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Belkin Nostromo n50 SpeedPad
(hx) 09:31 PM EDT - Aug,15 2004

There's no doubt that keyboards can't always handle all gaming demands due to their shape and key locations. Belkin Nostromo n50 SpeedPad is unique game controller which combines a keyboard and game pad into one integrated device. The 10 programmable keys on the Nostromo n50 act as keys on a keyboard, but there's also an eight-way programmable directional pad (much like the d-pad on a standard game pad), and Throttle Wheel. Let's take a closer look at this device.

First Look

The Nostromo n50 arrived from IndiWeb Shop in their usual high quality packaging. It was well protected with ample Styrofoam packaging material. Inside the Nostromo n50's box is the Nostromo n50 itself, a software CD and a fairly detailed manual on how to install and use the software. It even had installation instructions for Windows XP. Directions for programming the Nostromo n50 is also provided and very easy to understand.

The Nostromo n50 SpeedPad is about 1/3 (~15cm) the size of most standard keyboards and is designed for right-handed players, meaning they hold their mouse in their right hand. The entire unit is of a hard, molded black plastic, with the ergonomics of your left hand taken into consideration with the placement of the wrist and palm supports. The palm rest is removable if you find it too high/uncomfortable for your hand. On the bottom of the unit is 7 rubber pads which secure it to the desk, and for the most part, it does a good job.

There are 10 programmable keys on the Nostromo n50 - five on top, and five on the bottom. The layout places all the keys within easy reach, for the average-sized hand. These keys are completely programmable (four different configurations with the nine keys) with the included software. These buttons work like normal keyboard keys, with a bit of tactile click and enough travel for a decent feel. The Nostromo n50 also includes a throttle wheel and a small 8-way d-pad which is placed perfectly for the thumb to use.

Installation/Setup

The installation process was pretty easy. Since it's a USB device, all you have to do is connect it to your computer. The USB cable is quite long, allowing you to wrap it behind your monitor to reach the PC. Then insert the installation CD which will automatically starts the installer and a few clicks later, the Nostromo Array Programming Software is installed. This allows you to create your own Profiles and macros for use with the Nostromo n50. The Nostromo Loadout Manager sits in the tray and allows you to load one of the built-in profiles and launch the game of your choice. You can have only one active profile assigned at any one time, but an unlimited amount saved on your HDD.

The installation CD includes 53 pre-built profiles for games like Combat Flight Simulator, Mechwarrior 3 & 4, Counter Strike, Diablo 2, FIFA, NHL, NBA, Madden, Deus Ex, Half Life, Quake 3, No One Live Forever, Hitman, Soldier of Fortune, Unreal Tournament, Rainbow Six, Serious Sam, Tribes 2, F1 Championship and Need For Speed. If you don't like the pre-build profiles or there is not one for the game you want to run, you can build your own custom profile using the handy Profile Editor.

The Profile Editor is an incredibly easy to use tool, yet also very powerful. You select the button you want to program, and then select the function you want that button to perform. You have the option to record a single keystroke or you can create a macro and map that to any of the function keys or D-pad using the Profile Editor. This has a nifty repeat function, and it can record the specific time between keystrokes if necessary. You can program up to 8 functions for the directional pad, and the keyboard provides 10 programmable buttons.

Additionally, you can designate up to three shift states for the keyboard. There are 4 shift states on the Nostromo n50: unshifted, Red, Green and Blue. Your current shift state is illustrated by the relevant colored LEDs on the Pad's corner. They light up to tell you which of three quick-access setups you're using. This means that you can have up to 4 total key configurations on the 10 keys. So with the 10 buttons on the Nostromo n50, you can get 36 different functions in the game. Shift states are perfect for games that use multiple classes of characters that have unique commands.

Game Tests

The first thing you notice when you take the controller out of the box is how well it fits your hand. It sits on your desk, and your hand rests on it, which positions your fingers directly above an array of 10 keys. Your thumb rests on a standard digital directional pad, which is placed alongside a throttle wheel. I've played several games to test out the capabilities of the Nostromo n50. The games were: Doom 3, Painkiller, Far Cry, Unreal Tournament 2004, Nitro Family, Catwoman, The Suffering, Flatout, Mashed and FIFA 2004. The Nostromo n50 was great. It has a comfortable and natural feel that makes it easier to play without always having to look at the keyboard to make sure you are pushing the right button. Once I've mapped the keys to suit my preference, I felt more comfortable than with any keyboard. The Nostromo n50 seems to be pretty good controller for most first person shooters, as well as for all the other genres, including 3rd-person action, role-playing, sport, racing and real-time strategy. Of course, the Nostromo n50 will fail with these games where you need a lot of keys. The only real (though minor) problem I could find with the Nostromo n50 is the wheel which is placed directly below the 10th button. So, if you want to use the wheel, your hand has to be arched up a bit from the palm rest for the index finger to reach it. Needless to say, this takes the rest of your fingers out of their natural positions, making it difficult to press keys and manipulate the wheel simultaneously.

