We’re big fans of the Elgato Stream Deck range here at Big Tech Question. I handed a Buy Now award to the Stream Deck Mk.2 and David had a lot of time for the Stream Deck Pedal. That’s pretty remarkable, considering neither of us are streamers. However, the Stream Deck is a brilliant general purpose set of shortcut buttons, saving you from remembering endless keyboard shortcuts. And now they’ve added dials and a touchscreen strip to the mix! What’s not to love? Find out in my Stream Deck + review.
Stream Deck + review: design
So, Iet’s cut straight to the chase and talk about the design of the Stream Deck +. This device has only eight shortcut buttons, a touchscreen strip and four dials at the bottom.
When you first fire it up, you might think the touchscreen strip merely displays the description labels for the dials underneath, and in many ways it does. However, it can also be used a button – assign one of the dials to PC/Mac volume, for instance, and you can dab that touchcreen label to mute the computer. The dials themselves can also be pressed for the exact same effect, although they make a distinct clicking noise that streamers are unlikely to want.
The touchscreen strip can also be used to flick between different ‘pages’ of Stream Deck buttons. This is a relatively new concept for the Stream Deck, but one that means you’re not limited to only eight buttons. Swish left and you open a new page, with eight more buttons that are ready to assign.
Note that the functions assigned to the buttons and dials are unique to each page. So, if you’ve assigned system volume to the left-most dial on the first page and then flick to the second page, the volume control will disappear (unless you assign it again on the new page). The advantage of this approach is you can have pages dedicated to specific apps. So you might have a page for Photoshop, another for Lightroom etc, each with independently assigned dials.
Make no mistake, however, the touchscreen is in no way a replacement for the MacBook’s Touch Bar. It can’t be assigned functions independently of the dials and that feels like a missed opportunity to me.
What do you do with the dials?
This – right now – is the big problem with the Stream Deck+. There’s not an awful lot for the dials to do.
Most of the plugin makers have yet to catch up with the new hardware, so the app-specific plugins are mainly button-only. You can, of course, assign your own functions to the dials and that’s simple to do.
For example, here I’ve used the Stream Deck software to assign a dial to zoom in and out in Adobe InDesign:
(Many other Adobe and non-Adobe apps use that same keyboard shortcut for zooming, by the way).
That works well, but there’s a limit to how much you can self-assign. In Lightroom, for example, there’s no keyboard shortcut I can find for increasing/decreasing exposure, contrast or sharpening. They would be perfect functions for the dials, but there’s no way of doing that currently.
This might only be a short-term problem. And if you’re a streamer that is constantly fiddling with lighting or audio levels, this could already be what you were looking for.
However, for the more general-purpose user like me, the space afforded to the dials mean less space for the more valuable buttons, which is a poor trade-off. Give me buttons over dials any day of the week.
When you factor in the steep £200 asking price, I can’t currently bring myself to recommend the Stream Deck + to anyone but streamers, who might make better use of them than me.
Features & design
Ease of use
Value for money
A bold new addition to the Stream Deck family, but the dials have limited functionality for the time being
- Great for those looking to control audio/lighting on streams
- Very simple to program buttons and dials
- Dials lack support in many plugins currently
- Touchscreen is of very limited use