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Elgato Stream Deck MK.2 review: should non-streamers buy one?

Stream Deck Mk.2
Shortcut star: the Stream Deck's not just for streamers
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The Elgato Stream Deck has been an indispensable part of my Mac setup for over a year now, but I’m not a streamer. It’s a rare example of a gadget designed for one purpose that works brilliantly for other purposes too. Now, Elgato has released the Stream Deck MK.2, a marked but minor improvement on its predecessor. Should you buy one? Find out why streamers and non-streamers alike might want one with our Stream Deck MK.2 review.

What does the Stream Deck MK.2 do?

The Stream Deck MK.2 is a 15-button panel of shortcuts. Elgato makes Stream Decks with more and fewer buttons, but this 15-button original is the sweet spot for me.

Each button looks like it has a mini LCD screen beneath it, although it is actually one big screen beneath them all. Still, each button can be programmed individually and to change purpose. So although you only have 15 buttons, you can move between pages or create folders that give you a practically unlimited number of programmable shortcuts.

This device was originally designed for people streaming on services such as Twitch and YouTube, so a lot of the preset shortcuts are designed with that audience of creators in mind. For example, streamers could press a button to play a sound effect during a stream or display a graphic asking viewers to subscribe. The buttons are soft touch, so don’t make a noise when pressed.

However, the device has plenty of uses outside the streaming world.

What does the Stream Deck MK.2 do for non-streamers?

The Stream Deck MK.2 can be used to create shortcuts for almost any application.

A 2021 update to the Stream Deck software introduced plugins, which are basically sets of pre-configured shortcuts for various applications. These include Spotify, PowerPoint, Apple Mail, Facebook Workplace and all manner of streaming and non-streaming apps. That means, for example, I can control a PowerPoint presentation from my Stream Deck, pushing buttons to move back and forth between slides, skip to the start/end of the presentation and so forth without having to learn the keyboard shortcuts.

Even if an app doesn’t have a plugin, you can still create your own shortcuts using the superb Stream Deck software, which works on Windows and Mac. Below, for example, is a set of shortcuts I’ve created for Adobe Lightroom, helping me to perform tasks at the touch of a button, instead of trying to remember keyboard shortcuts:

Stream Deck software

Each button is easily programmable and you can either use screenshots to create icons (like I have for the Clipping tool here, for example) or select from a huge library of bundled icons.

And the Stream Deck MK.2 does more than keyboard shortcuts. You can assign buttons to system functions, such as lock screen or take screenshot. You can assign buttons to enter passages of text – I have one set up with my address, for instance, saving me having to retype that when someone asks for my office address to send review kit. Functions can also be chained, so you might have a button that opens all of your essential apps first thing in the morning.

It is an extraordinarily flexible bit of kit and one that I’ve grown to depend on.

Stream Deck XL

Run Mac Shortcuts on a Stream Deck

How does the Stream Deck Mk.2 differ from the original Stream Deck?

In small but significant ways. The first is the power cord. The original Stream Deck had a captive power cable that sprouts out the back of the device. If that cable were to fail, you’d have to throw the entire device out. The Mk.2 has a plug-in USB-C cable, eradicating that single point of failure.

The Mk.2 (left) has a USB-C rather than captive power cable

The stand has also been redesigned for this second version. The original Stream Deck came on an deckchair-like stand with three different height adjustments, but that made it a touch flimsy. Press the Stream Deck too firmly and the stand would collapse like, well, a deckchair. The new stand has a fixed position, but it’s much more sturdy and much less likely to end up with your Stream Deck on the floor.

The original Stream Deck and its deckchair-like stand

The Mk.2 also comes in white as well as the standard black and there’s a new option to fit faceplates, which I suspect will appeal more to the streamers than the 44-year-old bloke creating shortcuts for his Mac because his memory is too shot to remember them.

Otherwise, it’s as you were. The buttons are the same size, the mini-LCD screens are the same resolution. If you’ve already got a Stream Deck, there’s really nothing here to warrant an upgrade, but the improvements are welcome for those who haven’t yet invested in the hardware but want one.

If you do upgrade from an original, all your button profiles are seamlessly transferred to the Mk.2, so it’s no hassle at all.

Should you buy a Stream Deck Mk.2?

Stream Deck Mk.2 on a desk
The Mk.2 now offers faceplates

At £140 from the Elgato Store, the Stream Deck Mk.2 isn’t an impulse buy. That said, it’s one of my favourite bits of kit and it’s come in even more useful since I traded in my old MacBook Pro for a new one and lost the Touch Bar. I’m constantly finding new ways to put it to good use, and I’m still yet to explore some of the more powerful uses, such as integration with IFTTT.

Even if you’re not a streamer and you thought Twitch was a chocolate bar, I’d heartily recommend a Stream Deck Mk.2.

Elgato Stream Deck Mk.2
  • Features
  • Hardware design
  • Value for money

Verdict

A hugely versatile panel of programmable shortcut buttons for Mac and Windows PCs

Overall
4.3

Pros

  • Super-easy to customise buttons
  • Works with a wide range of apps 
  • Sensible hardware decisions with this second version

Cons

  • Little or no reason to upgrade if you own the original 

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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