Streaming is a production, no matter how large your audience. From adjusting audio levels to ensure those watching can take everything in without needing to strain to hear the streamer or the game underneath them, to being able to easily transition scenes and screens, being able to do it all easily is where the Stream Deck makes its bones. I've used a Stream Deck Mini for about a year now, but the smaller face and limited amount of buttons started to feel a little bit...limited. Thankfully, Elgato has recently released a refreshed version of their mainstay Stream Deck, dubbing it Mk. 2. How does it hold up over a few weeks use, though, and is it a device that can make your production better?
Short answer: yes.
- Price: $149.99 MSRP on Amazon
- Dimensions: 118 x 84 x 25mm / 4.6 x 3.3 x 1.0 in (without stand)
- Weight: 145g without stand / 270g with stand
- Keys: 15 customizable LCD keys
- Interface: USB 2.0
- Software Support: Elgato Stream Deck
- Comes with USB-C to USB-A cable, Stream Deck, Desktop Stand, Quick Start Guide
As I stated in my Elgato Facecam review a few weeks back, Elgato has gotten its packaging down to a science. There is limited waste here, and little to no plastics involved in the packaging making the whole affair better for the environment and more sustainable - which should be applauded.
The Stream Deck Mk.2 looks almost identical to its predecessor with a few notable exceptions. The now seemingly iconic 15-button LCD layout takes up most of the front real estate of the screen, each button giving a satisfying tactile feel when pressed. Interestingly, the Mk.2 is a little (like, barely perceptible) larger than its precedessor, but it still only takes up a small footprint on my desk.
The stand is altered from the previous version, this time Elgato opting for a fixed 45-degree angle stand for the Stream Deck, giving the perfect angle (for most, I'd wager) to access the face buttons easily. Crucially, the Stream Deck Mk.2 comes with a detachable USB-C 2.0 cable, which I greatly appreciate. While the standard cable is long enough for my setup (I use a standing desk as well, which means I typically need longer cables at my PC), I like the fact I can swap the cable for something a little longer if I needed it. This is one of my major complaints with the Stream Deck Mini - not being able to detach the cable actually forced me to rethink my setup to ensure I wasn't pulling the Mini off my desk every time I needed to stand during the workday.
Another major change is the detachable and swappable faceplate. Right now there are about seven of them for sale on Elgato's website, each costing about 10 bucks. I've also seen some streamers and YouTubers talk about creating their own custom faceplates to give their setups a bit more personality. This is truly a cosmetic thing, but it's a nice touch to liven up your setup if you choose - I'm looking at Saturn faceplate myself.
Each LCD button is beautifully backlit, the vibrant colors of the LCD shining through clearly. While 15 buttons might not seem like a lot (especially when you compare it to the Stream Deck XL's layout), where the Deck comes into its own is down to software.
Using the Stream Deck Mk.2
Stream Deck's software is where you'll get the most out of your device, as you can set up your layout and button macros to your heart's content. The Stream Deck comes with OBS, Twitch, Streamlabs OBS support and more built right in by default when you first boot it up, though the extensive store you can browse allows you to grab more products to integrate into your Stream Deck.
For me, I was able to add support for the Wave XLR mixer, as well as my Philips Hue lights in my office, and more. I even control Nvidia's Shadowplay thanks to a third-party mod on here, allowing me to quickly screenshot or even enter Ansel at a moment's notice.
15 buttons can go quickly, especially if you've got a lot to work within OBS or Xsplit itself. Thankfully you can create folders to expand this even further. I found it rather more organized for myself to have a separate folder for the Wave XLR controls, the Streamlabs OBS controls as well as pre-roll music we use on our streams in a third folder. This helped also create a rather organized workflow when streaming, helping to make our streams a bit more professional looking in the few weeks I've been toying with this (Though I still have to remember to unmute my mic sometimes!).