Pros & Cons

Pros: comfortable, logical design, 10 programmable keys,  shift modes making the total useable buttons multiply by 3, can be used in any game, d-pad placed right under your thumb, raised notch on the down-arrow key, long USB cable, decent cost

Cons: Pain to operate in some games with lots of commands, using programmable keys and Throttle Wheel at the same time can be difficult
 

Conclusion

As an owner of the product for about 3 months, I must admit that this is surprisingly very well designed controller. Of course, I took me some time to get used to the SpeedPad. However, now the SpeedPad has found a permanent place on my table as a stable piece of equipment for my PC. If you're a dedicated gamer, and are looking for something to replace your keyboard for use in games, then try the Nostromo n50 and I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

I would like to thank IndiWeb for providing this unit to us for review/testing. Without the generous support of retailers like IndiWeb, it would be exceedingly hard for review sites like GGMania to provide you with the quality articles you read today.


developer: Belkin
publisher: IndiWeb

last 10 comments:

FX5950(09:44 PM EDT - Aug,15 2004 )
Good review. This product might be worth taking a look at.

Anonymous(12:14 AM EDT - Aug,16 2004 )
This is an awesome product. I have it for more than a year now and it works very well. I also purchased their n45, a joystick.

I play FPS, RTS and others genres, it fits all of them. Great piece of hardware, never crashed.

Make sure to check before purchasing the n50, they released the n52, which have a third row of buttons and a throttle.

Check it out. I will probably buy it in the next weeks.

http://catalog.belkin.com/IWCatProductPage.process?Merchant_Id=&Product_Id=157024

Anonymous(09:12 AM EDT - Aug,16 2004 )
I've had the n52 for a few months and that one certainly rocks. Don't know the n50 that well. I must say however that those of you consindering the n50 should also look at the n52. More buttons = more killing power

xxxx(12:16 PM EDT - Aug,16 2004 )
this has been around for years, never seen it in store. guess you have to order it online in canuck land..

Ock462(12:42 PM EDT - Aug,16 2004 )
I had one bout 2 years ago but I sold it because everybody at the lan party's swore that i was cheating in Jedi Knight. But yeah its a pretty sweet piece of hardware.

Sly(01:23 PM EDT - Aug,16 2004 )
I've been seeing this in some of the malls for years, (can't remember it it was the n50 or n52) interesting product but certainly out of most normal gamers and some hardcores (like myself) price range. It cost about 15x that of a normal keyboard over here! o_O

xxxx(01:42 PM EDT - Aug,16 2004 )
ouch!

Anonymous(11:38 AM EDT - Aug,17 2004 )
Ahoj,

i found it @ www.norskit.de

n50 for 27,19 €

and the

n52 for 28,40 €

Greez

Gandohr

ritz(05:08 AM EDT - Aug,18 2004 )
I do think it's a nice product since I have one as well, but I haven't use it for a long time since the games are designed around normal keyboard and mouse, and it get really painful to reconfig all the keys for every new game and demo. And one of the biggest con of the N50 is the lack of spacebar, which should be one of the most used key for all FPS player, and I don't know how any FPS player can play without a spacebar... I tried to use the directional pad as jump, but I keep hitting the wrong direction.. oh well, maybe it's just me.

xxxx(12:02 PM EDT - Aug,18 2004 )
i don't really use spacebar but i see your point and especially about reconfiguring your keys.

FX5900(10:26 AM EDT - Aug,19 2004 )
all nvidia owners will immediately understand the need to have a faster keyboard.

ati fanboys can stick with their abacus.

FX5950(12:01 PM EDT - Aug,19 2004 )
And here he comes again! An actual thread w/o the bs, and the village idiot fx5900 comes running in with his stupid, irrelevant, comments.

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