TLDR: Really pleased with this, a solid 8 out of 10.
[EDIT: wow I didn’t realise it was such a long article… all typed on the Brydge… so if length is anything to go by… ]
Here’s my initial first impressions of the Brydge 12.3 Pro+ keyboard based purely on unboxing and about an hour’s set up/ play with it. I’ll follow this up with more thoughts and happy to answer any questions, but hey, a keyboard is a keyboard right?
Like many V (gen 1) owners, I too suffered from a glitchy keyboard which ultimately failed. I tried to use a third party bluetooth keyboard which was fine if I was at my desk but it meant that I couldn’t really carry the V around with me. I tried and ended up scratching my V’s screen coating which was annoying!
I also grew a little bit tired of the kick stand form factor since it meant I could use the V comfortably on my lap. Sad to say, but if I had my time again, I probably wouldn’t have gone with this form factor and instead go with a more traditional clamshell or convertible.
So looking into options to address this I came across the Brydge. It seemed perfect and it would meet my needs, but the initial reviews were mixed, with reports complaining about about price, the additional weight and in particular the trackpad. This was enough to put me off, but then I heard that a version 2 was coming out. I waited for this and after reading some initial reviews that (largely) suggested the trackpad was fixed… I took the plunge!
Unboxing - nothing fancy. It took a few days to arrive and cost 15 quid for shipping.
Accessories - The keyboard comes with a USB C to USB C cable for charging which would be perfect for the V you’d think, but sadly the ports are on the wrong side so that means using a separate charger or a USB A to USB C adaptor. Obviously it’s way too early to say anything about battery life, but the general view seems to be that it’s more like a monthly affair than anything more regular.
Trying it on - I didn’t see any additional rubber bits for the hinges so I threw caution to the wind and slipped it on… and it fit very nicely! I believe the V is slightly thicker by fractions of a mm than a Surface Pro 4, but it works. Checking for any light bleed caused by excessive pressure and I can’t see any. The hinges are a good 2-3 mm away from the V’s viewable screen on both sides, so no issues with blocking the screen. The bottom of the V is flush, the sides about 1mm out each and the top of the V is worst with again maybe 2-3 mm of the V jutting out from the keyboard (see pics). Not ideal I know, but I can live with it. Note that flipping the V down on keyboard won’t put the V into standby.
More on the hinge - Lifting it up by the V and giving it a few shakes the Brydge stays on fine. Lift it up by the Brydge however with the keyboard flat to the V (so it’s all on one plane) and the V’s weight does mean that it will slip out if you hold it downwards. Also on one plane, holding it horizontally and the hinge will stop the V from going beyond 180 degrees. These slightly unrealistic scenarios aside, holding it by the keyboard with the V angled as you would you use it (i.e. about 100 degrees) and the hinge has enough tension to hold the V in place. Tapping the touch screen doesn’t result in much wobble. Note finally that because the kickstand is clamped down by the hinges, you can’t access the micro SD card slot without taking the V out, which thankfully is quite easy to do when you want to.
Typing - initial impressions are a little mixed. Despite buying on in the UK, the keyboard has a US layout, i.e. there is an “@” above the Number 2. A little annoying but no biggie. I kind miss the Oops button haha! The keys spacing is generally comfortable and I find myself typing accurately and comfortably and have noticed zero missed keys - the first gen had critique from some who said it would not register some key strokes unless you hit the middle of the keys. The travel feels pretty good, fairly standard for a laptop and more than the thin type cover keyboard keys. They did feel a little rubbery initially, but that feeling is passing and the benefit is that it is nice and quiet. Final gripe so far is that the menu button is a little too close to the left arrow, so I’ve hit that accidentally a few times as I like to use CTRL and arrow keys a lot.
Trackpad - very pleased to say it’s a nice experience (for me!) but not perfect. Initially it felt very quick, a bit quicker than I would normally have. This is accentuated by the smooth surface of the pad that is very slippy. Annoyingly I couldn’t adjust the pointer speed through the mouse settings (I’ve queried this with Brydge). I also tried to focus on the smoothness of this trackpad being this is a bluetooth device so I tried drawing some lines in paint. See below for pics, but it’s clear that there are some micro jitters in the lines which don’t happen with my old bluetooth keyboard. Needless to say the built in trackpad on my work laptop had zero jitters (so it’s not my fault! haha). So if you’re going to draw or do anything precise, you need something other than this trackpad (which I suspect you’d do anyway). As for me, it’s absolutely fine, responsive and lag free for general web browsing and navigation. The multi-finger gestures are pretty quick and accurate. Left and right clicks give a nice click and the top of the trackpad has no give.
Balance - see pics below, but the V despite its weight does go back pretty far before it will lift up the keyboard. I nearly forget that this isn’t a regular laptop as I’ve been typing this sat on my sofa. Note that because the screen is top heavy it will topple earlier than a regular laptop, but once you put your hands on to start typing that naturally will hold it down.
Looks - I think this looks really smart. I got the black one to better match the V and in indoor lighting they look the same. However under brighter light they are different shades, see pic below where I use my phone’s flash to try and highlight this. Talking of lights, I find the backlit leds just a little uneven in the way they shine out at you from an angle.
Feel - the top of the keyboard is a matte plastic and hides finger prints well. The underside feels metallic and is a nice complement to the V. Whilst a bit heavy, it has a rugged solid feel and I love that my V can be protected once again by the keyboard. One bit I’m not so keen on is the rubber bits. Occasionally my hand brushes against the rubber stoppers that stop the screen from hitting the keys when closed. Also the rubber feet on the keyboard and hinge are soft and when they graze on my trousers there’s just a little too much give that makes me worry about durability. Here’s hoping they’ll be ok! General quality otherwise feels very nice, with matte keys that have a very subtle indent.
Final thoughts - I am super happy that I bought this! It has rekindled my use of the V because it no longer just sits on my office desk, but it has become portable again. It really is as if I have bought a new laptop with a touchscreen, but for a fraction of the price. In today’s age when we’re chasing the “next shiny toy” all the time, investing a bit to get more use out of our main computing devices can only be a good thing. Let’s see how things pan out as time goes by, feel free to drop me your questions and I’ll do my best to answer.