Elgato Stream Deck is an essential gadget for serious game streamers

Elgato announced its Stream Deck keypad a short while ago, and it instantaneously went on my wish list.

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At Windows Central, we stream games every Thursday and Saturday on our Beam.pro channel. We do a lot of giveaways, but our streams have often lacked the GIFs, sound effects, and other forms of visual flair that's typical of other pro streams found across Twitch and Beam.

That ends TODAY!

Elgato's Stream Deck is an amazing USB peripheral that gives you access to 15 dedicated, programmable buttons, complete with their own icons, text labels, and on/off states. There are other hotkey decks out there, particularly in professional studio settings, but Elgato masterfully made the process easy, affordable, and intuitive, following the success of its industry-leading screen capture card line.

If you're a streamer, you have to consider the Elgato Stream Deck. Here's why.

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Build quality = awesome

The Elgato Stream Deck costs $149.95, which doesn't exactly make it a budget option. But a lot of that price is reflected in the Stream Deck's construction.

The Stream Deck is essentially a 118 mm x 84 mm x 21 mm box, with a slightly-raised, angled display. On top, there are 15 glossy, transparent buttons, set against a matte black frame. The buttons themselves feel a little squishy, and the gloss combined with the inner curvature of the buttons can produce some pretty mad reflections. But that's unlikely to cause any real bother.

The buttons themselves are set against an LCD screen, which has 15 programmable spots for images and text. You can increase the intensity of the lighting using the Elgato Stream Deck application, which makes the keys easy to see in all conditions.

Another accessory you'll get in the box with the Stream Deck is a handy mount for increasing the angle of the buttons. The base has four notches that provide different angles, with an additional two-stage stand which increases or decreases the elevation. The Deck fits into a slot in the front and is held in place by friction from a rubber strip. Regardless of your setup, you should be able to find the perfect position for you.

Considering you're going to spend a lot of time poking, prodding, and moving the Stream Deck around, it's reassuringly well-built, with good materials, and a dense, compact construction. It feels durable and not cheap in the least.

If you're not here for the build quality, let's talk about functionality.

Hundreds of hotkeys, macros, and GIFs

The Elgato Stream Deck connects to a Windows PC using USB and a dedicated application, which lets you assign buttons, and then decorate and label them.

The Stream Deck works best using OBS right now, which is an open source capture solution that's available for free. Elgato's own HD Capture software doesn't yet support layers for overlays, but I am told this functionality is on the way, along with support for XSplit.

If you're already using OBS for streaming, setup will be an extremely simple process. Even if you're not, it doesn't take long at all to get set up with OBS and utilize an existing Elgato HD as a capture device.

I was able to set up a StreamJar.tv URL overlay on OBS for Beam, set up stream live and off-air toggle buttons on the Deck, including an external media button, and GIF toggles for Steve Ballmer and Clippy within 30 minutes, with no prior knowledge of the systems.

Stream Deck is incredibly easy and intuitive to use, with simple drag-and-drop functionality for the different features and controls on the right panel.

Beyond streaming, you can set up the Stream Deck to execute macros, launch programs, control your media, and use hotkeys. I can actually see the Stream Deck being a capable peripheral for games like World of Warcraft and Heroes of the Storm.

The functionality is extended further when you consider that the Stream Deck also supports folders, so you could keep your macros, stream controls, and hot keys for different games, all in separate, unique folders, complete with navigational keys for your own personal keypad.

I feel as though I've barely scratched the surface of the full range of capabilities this thing has, and I look forward to customizing it further down the line.

Nothing, nothing beats my Ballmer button, though. It's unbelievably awesome.

Final thoughts

The Stream Deck is an incredible piece of kit both for pro and hobby streamers, and even those looking to create a dedicated space for hotkeys, macros, and other PC system features.

Its build quality and construction are reassuringly durable, and the keys are bright and responsive, if a little squishy.

The true power of the Stream Deck is its functionality. Not only does it completely integrate with OBS, giving you access to fully control your stream from a dedicated space, but it also has support for Windows system features, such as volume, media playback, hotkeys, and much more. You're limited only by your knowledge of OBS and your imagination.

I would have liked to have seen the same level of support for Elgato's own streaming software, or tools like XSplit, but they are expected in a future update, and OBS is more than adequate for most streaming scenarios.

