Review: Elgato Stream Deck - streamline everything you do on a PC
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Everyone loves a good streaming setup. You get all your microphones, headphones, fancy screens, and lots of RGB. But have you thought about a stream deck? How do you get more control over your system? We got our hands on the Elgato Stream Deck and we have all the goss!

Why have a stream deck?

The number one question when you buy anything… why? Why do you need it? Or better still, why do you want it? The Elgato Stream Decks are a great way to increase the control you have over your computer. And I say computer on purpose, rather than streaming. We’ll get to it later on, but these programmable decks are useful for a whole range of industries, not just streaming. But let’s start with streaming.

When you’re streaming, there’s usually a multitude of buttons, controls, and pieces of technology — screens, keyboards, mice, headsets, etc. As you stream and play, streamers want to increase the control they have over their computers so they can engage more with their viewers. Usually, they’ll control the stream by switching endlessly on a keyboard to various screens and using a mouse to click buttons. This setup lets you simply push a button, akin to a mapped key on a mouse or keyboard.

A fully integrated system like the Elgato Stream Deck family has many advantages over mapping keys and mouse buttons. With Elgato, everything is built in. There are drag and drop functions, lots of software available, and the best part — every button is a little LCD screen. You can put any image you want on it!

Corsair Elgato Stream Deck XL review stream deck
Programmable LCD buttons put all the power at your finger tips (Image: Elgato Gaming)

Types of stream decks

There are different types of stream decks. Elgato primarily makes one style of stream deck. It does however come in three sizes. The smallest deck has just six keys (above) is perfect for getting started. It has all the functionality of the larger decks, just in miniature. The next is the standard size, which has 15 programmable keys. Unlike the mini, which has a fixed position, the stream deck standard has an adjustable standard that sits at two heights.

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Elgato Stream Deck (standard size). Up your streaming game with 15 programmable keys (Image: Elgato Gaming)

Fifteen keys is good, but lots of people wanted even more. Last year Elgato Gaming released its largest deck yet, the Elgato Stream Deck XL. This deck has 32 programmable keys! That’s a lot of content you can fit onto the deck at once. Since we received the Stream Deck XL, we’ll be looking at it in more detail, but programming is functionally identical across all Elgato stream decks.

Out of the box

The Stream Deck XL has some nice add-ons. Similar to the standard deck, the XL edition comes with a stand. The stand on the XL version is magnetic and much more robust than the standard. You can choose to use the deck on its stand or without. Many people prefer with, as the deck sits at an ideal angle for controlling.

Stream Deck XL sitting on its magnetic stand (Image: Elgato Gaming)

The Stream Deck XL also comes with a USB C cable for increased efficiency. Another thing you’ll notice right out of the box is the sleek design of the deck, beautifully engineered with lovely ergonomics. It’s the perfect shape to fix neatly on your work desk without taking up lots of space or looking ugly. Even though this deck has 32 keys, it still has a minimalist footprint. The deck is 182 mm long and 112 mm high. It has a depth of only 34 mm. Plus, it’s super light at only 410 grams. Even on my very small gaming desk, this fit perfectly and without sticking out like a sore thumb!

Super programmable

The benefit of the Elgato Decks is all the programming is simple drag and drop. This makes it super accessible to everyone, regardless of your computer skills. When you plug in your Elgato deck for the first time, the logo will pop up on the screen with a little welcome message. Simply click the logo and it goes directly to the Elgato website, where you can download everything you need.

The Elgato Stream Deck software is really easy to use. Drag and drop functions and arrange as you like. The possibilities are endless. The software has integrations with capture cards, OBS, Streamlabs, StreamElements, Twitch, YouTube, Mixer, Twitter, and so much more. You can use system commands like launch a program, send a tweet, talk to your chat, or change scenes all at the touch of a button.

Corsair Elgato Stream Deck XL review
The Elgato Stream Deck software is simple, elegant, and easy to use. (Image: Elgato Gaming)

There are hundreds of built-in actions for other pieces of hardware too. Controlling your smart lights is simple and easy with the stream deck. And if there’s something you really want and it’s not there, you can just make it yourself. Elgato has an SDK (software development kit) available if you’re a little more tech-savvy. And if you’re a developer, you can write your own pieces of code and simply use the “open” command to point to the script you’ve written.

Stream Deck Key Creator

The next fun thing about customizing stream decks is the icons themselves. You can use any icon you want. If you’re pointing to a gaming application to open, i.e., Fortnite, the Fortnite logo will automatically appear on your stream deck. You can create your own icons seamlessly using Elgato’s Stream Deck Key Creator. It’s simple to use and has tons of built-in images and icons. You can also upload your own images. This is a great way to reuse those Twitch emotes or sub badges you got commissioned!

You’ll see streamers all over the world creating interesting content with their stream decks. Light up RGB profiles, welcome messages, and other crazy things. It’s really up to your own creativity and what style you want to show off. Also, if 32 keys isn’t enough — you can expand! Simply set one of your keys as a folder and it’ll open a whole new screen with 32 blank keys ready for you to customize.

Not just for gamers

Since these are fully customizable, anyone can use them for anything. With a stream deck, hotkeys on a keyboard are a thing of the past. Think launching apps, opening websites, or even streamlining your processes. With a touch of a button, you can make video editing, graphics design, or audio production much more efficient. Macros will live only in your memories!

Okay, what are the negatives?

Well, no matter what you build, create, or sell, there’s always room for improvement. The Stream Deck comes with a matte black design that can scratch easily. You’ll want to be careful with your deck. Regularly clean it and keep it away from rough edges like a pointy monitor stand or corners of keyboards, tablets, or similar such things.

Secondly, like all good pieces of tech, these aren’t cheap. The standard Stream Deck will set you back $149 USD ($239 AUD). The XL deck will cost you $249 USD ($399 AUD). If you’re on a super budget and really one want, then the mini will take $99 USD ($159 AUD) out of your pocket. You can however find some places with sweet discounts. Either way, this piece of tech will certainly improve control over your PC. Will it improve enough to justify the purchase? That’s up to you!

If you have a stream deck, let us know in the comments below. We’d love to see how you customize your setup!

Michelle is a Content Producer in the realms of innovation and technology. Known as the “Hackathon Queen” 👑 you'll often find her on stage MC’ing or speaking on a range of topics from artificial intelligence, to business, community engagement, the future of work, and esports. With a background in both science and arts, Michelle writes extensively on a range of topics including innovation, startups, corporate culture, esports, business development, and more. She has a passion for gaming and combines this with her experience in a range of industries. Michelle brings a unique insight into esports innovation and draws many parallels between the physical world of sport, and the digital world of esports.