The Elgato Stream Deck MK.2 is kind of a funny thing, a little plastic box with 15 plastic buttons. Each button has a small screen behind it, and when pressed it can do a number of things – launch a program, jump to a new scene in a stream, adjust your media volume, mute a microphone, or send an alert. It’s great for automation, giving you an easy way to trigger scripts or shortcuts that speed up boring parts of your work or your favorite game, and of course for game streamers, it’s invaluable. The MK.2 model normally costs £139, but today at Currys you can pick one up for £97 using the code GAMES30.
So what makes the 2021 MK.2 better than the original 2017 Stream Deck? Well, not much. The biggest leap forward came in software, not hardware, and both boxes have access to the same features. There are no more buttons, or fewer – see the Stream Deck XL or Stream Deck Mini for that. Instead, there are only three relatively minor changes:
- Interchangeable fronts
- USB Type-C port with a detachable USB-C cable
- Removable 45 degree fixed angle bracket
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this means there’s no reason to upgrade if you already have a Stream Deck – but it does mean that the Stream Deck MK.2 is just a bit nicer than the old one. model if you buy one for the first time. These replacement faceplates are also very neat.
To me, the Stream Deck is cool because it, in a way, fulfills a promise that was made many years ago when I started in the industry. There was a keyboard concept called Optimus, where instead of having letters permanently etched into the keys, there were tiny colored screens behind each key. With a full-size layout, that meant over a hundred screens – or more accurately, one screen subdivided into a hundred sections – and powered by transparent keys.
It seemed unbelievable, but the retail keyboards that followed existed in small numbers and initially cost $1,600. They were also pretty crap to use, with no real tactile feedback to speak of – it really felt like you were pushing a giant piece of plastic down a short tunnel, which you kind of were. The software experience was also disastrous, requiring tedious setup to set each key’s purpose and legend one by one. Later keyboards were smaller and cost less, but the concept had already proven to be a practical failure by this point.
A decade later, the Stream Deck is an accepted part of furniture in the streaming space, costing an acceptable amount of money with software that can actually support it. It was an interesting progression to watch and makes the reduced price of £97 here a bit more reasonable…