Razer co-produced Belkin’s Nostromo n52 back in 2004 but have taken the reigns by releasing a carbon-copy of the mini-keyboard with some new perks for the hardcore gamer.
The Nostromo almost looks like a Nintendo Power Glove for the NES from back in the ’80s that’s been torn off and fitted with Tron-themed blue lights and slapped onto a desktop. It’s a funky design, but hasn’t really been changed since the Belkin n52.
The ergonomically designed keypad features 16 firm, numbered ‘Hyperesponse’ keys that are strategically positioned at the fingertips over three rows. The bottom row feels a little displaced at times because of their position so close to the hand rest but it gets comfortable once you get used to it. The keys are larger than average and have a tactile feel for extra comfort. The button that doubles as the spacebar is conveniently located where your thumb would naturally sit, and is directly under the thumb-controlled, 8-direction, programmable joystick and another small button. An additional scroll wheel sits right where the index finger lies.
The Nostromo is suited to RTS and MMORPG players with its fully programmable keys and 20 separate key mapping profiles to switch between (eight of these can be switched instantly from the keypad), each being displayed by the three lights near the ‘spacebar’ key that change colour for each profile. Long-term gamers like World of Warcraft players will find the wealth of key configurations a charm, while their wrists will thank them after hours of non-stop play without the obligatory sore wrist that a normal keyboard might give. You can also adjust the hand-rest, but that seems to be a tightly-held secret for Razer so good luck finding out how…
Other MMO players on Heroes of Newerth (HoN) and DotA will find the 8-direction thumb joystick a treat for being able to scroll through the game map without having to use a keyboard’s arrow keys or leaving their character standing still. The same goes for the RTS crowd in fast-paced strategy games like StarCraft II. The additional scroll wheel may seem redundant given the mouse’s scroll wheel, but having an extra means being able to flip through weapons with one while scrolling through commands with another, for instance.
It takes up a fair bit of space on a desktop when you consider that it’s pretty much a second keyboard, only smaller. But for gamers who are serious about their PC gaming, the switch from a keyboard to a proper controller is a blessing. Casual gamers will find the Nostromo makes for a comfortable substitute for using the WASD configuration for simple directional movement in games, while MMORPG and RTS players will find the true beauty in this gadget.
The device feels like it was moulded to a hand, with every button in reach of a fingertip. The contours fit naturally into the palm of the hand while replacing the need to even move the wrist to find keys or distant macros that you’d find on a normal keyboard gaming set up. You could get so used to using the Nostromo for gaming that you could replace the traditional ‘WASD’ label to ’03-07-08-09.’
The Razer Nostromo Expert gaming Keypad retails at around $70, which means you could be forking out a little more on top to get a full-sized keyboard. The decision to buy here just depends on how keen you are on PC gaming. HoN addicts and those still stuck in the StarCraft II buzz would be more than happy to smash their keyboards for one of these.