A compact keyboard right under your palm.
At the risk of sounding blasphemous I will admit this: I prefer first person shooters on consoles. Now before you shake your fist in a fit, hear me out. Let’s disregard the higher performance gain, increased visual fidelity, and improved aural immersion that you get with PC games, and just concentrate on the gameplay, on the controls and that’s where I have my reasons for my preference. For one, I like thumbsticks to move around – not that I do not share equal love for our beloved WASD keys, but thumbsticks just feels more natural way of maneuvering maps. And secondly, a console’s gamepad provides me all the keys nicely and ergonomically wrapped around my fingers. I do not have to twist and stretch them like I would have to on a traditional keyboard. Razer knows our plea and so have teamed up with Belkin (yes, the router guys) for the Razer Nostromo that aims to give gamers that gamepad-like experience while having the customization potential of a solid gaming keyboard.
The Razer Nostromo is based on Belkin’s own Nostromo n52, but knowing that people would not take them too seriously for gaming products, decided to partner with Razer who gave the product their own touch – namely replacing all and any visual color with matte and glossy black. How dare a Razer product have any color?
Nostromo is almost identical to Belkin’s product, and can be best described as a gaming paw, or a gaming glove, ripped out of the WASD side of the keyboard. When I first gripped the keypad, I almost felt I had a mech under my control and all the 16 keys would fire missiles and mounted guns at my command! Developers need make a game especially designed for this keypad, pronto! Along with the 16 keys, the keypad also features a scroll wheel (though I don’t quite understand why), two additional buttons near the thumb area, and an 8-way directional thumb pad. The original Nostromo only had a d-pad, but Razer seems to have understood how useless that would be and have quite simply changed into a thumbstick. There is also a 3-LED system to denote which of the available 8 profiles is activated. Each profile is denoted as an individual color; however, if you plan to have many such profiles, you would have to remember which color stands for which – a little problem that could have been solved away with numerical display of the profile than a color.
The Nostromo also features a Razer trademark icy-blue back lighting system. The back lighting can be turned on by a switch under the device. I would have liked if the back lighting would had changed according to the profile selected, giving the device more visual fidelity, but alas even the option to customize the light was not to be found. I hope Razer includes it in the next revision.
Like all Razer products, the Nostromo also comes packaged with the now familiar configurator software. In fact, we have become so familiar with the software that MS Word seems to have added the word ‘configurator’ to its dictionary automatically! Anyway, I digress. The Razer configurator allows you to reprogram each and every key on the device. From the 16 keys to even the thumbstick, all of the keys can be customized to hold a combination of keys or can be made to launch a particular program on Windows. The default key configurations are made to suit first person shooters – keys 1-5 represents the Tab, Q, W, E, R keys; keys 6-10 represent the Capslock, A, S, D, F keys; and keys 11-14 represent the L Shift, Z, X, C keys on the keyboard. The software allows you to create 8 keymaps and 20 game profiles, which should be more than enough for most gamers.