Last year, Belkin answered the call from first-person-shooter (FPS) enthusiasts and produced a game controller just for them – the USB-based Nostromo n50 SpeedPad. This year, the company has followed up with the new and improved n52 SpeedPad. And while it’s still not perfect, FPS fans may find that the revamped controller can help them make some important plays.
The SpeedPad is a special kind of controller – it’s neither a joystick nor a game pad. Instead, this controller uses a specialized keyboard designed specifically for the needs of FPS players.
Belkin designed the n52 to be used as a left-handed controller (sorry, left-handed mousers). With three rows of keys, a rotating scroll wheel, an eight-way directional pad, a wrist rest, and a couple of thumb buttons thrown in for good measure, the n52 provides instant access to as many keys as you are likely to need to move, change weapons, perform special actions, or activate alternate weapons modes in just about any game.
If you’re already familiar with the n50, you’ll find some important improvements in the n52. The new controller adds a third row of buttons for even more programmability, and an improved scroll wheel that rotates 360 degrees – as opposed to the throttle like low-to-high setting on the n50.
Although the n52 is a bit bigger and bulkier than the n50, I found it most comfortable. Some of the credit goes to the controller’s adjustable (and removable) wrist rest, a carryover from the n50 design. The keys feel a bit flimsy compared with those on a Mac keyboard, but they’re good for a game controller and solidly built for regular use.
Belkin says that you can program as many as 104 functions on the n52 (using shift states that allow you to program multiple functions for a single button). This is accomplished with software, which you’ll have to download from Belkin’s Web site. The software lets you create individual SpeedPad configurations for the games you play, mapping keys to individual functions within the game. As I noted about the n50, I wish Belkin offered prebuilt profiles for specific Mac games (something they do offer for Windows users). Still, the software works well and the device looks cool.
If you’re looking to improve accuracy and performance in 3D shooters and other keyboard-heavy action games, the Nostromo n52 SpeedPad may be right for you. Just plan on doing a bit of work to set it up to your liking.