Why left-hand keypads are the weird WASD peripheral every PC gamer needs – PCWorld
I started playing modern PC games in 2008, after building my own desktop for the first time. But after spending pretty much my entire life on consoles, the idea of switching to keyboard and mouse controls was intimidating — moving a character without an analog stick or D-pad? Preposterous! Thankfully, the exploding market for PC gaming accessories was there for me with a little gadget called the Belkin N52te Nostromo.
What’s the point?
It was the latest in a series of gadgets without a proper category name. Half-keyboards? Keypads? Gamepads? Whatever. They’re tiny little keyboards designed for your left hand only, physically separating the controls around the WASD cluster into its own dedicated hardware. They also add some much-needed ergonomics like an intelligently moved space bar, and sometimes extras like a mouse wheel and separated directional controls.
Because they’re separated from your main keyboard, you can position them at roughly the opposite spot of your mouse, allowing you to stay centered without awkwardly moving your main keyboard. And as a bonus, it lets you use different types of keys — keys designed for typing on the main board and keys designed for gaming on the secondary one. This gives you the freedom to choose the best purpose-built tool for working and gaming, without compromise.
An abandoned segment
There have been several attempts at this design. The N52 was Belkin’s third take on it, and Razer would eventually buy the design whole cloth. Logitech’s similar G13 is still prized by devotees years after it’s gone out of production. Saitek made one called the “Commander,” and the “Wolf Claw” was a detached version of a design that also came with a full-sized keyboard next to it.
But about eight years ago, these specialty designs began to die out in favor of more elaborate gaming keyboards. Razer still makes a descendant of the Belkin design called the Tartarus, almost begrudgingly it would seem. Cooler Master has the ControlPad, an ortholinear take with barely any nods to ergonomics. And there are semi-custom gadgets like the Azeron, which is more of a reinvention of finger-based input than a keyboard designed for gaming. And that’s about it for big names in this small space. Every once in a while you hear about a niche addition, like today’s news of the “Shrimp” keyboard from some company called Nordic Game Supply.
Nordic Game Supply
The Shrimp boils down (hehe) the concept to its bare essentials, giving you a curtailed selection of left-handed keys and not much else — they end just one key to the right of the WASD cluster. It does look like a nice package, with a detachable magnetic wrist rest, several color options (including a funky “stickerbomb” look), and premium Gateron Pro mechanical switches, plus two programmable dials. It’s just a shame there’s no price or date for this gadget. Even the manufacturer has no mention of it on its website.
Lots of choices, none of them great
There’s an odd savior for this segment: mobile gaming. A ton of Chinese gadget suppliers have come out with mini-keyboard-and-mouse combos in the last few years, designed explicitly to connect to your phone and give you an (unfair?) advantage in mobile shooting games. These typically include a full-sized USB port for a mouse …….