Watching other people play games may sound strange to some, but services like Twitch and YouTube Gaming are massive, with millions watching every day.
Often these audiences are attracted by charismatic and funny personalities behind the camera and if you’ve ever watched these streamers and wondered how individuals are able to deliver slick, multi-camera productions, the answer almost always includes an Elgato Stream Deck.
The Stream Deck MK.2 is a hardware control surface that features 15 physical buttons which can be customised both in function and style thanks to LED displays behind each button. This device connects to your device just by a USB cable and with the Elgato Stream Deck software, you can get to work on customisation.
I love how personalised you can make this setup, allowing you to control apps, launch social posts, adjust audio, mute your mic, turn on lights and so much more, while visual feedback confirms your every command.
What you get out of the box is really just the start, with an integrated ecosystem, enabling you to control other 3rd-party connected devices and software.
Plugins get your apps up and running with Stream Deck in no time. Elgato 4K Capture Utility, Wave Link, Control Center. OBS, Twitch, Twitter, XSplit, YouTube, Spotify. iCue, Philips Hue, LIFX, IFTTT. Zoom, PowerPoint, Keynote, Apple Mail, and loads more. Find them all in the Stream Deck Store, and get new plugins on the regular.
Along with the Stream Deck MK.2, Elgato also sent across the new Stream Deck Pedal and Key Light Mini devices as well. These three devices work really well together and now its time to get into the review.
Buttons for days
The design of the Stream Deck MK.2 is basically a rectangle, but thanks to a smartly shaped triangular base, then becomes a control surface that’s easy to reach at any time. The 15 customizable LCD keys are actually smooth to the touch and delightfully rewarding when pressed over and over, similar to typing on a mechanical keyboard, without the sound.
On the back of the Stream Deck, there’s a USB connection and with the included cable connected to your PC, the dock can connect to your computer and the Elgato Stream Deck Software.
Compared to the TVs we have today, this does have massive bezels and I’m not entirely sure it needs them, but overall it is a pretty efficient design. When it comes to size, the device is 118 x 84 x 25 mm (without stand).
The weight is unlikely to concern many people given it’ll predominantly sit on your desk for 99% of its life. Perhaps you’ll get so addicted to it, you’ll travel with it and if that’s you, then you’ll be glad to know it weighs just 145 g without stand or 270g with the stand, something you’d barely notice in your backpack.
If the black (or new white) finishes aren’t interesting enough, you can customise the face of the Stream Deck with faceplates. These may be available at the time of purchase or can be purchased afterwards.
If you’re a creative type with a 3D printer, you could definitely print your own faceplate and given the keys are raised from the face, you could potentially get the depth right and turn it into a slick, flush surface with your own branding (hopefully subtle).
The Stream Deck Pedal is a very basic device on the surface, but certainly not basic in its usefulness. The pedal connects to your computer via USB and allows another 3 functions to be actioned by using your feet.
Having the ability to fire off actions while keeping your hands on the keyboard, allows you to continue your game, while also running functions hands-free. The design is actually really smart, with the center pedal being lower, it’s easy to hit each of the 3 buttons in the pedal without grabbing the one next to it by mistake.
The pedal is made of hard plastic and feels really robust like I could play the drums on it for years without issue.
The Key Light Mini is a portable LED light panel that features a normal tripod mount at the bottom, can be recharged by a USB cable and connects to your setup via WiFi. The light is a great size, despite the Mini name suggesting it’s small, its really not, just smaller than their largest option.
The light’s design allows for large amounts of light to illuminate your face while on stream with your Twitch friends, or even conference calls with colleagues. One of my favourite setups was to map the on/off switch of the Key Light Mini to the Elgao Foot pedal.
These really work well together and adjusting the temperature of the light from a warm yellow, to cool white is also possible through a button the Stream Deck MK.2 or mapped to the pedal.
Stand out features of these devices
These Elgato hardware devices have a range of features, powered by their desktop software.
The Stream Deck MK.2 features 15 LCD keys ready to fire off your personal commands. There are tactile buttons that let you launch apps, social posts, adjust audio, mute your mic, turn on lights and so much more, while visual feedback confirms your every command.
At a software level, Elgato offers support for OBS, Twitch, Twitter, XSplit, YouTube, Spotify. iCue, Philips Hue, LIFX, IFTTT. Zoom, PowerPoint, Keynote, Apple Mail, and loads more.
Personally, I loved the ability to control other hardware devices at the press of a button that really sets this apart from a regular keyboard shortcut. In reviewing the Stream Deck MK.2, I also got the Elgato Keylight Mini and the new Elgato pedal to get the full experience. These three devices work so well together, and can combine to create a really capable streaming setup.
