No, you don’t need a Stream Deck

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Streamers, I know this is hard to hear, but we must collectively agree that you don’t need an Elgato Stream Deck. Flow Deck, not Steam Deck. I know because I have one and as brilliant as it is as a little device on your desk, it’s not something you need, especially at the start of your streaming career.

In streaming, looks are everything. These days, to show you’re a big streamer, you need huge, bulky microphones, and while someone else wrote this related feature, I’m guilty of owning one myself. As a streamer for two plus years, I’ve seen a number of trending products and succumbed to their pressure more than once. The lighting, the gaming chairs, the little neon sign behind you, and more.

For this reason, streaming is surprisingly easy to invest in large sums of money. I siphoned off most if not all of the money I made going live back into the gear and while some of it definitely improved the quality of my stream and the experience for viewers, d other parts I’ve purchased haven’t. And at the top of the list of things I’ve definitely bought for its status symbol among streamers rather than its streaming value is the Elgato Stream Deck.

(Image credit: Elgato)

Hook, line and sinker

I’m not the one throwing shade at Elgato. Corsair’s streaming-oriented products almost single-handedly improve the quality of small to medium-sized streamers. Wave mics? Great. The light ring? Illuminating. The camera link? Phenomenal. I can’t say enough good things about some of these items for being reasonably priced and making streamers dreams come true. I know this because these three items in particular are products I swear by. So Elgato gets a huge green light from me overall.

But the Stream Deck? The Stream Deck is the biggest “hey did you know I’m a streamer?” product and I tell you, you don’t need it.

I bought an Elgato Stream Deck because it was considered a must have. All because streamers need scene transitions, mute buttons, and uh, that’s it. It’s the field. A plastic panel on your table that does both of those things rather than taking you out of the game and doing them yourself. Eh.

(Image credit: Elgato)

And I cracked! I’m changing scenes so I need a physical object to help me do that rather than just pressing a button on my other screen. Ingenious! A perfect invention to help me move from one screen to another smoothly for the most difficult five times I did all the streams. And that’s what I did for the first three months that I owned a Steam Deck. It was a solid addition to my setup until it felt like an effort to take my hand off my mouse or keyboard and lean forward to press it instead of just tabbing and quickly changing everything I had to do. And now it slumbers, waiting for its next time to shine.

So what else can these things do? Maybe Stream Decks are useful for those who don’t have a second monitor to display their streaming software on? This would have be a great argument, except you can get a low-end monitor these days for around £100, and the Stream Deck is £140. Hmm. Spending that money on a second monitor is a better addition to a setup than a Stream Deck for watching chat, stream alerts, levels, and generally all the other benefits of having double the screens.

Stream Decks can also open the software very quickly at the press of a button. But when you’re waiting for Photoshop or other apps to open, just tapping them on your taskbar doesn’t seem like too much of a hassle. With the push of a button, you can open a saved tab, but if having it on a Stream Deck is so important to you, you’ve probably already bookmarked it, right?

flow bridge

(Image credit: Elgato)

The big red button

Emergency mute? Quick screen changes? The first is often solved by the microphones themselves, in fact Elgato’s Wave microphones have physical mute buttons. And if something pops up that needs to be muted on the screen, it’s best to pause that video or pause the game or quickly switch to your software. The same goes for those quick screen changes.

You can make the Stream Deck buttons display digital items on screen, like reminders to follow, but timed alerts would be less hassle, right? Or you can get it to tweet that you’re live, but if it’s the same tweet every time it’s less likely to get engagement, so you better do it by hand anyway. Now, I’m not saying the Stream Deck is useless. Far from it, in fact. But if you are starting your streaming career, the Stream Deck is Most likely the last kit you need and far higher on your list than necessary.

There are definitely streamers who can use Stream Decks well, and they would be considered an essential part of their kit, I won’t deny that. Those who have many different screens with green screen effects, those who can’t yet afford high-end voice changers, or who during their streams don’t have their keyboards easily accessible like artists or the dancers. It can even be useful for accessibility reasons. But you have to think about it critically. Are you a streamer who will use it to its full potential? Or do you just play Apex Legends?

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Coincidentally, Stream Deck received a big update this week that added even more handy features. Bridge Rotation Change (opens in a new tab), the addition of effect delays, better OBS integration and more are part of the sale. But with these additional uses, I’m doubling down and telling you that if you’re not getting the most out of your current kit, you’re not going to use the Stream Deck to its full potential (opens in a new tab)like uh, blowing up a goofy inflatable man.

If all you do is play games and relax, the answer is probably no. Sorry, that’s from experience. Do whatever you want with your funds, but I’m telling you that if you’re planning on getting a Stream Deck instead of a camera, microphone, second monitor, capture card, decorations streams or almost anything else to enhance your streaming experience, the Stream Deck should come last on the list. You can survive without it for now, I promise.

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