Unveiling the Elgato Stream Deck: A Game Changer for Live Streamers
Live streaming has been a staple of the internet since the early 90s, but the idea of broadcasting video games to the masses is still in its relative infancy. What used to be a fairly complex ordeal has now been made so simple that anyone with an internet connection and a love for games can stream worldwide. Elgato has played a huge role in facilitating these opportunities.
Elgato’s original Stream Deck allowed broadcasters to access dozens of essential streaming functions, all with the press of a button, keeping them in the game and viewers engaged with their stream. With the world becoming more online every day — and both streamers and viewers craving more interaction — Elgato’s latest versions of the Stream Deck have clearly arrived at the right time.
What Is an Elgato Stream Deck?
Streamers and broadcasters have a lot to keep track of while running their Twitch stream. The Elgato Stream Deck simplifies this process by giving broadcasters access to more than a dozen apps or functions with the simple press of a button. Users can fully customize any of the 15 buttons on the face of the device, allowing them to do everything from opening game capture or webcam software to basic tasks that would otherwise be completed via a keyboard shortcut.
While Elgato’s device is definitely geared towards streamers, computer power users looking to maximize productivity will also love it. Zoom meetings can be turned on or off (or simply muted), Photoshop features can be pulled up with a single button, and podcast apps or Spotify can be opened as well. The Stream Deck is fully compatible with both Windows and Mac, making it attractive to nearly every modern computer user.
At first glance, the overarching goals of the Stream Deck design are obvious: maximum functionality and ease of use. This is accomplished with help from customizable LCD keys, featuring recognizable icons that can be fully customized. Hotkeys allow streamers to quickly dump out of certain software and call up other programs — without having to take their eyes off the screen to click around with a mouse.
Users can fully customize their Stream Deck experience by making the most of swappable face-plates that change the appearance of their hardware. Gamers love color-coordinating their gadgets.
Enhanced Live Streaming
In the heat of the moment, players don’t want to fumble around with their keyboard to Alt-Tab to crucial software. The Stream Deck eliminates this need by using 15 easy-to-reach Stream Deck buttons. The software powering the Stream Deck is fantastic, giving streamers the ability to drag and drop functions and commands into one of the 15 available LCD keys.
These functions can be as simple as playing a GIF or sound effects — and as complex as opening entire suites of software at the same time. The variety of inputs available is truly unlimited, hindered only by the fact that streamers have so many fingers available.
Content Creator Support
The live streaming environment is always evolving, with new ways to create and share content constantly around the corner. Elgato frequently provides new ways to interact with the Stream Deck, including new functions, plugins, and extensions.
One byproduct of this unparalleled support? The improved quality of streaming content is made possible by the Stream Deck. Gone are the days of broadcasters pausing their game to perform essential streaming tasks that can now be done with the press of a button.
A Must-Have for All Streamers
Interacting with the audience is crucial for most streamers looking to grow their channel. The Stream Deck’s ability to pull up things such as Twitch chat, Discord, and in-game community overlays allows streamers to keep in constant contact with their audience.
Gamers aren’t the only ones who can take advantage of the Stream Deck’s features. Educators looking to demonstrate their workflow to students and artists documenting their creative process are just a couple of examples of how Stream Deck’s multi-action functionality can be used.
Elgato Stream Deck Tips
The best tools aren’t worth much if you don’t know how to use them properly — and the Stream Deck is no exception. While the included Stream Deck software is simple to navigate, the skill of actually putting the buttons to use is far from innate. Users just starting out should try to group their streaming software, such as OBS, in one particular row of the device, while community or chat functions, such as Discord, take up another row. Of course, it’s up to each individual user to decide what they want each button to accomplish— and practice will eventually make operation a breeze.
Future Developments and Innovations
With the success of the Stream Deck comes an array of ideas as to how Elgato could improve on the next device in its lineup. One possible area for improvement? The aesthetics. While the Stream Deck comes in a variety of sizes — such as the XL and Mini — each version is decidedly boxy. A longer, narrower version of the device (which could sit parallel to an ultrawide monitor) might be worth considering.
