Elgato Stream Deck:
OK so I’m old, well sort of, but my first car was a Datsun Sunny, it cost me £350, it didn’t have power steering or air con and it only had an AM radio. It was still a car though, I could still get places in it and park. I could turn the wheel on the spot but it was really difficult and whilst I had great fun in it, I didn’t know what I was missing. I could never go back to that car. I have power steering, air con, electric everything, and leather all over the place now and it really is easier and nicer to drive my modern car.
There is nothing wrong with a Datsun Sunny. I could drive one around the world if I wanted, I just wouldn’t, because I want one with all the things on it, the stuff that makes it easy.
OK, that was a great analogy and I am sure you know where I am going because OH MY GOD, how did I live without a Stream Deck. What was I doing, clicking with my mouse and not having GIFs and music at the touch of a button? I actually switched scenes with my numb pad meaning I couldn’t use those keys for other cool things. I was basically a streaming cave ape.
Opening a new gadget is such a pleasurable experience for me and the Elgato Stream Deck didn’t disappoint. There is some very heavy duty compressed black foam keeping the Stream Deck secure and with it is an attached USB cable that provides power as well as the connection to the computer. I would have liked to see this as a connection on each end so that if anything happens to the cable you can change it out but that is a minor gripe for something that will sit on a desk. There is also a fantastic little stand that is really well thought out and appears to be positionable at any angle. The Stream Deck itself is tapered however the angle isn’t enough to have flat on a desk and easily see the icons and despite the four small rubberized feet, it is still far more usable on the stand.
When you first plug the device in you will be presented with the standard layout but it’s not until you download the Stream Deck software that you can start to get creative. I found myself on day one trying to find things for it to do. I wasn’t sure how it was going to fit into my workflow, however, after a few days of adding to it when I needed I have found it to be invaluable. I do so much with it. I launch my frequently used applications, have bound several functions to those applications. For example, I use a lot of different software to record game footage with, I created a Bandicam folder, added a launch program button, then added a start/stop recording button inside of that folder and was then able to add a pause recording, mute mic, add webcam, screenshot, show mouse cursor and show/hide counter buttons. Things that I would have had to alt-tab out of the game to do previously so were features I didn’t use. It means I can actually use all the useful features that I had previously ignored.
Before we go on, it’s not just streaming, I literally use the stream deck for everything, I have it set up so that all of my most frequent apps have an icon on my main page, then inside of their respective customized icons I have functions that other fools are clicking their mouse two or three times to use, haha, mouse pressing fools.
I am not joking when I say the Stream Deck has actually revolutionized the way I am working. I have the deck positioned next to my mouse and I think has been the single most surprising addition to my system since I added a second monitor. For example, on my main page I have a button for XSplit, when I press it I go into the XSplit menu I created, in there I can launch the application, switch scenes start streaming, pause streaming, stop streaming, quickly display a gif, launch sounds and more. I don’t need to use my mouse at all, well apart from every time Windows pops up asking me if I am sure I want to do the thing I just told it I want to do, like some overbearing parent who doesn’t believe anything I tell it.
There is an even deeper connection with OBS, the Stream Deck has an integration with OBS with a Stream Deck plugin located under the Tools menu.
I think every streamer will agree that you need at least 2 monitors when streaming. You also need magic juggle fingers to cope with all the jumping around between the game, browser windows, chat windows and more whilst you are trying to game in an interesting way and getting your set up right is an art all to itself.
The Elgato Stream Deck solves almost every issue you can think of when streaming and even with 3 monitors I would be alt-tabbing between screens to display an image or to interact in some way but now everything I want to do while streaming is available at the touch of a customizable LCD display button.
This feature is fabulous, not only can you create your own image in Photoshop or the like but you can do so from within the Stream Deck software. You can create and choose images that mean something to you. This is a great innovation because now you don’t need to learn what each icon means because you created it, you also created what it does with the Stream Decks custom software.
Integration with Twitch is superb and whilst I can do many things by far the three most used are displaying a GIF, slowing chat and sending a predetermined message to chat. There is an initial investment of time to get things set up but once done you will have a very professional stream which can be interesting to your viewer because you are able to interact with the screen in a simple way.
The unit itself exudes quality and it is indeed very well built. The solid feeling chassis weighs in at 190grams and measures 4.6 x 3.3 x 0.8 inches (that is 118 x 84 x 21 mm) with 15 LCD buttons on the face. The buttons feel spongy but tactile so you know when you have pressed them but you can also set each button to be dim or bright in an on and off state. The main page allows you to create folders and inside of these, you can have functions. I would like to be able to create a folder for recording software, for example, then have folders in there for each application but this is not currently possible, however, this doesn’t mean that it won’t happen in the future as updates to the software are coming thick and fast.
Having an icon for each folder lets you know exactly what is inside each and navigation is as simple as pressing the picture you want but as I just mentioned, I would like to be able to sort a little more than I can at present. Customizing the folders and buttons is as easy as dragging your image into the software and setting up the functions you want is really simple and straightforward.
Overall I am very impressed by this little box of magic. It has made stream juggling obsolete, it has changed my workflow for the better and it takes up next to no room on my desk. What is not to like? Well, there is only one big downside and that is the price. The $150 (£139.99) price tag is a little steep for many casual streamers but if you stream at least twice a week and have people watching then I would highly recommend you get your hands on one. It’s not perfect, the USB cable is a little short and there is no native support for XSplit yet but I am literally picking hairs because there is so little to dislike about this product. This was the most surprising item I have been sent to review. I wasn’t expecting it to change much about how I work and actually, I thought it might be a bit gimmicky. I was wrong, this is the single best change to my desk since I added more monitors. It is certainly worth the asking price and I hope you can see the value in that.
So yes, you can drive a car without power steering and you can certainly stream without the Stream Deck, but who in their right mind wants to be the person without power steering?