Following the launch of the 12.9-inch Max Plus keyboard for the iPad earlier this year, Brydge is now releasing an 11-inch version. The new, smaller keyboard has all of the same features as its bigger sibling, including Brydge’s new magnetic mounting system and Instant-On Bluetooth tech, but is sized to fit all generations of the 11-inch iPad Pro and the fourth-generation of the 10.5-inch iPad Air. It’s available starting today, November 3rd, from both Brydge’s online store and Amazon for $199.99.
Despite its smaller size, the 11-inch Max Plus’ pitch is exactly the same as the 12.9-inch model’s: it’s meant to provide a MacBook-like experience with an iPad. That includes a full keyboard layout with a function row, plus a large trackpad that supports multitouch gestures and navigation. The aluminum chassis can be purchased in either a dark gray or a silver finish to match your iPad’s color, and it has a very MacBook-like appearance when the iPad is installed in it.
The big new innovation with the Max Plus line is the magnetic attachment system, which eschews the clamps Brydge used in older designs for a full backplate that connects to the magnets inside the iPad to hold it in place. The advantage here is that it allows you to quickly remove the iPad from the keyboard and use it handheld and just as easily snap it back into place when you want to use the keyboard again.
The Max Plus does not use the iPad’s Smart Connector, relying instead on a Bluetooth connection with the tablet. To overcome the usual delays that happen when using a Bluetooth keyboard with an iPad, Brydge developed its Instant-On technology, which allows the keyboard to stay connected to the iPad for up to four hours, even if it isn’t being used, without detrimental battery drain on either the case or the iPad.
This makes waking up the iPad feel much the same as a directly connected keyboard and mitigates one of the major complaints with Bluetooth. Brydge claims up to three months of battery life between charges, but that varies greatly on how much you utilize the three-level backlight. In the week or so I’ve been testing the product, I’ve not had to charge it back up once.
Brydge CEO Nick Smith tells me that the company’s inspiration for the keyboard feel was the vaunted 2015 MacBook Pro. As a result, the Max Plus keys have a bit more travel than either Apple’s Magic Keyboard case or Logitech’s Combo Touch, the two main competitors in this space. The keycaps themselves are also a little smaller and have a little bit more space between them, but I had no trouble getting comfortable with the layout after a few minutes of use.
Brydge is also very proud of the size of the trackpad it was able to include with the Max Plus; the 11-inch model has a larger trackpad than either Apple or Logitech’s keyboard. It supports multitouch gestures and has good tracking, if not quite as precise as Apple has in the Magic Keyboard. Due to the smaller size of the 11-inch’s deck, I did have a few instances of palm rejection, which caused my cursor to jump across the screen when I didn’t expect it to. But otherwise, the trackpad experience on the Max Plus is quite nice.
Using the Max Plus keyboard is a different experience than the Magic Keyboard or the Combo Touch, by design. It’s a chunkier, heftier product, adding nearly two pounds of weight to the iPad itself, but it’s more stable on a lap, like you’d expect a laptop to be. It’s also more comfortable to type on for longer periods because the deck provides more room to rest your hands. And the full function row is a boon compared to the Magic Keyboard, which requires reaching up to use the iPad’s buttons or touch the screen anytime you want to adjust brightness or volume.
Lastly, because the Max Plus uses a Bluetooth connection, you can remove the iPad from the case and still use the keyboard and trackpad with it. I particularly liked putting the iPad in a portrait orientation when working on a long document, which you can’t do with the Magic Keyboard or the Combo Touch.
The Max Plus is also not designed to provide much in the way of protection. Unlike Logitech’s Combo Touch, when you remove it from the keyboard, you’re holding a bare iPad, and it doesn’t provide any corner protection from drops. If you are looking for a more protective design that has similar traits as the Max Plus, Brydge offers the plastic Air Max Plus, which provides four feet of drop protection.
At $200, the Max Plus undercuts Apple by about $100 and is priced similarly to the Combo Touch. It’s not a budget product by any means; that’s reflected in the copious amount of aluminum used and the long feature list. But if you’re looking for a way to get more out of your 11-inch iPad Pro or iPad Air and want a more traditional experience than Apple’s keyboard provides, there’s a lot to like here.