Compatibility also represents a major opportunity. Console gamers looking to create professional-looking streams are still waiting for a Stream Deck that’s compatible with their favorite system. Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo don’t appear to be in any hurry to create their own streaming box —so it may be up to Elgato to fill the void and make this a reality for the next generation of consoles.
Frequently Asked Questions
Streamers and computer users still on the fence about the Stream Deck no doubt have some questions about the device. In this section, we’ll try to answer the most important questions consumers tend to ask — and shed some light on the many different versions of the Stream Deck currently available.
What is an Elgato Stream Deck used for?
While the Stream Deck is mostly used for live streaming, it’s really a jack-of-all-trades device. The main appeal of the device? The ability to assign a simple or complex computing task to a button press. This could mean hitting an LCD key to open Solitaire or pressing two buttons at once to enable OBS, Spotify, and a favorite podcast app.
How useful is Elgato Stream Deck?
Twitch streamers — or anyone who regularly streams their online exploits — will no doubt find plenty to love about the Stream Deck. Mileage may vary for those emphasizing productivity or workflow tasks.
Which Elgato Stream Deck should I get?
There are several different Elgato Stream Deck products currently on the market. As such, consumers can easily find an option that works well with their unique computer setup, streaming preferences, and budget.
- Stream Deck MK.2. As the base model of the Stream Deck, the MK.2 boasts three rows with five customizable LCD keys per row. Compatible with Windows, Mac, and Android phones via the Stream Deck app, this is the flagship device in Elgato’s lineup. At $149, it’s a must-have for anybody looking to amp up their streaming broadcast. Amp up your MK.2 too, with a custom skin.
- Stream Deck +. Creators looking for control of more than just their streaming setup may want to opt for the $199 Stream Deck +. While it has fewer buttons than the MK.2 (only two rows of four buttons), it does feature four fully customizable dials that give users minute control. It's easy to adjust lights, volume levels, individual audio mix channels, and more with this version of the Stream Deck.
- Stream Deck XL. Need more buttons? The Stream Deck XL has the solution, with 32 buttons that can do everything but take out the trash and walk the dog. It’s definitely a product geared towards professional streams, as reflected by the $249 price point. Personalize and protect your investment with an XL vinyl wrap.
- Stream Deck Mini. On the opposite end of the XL is the Mini —a cute box that will fit on just about any desk, no matter how much (or how little) space is available. The six-button setup is certainly sparse, but some users require little more. With the Mini form factor comes a mini price as well: only $79.
- Stream Deck Pedal. An ingenious device, the Stream Deck Pedal sports three customizable buttons that are accessed via foot control. For those who spend a lot of time on video, this device can act as a director. It boasts camera switching, UI overlays, and other features meant to enhance the broadcast experience. For $89, it’s a bargain.
What software is supported by Elgato Stream Deck?
If it runs on Windows or Mac, it’s almost certainly supported by the Stream Deck. Staple video streaming services such as Twitch — and software like OBS — should provide robust Stream Deck support. The same can be said for productivity software, Zoom, and popular email clients.
Can I use the Elgato Stream Deck without the capture card?
There’s no need for a capture card when using the Stream Deck on a computer. Most users will run their streams through Twitch or OBS in order to bypass the hassles associated with a capture card.
Is the Elgato Stream Deck worth it?
Elgato has made a name for itself in the peripherals space thanks to the original Stream Deck. That sterling reputation continues with the latest generation of the Stream Deck as well as its bigger, smaller, and foot-centric siblings.
Whether a Stream Deck is worth the cost of ownership depends on how it's used. Streamers and gamers will absolutely find the device to be well worth the money they spend — and even those looking for a boost in office or personal productivity should at least give the Stream Deck Mini a good look over. What these consumers will find are fantastic, easy-to-use, and highly customizable devices that give them an elite level of control.