Elgato Stream Deck Mini review — an improvement with fewer buttons | Tech Industry
Elgato Gaming has followed up its Stream Deck USB control-panel device with a new, smaller version called Stream Deck Mini. While the first Stream Deck sells for $150 and comes with 15 buttons, the Mini is selling for $100 and has only six buttons. But in terms of how the buttons work, everything is the same. That means you can program each one to perform a specific function in software like Open Broadcasting Software (OBS Studio), Twitter, and more.
But $100 isn’t that much less expensive than the original Stream Deck, and six buttons is significantly fewer than 15. So is the Stream Deck Mini worth it? For most casual streamers looking to simplify their setup, it probably is.
What you’ll like
It’s easy to use
Elgato has done a lot of work to improve the experience of pressing a button to make an action happen in an ap since it launched the original Stream Deck. The included free software is simpler with several more built-in options and features. Making folders is a snap, and so is building profiles that automatically populate the Stream Deck depending on what programs you have open.
The engineers and UX designers responsible for the Stream Deck and the Mini are clearly using them every day and working with people who use them every day. The result is a hardware/software experience that makes it easy to automate a ton of important functionality while you are playing games, livestreaming, or recording.
I’m especially fond of the media features that can play mp3s, which I’ve used to turn the Mini into a soundboard for our podcast. But I also used the prefabricated options to add mute toggles for my microphone and to switch between scenes.
Setting up the Stream Deck Mini for other tasks that are not included in the software is simple as well. I have a profile dedicated to Nvidia Shadowplay, which is not a built-in option. But I just recorded a few hotkeys, added my own button art, and now I have quick access to recording the last five minutes, turning on Shadowplay, and more.
Smart design improvements
But everything that makes the Mini easy to use also applies to the Stream Deck proper, so does the Mini do anything better than its older sibling? Absolutely. It has an overall better design as a consumer product.
The first Stream Deck is a relatively flat panel that comes with an annoying, flimsy plastic stand. You need to use that holster if you want the Stream Deck to sit up and face you on your desk. I hate that stand. It collapses if you move it, and then you have to use two hands to get it to extend again.
The Mini solves all of that. It is a solid triangular shape like a prism that sits up at an ideal angle all on its own. It doesn’t even come with a stand. It also has a reliable rubber grip on its underside that keeps it in place even if you smash the buttons with some serious force.
In terms of the physical experience of using the Mini, it is a serious upgrade over the Stream Deck 1.0, and I hope that Elgato brings this design forward as it refreshes these products in the future.
What you won’t like
You’ll have to get creative with how you use it
The big problem with the Mini is the dearth of the buttons. Six buttons is near the lower limit of the number of options you can have on a device like this while still getting some use out of it. While the Stream Deck always left me with plenty of blank spaces to work with, the Mini requires you to only include the buttons that you need. If you need more than 6, you’ll need to get wise about using folders.
The profile system can help with this to a point, but it’s more difficult to switch profiles in the middle of a livestream than to open a sub-folder. But even that isn’t great. If you’re like me, you’re already juggling enough during a broadcast, and making sure you’re in the correct folder is a hassle you don’t need to deal with.
Let’s get reductive. The Stream Deck is $9.34 per button. The Stream Deck Mini is $16.67 per button. Each of those buttons are exactly the same in terms of their capabilities, so go out there and buy ’em by the bulk, right? Except $100 is still less expensive than $150, and I think most people can get by with those six buttons and a smart use of the software. So unless you have a lot of ideas about what you want from a Stream Deck, I think the Mini is probably the right one for you. That’s especially true when you consider the improved design.
Elgato Stream Deck Mini is available now for $100. Elgato Gaming provided the Mini to us for the purposes of this review.