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Elgato Gaming has followed up its Stream Deck USB control panel with a new, smaller version called Stream Deck Mini. While the first Stream Deck sells for $150 and comes with 15 buttons, the Mini sells for $100 and only has six buttons. But in terms of button operation, everything is the same. This means that you can program each to perform a specific function in software such as Open Broadcasting Software (OBS Studio), Twitter, etc.
But $100 isn’t much cheaper than the original Stream Deck, and six buttons is significantly less than 15. So is the Stream Deck Mini worth it? For most casual streamers looking to simplify their setup, it probably is.
What you will like
It’s easy to use
Elgato has done a lot of work to improve the experience of pressing a button for an action to happen in an app since the launch of the original Stream Deck. The included free software is simpler with several other options and features built in. Creating folders is a snap, as is creating profiles that automatically populate the Stream Deck based on the programs you have open.
The engineers and UX designers responsible for the Stream Deck and Mini clearly use them every day and work with people who use them every day. The result is a hardware/software experience that makes it easy to automate a ton of important functions while you’re playing games, live streaming, or recording.
I particularly like the media features that can play mp3s, which I used to turn the Mini into a soundboard for our podcast. But I also used the premade options to add mute toggles for my microphone and to switch between scenes.
Setting up the Stream Deck Mini for other tasks not included in the software is also simple. I have a dedicated Nvidia Shadowplay profile, which is not an inbuilt option. But I just recorded a few keybindings, added my own button artwork, and now I have quick access to recording the last five minutes, enabling Shadowplay, and more.
Smart design improvements
But everything that makes the Mini easy to use also applies to the Stream Deck itself, so does the Mini do anything better than its older sibling? Absolutely. It has a better overall design as a consumer product.
The first Stream Deck is a relatively flat panel that comes with an annoying and flimsy plastic stand. You must use this case if you want the Stream Deck to sit facing you on your desk. I hate this booth. It collapses if you move it, then you have to use two hands to make it expand again.
The Mini solves all of that. It is a solid triangular shape like a prism that stands on its own at an ideal angle. It doesn’t even come with a stand. It also has a reliable rubber grip on its underside that keeps it in place, even if you mash the buttons with serious force.
In terms of the physical experience of using the Mini, this is a serious upgrade over the Stream Deck 1.0, and I hope Elgato takes this design forward by updating these products in the future.
What you won’t like
You’ll have to get creative with how you use it
The big problem with the Mini is the lack of buttons. Six buttons is near the lower limit of how many options you can have on a device like this while still taking advantage of it. While the Stream Deck has always left me with plenty of empty space to work with, the Mini forces you to only include the buttons you need. If you need more than six, you’ll need to be careful about using folders.
The profile system can help you up to a point, but switching profiles in the middle of a live stream is more difficult than opening a subfolder. But even that isn’t great. If you’re like me, you already juggle enough during a broadcast, and making sure you’re in the right folder is a chore you don’t have to deal with.
Let’s be reductive. The Stream Deck costs $9.34 per button. The Stream Deck Mini costs $16.67 per button. Each of these buttons are exactly the same in terms of capabilities, so go ahead and buy them in bulk, right? Except $100 is still cheaper than $150, and I think most people can get by with those six buttons and some smart use of the software. So unless you have a lot of ideas about what you want from a Stream Deck, I think the Mini is probably the one for you. This is especially true when you consider the improved design.
Elgato Stream Deck Mini is available now for $100. Elgato Gaming provided us with the Mini for the purposes of this review.
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