Nostromo n50 SpeedPad
Another controller screams out for attention...and gets it!
| Funky, yet functional!
Cost: Belkin On-Line Price: $35.99 U.S.
When you run a site like PlanetQuake, you get tons of mails with great ideas that people think we should do that simply pimp them out and do little or nothing for the community. Products, services, features and all manor of giveaways where we do the work and a company makes bucks, or people get their names out there. When I got a letter from Tim North of Belkin proclaiming they were ready to unleash the "Best Quake Controller" on an unsuspecting world, and that we could get in on it by giving some away, I shuddered. Like I said, this kind of thing happens almost daily. I replied that I wouldn't give anything away without testing it so people didn't come back to me saying things like "this thing smells of donkey butt and handles like dumptruck you fool!". To their credit, Belkin promptly shipped one my way, even after the challenge I laid out saying that I've been only "close to impressed" with any PC game controller so far and that I doubted their product would see the pages of the "Big Fuzzy".
Days later UPS shows up at my door with this thing that looks like they took part of a keyboard and smashed it together with a console gamepad to make it look funky, but funky isn't the goal here, functional is. Can you tell I was far from excited to put my hands through another tendon wrenching training session on somebodies idea of the perfect beast? Long story short here, the controller was defective. It had a bad forward key that would cut in and out on me. After checking it on multiple machines and telling Belkin it was borked so I couldn't test it, they sent me another. Buggers for punishment or steadfast behind their product, I couldn't decide, but the second Nostromo n50 SpeedPad found it's way to my door. The second controller was fine and I had just gained some respect for how quickly they dealt with the problem. Now let's plug this thing in and give it the bashing of it's life!
The Nostromo n50 SpeedPad is designed not to replace the mouse in your classic keyboard/mouse killer combo, but the keyboard. This seems to be the current trend since device manufacturers have seemingly given up on replacing the much beloved mouse. But who would have thought to throw actual keyboard style keys, a wheel and an 8-way directional pad onto one device? My first thought was that the n50 would be hell to setup. Along with the appearance of a manual and software CD, this was a bit scary for something I really didn't want to spend too much time setting up, but this is part of the beauty of the beast. The n50 SpeedPad can be as simple or complex as you'd like in setup. You do have to install the software that consists of the drivers and two GUI's called the "Loadout Manager" and the "Profile Editor", but those went in without issue and are infact a selling point, but more on that in a bit. The SpeedPad is also a USB device, meaning more ease of installation on the hardware end. Bonus!
The setup applications I mentioned just a second ago are indeed selling points since they allow you to get going in pretty much any game you would use a keyboard with in seconds...really! A quick trip into the Profile Editor (pic) will have you pointing, clicking and programming the SpeedPad's ten keys, wheel and directional pad into any configuration that suits you. Just open up a profile from one of the already available pre-built profiles and adjust it to your liking. Adding more games is a snap, as all you have to do is tell the n50 which keys from your keyboard you'd like it to use and have your game take that configuration with the Loadout Manager. Now that's pretty basic and easy, so much so that in no time any newbie would be jamming with this new toy. But let's not think that this bad boy is a basic little tool.
For the hardcore, the n50 offers a ton of options to let you do just what you want on the limited area you've got. Compared to a full PC keyboard, the n50 looks limited right? Not! The option to create and use macros will have you tweaking and improving the controllers use for some time. Hell I'm still playing around with options myself after over a week of solid use, and each game you use can have it's own special needs that the n50 will help you recognize and use to your best advantage. I've played all three Quakes, NolF, DeusEx, Max Payne and Red Faction on this puppy with no effort at all in getting it to do just what I needed in the games as far as my configs go. I was impressed so far.
Next: But how does it handle?