If there's one thing that Microsoft's Surface Pro tablets have been dinged for again and again, it's the fact that they can't sit in your lap. Even though these products have long been billed as "the tablet that can replace your laptop," the top-heavy nature of the design meant there was just no way the product would remain stable.
Personally, I've never quite fallen into this camp, since it's not an issue I tend to have. But it's such a common complaint that it really can't be ignored. The main culprit is the Surface Pro's tablet design, which takes everything you'd normally put under the laptop's keyboard and stuffs it behind the screen.
Well, if you are looking for a more stable typing experience and want to turn your Surface into something like the MacBook Pro (without upgrading to an expensive Surface Book), there's a new accessory for you. The Brydge 12.3 keyboard dock is a $150 Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad that attaches onto a Surface Pro 3 or Surface Pro 4 with a clever clamp system.
Having used all sorts of convertibles and 2-in-1s with keyboard docks, I didn't have high hopes for this kind of setup. But the Brydge surprised the heck out of me, with an impressive design that works as well as advertised. The moment you pick it up, the first thing you'll notice is that the Brydge is made from high-quality materials. This helps it blend in with the Surface Pro's top-notch design, and the whole setup just looks right.
The keyboard itself is comfortable, and a significant upgrade over the Microsoft Type Cover's flat-but-comfy keys. There's plenty of key travel, and you get very handy function keys for screen brightness and volume. The keys are even backlit, although you'll have to turn the light on yourself with a keyboard shortcut.
The small trackpad is kind of a bummer, but it's not terrible to use. Personally, I find the trackpad on a Type Cover much more comfortable—not only because it's bigger, but it's just generally more responsive as well. It's too bad that they couldn't make the trackpad as good as Microsoft's, but the rest of the kit makes up for it.
Beyond the tiny trackpad, the other issue is that the Brydge is Bluetooth-based, so it can run into small connectivity issues every once in a while like any wireless peripheral. What's great about Bluetooth is that there's no physical connector, so you can use it with other tablets or leave it detached from the Surface if you want. Brydge says a full battery should last around 3 months, and there's a standard micro USB port you can use to juice it up.
So is it worth $150? To anyone who already owns a Surface Pro 4 and is considering the $129 Type Cover, then it is absolutely worth checking out. It feels much nicer to use overall, especially if you type long emails or papers. While it does make the svelte Surface Pro a thicker, heavier device, it's still easily removable, so you aren't giving up any of the flexibility that the Surface Pro offers in tablet mode.
Does it fully replace what you get with a laptop? Not for most people, and something like Lenovo's Yoga line of laptops is a better choice if you think you'll only occasionally need a tablet. But if you're a Surface Pro die-hard who just wants a high-quality keyboard, the Brydge is a credible alternative that scratches that itch beautifully.