- Founded in 1982 by three workers.
- Currently over thosand employees around the world.
- Head office in Compton, California
- Sales in 2001 $500 million.
- Products include USB- and Firewire-hubs, network devices, game controllers, mobile phone and PDA-equipments.
Keyboard & Mouse?
You probably remember the time when Quake I arrived. We got rid of FPS (First Person Shooter) -games, which did not allow to watch up and down. Then arrived another problem. How to control our hero through the game, where is a possibility to watch freely around and at the same time control movements, changing weapons, opening doors etc.? Best help then was the mouse of course, to watch the world and at the same time control other functions on the keyboard. Still today these two are succesfully used in frag hunting. Would it be time to look for something better?
Belkin tries to bring an alternative on the market: product series Nostromo. I managed to get two products for testing. n50 on left hand and n30 on right; let's see what they can do.
n30 is to replace the mouse you happen to have on your desk. The looks is confusing for one used in tradional mouses. Can this really be good?
Mechanical? That's true. Belkin has turned to the old and known technique and placed a normal ball in the mouse. The differences compared to other "normal" mouses don't end here. The wheel does not have the press-funtion; in n30 it's placed in the button on the silver-blue part shown on the left in the picture. It's pressed with the thumb. Belkin has named this structure Battle Wing. The position is quite particular, but this reduces the misplaced presses when turning the wheel during the game.
The wheel is bigger than in other mouses. This increases accuracy in turning it. The surface is rubbered, so the grip is good.
The mouse itself is fair high. The reason is obviously the TouchSense-technology. The mouse has a built-in vibrator, which purpose is to bring more "depth" and realism into the games. The property is available on the desktop and in www-surfing, too. This kind of technique has been available for some time for e.g. in Logitech's I-Feel. The mouse gives physical feedback to the user of for e.g. moving over a window edge. The TouchSense has been developed by Immersion.
TouchSense is configured by TouchWare.. There are different themes available, so one can alter the strenght, lenght etc. of the effects. The property can be also switched off totally or just in certain programs.
Drivers and programs needed were installed easily and automatically by pressing the familiar Next-button of Windows.
Immediately one notices the height of the mouse. The wrist don't get proper support anywhere and one has to hold the hand in the air, because there is not space for the palm. I tested the mouse in GTA III and Counter-Strike for a pretty long time, but my hand didn't get used to the inconvenient position.
How about the vibrations? First the feeling was that this could
be useful, but after playing for a half hour the feeling disapperared. The hand
can't be placed on the mouse so that the vibrations would really be felt. This
also caused that the mouse almost "jumped" on the desk and shaked
unpleasantly against it, which also caused disturbing noice. I don't think that
the hand size would matter much. If having long fingers the palm is even longer
way off the mouse and persons with a small hand have to lift their wrist in
even worse position. This can't be recommended for serious playing or for other
After said this, let's see, if n50 is any better.
n50 is thought to replace the keyboard during playing. This controller is totally independent and it doesn't require for e.g. the n30 beside. n50 will perform the best when paired up with a good quality mouse or joystick.
There are 10 programmable buttons, a wheel and 8-dimensioned thumb controller in the device. The controller is meant just for the left hand. The thumb is placed to the thumb controller, forefinger on the wheel area and the buttons for the rest of the fingers. When the palm is on the device, the wheel is placed a bit too behind, but otherwise the placement of the functions is met with success. In the middle of the device there is a removable palmrest, which can be used to adjust the height suitable for different hand sizes. I couldn't reach the uppermost buttons when using the palmrest. It can be removed simply by lifting it off.
There are 10 buttons to be used. In each of them can be recorded a macro or corresponging key press from the keyboard. The keyboard supports the possibility to program any buttons to be "Shift"-buttons, so the device can be activated in three other modes. Each of these modes can be activated during the game with the certain key press and so the same buttons can be used in different functions. For e.g. in the flight simulation you could put buttons needed for landing in one mode, then the other mode would be for radio communication and navigation and the third mode for combat functions. The different modes are indicaded with the three LEDs on the left side of the device.
The wheel in the device does not turn a whole circle. It can surely be used for mouse-like scrolling while browsing the websites, but the it is only momentarily taken to the lower position, whereat the page is scrolling down. By functionality it corresponds primarily to the throttle familiar in joysticks. This is a good attribute in flight simulations, if there isn't already one in the joystick. In FPS-games the change of the weapon can be bounded into the wheel.
There comes good operating system programs with the n50. These include the manager, which is used to bind the key configurations in certain games and the editor, which the configuration files are made with. These are very easy to install and use. The Manager offers many pre-build key configurations for games like Counter-Strike, Quake 3, Command and Conquer etc. These pre-build files are good enough for many like they are, so they don't need to be edited.
The controller fits in the hand very well. One doesn't have to study the use, as the controls are placed well and functionally they don't vary much from pressing keyboard buttons or using thumb controllers. A couple of hours playing Counter-Strike and I started to notice, how positive the results started to be in the form of a bit raised frags. I don't say they would have been much before, but at that time the improvement is better seen.
n50 GamePad is a great product with a real value. Software is easy to use and does what it should. You have tons of buttons to configure as you please, bind keys, record macros etc. A throttle wheel for your jet simulations or weapon changes in Counter-Strike and a hat switch to move your game hero or look around in a cocpit of F-16 fighter. Ergonomics is as good as it could be, a perfect fit at least for my hand. SpeedPad will remain as my main controller in gaming. Too bad that these can't be bought here in Finland because there will be more demand for sure.
n30 is an another story. Ergonomics is quite bad and you just can't find a good position for your hand. Mouse uses mechanical system to detect movement. For some this may seem odd because we are quite used to these optical mouses these days. Too bad, because it has TouchSense system and a big wheel. This mouse can be a valuable add-on to one's game controllers, but it doesn't fullfill all your dreams.
Pros and Cons
+ Long cable
+ Good-quality software
+ Lifetime warranty
- Design (ergonomics)
+ Long cable
+ Good-quality software
+ Improves gaming performance
+ Lifetime warranty