Hands on with new Brydge trackpad firmware, new 10.2-inch model

brydge pro plus

About 10 months ago I reviewed the Brydge Pro+, a version of my favorite iPad Pro keyboard that added a trackpad. The good news was that with iPadOS 13.4, Apple enabled full trackpad support. The bad news was that the Brydge Pro+ trackpad was really disappointing—imprecise, jerky, and with limited multitouch support.

Now Brydge is back with a firmware update that offers a major improvement in trackpad performance. Users of the Brydge Pro+ can sign up to join the beta, which Brydge says will begin on February 24.

One interesting quirk: It requires users to install the iPadOS 14.5 Public Beta. While Brydge wouldn’t comment, that strongly suggests that something within iPadOS was preventing the company from releasing improved firmware until now.

I tried an early development version of the new Brydge Pro+ firmware, and can report that it really is much improved. The Pro+ trackpad feels like a real trackpad, not a trackpad pretending to be a mouse. Most improved are multitouch gestures—two-finger scrolling feels natural, and multi-touch swipes for navigating between apps are solid.

However, it’s not quite a match for the trackpad on Apple’s Magic Keyboard. I had to retrain my finger placement to get two-finger clicks to be registered correctly, and my habit of using my thumb to click (which is just fine on Apple’s trackpads) turns out to be a little confusing to the Brydge.

There’s clearly some Apple secret sauce going on here, because the areas where the Brydge Pro+ trackpad lags behind Apple’s are the same areas where the $150 Logitech Combo Touch also lags. Only the Magic Keyboard offers a trackpad experience that’s equivalent to a desktop Magic Trackpad 2.

If you want the absolute best trackpad experience, Apple’s Magic Keyboard is still the answer. But there are plenty of reasons why you might consider Brydge’s offerings instead. Brydge has always excelled at making an iPad feel familiarly like a laptop. Its keyboard looks like the bottom of a MacBook Pro, the whole thing opens like a laptop, and the hinge supports a wider variety of angles than the Magic Keyboard.

Brydge’s keyboards are quite a bit cheaper than the Magic Keyboard, too. A Magic Keyboard will run you $299 or $349; Brydge’s Pro+ keyboards are currently on sale for $159 and $169.

Brydge 10.2 MAX+
Brydge’s new keyboard fits the low-cost iPad.

Brydge made another announcement on Wednesday. It’s the Brydge 10.2 MAX+, which works with the 7th- and 8th-generation iPad. It’s a collaboration with OtterBox that adds a lightweight protective case to the iPad, which can then slide in or out of a keyboard with multi-touch trackpad. The MAX+ will sell for $130, and Brydge says it will ship in late March.

I got a chance to use an early version of the MAX+ last week, and it’s quite good. Trackpad performance is essentially the same as on the updated Pro+ keyboard, You can basically create a rugged 10.2-inch, 2.5-pound (1.1kg) convertible iOS laptop with trackpad for $459.

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