Pros:

  • Lots of functionality.
  • Great build quality.
  • Easy to set up.

Cons:

  • Doesn't yet support Beam, XSplit, or other services natively.

Simply put, if you stream to Beam or Twitch using your PC, you have to consider this accessory. Whether you're rocking audiences of thousands, hundreds, or dozens, it makes streaming even more fun.

The Elgato Stream Deck is available now for $149.95.

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More: Best Xbox capture cards

Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

23 Comments
  • I don't get the point of this device.  Of course, I don't get the point of watching other people play a game or do a sport.
  • I don't understand posting comments about things you don't care about.
  • Don't mind Scuba, if he isn't complaining, he isn't happy. Edit: This particular case is funny though, as I believe he does some sort of radio (by his profile pic) and boards like this are used in radio.
  • So the point is just ease of access, normally you need to click stuff in obs or whatever your using to stream to make things happen which can be distracting when also trying to do whatever it is your streaming. Having buttons handy like this device make things very simple and quick for the streamer.
  • Heaven forbid we have to actually click on something.  Spending $150 to avoid a click?  Really?
  • It's the same as any sound board in any radio studio, and they all paid A LOT more than that. So, when it is your job (regardless of how you feel about that), yeah, I'm sure 150 is worth it.
  • "Stop liking what I don't like :'( "
  • The mouse was invented for convince as was a cell phone.  Heaven forbid you use one convenient thing in your life. Lcustom keybored commands are a challenge when you are playing a game streaming watching 5 chats via restream.  Some people like white chocolate some prefer dark. We are all unique. Something we all should try to remember that when we all bash others for what we don't enjoy.
  • The alternative uses seems more helpful: in game macros.  Has anyone actually confirmed it can be used with games like Warcraft, etc?  
  • Scuba, your comments are always S0o0o0o useful. /s
  • maybe you are too old for this :)
  • Age has nothing to do with it. I've always hated sports -- both as an unwilling participant and observer -- and I consider watching other people play a video game much the same way.  I have very specific types of games that are worth my time, and I'd much rather play them, NOT watch others do it.
  • I can only take watching one sport, ice hockey. Jim Jeffries does a funny but about guys who where shirts with other dudes names on them; team jerseys. I do it but can understand and laugh with his point of view. To each their own.
  • Jim is hands down my favorite comedian. I don't always agree with him, but I laugh 100% of the time. Funny dude.
  • OBS can be used for more than just games. You can use this for recording podcasts or other videos as well. This can be a handy tool for the one-person-production-team. Imagine having macros setup to switch cameras, activate videos, or other functions while you are mid podcast or during a interview recording. I've been using a full touch screen monitor for this kind of function and would love a device like this because (for one thing) it wouldn't mess up the lighting as bad as the glowing monitor sitting just off camera... plus the simplicity and accuracy of tactile buttons. Use your imagination and drink less hater-aid.
  • I don't get the point of people that complain as much as you.
  • Intrigued by this for a low cost control interface for my company's media server solution. We have a web-based API as an option to create custom HTML pages, but the webpage option could be useful as just hard coding links - does that open a browser, or just trigger the link? EDIT: Better still, can this be used to send UDP/TCP commands from the Elgato app?
  • Not as epic (or potentially useful) as the Optimus Maximus, but at around 1/10 the price, and about 1/4 the price of an Optimus Aux, this could be handy.  Especially if you can program macros for "regular" applications into it.  Switch mappings between Visual Studio and Adobe Photoshop during the day, then switch to game mappings during the evenings when the kids stream their stuff?  Justifiable, if I can find multiple uses for it.
  • Yeah, you can have app folders, function folders, all sorts of stuff. And the functionality is all software-side, they'll add more features over time. I'm gonna try and use it to play Heroes of the Storm.
  • I've emailed Elgato to see if there is a developer SDK or API that third parties can utilize. Might be more significant coming from the reviewer, though... 😀
  • At a guess, this is probably running a flavour of the standard USB HID profile, similar to a USB keyboard.  Will be interesting to see a tear-down ... might be something like a custom Arduino Mega running HoodLoader or similar driving the whole thing. Jez, Andygoes has a point: any chance you can ping Elgato, and see if there's an SDK / API in the works?
  • I want this for my beam 😜
  • Hey, is Pewdiepie using this? Watched him poke at something recently. 😊