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Elgato Stream Deck review: A Mac accessory you didn’t realize you need


With the launch of its up to date software program and new on-line retailer, Elgato’s Stream Deck turns into ever extra vital accent for all desktop Mac customers.

You spend all day at your Mac, which has a keyboard that is already acquired no less than 78 keys on it. No surprise it is arduous to see why you’d wish to purchase a separate gadget to present you 6, 15, or 32 extra buttons.

It was simpler to see why you’d wish to use a keyboard just like the Optimus Maximus, the place each single key was not solely programmable but additionally a display screen. At your alternative, as an example, you possibly can have a special format of keys that highlighted typical video modifying keys akin to J, Ok, and L, if you have been in Remaining Minimize Professional.

Solely, Optimus Maximus was heavy and really costly when it was accessible. And now it is near unimaginable to search out one.

Plus, as interesting as the concept of adjusting each key to show, say, Cyrillic letters one minute, QWERTY the subsequent, and France’s AZERTY within the afternoons, the percentages have been that you simply did not. You had 100 or extra customizable keys, however half or extra stayed uncustomized.

The identical firm did make a six-button additional Optimus keyboard, though it too seems to have lengthy since ceased to exist.

What there’s, as an alternative, is the Elgato Stream Deck. It’s possible you’ll by no means have knowingly streamed something, and it does not matter — this accent is that uncommon factor, a boon for all Mac customers.

Or no less than desktop Mac customers. It is much less helpful if you happen to’re touring with a MacBook Pro as a result of, whereas small, it is an ungainly second gadget to be balancing in your prepare desk.

There’s a Stream Deck mini, which is smaller and affords simply six buttons, however it’s nonetheless higher suited to being on a desk.

What the Elgato Stream Deck provides you

The 6, 15, or 32 button variations of the Stream Deck all do the identical factor. Any one among its buttons could be programmed to do quite a lot of duties. So you possibly can press one button to launch Microsoft Excel, if you happen to needed and if in case you have that app.

Or you possibly can press one button to launch Zoom, plus a particular Keynote presentation and a specific define in OmniOutliner — after which change all the opposite buttons into video-conferencing controls.

Subsequent time you go to go away a Zoom assembly after having used a Stream Deck, see how awkward you and everybody appears to be like as you attempt to click on the Go away button, then affirm you wish to finish the assembly for everyone.

With a Stream Deck, you’ll be able to say adios to them as you press one single bodily button, and it ends that video convention neatly. No looking for your mouse to cursor over the Zoom app’s management. Simply stab your finger at a button you do not even want to take a look at.

When you’re on a video convention, by the way, you possibly can as simply have Stream Deck buttons that mute and unmute the audio, flip the digicam on or off, and so forth.

The middle-sized Store Deck comes with 15 buttons, but they can all.changed and reconfigured endlessly

The center-sized Retailer Deck comes with 15 buttons, however they’ll all.modified and reconfigured endlessly

Elgato Stream Deck {hardware} design — buttons

There are variations between the three sizes of Stream Deck, however broadly they really feel the identical and are constructed the identical. The texture is of a barely squishy button — it is oddly harking back to how sure imaginative and prescient mixing controls are on a TV studio desk.

Every button can be a tiny display screen, which suggests which you could show icons in them, and you’ll change these icons too. Press one button that you have labeled as, say, Work, and have each different button change to point out every of the purposes you utilize in your job.

Press that very same Work button once more, and now if you happen to select, each different button can change to your favourite music sources and playlists as an alternative.

The look of every button reasonably is dependent upon the icon inside it. For those who determine to have it so {that a} explicit button launches, say, Mail, then Stream Deck will pull within the Mail icon throughout setup.

Alternatively, you’ll be able to design your individual icons or use a web based Elgato instrument to organize some.

It is a ability to get an icon that is memorable for all of the belongings you desire a button to do, and to look good on the unit as effectively. It’s kind of simpler to finish up with brightly lit buttons that look a bit naff.

Nonetheless, you might be prone to discover that creating button icons additionally turns into an obsession, and you may quickly find yourself making your individual in Photoshop or Pixelmator Professional.

