Perfection in a Box: The Belkin Nostromo n52te

n52te

* Image from http://www.belkin.com/pressroom/images/?sid=1419, ©2000-2008 Belkin International, Inc.

If I could only have one piece of gaming kit, the Belkin Nostromo n52te would be it. It’s not gimp gear and proves the point nicely that ergonomic design is for everybody. My husband loves his N52te as much as I love mine. It’s one of those items you can’t imagine living without once you have one and I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t be able to play World of Warcraft at all without it. In fact, Chris lured me into warcraft with his older version that made playing possible.

Negatives:

1. Bright lights: The N52te comes with quite a few features. I initially salivated over the backlit capability but unfortunately, the lights are so bright that they reflect off my screen when turned on. Even the blue-red-green shift indicator lights are so bright that I’ve covered mine with physio-tape as the blue-shift is permanently on and can’t be turned off.

2. Thumb joystick not thumb friendly: If you have able-bodied thumbs, this shouldn’t be a concern, but if you have any thumb issues, the amount of strain placed on your thumb with the 8-way pad is too much. I initially used the built-in thumb joystick to move, but it caused recurrent thumb dislocations and I had to rethink my set-up. I have re-mapped the buttons so that the joystick buttons now function as shifts for the different keymap states and remaining buttons are used for my most used spells. Plus within the minus – the joystick button is removable and reveals four ergonomic keys underneath.

3. There isn’t one for my right hand. I know, not really a legitimate concern, but as a left-handed person, I feel the need to object. It was a problem back in the days when I still used a mouse with my left-hand, but since I am now using a joystick in one hand and N52 with the other, it doesn’t really matter which way round they go. In fact, I prefer having the Nostromo at my dominant hand as it’s used so frequently.

4. Awkward shift states: I am still struggling to access the shift states well. I find that holding a key down to access shift is easier and quicker than a toggle shift in-game, but holding down two keys are difficult. At the moment, I’m using my left thumb to hold down one of the joystick keys, but it’s causing thumb pain and subluxations. It would have been nice to have a horizontal scroll wheel above the joystick-pad or below, but I guess a girl can’t have everything. I’m not sure that would have been usable though. I’m pretty sure that there really isn’t a way to make the shifts more accessible for my hands. Holding down a key is never going to go down well and toggling will remain to complicated in combat for my easily scrambled brain. I guess I’m stuck on this one.

Positives:

1. Superb design: It’s the most comfortable piece of kit I have ever owned. The ergonomically tilted buttons are a dream underneath my fingertips, the wrist pad is adjustable and have been adjusted to just the right place and even resting on a small pillow next to me on the sofa, it’s sturdy and stays put.

2. Highly programmable: Mapping the keys are easy and the fact that there is so many options are a pleasant surprise. I have cycled through three or four complete new key bindings and each time has been easy to implement a new strategy to try out. The fact that I can map two buttons to one key is a fantastic bonus. No more trying to hit ctrl and tab, I just hit button five in stead.

3. Plug-and-play: I was able to use it within 10 – 15 minutes after delivery to my door.

KEY BINDINGS

I’m not sure that the key bindings I have is optimum yet, but I haven’t been able to improve on my current setup for a few months. I have removed the joystick and now use the underlying four buttons as buttons. My Nostromo is programmed as follows:

Universal keys, identical in all three states: (in brackets are my keybindings within World of Warcraft)

  • Key 5 = Tab (target nearest enemy)
  • Key 10 = Ctrl Tab (target nearest friend)
  • Scroll wheel click: Shift B (open all bags)
  • Scoll wheel: Shift Up and Shift down
  • Button just above joystick: Shift R (auto run)
  • Joystick up: Momentary red shift
  • Joystick down: Momentary green shift
  • Joystick right: Shift 7 (Right Action Button 12) – Druid Tree of Life
  • Joystick left: Shift 8 (Right Action Button 11) – Auto-attack or Drink

Blue shift state:

  • Key 1 = 1 (Action Button 1)
  • Key 2 = 2 (Action Button 2)
  • Key 3 = 3 (Action Button 3)
  • Key 4 =  4 (Action Button 4)
  • Key 5 = Tab (target nearest enemy)
  • Key 6 = 5 (Action Button 5)
  • Key 7 = 6 (Action Button 6)
  • Key 8 = 7 (Action Button 7)
  • Key 9 = 8 (Action Button 8 )
  • Key 10 = Ctrl Tab (target nearest friend)
  • Key 11 = 9 (Action Button 9)
  • Key 12 = 0 (Action Button 10)
  • Key 13 = – (Action Button 11)
  • Key 14 = = (Action Button 12)

Red shift state:

  • Key 1 = q (Bottom Left Action Button 1)
  • Key 2 =w (Bottom Left Action Button 2)
  • Key 3 = e (Bottom Left Action Button 3)
  • Key 4 =  r (Bottom Left Action Button 4)
  • Key 5 = Tab (target nearest enemy)
  • Key 6 = t (Bottom Left Action Button 5)
  • Key 7 = y (Bottom Left Action Button 6)
  • Key 8 = u (Bottom Left Action Button 7)
  • Key 9 = i (Bottom Left Action Button 8  )
  • Key 10 = Ctrl Tab (target nearest friend)
  • Key 11 = o (Bottom Left Action Button 9)
  • Key 12 = p (Bottom Left Action Button 10)
  • Key 13 = [ (Bottom Left Action Button 11)
  • Key 14 = ] (Bottom Left Action Button 12)

Green shift state:

  • Key 1 = a (Bottom Right Action Button 1)
  • Key 2 =s (Bottom Right Action Button 2)
  • Key 3 = d (Bottom Right Action Button 3)
  • Key 4 =  f (Bottom Right Action Button 4)
  • Key 5 = Tab (target nearest enemy)
  • Key 6 = g (Bottom Right Action Button 5)
  • Key 7 = h (Bottom Right Action Button 6)
  • Key 8 = j (Bottom Right Action Button 7)
  • Key 9 = k (Bottom Right Action Button 8 )
  • Key 10 = Ctrl Tab (target nearest friend)
  • Key 11 = l (Bottom Right Action Button 9)
  • Key 12 = ; (Bottom Right Action Button 10)
  • Key 13 = ‘ (Bottom Right Action Button 11)
  • Key 14 = ~ (Bottom Right Action Button 12 )
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