To control other Elgato devices, simply grab the Control Center software to connect to the hardware and then items like the Elgato Pedal are then available to select in Stream Deck and assign functions to 3 new buttons (which just happen to be pressed by your feet).
The Stream Deck MK.2 features a removable faceplate and replace with a growing range of designs, or the more creative types may turn to paint or wrap their faceplate to make it your own.
When the Stream Deck is not in action, you get to choose screensavers. You can wake the device at any time by pressing one of the buttons.
Content creator’s dream
Being able to active lower thirds, transition, and signature intro/outro sequences is really powerful and can make your stream look way more professional.
The Stream Deck Store
There are more than 100 plugins in the store and this continues to grow, making the device better over time. There are icon packs made by graphic design pros like Visuals By Impulse to style your icons.
Not everything’s perfect
If I had to pick one thing I didn’t like about the Elgato Stream Deck MK.2, it’d be the fact their branding is all over it. For many of us that are proud of the home offer, workstation, or battlestation setups we’ve built, we love to show them off online.
At the top of the Stream Deck, you’ll find a very not subtle Elgato logo and STREAM DECK in caps and in white text. While this serves the company well, its certainly not what I want from a gadget. I’m ok with branding be on it, but just be cool about it, make it a dark grey on black or on the side or something, but having this branding in bright white at the top of the device is a little over the top.
If you get the new white version, then you’ll get the inverse, a black logo on the top. Thankfully the solution is easy, with faceplates available that cover this branding.
Probably the only other suggestion for future editions (possible MK.3), would be a dock that features adjustable angles. While I actually really like the angle available, it would be neat to have options. I don’t want to suggest a kickstand, but that Surface hinge does make me wonder if something similar wouldn’t be possible with the Stream Deck.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
How much and when can you get one ?
The Elgato MK.2 Stream Deck is available now from a number of online retailers.
The Elgato Key Light Mini is available now internationally, although Australian availability looks to be limited right now, while the larger Elgato Key Light is available at retailers like JB Hi-Fi for A$349.
The Elgato Stream Deck Pedal is available now for A$153 from online outlets like Amazon. While that may seem like a lot for what is effectively a plastic foot pedal with 3 buttons and a USB cable, the price reflects the capabilities of the device, offering hands-free control over functions while live streaming.
This is functionality not possible in other ways, so with a unique capability, the price is somewhat justified and if you want seamless integration with the Stream Deck MK.2 and Elgato software, it’s definitely worth the price of admission. Some advanced users may even add two of these to gain 6x hands-free functions.
When I first unboxed the Elgato Stream Deck I was excited to try out the product, but once it was up and running and I fired up the software to customise its functions, I immediately got it. This product offers a crazy amount of customisation, personalisation, and automation.
While most people who buy this product will likely be a Twitch or YouTube streamer, I think there’s a massive opportunity to sell this to the business community as well. There are many times in corporate life where you repeat business processes and weather it be email drafts, teams messages, opening your favourite network drive location, or to fire off a batch export of data for a report, this device could really help.
The Elgato Store is seriously impressive, with Plugins offering the ability to expand the functionality, Icons enabling quick and easy styling updates to your grid of 15 buttons and the music and sound effects catalog offering more than 10,000 audio files for free.
I was really surprised to search the store for Adobe and get no results. I think productivity and creative software could offer users a quick and easy way to apply favourite filters in Photoshop, or effects in Premiere, seriously this has so many amazing potential workflow improvements.
It seems the developer tools like Unity, Visual Studio and DevOps are all over this, as are smart home devices like lighting from Philips Hue, Nanoleaf and more.
Some creative applications include using the display behind the buttons to display information, like stock prices. Perhaps I’m greedy, but I’d actually like a dedicated display strip at the top of the device that could be used to display information like stocks, weather, calendar reminders, needs feeds and more.
Overall, what’s on offer here is a great hardware device that is well executed and thanks to an insane level of customisation, really feels like you can make it your own.
When I look at the 3 different sizes available, Mini (6 buttons), MK.2 (15 buttons), XL (24 buttons), I think the Stream Deck MK.2 offers the best value for money. Having 15 buttons may seem restrictive when compared to 24, more is better right?
The prices range from $129, to $259, to $439 for the largest option. The reason I think most can survive with 15 buttons is plenty, is because the device supports folders which allows you to have another 14 buttons, or as many as 10 pages of apps.
If you plan on being half serious with streaming online, then I highly recommend you get one a Stream Deck MK.2, it’ll save you time and help you look more professional when you seemlessly switch cameras, add lower 3rds etc.