First Look: Elgato Stream Deck

Posted on by Larry

[Read my disclosure statement for product reviews here.]

Apparently, there are folks who make a living streaming video games to vast audiences. Strange, but true. Which only goes to show just how far removed I am from the video gaming community.

Elgato makes a device specifically targeted at live streaming, and video game streaming in particular: Stream Deck. However, after looking at this unit, I realized it also has value for webinars, video editing and power users in general.

So, I bought one for myself. After three weeks, here are my thoughts.

NOTE: Three years later, I’ve discovered the secret that makes this REALLY useful. Read my revised review here.


The Elgato Stream Deck is an external, illuminated keypad that triggers events on your computer at the touch of a button. Think of it as a stand-alone device for keyboard shortcuts.

The reason this is better than simply typing a keyboard shortcut is that, many times when producing a live webinar or event, you need do something, but you don’t want to shift the screen to make it happen. The Stream Deck solves this problem.

For example, “trigger sound effects and audio clips. Launch GIFs and onscreen videos. Activate your lower thirds, intermission screen, and signature outro graphics. Stream Deck integrates your tools and detects your scenes, media, and audio sources, so you can cruise through your workflow and focus on your audience.” (Elgato website)

Plus, Elgato offers the Stream Deck store. “Over one hundred plugins and counting. Beautiful icon packs by graphic design pros. Video tutorials, articles, and interviews that’ll make you a Stream Deck ninja. Plus thousands of royalty-free tracks and sound effects that eliminate any risk of DMCA flags and copyright strikes.” (Elgato website)

Stream Deck is a hardware panel, containing 15 back-lit buttons, and software to program what those buttons can do. The unit sits on a small plastic stand that can be tilted to a variety of angles, whichever is most comfortable for you.

Many actions are already programmed into the software, but the true benefit comes when you use that software to create your own series of events. Pressing a single button can trigger an unlimited number of events. For example: “Smash [a] key to activate flight mode, launch Spotify, and open your favorite creativity app. With Multi Actions, any number of actions can be stringed together, assigned to one key, and triggered intermittently or all at once.” (Elgato website)

The unit ships with the keyboard, plastic stand, USB cable and brief instruction manual. I’ve had fun playing with this and have not begun to tap its full potential.

Product: Elgato Stream Deck
Manufacturer: Elgato
Price: $149 (US), though discounts abound.


Elgato is committed to 100% plastic-free packaging. The unit came safely packed in a cardboard box.

To set it up:

The whole process took five minutes.


The Stream Deck itself has buttons similar to a video switcher. Back-lit using LEDs, each button has its own icon and label. The front of the keypad looks lovely and I really like the feel of the keys.

The Stream Deck keypad leans against the stand. It would be better if there was some way to either attach the keyboard to the stand, or have the keypad sit into it more solidly. As it is, if you aren’t paying attention, the keyboard will slip out of the stand.

The Stream Deck keyboard is solidly built using strong plastic. It has both weight and heft to stand up to heavy-handed button pushing. The USB cable is permanently attached to this unit, so it won’t get lost. And the LEDs behind the buttons are bright and easy to read in all-but-the-brightest indoor environments.

The plastic stand uses small risers to change the angle of the keys from flat to almost vertical in seven increments. The stand itself isn’t that rugged, but, then, it isn’t likely to get a lot of abuse. It is made of light-weight plastic. While the stand has rubber feet to keep it from slipping on a desk, it still tends to skid and doesn’t hold the Stream Deck keypad firmly

My only real concern about this unit is the stand. Security and skidding can be fixed with some tape or rubber bands, but Elgato should rethink the construction of this base.

It isn’t bad, it’s just light-weight. And the keypad isn’t.


(Click to see larger image.)

The Stream Deck software is the real magic of the unit. This is where you assign one or more actions to each key. There are nine sections to the software, as you can see from the screen shot above. I’m not a gamer, and I don’t use OBS for my webinars, so that rules out more than half the available options.

However, the power in two key sections – Stream Deck and System – makes the unit worthwhile for power users.

To apply an action, drag it from the menu list on the right onto a button on the left. If you need more keys, create a folder then, assign that folder to a key to access more actions.

One of the more useful functions are “switches.” This is where you can program opposite actions to the same button. For example, here, I’ve created a simple toggle that turns music on and off.

Others that I use regularly are to:

Yes, there is software that will do most, or all, of this. But, Stream Deck allows you to program it into an interface where you can push a button, rather than remember a specific keyboard shortcut.


If you are a keyboard junkie, like me, you probably don’t need Stream Deck. But, if you have trouble remembering shortcuts, or you need an easy-to-use interface to automate actions without altering the look of your screen, Stream Deck is designed for you.

I like this unit. It may be that the buttons remind me of video switchers in my past. Or the bright, cheerful LED lighting behind the keys. Or the solid construction. Or that it just looks great on my desk. But I’m having all kinds of fun figuring out what this can automate for me in my daily work.

If you constantly do the same things over and over, need to have one action trigger a variety of succeeding actions, or simply want a different way to automate your workflow, the Elgato Stream Deck is an easy-to-use, flexible and well-built external keyboard specifically designed to trigger actions by pushing a button with your fingers, not the mouse. For live events, webinars, gaming and general productivity, this is a great little device.

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7 Responses to First Look: Elgato Stream Deck

  1. Warren Nelson says:

    There’s also iPad software for this system. Just got it and plan to get it setup after the holidays.

    I’ll let you know how it worked.

  2. Don Moore says:

    A lot of Video Streamers have been using this and its larger brother to automate their software for a while. The custom keys makes it nicer than other keyboard emulators.

  3. Rowan says:

    Another feature: The layout can change automatically for the application you’re in at the moment. When you open PrPro, it can switch to keys you have setup for editing (then back to Finder, displaying that keyset, and so on).

    There’s also good integration with Keyboard Maestro that lets you run macros from a key.

    There’s a fun key called “Weather” that (once you setup your personal key at displays local temperature and a weather icon directly on the key itself.

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