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Belkin n52te SpeedPad and the World of Warcraft

Updated Tue, Jun 23, 2009 by Messiah

At a little over a year old, the Belkin n52te SpeedPad is one of those devices that I have often looked at, but never quite purchased. I have seen many reviews on them, and have heard very positive things overall.  I even tried a friend’s original n52 a few years ago, and while I thought it was cool, I just didn’t feel I had the time to commit to actually learn to use it.  That changed recently, when I decided that I wanted more control, quicker, while raiding and decided it was time to give one a shot.  While learning to use it, I decided I would pass on what I found that worked and didn’t work.  That way other players wouldn’t struggle as much as I did figuring it out.

The Belkin n52te

For anyone who has not seen either the original or the new n52te (Tournament Edition), they are an input device for your left hand that has several keys and a d-pad (directional pad) on them.  It is meant to replace your left hand sitting on the WASD keys for movement, and make it easier to get around and use various controls.  The n52te has 14 keyboard style buttons and a scroll wheel on the top, on the side if has a d-pad, and two buttons for your thumb.  If that doesn’t sound like enough buttons for you, it also allows 3 different mode shifts, meaning that depending on the current mode that the device is in, each button can have 3 different effects.  Team this up with in game modifiers and you have literally hundreds of different combinations.

How this device should be setup varies a little by class and talent build, but it can be adapted for almost any style of play.  I have played around with it as a Resto Druid and liked how it worked, and this article is based around the setup for a DPS Death Knight.

Movement

One of the difficult choices you need to make when first setting up the n52te is how you are going to move.  I believe that this choice makes the biggest difference in whether you will like the SpeedPad or not.  If you are a mouse mover, then you can almost ignore setting up movement on the SpeedPad at all, other than potentially a backup key. 

If you are a WASD mover, then the choice is a little more confusing.  This is where I initially got stuck trying out the original n52 a few years ago; movement was non-intuitive initially.  The first option is to bind several keys on the keypad to movement, thereby removing many keys from your SpeedPad, and use it like you would WASD. This, I believe, is the worst option, as it defeats the point of the SpeedPad, and removes too many options.  The second option is to use the d-pad for movement, this is the option most players go with from what I have seen, although it has its own issues.  The d-pad is the key that many players use to control mode shifts and set as modifiers (ctrl, alt, etcetera) so handing it over to movement requires some planning.  The last option is to learn to mouse move and set up only a single key on the SpeedPad for backup.  This is another common option, but is hard to do.  Learning to mouse move after playing for several years of using WASD is not something that comes easy to most players.  Mouse moving is the best way to go for speed and control, but is difficult to master if it was not your first control method.

Bartender

Probably the best way to setup your keys on the n52te is to first start by arranging your UI for match up with the buttons on the SpeedPad.  To do this there are a few options, but the one I use is Bartender 4

This is an example of a very basic bartender setup.

There are many ways you can set this up, however the best I have played with is a base setup of two bars that are 5x2 and 4x1 or 5x2 and 5x2. This allows you to have a basic layout that matches the layout of the buttons on your n52te.  The buttons on the top 5x2 represent your top 10 buttons and the 1-0 keys.  The bottom row represents a few extra mapped keys or even a few unmapped that you can click on.   In addition to these basic bars you can setup several additional that are unmapped that you can place things like mounts, pots, bandages, emergency spells, and more on.

Spell Positioning

The next thing to do is actually bind your spells to the various positions on the bars.  Your highest priority spells will go on the 1-0 buttons so that they are easiest to use.  I find that I place my most commonly used spells in the 6-0 row, which corresponds to the 06-10 keys on the n52te.  Then place some additional high usage spells on the 2-4 keys. 

The rest of your spells go wherever you need.  You can setup as many additional bars as you like, or even setup bar paging to make it easier.  Since I could never find a quick way to get my main bar to page with stances, I didn’t worry about it that much, and just worried about fitting in as many spells as I could in a logical way.

Macros

The next part of my setup is macroing pretty much everything.  How I layout my spells is by use, so by the example above you can see that I have AOE, Taunts, Pets, and Silence as just a few exampled.  These are grouped spell buttons, created through macros.  You can configure your spells in any way you want, but I suggest logical groupings.

Just a few examples of logical groupings are shown below:

Grouping

Normal

Secondary

Tertiary

AOE

Death and Decay

Blood Boil

Pestilence

Pets

Raise Dead

Army of the Dead

Raise Ally

Runic Burn

Death Coil

Dancing Rune Weapon

 

Buffs

Hysteria

Trinket 1

Trinket 2

Diseases

Icy Touch

Plague Strike

 

To make use of multiple spells with one button easily I have my thumb button on the n52te set as my Alternate (alt) key and one of the many buttons on my mouse set as my Control (ctrl) key. I then create macros like the following:

#showtooltip
/cast [mod:alt] Blood Boil; [mod:ctrl] Pestilence; Death and Decay

By doing this, you can use your most common spell by hitting the button of your choice.  Then when you need something else you just hold the Alt or Ctrl button down and click the same button.

The Good

The n52te has several great things going for it.  Here are just a few of them.

  • First off, it’s shiny!  I mean seriously who doesn’t like having more cool toys sitting around, especially ones that glow cool blue?
  • The new edition has a better d-pad and buttons on it than the old one.  The standard one had a horrible top thumb button, and the d-pad felt soft.
  • The number of key combinations you have is amazing.  14 standard keys x 3 modes, plus all the d-pad directions, thumb buttons, wheel and more, all available in 3 modes.

The Bad

The n52te also has some letdowns, just a few of them are as follows.

  • It has lost some functionality from the old version which had 4 different modes. The new one has 3.  To be fair, I am not sure you really needed all 4, as I only use 1, but it is a step backwards.
  • The interface to set up buttons on the n52te lost a little as well, at least on the Apple version.  I used to be able to setup modifiers for keys, and the new interface doesn’t allow that.  The PC interface looks new and shiny though, and it may not be an issue there.
  • The biggest drawback of the n52te really is the learning curve.  You need to set aside a solid week to get used to playing with it.

Overall

I love the look, feel, layout, and configurability of the n52te; it is a very cool device.  The only thing that prevents me from saying it is a “can’t go without” device is the learning curve.  Maybe I am just too bound to the way I have done things for years, but I found it hard to adjust to.  I think that this would hold many people back, and that for a large number of people that purchase it, it may just become a paperweight on their computer desk.

For those that take the time and effort to really dig into it and learn its use and configuration, it is a very powerful device.  In PvE it allows you to access all your abilities faster and easier than via keyboard.  This makes a huge difference while learning new encounters or just trying to survive when cornered.  In PvP it would make an even bigger difference, where split seconds make the difference between life and death. 

Overall, after struggling for a while with the device, and learning its ins and outs, I am not sure that I would ever voluntarily go back to keyboard only for DPS or Healing.  For tanking, I still have issues, but maybe it’s just finding the right key layout.  My DPS dropped for a few weeks while playing with key layouts and learning the controls, but it is now second nature and I feel faster than I ever was on a keyboard. 

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