Brydge’s Pro Plus iPad keyboard gets much better trackpad support with new firmware

Brydge has announced a new firmware update for its Pro Plus iPad keyboards that promises to hugely improve the trackpad experience. The update brings “native” multitouch to the trackpads, meaning you can use the same kind of multi-finger gestures on a Brydge device as Apple’s own Magic Keyboard.

The Brydge Pro Plus was the victim of unfortunate timing. It was originally announced as a power-user product designed to support Apple’s experimental cursor feature, but then Apple turned that into consumer-level functionality with iOS 13.4 and released its own keyboard/trackpad accessory, the expensive but excellent Magic Keyboard. At launch, the Pro Plus’ trackpad was usable for basic tasks, but it didn’t have full gesture support and couldn’t compete with the smoothness of Apple’s own hardware.

I’ve spent a couple of days with a beta version of Brydge’s new firmware, using the company’s keyboard designed for the 11-inch iPad, and the news is good so far. While the trackpad on this model is quite small, and its levered mechanism means there isn’t a lot of space for clicking, the cursor movement is far smoother and gestures work well. You can use three fingers to swipe between apps, for example, or swipe up to bring you to the multitasking interface. Simple two-finger scrolling is also much improved, working with consistent momentum as you’d expect across various apps.

I’ll have to test the Pro Plus’ new firmware further before giving a final verdict, but my first impressions are positive. The Pro Plus looks like it’ll soon be a much more viable product than it was upon its original launch, particularly since Brydge is putting it on sale today; the 12.9-inch model is getting a $60 reduction to $169.99, while the 11-inch version is available for $40 off at $159.99.

Brydge is also announcing a new trackpad-equipped iPad keyboard, the first product to come out of a collaboration with OtterBox that was announced last year. The 10.2 Max Plus is designed for the seventh- and eighth generation iPads with 10.2-inch displays, and includes a detachable case that Brydge says offers 4-foot drop protection. It’s set to ship in late March and will be available to preorder today for $129.99.

If you already have a Pro Plus keyboard, meanwhile, Brydge is opening signups for a public beta of the new firmware. You can register here; the page notes that the firmware will require an iPad running Apple’s iPadOS 14.5 public beta. The program will begin on March 3rd, but 500 users will get earlier access on February 24th.

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