First off, Brydge is somewhat of a ‘newcomer’ to the 3rd-party keyboard market having been founded in Park City, Utah, in 2014 (ok, so, technically, they started earlier, via a Kickstarter campaign (for an iPad keyboard), but the company, as it’s currently known, became “real” in April 2014). In that relatively short period of time, they’ve created some excellent keyboards, mostly for iOS & Android devices, but also for the Microsoft Surface. Their latest, for the Surface Pro 4 (also compatible with the Surface Pro 3 & 2017 Surface Pro), is the Brydge 12.3 (which is also available as the Brydge 12.3 Pro, with either 128GB or 256GB of built-in storage). This clever Bluetooth keyboard effectively turns the Surface Pro into the equivalent of a Surface Book, without the higher price of a Surface Book…yet, at the same time, retains everything people prefer about the Surface Pro.
UNBOXING, INITIAL IMPRESSIONS, & BUILD QUALITY:
The packaging is very nicely designed, with the flap opening held in place by magnets. Upon opening, you are greeted with a keyboard constructed out of aluminum, which gives it somewhat of a MacBook Pro-esque appearance. The only included accessories are a USB charging cable, and an extra pair of hinge buffer-grips (more on these, below). While removing the keyboard from the box is simple enough, the “compartment” where the accessories are located is a different story. Unless you want to tear the cardboard (which is glued in place) away from the box, removing the accessories requires a bit of finesse. This could be considered, both, a good & bad thing – good, because the package design holds everything securely in place; bad, because removing items is on the somewhat difficult side.
Getting back to that MacBook Pro-esque appearance, it carries over to the bottom, right down to the round, black rubber feet at each corner, and even the way the information is printed/etched into the bottom of the keyboard. It might even lead to the assumption that the designer(s) previously worked for Apple (to be honest, I have no clue). At the same time, unlike the curved features of Apple’s products, the Brydge 12.3 Keyboard retains the angular appearance, right down to the same degrees of bend, of the Surface Pro. While the mousepad is on the smallish side, it really doesn’t affect me, as I prefer to use the Surface Mouse (to be completely honest, I’ve never cared for the mousepads on laptops, almost-always preferring to use an actual mouse).
As for the keyboard’s build quality, it appears to be as good as (possibly better?) than anything manufactured by Apple. As much as I dislike Apple products, it has nothing to do with their build quality. This appears to be about as solid as could be. As far as I can tell, the keyboard’s top plate is a single piece of aluminum, while the remainder (bottom & sides) is a second piece, with the top plate held in place through 11 screws along the bottom edges. The keys, themselves, are plastic (as opposed to the rubber keys found on a MacBook), but they have a flat (as opposed to glossy) surface, which provides a better, as well as solid, feel.
Setup couldn’t be any easier. First, you want to “attach” (ie. insert) the Surface Pro to the keyboard, which is as simple as sliding the Surface Pro into the hinged tabs on the keyboard. Once the Surface Pro is inserted into the keyboard’s hinge, you might need to slide the Surface Pro left/right, to align the tablet & keyboard edges. If using a Surface Pro 4, or 2017 Surface Pro, use the pre-installed grips; if using a Surface Pro 3, use the grips included in the “accessory pack”. Next, charge the keyboard (you can use the included USB cable, but any USB-to-microUSB cable can be used). Finally, after charging the keyboard, you simply power on the keyboard (Fn + Delete), set the Surface Pro to search for a new Bluetooth device, and then press/hold the keyboard’s Bluetooth button until the power LED (on the Delete key) flashes blue. Once the Surface Pro detects the keyboard, it asks you to enter the 6-digit pairing code, followed by the key, and the keyboard should be paired.