Elgato Stream Deck {hardware} design — general

Anybody particular person button feels stable and durable. There’s by no means any query that you have pressed one, as an example, and it is a satisfying press too.

The Stream Deck as a complete can wobble barely relying on which model you’ve got acquired, and which stand setting you are utilizing, although.

The 15-key Stream Deck could be positioned in your desk with nothing else, and it presents a low slope of buttons. The angle of the slope could effectively not fit your desk format, and the Stream Deck could also be too slippy on its floor too.

So the 15-key model comes with a plastic stand that may be adjusted to 5 barely totally different angles. The Stream Deck can be much less susceptible to slipping when it is on this stand too.

The 32-key model has a stronger magnetic stand, plus a removable – and subsequently extensible and replaceable — USB-C to USB-A cable. Each the 6- and 15-key variations have a completely affixed cable within the unit.

Elgato recommends that the USB-A finish, of whichever model of the Stream Deck, be plugged immediately into the Mac reasonably than by a hub. It could work through a powered hub, however it will probably cease functioning after a restart, until it’s connected immediately.

That will come all the way down to what powered hub you are utilizing, although, because it does not have an effect on all customers.

Elgato Stream Deck Software program

It is within the Stream Deck app that you simply determine which of your unit’s buttons do what. When launched, the app shows a picture of your Stream Deck’s present format, and also you click on on a button onscreen to arrange the corresponding bodily button.

Establishing could be only a query of choosing a button and selecting from an extended checklist of Stream Deck actions. It comes with many commonplace choices, like a button setting that opens anyone web site you select.

However then buttons could be doubled as much as act as a toggle, as an example, the identical single button muting and unmuting audio in Zoom. Or one button could be set to carry out a complete collection of steps for you.

In addition to the offered commonplace units of controls, you’ve got lengthy been in a position so as to add to them from Elgato’s Extra Actions hyperlink. This has now been revamped as a part of the brand new Stream Deck 5.0 software program to grow to be one-button entry to a complete retailer of choices from Elgato and others.

The software program is one place the place Elgato betrays its Home windows origins. Whereas it’s a Mac app, it is not the best-behaved one. It has no menus, it does not seem robotically within the Dock whereas operating, and there is not a menubar icon.

You can also’t conceal it when you’re performed. It neither has a Cover Stream Deck possibility nor does it reply to Cover Others if you’re a special app.

Configure buttons to do whatever you want, then change their icons and colors as you need

Configure buttons to do no matter you need, then change their icons and colours as you want

You may drag the Stream Deck software to the Dock and launch it from there. However if you happen to then drag the app out of the Dock whereas operating, it simply goes. It does not snap again to the Dock like an everyday operating Mac app.

In apply, you find yourself launching or going again to Stream Deck’s software program mainly by Highlight or a launcher akin to Alfred. That stated, these aren’t gradual methods to launch it — and you do not typically spend plenty of time within the Stream Deck app.

You go into it solely to create or edit the totally different units of buttons, and thereafter you really overlook that there is software program in any respect.

The brand new Stream Deck 5.0 software program

There’s little instantly apparent distinction between the earlier Stream Deck app and the newest model 5.0. The brand new model sheds the previous Extra Actions button, which was fairly buried, although, and as an alternative features a extra outstanding Retailer icon.

This icon takes you thru to the brand new Stream Deck Retailer, however reasonably than a spot to purchase issues, it is presently extra a repository of helpful extras. Presumably, it should acquire paid-for gadgets, however on the time of writing, nothing seems to incur an additional price.

What’s there up to now begins with what Elgato calls Plugins. These are units of actions that may be assigned to buttons. So there is a set for controlling Elgato’s personal vary of lights, or there are one-off capabilities akin to placing an analog clock face right into a button.

Alongside these, some gadgets are extra suited to Stream Deck’s unique viewers. If you’re somebody who streams dwell video classes to the world, the Stream Deck Retailer consists of royalty-free music and sound results that you simply would possibly wish to use.

Maybe probably the most useful aspect of the Retailer for model new customers, although, is the Uncover tab. Displayed as the very first thing you see if you open the Retailer, it is a assortment of tutorials and guides to utilizing Stream Deck.

