This Handy Keyboard Turns Your Tablet Into A MacBook For Much Cheaper

This Handy Keyboard Turns Your Tablet Into A MacBook For Much Cheaper

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The debate about whether or not Apple’s iPad Pro can replace your laptop isn’t going to stop anytime soon. My advice? Use Apple’s biggest tablet however you see fit. For me, that means using it just like I would a MacBook, complete with a keyboard and trackpad.

I typically use Apple’s $350 Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro, but for the last couple of weeks I’ve been testing out the more affordable $250 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 option for those who can’t stomach spending $350 on an accessory.

The who, what and how Who it’s for: The Brydge Max+ for iPad Pro is for someone who wants to use an iPad more like a laptop. It’s a full-size keyboard with a trackpad that makes it easy to navigate iPadOS, type long papers, draft emails 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 it doesn’t suffer from lag or excessive battery drain, thanks to custom firmware.

How it compares: Apple’s Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro costs $350 but connects directly to the iPad Pro through Apple’s Smart Connector on the back of the tablet. The Brydge Max+ works in a similar fashion to any Bluetooth keyboard but with customized firmware to ensure fast connectivity and that touchpad gestures are seamless. In addition to adding a keyboard and trackpad, the Max+ adds a layer or protection, doubling as a case — something the Magic Keyboard does, only it’s not as protective.

It’s clear where Brydge got its inspiration for the design of the Max+ keyboard: Apple’s MacBook line. The housing is a slightly darker Space Gray color, and the keys, albeit thicker, look just like what you’d find on a MacBook. The same can be said about the trackpad that’s just below the keyboard — it looks just like the MacBook’s.

At the top of the keyboard is a row of function keys, each one with its own purpose. For example, there’s a home button, a button that instantly locks your iPad, another button to adjust keyboard brightness, media controls and a power button. The power button has a small LED indicator light built into it that lets you know when the keyboard is in pairing mode or running low on battery.

Jason Cipriani/CNN Underscored

Using the Max+ keyboard for the last week has made me wish Apple’s Magic Keyboard had a row of function keys like the Max+ has. Apple’s Magic Keyboard doesn’t have any of that; it’s a keyboard with the least amount of keys possible, for better or worse. Without a row of function keys, you either have to reach up and swipe down in the top right corner of the display to view Control Center, where things like media controls are kept, or use the trackpad to interact with the same interface. Having function buttons directly on the keyboard allows you to quickly hit play/pause and adjust screen brightness or volume while keeping your hands on the keyboard.

Attached to the hinge is a backplate that has a cutout for the iPad Pro’s rear camera. The plate has several magnets in it to hold the iPad in place as you adjust viewing angles. The Max+ is just as easy to adjust as the Magic Keyboard, but it offers a wider range of viewing angles. The magnets are strong and take some effort to peel the iPad away from it. When the lid is closed, the Max+ acts as a case to protect the iPad Pro while you carry it around or put it in your bag.

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 now weighs more than the 14-inch MacBook Pro at 3.5 pounds.

Setting up and using the Brydge Max+ was an easy but repetitive process. After attaching it, I powered on the keyboard and held in the Bluetooth button until the indicator light was blinking blue. A few taps on the iPad later and the pairing process was complete.

With the keyboard connected, I installed the Brydge Connect app, which is critical. This app is the gateway to updating the Brydge keyboard and ensuring compatibility with iPadOS. In the past, updates have limited or even broken some functionality of Brydge’s keyboards. The company, however, has been able to routinely release updates that address any bugs or issues.

Jason Cipriani/CNN Underscored

Upon opening the app, I was informed I had a pending firmware update. I followed the directions in the app, which required me to plug in the keyboard and then tap a few buttons to start the installation. Once it was all done, I had to unpair the keyboard from my iPad Pro, reboot it and then re-pair the keyboard to my tablet. All in all, the setup and update process took about 10 minutes. The Magic Keyboard doesn’t have a battery or Bluetooth — you simply place the iPad Pro against

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