Compared to most laptop keyboards (Windows & Mac), I really like the keys on the Brydge keyboard. They are responsive, provide just the right amount of travel (for chicklet-style keys), and…before I forget to mention it…are backlit. The backlighting is controlled by the Fn + Ctrl buttons, with off, low, med & high settings. As for the mousepad, while I will always prefer using an actual mouse, I must admit that the trackpad is extremely responsive, as are the left/right buttons, and the “tap” function. Compared to the Microsoft Surface keyboard (which I also have), the keys are more responsive, and plain feel better. If I were to say this could, quite possibly, be the best laptop keyboard I’ve ever had the pleasure of typing on, it wouldn’t be far from the truth. Typically, I type reviews on my desktop computer, which has a mechanical keyboard…however, for this review, I am typing the entire thing on my Surface Pro, using the Brydge 12.3 Keyboard. That, alone, should tell you enough about its usability.
As with all but a few products, there’s going to be something at the opposite end of the spectrum. For the most horrible of products, it’s sure to have at least one good thing…likewise for really good (and even great) products, such as this, where there’s bound to be something not-so-good. In the case of the Brydge 12.3 keyboard, the first thing that comes to mind is the weight. One of the primary reasons I chose a Surface Pro was its incredibly light weight. I was tired of carrying around a laptop, and, since obtaining my new desktop, there was no longer a reason to have a gaming laptop (my desktop, needless to say, is quite powerful). Sure, I could have gone with an ultrabook, but they are quite costly. There are also several “2-in-1” hybrid laptop/tablets, but, while less expensive than most ultrabooks, they are also heavier. What I wanted/needed was something with the lightweight-ness of an ultrabook, with the dual-functionality of a hybrid…thus the Surface Pro.
The Surface Pro, alone, weighs 1.73lbs. Add the Surface Pro Type Cover (0.68lbs), and that increases to 2.41lbs, which is still incredibly light (by comparison, the Surface Laptop weighs 2.8lbs, and the Surface Book 3.5lbs). the Brydge 12.3 Keyboard weighs a fairly hefty 1.63lbs, thus, when combined with the Surface Pro, a total of 3.36lbs…anything but “lightweight”. The combination is almost as heavy at the Surface Book…although it’s still considerably less expensive (by $350, when comparing a Core i5 model with 4GB RAM & 128GB storage).
Ease of setting up
Ease of configuring
Excellent material choice
Heavy (almost doubles the weight you’re carrying)
Nothing…honestly, there’s really nothing I “hate” about the Brydge 12.3 Keyboard
Is the Brydge 12.3 Keyboard right for you? Would I recommend it? The answer to both questions is simple, yet complex. Starting with the reason why I wouldn’t recommend this keyboard, the weight…and only the weight…is the one, and only, reason why I wouldn’t recommend it. There are several ultrabooks that are approximately the same weight (some even lighter), which are more powerful, and have more ports (the Surface Pro only has a single USB 3.0 port). Of course, they also cost more, which leads to the advantage of a Surface Pro…as well as why I would recommend the Brydge 12.3 Keyboard……….versatility.
Now, what I’m going to suggest/recommend might seem a bit excessive (cost-wise), but bear with me. If you already have a Surface Pro (3, 4, or 2017) & Surface Pro Type Cover, then the “cost” will be considerably less…so this is aimed more at those who don’t already have these. Having a Surface Pro, a Surface Pro Type Cover, AND a Brydge 12.3 Keyboard is, quite possibly, the BEST combination you could have. Without any key board attached, you have one of the best (possibly THE best) Windows 10 tablets available. Next, sdd the Surface Pro Type Cover, and you’ve created an ultrabook with touch display (which most ultrabooks don’t have), which is lighter than any other ultrabook. Finally, swap the Type Cover for the Brydge 12.3 Keyboard, and you’ve just converted your 2-in-1 hybrid into a true ultrabook (albeit, one with only a single USB 3.0 port…although this can easily be corrected with a portable USB hub). With this collection, you will effectively create a 3-in-1 hybrid, which NONE of the Surface Pro competitors can compete with. In sort, it’s a win-win-win situation.