Elgato Stream Deck — makes use of for Mac house owners

For a non-streamer and maybe non-gamer, the Stream Deck fairly immediately turns into your most well-liked means of getting all the way down to work at your Mac — as soon as you’ve got set it up.

Out of the field and related to your Mac, the only real factor it does is current one Welcome button. Urgent that launches your Mac’s net browser and takes you to Elgato’s Stream Deck dwelling web page, the place there are tutorial movies.

Including a web site to a button is easy, not least since you’ll be able to edit the default Welcome one. Or you’ll be able to copy it and arrange a number of totally different buttons to take you to varied websites.

There may be way more you are able to do per button, nonetheless. It is true that the extra you pack into one button, the extra complicated it’s to arrange, however you’ll be able to, as an example, have a single button to start out your working day.

With out utilizing something apart from Stream Deck’s personal software program, that might imply opening up the 5 apps you’re employed on day-after-day. Or if you happen to’re a Keyboard Maestro user, that one button might go on to do absolutely anything your Mac can.

Launch 5 totally different apps, as an example, but additionally ten paperwork, plus three web site pages, give up all different apps, start a playlist in Apple Music, and so forth.

It might be good if there have been higher methods to connect withHomeKit than you’ll be able to at current, however that is extra on Apple than it’s Elgato. And there are alternatives, albeit a little bit rickety.

As an illustration, you should buy the separate third-party HomeControl app, which controls HomeKit whereas additionally providing a URL scheme. Use the app to search out out what URL might flip in your workplace lights, then program a Keyboard Maestro macro to name that URL.

After which assign that Keyboard Maestro macro to a button on the Stream Deck. On the one hand, it could be infinitely higher if Apple allowed Stream Deck entry to HomeKit to only flip the lights on or off.

However, although, that is an instance of simply how deep you will get into Stream Deck — and the way deeply engrossed you’ll be able to grow to be.

Initially, chances are you’ll even surprise how you are going to fill the 6-button or 15-button model. That does not final, although, as you in a short time notice that you really want the 32-button model.

Or presumably two. You may join two Stream Decks to the identical Mac, and the software program copes with each.

The new Stream Deck Store surfaces a lot of helpful tutorials

The brand new Stream Deck Retailer surfaces plenty of useful tutorials

Ought to Mac customers purchase an Elgato Stream Deck?

Until you are principally touring with a MacBook Professional, sure. For desktop Mac setups, that is an unqualified sure as a result of it’s so effectively made — though the Mac app software program might be extra handy — and it’s so addictive.

We do not really feel just like the 6-button gadget is definitely worth the worth, nonetheless. That appears to exist mainly to make a less expensive worth level and try to attract individuals into utilizing Stream Deck. Upon getting used it, the 6-button one will really feel too restricted.

Sadly, the 15-button one will as effectively. Whereas that 15-button model is arguably the candy spot when it comes to each worth and desk area, you will quickly want you had purchased the 32-button version.

There may be yet another possibility, which is Elgato Stream Deck Mobile for iPhone. It is an iOS app that mimics the capabilities of a Stream Deck and will provide you with some thought of what it is like to make use of these units.

Nonetheless, utilizing the iOS app means you are giving up the bodily buttons, and also you’re conserving your iPhone display screen on on a regular basis. Plus, the iOS app has a month-to-month price — Stream Deck Cellular for iPhone is a subscription app.

It prices $2.99 monthly or $24.99 per 12 months, so it’s considerably cheaper than a bodily Stream Deck for a couple of years. However in any other case, it has no benefits.

Professionals

  • Addictively helpful for all desktop Mac customers
  • Anybody button can open a single app, or launch a complete collection of Mac actions
  • It is particularly helpful in Zoom the place commonplace controls are a press away
  • Comes with dozens of attainable controls, and myriad extra can be found free

Cons

  • Much less helpful on the go alongside MacBook Professional
  • Stream Deck software program is not the most effective Mac citizen
  • 15-key model generally is a bit wobbly on its stand
  • Can grow to be complicated to make use of to its fullest

Ranking 5 out of 5

The place to purchase

The Elgato Stream Deck is available in three variations. The 6-button version Stream Deck Mini costs around $80 on Amazon, whereas the 15-button Stream Deck is $150.



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