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Manufacturer: Belkin
Min OS X: Any Version    Requires: USB Port

Nostromo SpeedPad n52
January 12, 2004 | Greg Gant

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When I heard that Belkin was releasing the Nostromo SpeedPad n52, I wondered what they could possibly improve. The original Nostromo n50 Speedpad was — and still is — near perfection. In fact, I felt that I shortchanged the n50 in my review, giving it only 8 out of 10. Then I received the n52.

Introducing the n52
Belkin's unique game controller aims to replace your keyboard for first and third person shooters by placing 14 programmable keys, a directional pad, scroll wheel. and thumb buttons, at the tips of your left hand. Rather than fumbling across the keys of your keyboard, the n52 is an ergonomic and innovative solution to the problem. The gaming pad has a low learning curve and feels natural in the hand.

So how did Belkin manage to improve upon the original n50, which was already near perfection? Listen to your critics. The wheel now functions like a scroll wheel rather than a throttle and the LED lights have been moved a much more visible position. The n52 also has a total of six more buttons (seven if you count the clickable scroll wheel) than its predecessor, two of which are operated by the thumb. It is also physically larger than its predecessor. Belkin opted for a much more stylish and bulky design. Some of the grace from the original n50 was sacrificed for the sheer amount of buttons.

The Set Up
Configuring the n52 is almost exactly the same as the n50. Anyone who’s dealt with gamepad configuration programs will appreciate the straightforward graphical nature of the Nostromo Array application. The pad uses configuration profiles called “Targets” that are attached to an application. Whenever a configured application is the active application, the drivers automatically load the target profile. This means one can seamlessly bounce between applications/games with the n52 and always have the proper configuration loaded. Nostromo Array also lets you create new profiles from existing profiles, which is an excellent time saver for applications that use similar keys.

The most unique feature the n50 and n52 share is its ability use “shift states.” Shift states can act like profiles within a profile and function like a modifier key so multiple commands can be attached to any key. The n52 has a total of four shift states that each corresponds with the LED light in the bottom left hand corner of the pad — no state, red, blue and green. Shift states are perfect for games that use multiple classes of characters that have unique commands. I have one complaint about the shift states still hasn’t been addressed in the n52. The drivers still do not have the ability to cycle between shift states. Instead each shift state must be assigned to a separate key. Luckily with the n52, the sheer amount of buttons makes up for the lack of a shift state cycle function.


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