Brydge’s SP Max Plus is a pricey tank of a Type Cover replacement

Brydge’s latest keyboard case for the Surface Pro 8 is a little different than the company’s previous versions. The $229 SP Max Plus consists of a rugged, backlit keyboard and a rugged, detachable case for Microsoft’s current-gen Surface tablet — all of which have an antimicrobial coating. Notably, it operates with a physical connection, not a wireless one. Getting connected via Bluetooth isn’t (usually) that finicky, but you won’t have to worry about that at all here.

The two pieces connect via Brydge’s new proprietary, very strongly magnetized SecureConnect pogo pins, allowing the keyboard to run off the tablet’s battery once attached, instead of needing to be recharged on occasion.

The SecureConnect pogo pins that push power from the tablet and into the keyboard require one very big sacrifice: one of the Surface Pro 8’s two USB-C ports. The inside of the SP Max Plus case has a USB-C plug that you need to carefully align to insert into the tablet, so you’ll want to be doubly certain that you aren’t putting it in wrong (lest you be in a rush and snap off that easy-to-miss and very delicate USB-C plug in an instant, as I did). Note: This was my fault, and I’m no product designer, but it was immediately clear that a better solution would have been for Brydge to include a low-profile USB-C insert that just permanently lives in the Surface Pro 8 and sends power when it’s flush against the case.

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 cradle, which is disappointing.

The SecureConnect mechanism seems like a solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist. I asked Brydge if its method for connection was better than Microsoft’s. Brydge spokesperson Hannah Matthews told The Verge that “Our point of connection (SecureConnect) is not better than the Microsoft type cover (which uses fangs), but it is equivalent.” Okay then.

The SP Max Plus might make sense if you’re someone who’s looking for the most protection possible for your trusty Surface Pro 8. And for some people, losing a USB-C port won’t be a deal-breaker. But if you use Microsoft’s latest tablet for creative uses, or just don’t want to give up any ports, this probably isn’t the right Brydge product for you.