Elgato has built a reputation for his game capture hardware, and many big game streamers rely on him to share their game with a growing audience. However, its latest product, the Elgato Stream Deck, aims to help you ramp up your production level, with a set of customizable buttons that can trigger everything from Twitch messages to donation reactions. Smart, but after Optimus struggled to market its button-screen keyboards and Apple encountered skepticism about the MacBook Pro’s touch bar, did Elgato turn the tide? ?
What makes the Stream Deck special are its fifteen keys. Each is approximately 15mm square and is covered with clear plastic. Underneath is an LCD panel that allows you to change the legend of each key. Since Elgato’s software supports folders, you can theoretically trigger up to 210 different commands from a single key layout.
The Stream Deck itself is compact at 4.6 x 3.3 x 0.8 inches and 6.7 ounces. It is made of matte black plastic and sits on four small rubber feet; Elgato also includes an adjustable stand in the box, allowing you to support the Stream Deck at an angle. This is useful, because otherwise the panel is almost flat on the table, which means you really have to look straight at it to see the full extent of each button.
It’s a clean design, although Elgato could make some obvious improvements. I wouldn’t argue with a plastic cover to protect the keys while the Stream Deck vibrates in your bag, for example. The USB 2.0 cable is also fixed, whereas I would prefer to have a USB port on the back so you can use your own cable without forgetting to replace it if it does fray.
Software and configuration
Setup is done through the Stream Deck app, available for Windows 10 and macOS 10.11 or later. It’s a simple drag-and-drop affair: there’s a column of controls and options on the right side, and you can drag them to empty space on the 5 × 3 grid on the left. Hovering over a new command on occupied space automatically creates a folder, just like you can with Home screen icons on iOS and Android.
Below is where you can customize the assignment of each button. If it’s a Twitter command for example, once you’ve chosen the account – Stream Deck allows you to connect to multiple Twitter, Twitch, and TipeeeStream accounts and then choose between them when you configure each button – you can then pre-write the message you want to send. Other commands – like Screenshot and Save to Game Capture – don’t have any individual settings to change, although you can always give the button a title and choose where that text lines up on the key.
To simplify the whole process, the physical Stream Deck updates in real time as you customize it. You can instantly see if the layout has an ergonomic feel to your hand. Individual layouts can be saved and shared: if your friend has found the perfect user interface, you can upload that file yourself and instantly get the exact same thing.
As a result, there isn’t a single thing the Stream Deck focuses solely on. If you host Twitch streams, for example, you might have buttons to send updates while you’re online, check how many people are watching, and run thank you graphics if someone donates. If you’re using Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) to host a show, you can set buttons for title sequences, change audio sources, and trigger pre-recorded clips.
Life Beyond Game Streaming
Honestly, I’m not much of a gamer. Definitely not to the point where I would be eager to share my gameplay with a Twitch audience. So while the main purpose of the Stream Deck as a broadcaster’s control panel is interesting, I was more interested in how it presented itself as an everyday shortcut panel.
Elgato offers five main categories of system controls that the Stream Deck can provide: Website, Hotkey Switch, Hotkey, Open, and Multimedia. For a website you can choose the URL and when the button is pressed your default browser will open a new tab for it. Hotkey and Hotkey Switch do pretty much the same thing: Stream Deck learns a key combination, then repeats it when the button is pressed; the difference is that the Hotkey Switch can then reverse this when the button is pressed again.
Open is arguably the most useful, as it can be mapped to any application or file on your system. Finally, the multimedia can be set to the previous or next track, play / pause, stop, increase or decrease the volume and mute. If you want, you can customize each icon, either by uploading your own PNG file or creating a new one with Elgato’s browser-based key creator.
You might think the results are similar to Apple’s Touch Bar on the latest MacBook Pro, but stand-alone and in some ways more flexible. Unlike the Touch Bar, the Stream Deck will not change its layout depending on the application you are currently using; you have to do this manually, either by loading a new button board or by setting up different configurations in different folders. However, where the Touch Bar doesn’t allow you to map complex macros or keys, at least so far, Elgato is much more liberal with what the Stream Deck can do.
For example, on macOS, you can create Automator routines, save them as apps, and then map them to the Stream Deck. If you have a number of files that you access frequently, you can also use them as shortcuts. Unlike how the Touch Bar by default only displays its media control buttons if they are actively expanded or if the music application of your choice is currently in focus, the Stream Deck’s transport controls are visible throughout. time.
At first glance, I am not the target audience for the Stream Deck. However, while I understand why live streamers would love the small console, it would be a mess to leave that to them. Having it next to my MacBook Pro, I discovered that it had become second nature to press a button and browse through apps, websites, and controls.
Is it worth $ 149.95? For one thing, given that you’re just replicating something that a software user interface and keyboard shortcuts could do, Elgato’s price tag seems steep. If I were a streamer, this wouldn’t be the first product I’d spend my money on – the camera, microphone, and capture card trio always come first.
Still, if you take your workflow seriously and want to increase your production values without going from a studio to a single person, there isn’t much to compete with the flexibility and potential for customization. from the Stream Deck. Take convenience outside of streaming into consideration, too, and there are plenty of good reasons why Elgato’s add-on should find its way onto your desktop.