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.
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.
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.
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
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
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,
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.