Elgato Key Light Mini review: This is the stream lighting to get

Teeny tiny but shining oh so bright.

Elgato Key Light Mini
(Image: © Windows Central)

Elgato Key Light Mini

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

I've always loved the Elgato Key Light despite its high price of entry. It genuinely brought innovation and solved a problem that was becoming more prevalent as streaming continued to grow.

I've used massive softboxes in the past to light the way, but they're huge, they're hot, and they're wildly impractical to use in a home scenario. The Key Light meant there was no longer a need for any of this, and better yet, you could control your lighting from the same PC you're streaming from.

The family is now complete with the Key Light Mini. Like the Air, it takes everything good about the Key Light and shrinks it down, in this case into a package you can quite literally take anywhere with you. And that opens it up far beyond the traditional at-desk streamer.

Elgato Key Light Mini: Price and availability

The Elgato Key Light Mini is available now for $100 from Elgato authorized resellers such as Amazon in both the U.S. and Europe.

Elgato Key Light Mini: What you'll like

Elgato Key Light Mini

Source: Windows CentralIlluminating the corner of my son's bedroom in the dark with the Key Light Mini. (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

From the very second you prize this thing from its box you'll see it's a quality product. I've been using a couple of LED light panels the same size for a while to illuminate my office a little, but the difference in hardware quality is night and day.

The Key Light Mini is a chunky old hector but it's so solid. It also has a built-in diffuser like the other Key Light products, something my much cheaper LED panels do not. And you need a diffuser lest ye be blinded all day. And blinded you would be because the Key Light Mini, despite its size, gets seriously bright. With a max output of 800 lumens across a color range of 2900-7000K, a couple of these in your setup will make a massive difference.

Unlike on the bigger Key Light, all the necessary controls and ports are on the side, including for this more portable model, a built-in brightness dial. It's not quite so necessary on something that will live clamped to your desk, but on this, it's an essential and extremely useful feature.

Elgato Key Light Mini

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

That's because IRL streamers and videographers will very much be able to use a Key Light Mini with their camera gear. The bottom of the unit houses a standard tripod thread mount, so you can easily attach it to a cold shoe on your camera. It charges over USB-C, so it's compatible with your existing battery packs and cables, but the built-in battery will last up to four hours depending on how bright you use it. And that's not too shabby at all.

Of course, you can also run it in "studio mode," which is just a fancy term for saying you can run it off AC power.

The party piece of the Key Light Mini, though, remains its smarts. Like the other Key Light products, the Mini offers wireless control either through a smartphone or from your PC, and full integration with Elgato's Stream Deck. The PC app is small and unobtrusive and just sits in the system tray until you need it.

Elgato Key Light Mini: What you won't like

Elgato Key Light Mini

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

There truly isn't much to dislike about the Key Light Mini, but there are a couple of pointers that do bring the whole experience down a touch. The first is the price, just as has been a score against every other Key Light from Elgato.

It's expensive.

It is the most affordable Key Light, but the difference to the Key Light Air isn't perhaps quite as much as you might have hoped. Then again, this does have a 4,000mAh battery inside, so you can understand where some of that comes back. But if you're a PC-based streamer you'll still really want two of these, which is a significant investment.

There's also no stand in the box at all. With the bigger Key Lights, while quite expensive, you get one of Elgato's Multi Mount arms or the table stand thrown into the bargain. Such a thing would be impractical with the Key Light Mini, but would it really have been too much to toss in a mini-tripod? Especially when it costs $100 as it does.

But no included stand is surprisingly inconvenient. I have a spare mini tripod I could use with it, but to use this in any kind of studio environment you're going to have to invest in additional gear.

Or, as I plan to do, you could just slap some Command strips on the back and stick it to the wall.

Elgato Key Light Mini: Competition

Key Light

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The most obvious alternative is the excellent Lume Cube Panel GO, which is brighter at 1,000 lumens (versus 800 of the Elgato Key Light Mini) but with less color range (3200 to 5600K vs. 2900-7000K). The Lume Cube Panel GO battery is just 2,470 mAh versus the larger 4,000 mAh in the Elgato Key Light Mini, although battery life is 90 minutes at 100%, versus 120 minutes for the (dimmer) Elgato Key Light Mini.

However, the most significant advantage with the Lume Cube Panel GO is getting more for $99. You get two threaded 1/4" tripod mounts in the box, including a 12" to 30" telescoping tripod and a suction-cup-based laptop mount. For the Elgato Key Light Mini, all you get is the light.

There is also Key Light Mini's siblings, the Key Light and Key Light Air.

The Key Light and Key Light Air are both much larger and designed for a studio environment. If you never plan to create content away from your setup then they may still be a more viable option, but the flexibility the Mini offers while maintaining similar performance, well it's hard to ignore.

Elgato Key Light Mini: Should you buy it?

You should buy this if ...

  • Your stream lighting needs a serious upgrade
  • You want to create content on the go
  • You're looking for a hands-free solution

You shouldn't buy this if ...

  • You're on a budget
  • You have a larger studio

The Key Light Mini is arguably the most attractive of all Elgato's Key Light products. It's no longer just for in-studio content creation, with the addition of a battery and a smaller size making it something that any type of content creator can use.

It is, alas, still going to cost you quite a bit, but you cannot deny the quality you're getting. Besides now being portable, the Key Light Mini performs every bit as good as its larger siblings. It's incredibly bright if you need it to be, and just as hands-free as the others.

And while I lament the lack of any included stand or tripod, the Key Light Mini is at least small enough to get a bit more creative with your mounting solutions. My old mini-LED panels are now in the trash, the Key Light Mini is far superior in every way.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.