In my Wave XLR review, I mentioned how that controlling the sound levels using simple buttons versus faders or dials felt a little imprecise - and that still stands true even with the larger Stream Deck this time around. However, support for Elgato's ecosystem means that even these less than intuitive functions can be controlled in a way that I can make it work, such as adding a fade to music as it leaves the stream and we transition towards gameplay - or to fade out the game audio itself at the end to start the music to play us out.
Transitioning scenes in OBS is much easier now, as it's a simple click of a button. Having the extra buttons on the larger Stream Deck versus the Mini as well lets me do even more - I can list out all of the different scenes we use both here at MMORPG as well my personal streams and have everything housed in one folder, clearing up any clutter.
I've also taken to using the Stream Deck Mk.2 as a rather expensive light switch for my office, controlling my Phillips Hue lights that bathe my office in hues of blues and purples each stream - or annoy my daughter when we're gaming together in the room by constantly changing them at a moments notice. It's much easier to set these keystrokes up on the Elgato Stream Deck versus digging into the programs themselves, which basically satisfies the reason this exists: to make production and control over your devices easier.
Is the Elgato Stream Deck Mk.2 Worth It?
It's hard to say if the Mk.2 itself is worth an upgrade if you've got the original Stream Deck itself. As the only real differences are the stand, detachable cable, and the faceplate, you're not necessarily getting any additional functionality. However, if you're like me and you've used a Stream Deck Mini - or another device that (rather successfully) marries the functionality of the Stream Deck with that of a GoXLR in the AVerMedia LiveStreamer Nexus, it's a great addition to the setup.
I feel like I have more control over every aspect of our video creation here at MMORPG, and it also allows me to up the production value on my own personal streams when the itch arises to make a fool of myself on the interwebs. Folders give the Stream Deck seemingly endless screens to use, and the fact that there is so much third party integrating into the device, it gives me more confidence that the Stream Deck will be supported well into the future for quite some time. The Elgato store also has a small, but interesting library of music and sound effects to turn the Deck into a soundboard for streams and podcasts, giving you even more customization and personality to your streaming production.
If you're looking to up the quality of your stream production - or just want a simple way to control some of the apps on your PC, the Elgato Stream Deck Mk.2 isn't a bad choice - though it can be cost-prohibitive for some. Clocking in at $149.99, it's not cheap. However, if you're serious about upping your stream qualty, it's not a bad product to invest in. If you're like me, the higher price tag of the original Stream Deck is one reason why I went with the Mini originally, though having used the standard-sized Deck I'm wishing I had just invested sooner.
Thankfully, too, the Stream Deck Mk.2 is intuitive to use as well - It really didn't take much time to get set up with the software and learn to use it right away. It's here where I think Elgato really drives home its value. The devices themselves are cool all their own, but their software really makes them worth the investment. With the Stream Deck software, I have so much control over every aspect of my production when we are live - or I can easily log onto websites I frequent or launch a game quickly with a simple press of a button. It has taken over a lot of my workflow around my desk for the better. Though this wouldn't be possible if the Stream Deck software itself weren't solid on its own. The fact I can also use both of my Stream Decks simultaneously helps as I was able to effectively keep my Mini set up to control my Key Lights while my Mk.2 handled the rest of the production load.
It's a bit easier to use this if you're already engrained in the Elgato ecosystem, too, though if there was any one product to use without being embedded in Elgato products, the Stream Deck would be it.
The Elgato Stream Deck Mk.2 is a subtle improvement over the original version - it doesn't add any more flexibility or functionality over the 2017 Stream Deck, but what it does add: the detachable cable, custom faceplates, and perfectly angled stand (for me, anyway), makes the Stream Deck Mk.2 and integral part of my PC set up now. It's pricey, and for smaller streamers, it might not be an easy investment, but if you're serious about increasing quality while getting back quality form and function, you really can't go wrong with the Stream Deck Mk.2.
The product described in this review was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.