Livestreaming has turned into a major business venture, and like any venture there needs to be products to help it grow.
Elgato has quickly earned the reputation as being the best company to produce streaming and video recording equipment. Whether you are a prominent streamer or an upstart on YouTube, many live and die by the hardware of Elgato. While most of the hardware and software just helps you get your content and stream it to your audience, Elgato hopes to up the production value of any product with it’s new Stream Deck.
From GIFs that appear on a notice during your stream to triggers for social media accounts, the Stream Deck wants to streamline the production of your content. But is it a practical piece of equipment for $149.99 or is it an overpriced and unneeded add-on?
The device is pretty simply from a design point. A black box that measures in at 4.6 x 3.3 x 0.8 inches with a weight of just under seven ounces, the Stream Deck has an attached USB cable and holds 15 LCD buttons that can be used to create over 200 custom commands.
It has rubber feet on the bottom, but also comes with a nice stand to prop it up at an angle. The stand feels rather cheap, and can sometimes fall flat if bumped the wrong way, which isn’t something you want to see. As mentioned, there is an attached USB 2.0 cable that can be viewed as a negative for the device.
It would be nice to see a USB port on the device to allow swapping of cables. This allows quick movement of the device as well as the ability to change cables if the plug were to bend or break.
To get everything going with the device, Elgato has provided the Stream Deck app, which is available to users on Windows 10 and MacOS 10.11 and later.
The interface is as straightforward as can be. The left side shows your commands as they appear on your deck while the right side contains a column with all of the different commands available to bind to the keys.
You set your commands via drag-and-drop. Depending on the option chosen, you configure your keys in various ways. Whether it’s to open specific software, web pages, or transition scenes in Elgato Game Capture HD or OBS. You can even create folders to hold multiple functions by dragging a command and hovering over another one. Think of it as creating folders on a mobile device.
From sending out Tweets to various accounts to quickly checking your e-mail without the “hassle” of going to a browser and entering the URL, the Stream Deck makes it all as easy as a push of a button…literally. Even taking screenshots and starting recordings have never been easier.
What makes it even better, though, is the fact that as you update in the software, the device icons update simultaneously.
The software also allows the option to import and export layouts as well as create custom icons. The icons are created via a web application that allows you to use stock images as well as imported pictures to make the Stream Deck your own masterpiece.
And while this device is definitely the perfect utility for the daily streamer, it can be just as useful for those that never even think to broadcast on Twitch or YouTube.
There may not be a lot of options for those with no interest in streaming, but the ones available are extremely versatile. Options include “Website”, “Open”, “Hotkey”, “Hotkey Switch”, and “Multimedia”. Hotkey and Hotkey Switch do almost the same thing with the only difference being one being a one-time use effect and the other being an on/off toggle.
Open does just that. It opens a piece of software you bind to it. The Website command takes you to any site you link while Multimedia is for your typical media bar controls. When you usually open a large number of programs after starting your machine, the ability to just tap a few buttons on the Stream Deck to open saves plenty of time.
Even the using the hotkey abilities for various games like Path of Exile, StarCraft II, or World of Warcraft can go a long way towards making you as quick as can be on the buttons. It’s really a win/win no matter what you use it for.
From top to bottom, the Stream Deck is a near-perfect device. It may not be the first thing you pick up as a streamer — cameras and capture cards still take priority — but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a key part of a streamer’s production lineup.
A price of $149.99 may be steep to some, especially because there are macro keys on a number of keyboards that are used today. However, it’s not a major knock simply because those who will spend the money on it will get their money’s worth. The major knock sits with the attached USB 2.0 cable and the flimsy stand that props the deck up.
But whether you’re streaming online or just using it to be more productive in your home office, the Stream Deck is a game-changing piece of hardware for its ability to turn a one-person effort into looking like a multi-person production.