Elgato Stream Deck Mini review: a must-have for content creators

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CNN

I’ve been streaming on Twitch for about two years now using all kinds of different gear, and no gadget has elevated my streaming game like the $ 80 Elgato Stream Deck Mini. This keyboard has six LCD buttons that can be customized to do just about anything on your PC. As a result, I can produce an entire live show with a few easy clicks, which makes streaming a lot easier and a lot more fun.

If you’re thinking of getting into Twitch, YouTube, podcasting, or really any kind of content creation, the Stream Deck (which comes in several variations) is a must-have. And even if you’re not, this accessory can be programmed to do all kinds of tasks that can make it easier to work or control your favorite Spotify playlists.

Here’s why the Stream Deck Mini has become the centerpiece of my Twitch setup, and why it deserves a place on just about any designer desktop.

Mike Andronico / CNN

Essentially a small black box with six LED buttons on it (larger variations have more buttons), the Stream Deck Mini is quite modest at first glance. But once you get the hang of it, this little gadget unlocks some serious superpowers to manage your Twitch or YouTube streams – or just control your computer.

The Stream Deck can be customized through the free Stream Deck app for Windows and Mac, which syncs with popular streaming apps like Open Broadcasting Software (OBS) and XSplit to let you easily run a broadcast without even touching your mouse. or your keyboard. For example, I currently have dedicated buttons to go live, activate different game and camera scenes, and turn on my “back” screen once it’s time to take a break. This allows me to create smooth transitions between, say, talking to my viewers in a close-up shot and showing Halo action in a game scene, all without my viewers visibly staring at me and awkwardly clicking my streaming software to change it.

This is how I normally use Stream Deck, but it only scratches the surface of what this thing can do. You can program the Stream Deck buttons to send a Tweet, which is perfect for promoting your stream with just the push of a button. You can also set keys to open any app or website on command – something I’ve often used to open OBS with a single click and access streaming faster.

The Stream Deck gets even more powerful once you install one of the many free plugins available, including tools that let you control Spotify or even navigate Windows right from the keyboard. the Spotify plugin turned my Stream Deck into a music control center, allowing me to play, pause, skip, and like tracks (this is handy for people without media control on their computer). Meanwhile, the Windows Tools plug-in allows me to lock my PC with one button or see how long my computer has been on directly on the LED display.

Mike Andronico / CNN

Once you’ve decided what you want the Stream Deck to do, you have almost endless options to customize the look of each LCD key to your liking. There are a ton of built-in and downloadable icon sets to go along with common functions like live stream, record, turn on music, and send Tweets, including some animated ones. You can also upload your own icons, like the one I have from my dog ​​for the button that activates his dedicated webcam feed.

Mike Andronico / CNN

The Stream Deck is especially evident if you’re using other Elgato gadgets, such as the Key Light or our favorite streaming microphone in the Wave: 3. The Wave: 3 already makes it easy to manage multiple audio sources at once through the Wave Link app, but when you use it in tandem with a Stream Deck, you can access all of these controls with the push of a few buttons rather than d. ‘have to click in the application.

And if you have an Elgato Key Light or Ring Light connected, you can use the Stream Deck to adjust brightness and color settings on the fly in case you look too dark or blown out for your viewers. The Stream Deck also works with a variety of third-party gadgets, with plugins that let you control your Philips Hue or Nanoleaf lights, perfect for creating a cool light show for your viewers on the fly.

Assigning all of these controls means your Stream Deck knobs will fill up quickly, especially if you’re using the Six-Key Mini like me. Fortunately, you can create as many profiles as you want in the Stream Deck app, each with their own unique functions assigned to each button. For example, I normally use my main streaming profile, but I also have profiles dedicated to controlling Spotify and my Wave microphone: 3. You can even assign these profiles to automatically activate when you launch a specific app.

The added value of Stream Deck is the fact that there is a whole community of creators around it, with people constantly sharing their own profiles and visuals that you can install and use on your own. There are icon packs available in the companion app inspired by Assassin’s Creed, Apex Legends and Superman, which will give your Stream Deck an extra geek touch. And if you are looking for optimal profiles for streaming or gaming, there are people out there who share all kinds of custom layouts on Reddit.

Mike Andronico / CNN

If there’s one issue I’ve had with my Stream Deck Mini after almost two years of use, it’s that I just wish I had more keys. I was able to bypass the Mini’s modest six-button layout by using folders, profiles, and multi-action keys, but that still feels limited enough to make me consider upgrading to the Stream Deck (149, $ 99) or the Stream Deck TG ($ 249.99). And if you plan on creating a lot of content, you might want to consider investing in one of the top-of-the-line templates.

The standard Stream Deck gives you 15 LCD buttons, while the premium Stream Deck XL contains a total of 32 buttons. They all work exactly the same – it just depends on how serious you are in your streaming game and how many controls you want to have on hand at once. It’s also worth noting that you can use multiple Stream Decks at once, in case you are an existing Stream Deck owner looking to expand. The Stream Deck software can recognize multiple decks at the same time and you can easily copy functions from one Stream Deck to another.

  • Elgato Stream Deck Mini ($ 79.99; elgato.com): 6 keys, ideal for beginners
  • Elgato Stream Bridge ($ 149.99; elgato.com): 15 keys, ideal for the average streamer
  • Elgato Stream Deck XL ($ 249.99; elgato.com): 32 keys, ideal for serious broadcasters

Don’t want to buy a Stream Deck? You can just turn your phone into one instead. Stream Deck Mobile app for ios and Android gives you all of the same features as the standard Stream Deck, with 15 virtual keys that you can program to control your PC and configure streaming as you see fit. I was pretty impressed with the mobile experience – switching scenes in OBS was almost as responsive as it was on my Mini, and there’s good haptic feedback to simulate the feeling of using a physical Stream Deck. The app is a subscription based on $ 2.99 per month or $ 24.99 for one year and offers a free trial, which makes it a great way to try out the Stream Deck experience before you splurge on it. ‘one of the physical decks.

Mike Andronico / CNN

As an amateur Twitch streamer, I consider the Elgato Stream Deck Mini to be one of the best things I have ever bought for my PC setup. This tool gives me the ability to go live, switch scenes, and start an intermission with just the push of a button, which makes me feel like I’m producing a live show rather than fumbling around in an app with my mouse. . And as I dig deeper into the many fan-made plugins and profiles available for Stream Deck devices, I find out how useful it is as a versatile tool for controlling your computer.

If you do any type of content creation and are interested in the Stream Deck, I highly suggest investing in the $ 149 15 key model if you can. You’ll quickly run out of space on the Mini, although you can make smart use of folders and multiple profiles to make the most of its six-key layout. And if you’re not sure whether the Stream Deck is right for you, the mobile app is a good way to try out its features for free.

Whichever option you choose, if you’re someone who spends their days showing off their Call of Duty skills, hosting virtual concerts, or hosting live podcasts, the Stream Deck is absolutely your setup.


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