Microsoft calls the 2017 Surface Pro “the most versatile laptop” in its ads, but the only way you can truly make it a laptop is with an add-on like the updated Brydge 12.3 Surface Keyboard. After all, it doesn’t have a keyboard dock like the Surface Book does.
The Brydge 12.3 Surface Keyboard costs $149.99. Hinge slots along the top edge of the keyboard hold your Surface upright as you work on a train, in the back seat of a car or on a plane.
All told, the Brydge Surface Keyboard is a very convenient way to fix one of the Surface Pro’s biggest design compromises. And a recent update to the keyboard that doesn’t cost any extra adds a glass trackpad that is even better than the trackpad in the original model.
Brydge 12.3 Surface Keyboard Review: Design
The Brydge 12.3 Surface Keyboard’s aluminum body matches the Surface Pro. It’s just 0.64-inches thick. Four black pads on the bottom keep the keyboard and your Surface Pro from shifting on any Surface as you work and play.
The keyboard deck is reminiscent of a MacBook for sure. The Brydge has black keys embedded in the aluminum frame. A silver trackpad lets you easily navigate Windows 10 without touching your screen. On the original model, this trackpad is plastic, but Brydge now sells an updated model that uses a glass trackpad.
Plastic clips marry your Surface Pro to the keyboard. Rubber inside each clip keeps your Surface Pro from shifting as you open and close the setup throughout the day.
When connected, the Brydge Keyboard and Surface Pro weigh 1.43-pounds. That’s less than the 3.6-pounds a Surface Book would weigh, but not as light as the Surface Pro is with a Type Cover accessory. You’ll notice these two devices in your laptop bag for sure.
Brydge 12.3 Surface Keyboard Review: Setup
Surface Type Covers and the Surface Book keyboard dock rely on the Surface Connect port for power and communication. The Brydge 12.3 Surface Keyboard doesn’t do that, and that means it comes with its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages.
It uses Bluetooth technology to communicate with the Surface. You must put the keyboard into pairing mode and connect to it using your Surface Pro’s Settings app. This process is more cumbersome than the quick snap that the Type Cover needs, but you can use it to interact with your Surface from feet away. I think that’s a fair trade. The Surface Type Covers can’t do that.
A Micro-USB port charges the keyboard’s internal battery. So, you do have to monitor how much battery it has left. Brydge says the battery lasts three months with regular use and I found no reason to doubt them. A tiny included USB cable allows you to charge it from your Surface if it dies away from home. The more expensive Brydge 12.3 Surface Keyboard 128 uses this same plug to add 128GB of solid storage to your PC.
Brydge 12.3 Surface Keyboard Review: Experience
All good laptops have plenty of key travel, key caps that feel substantial, a few shortcuts and a slick trackpad surface. The updated Brydge 12.3 Surface Keyboard has all these things.
Typing with the Brydge Keyboard
Each letter or command key has 1.5mm of travel. That’s the same key dexterity as the Surface Book with Performance Base and Surface Laptop, two actual notebooks that Microsoft also sells. The entire keyboard is backlit too, meaning you don’t need to search for a light to see what you’re typing. Three light levels get you the exact brightness you crave.
The sheer number of shortcuts the Brydge keyboard offers surprised me. You expect audio and brightness control. You don’t expect a function key dedicated to opening Outlook Mail or Windows 10’s app switcher. I appreciated that level of detail and I wish my Surface Type Cover also had them.
Brydge’s attention to deal shows up in other places too. Semi-circular rubber pads on the keyboard deck prevent the keys from touching your Surface Pro’s display. I never worried that the keyboard was in my bag destroying my display, which was nice.
Using the Surface Pro’s kickstand and Type Cover to steady it in your lap has never been satisfying. It always feels like you’re one mistake away from dropping the device to the floor. I should know; I dropped my last Surface Pro while working on it in my lap.
The Brydge Surface Keyboard solves that problem. I typed away in a coffee shop for hours with my Surface sitting in my lap. Usually, I search the café for empty tables after typing on my Surface Pro for around an hour because it feels unsteady. Working with the Brydge Keyboard and Surface Pro felt so natural that I spent my entire day in a leather arm chair comfortably typing away. Even better, this setup didn’t heat up my lap like a traditional laptop might. I didn’t notice any screen wobbling either. That’s also something many traditional notebooks suffer from.
My first experience with the Byrdge 12.3 Surface Keyboard was with the model that has a plastic trackpad. At the time, I remarked that Brydge had some work to do before the trackpad was as good as the keyboard’s keys were. For one, the trackpad was too small. I also didn’t like how tacky the plastic surface of the trackpad felt against my fingers.
The updated Brydge 12.3 Surface Keyboard’s glass trackpad fixes one of those issues. Using one or two fingered gestures feels way more natural on it than they did on the plastic model. Your fingers glide along its surface as you scroll down web pages or go back to the Start menu without pressing the Start button. This trackpad isn’t any bigger than the original model, but the glass makes it more usable even without it getting a size increase. I’d still like to see an even bigger trackpad, but Brydge’s decision to embrace a glass surface greatly improves this keyboard’s user experience.
Should You Buy the Bridge 12.3 Surface Keyboard?
Good accessories solve a design problem and the Brydge 12.3 Surface Keyboard does that. It truly does turn the 2017 Surface Pro, Surface Pro 3 and Surface Pro 4 into laptops. Its keys are a pleasure to type on and the keyboard deck itself doesn’t bend and flex. There’s no wobbling as you type either, and that’s something even real notebooks suffer from. The newer model’s updated trackpad fixes one of the lingering issues I had the first time I tried it.
If you purchased a Surface Pro, but really wanted a Surface Book because of its keyboard dock, buy the Brydge 12.3 Surface Keyboard for $149.99. Your fingers won’t hurt after a long day of getting things done, and you won’t constantly worry that your tablet’s built-in kickstand may give way and send your PC crashing to the floor.