiss it.
There is a dedicated search button on the top row. Pressing it will close the app you are in and take you to the search area of the home screen. This is useful for quickly finding something on your iPad, but iOS 9 doesn’t let you select options from the search results with the keyboard, meaning that you’ll still have to tap the screen to select an option. Lastly, you have your typical Apple keyboard buttons: Media controls to rewind, pause/play, and fast-forward, and two buttons to control your iPad’s volume.
While this keyboard is fully featured, it can still be a challenge for some. In particular, it can take a little getting used to the compact size of the keys. When reviewing this keyboard, my wife spent a good amount of time with it and her iPad mini 2. In her testing, she found herself making a few mistakes because of the compact keyboard. For instance, she would press the ‘2’ key when intending to press ‘1’ because of the ‘1’ key’s location on the edge of the keyboard.
There were other items that she experienced that, coming from a MacBook, were something to get used to. One of these was the combination of the Control and Function keys, which makes it more difficult to perform a Fn+Delete command to delete text in front of a cursor. The inclusion of the ~ and ` characters with the letter ‘Q’ also meant that, to use those characters, you needed to use either the ‘Shift’ and/or ‘Ctrl’ buttons, depending on which special character you are attempting to make use of.
One thing my wife did find useful while using the case was you use a stylus. Because of the case’s location, it can be difficult to tap areas along the bottom edge (and even more difficult to swipe up Control Center). Using a stylus is the easiest solution if you don’t want to slide the iPad out of the clips holding it to the case.
With regards to the case itself, the one nuisance we both found was how the iPad would occasionally become off center. This seemed to happen when the iPad was on an uneven surface and extra pressure was being put on one side, thus showing that the clips, while able to hold the iPad firmly in most scenarios, were not holding it in a tight grip.
Beyond the typical keyboard functions are three other hardware features. The first is a switch at the front, which lets you turn off the keyboard when not in use. Next to it is a button to connect your keyboard to your iPad. The last feature is a micro USB port on the side for charging. Unlike the new iPad Pro, there is no smart connector for accessories to gain their power. While having to bring both a Lightning cable and a micro USB cable for the iPad and keyboard, respectively, might seem like a nuisance, it is easier than having to regularly replace AA batteries.
Overall, this keyboard case is very useful. Appearance wise, it’ll seemingly transform your iPad into a mini MacBook. Performance wise, if you’re someone that does a lot of typing, you’ll find yourself getting more done with this case.
The good: The build quality of the case is excellent. In terms of features and capability, it provides everything you want in a Bluetooth keyboard while also adding a hard cover to your screen. Transforming your iPad into a mini laptop helps with productivity in certain environments.
The bad: The compact design of the keyboard, designed for the iPad mini, might make it tough for some people to type as easily and quickly as one would on a laptop. Clips hold iPad in place but can’t guarantee a secure grip if wanting to hold the iPad by the case.
The verdict: The BrydgeMini is a great case for anyone that does work involving typing on their iPad mini. It’s perfect for those that journal or take notes, especially after you get used to the compact size.
You can buy the BrydgeMini from Brydge for $129. It comes in three colors: Silver, gold, and space gray. Each matches with the corresponding iPad mini color options. Because of the thinner design of the iPad mini 4, this case only worked with the original iPad mini, iPad mini 2, and iPad mini 3. However, if you’re interested in a model for an iPad mini 4, or any of the other iPad models, you can find them on Brydge’s website.