Brydge’s latest keyboard case for the Surface Pro 8 is a little different from the company’s previous versions. The $229 SP Max Plus consists of a rugged backlit keyboard and a rugged, removable cover for Microsoft’s current-generation Surface tablet — all of which have an antimicrobial coating. Specifically, it works with a physical connection, not a wireless one. Connecting via Bluetooth is (usually) not That picky, but you don’t have to worry about that at all here.
The two pieces are connected via Brydge’s new proprietary, highly magnetized SecureConnect pogo pins, allowing the keyboard to run off the tablet’s battery once attached, rather than requiring an occasional charge.
The SecureConnect pogo pins that push power from the tablet to the keyboard require one major sacrifice: one of the Surface Pro 8’s two USB-C ports. The inside of the SP Max Plus case features USB-C plug you need carefully to insert into the tablet, so you’ll want to be doubly sure you don’t misplace it (otherwise you’d be in a hurry and put that easy-to-miss and very delicate USB-C plug in an instant, like I did). Note: This was my mistake, and I’m not a product designer, but it was immediately clear that Brydge would have been a better solution to include an unobtrusive USB-C insert that just lives and transmits permanently in the Surface Pro 8 force when it is flush against the housing.
For giving up one of your precious USB-C ports, which could otherwise be used for data transfer, charging or connecting to a monitor, Brydge’s SP Max Plus gives you very little in return. In fact, it’s just the keyboard functionality. I’d be happy if it at least returned the port on the side of the keyboard for charging, but that’s not what you get here. The keyboard has a spot near the hinge where you can store the Surface Slim Pen 2, but you can’t even charge it in the holder, which is disappointing.
The SecureConnect mechanism seems to be a solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist. I asked Brydge if his connection method was better than Microsoft’s. Brydge spokesperson Hannah Matthews said: The edge that “Our connection point (SecureConnect) is no better than the Microsoft type cover (which uses canines), but it is equivalent.” Okay then.
The SP Max Plus might make sense if you’re someone looking for the best possible protection for your trusty Surface Pro 8. And for some people, losing a USB-C port won’t be a deal breaker. But if you’re using Microsoft’s latest tablet for creative uses, or just don’t want to give up ports, this probably isn’t the right Brydge product for you.