As a streamer you have many moving parts inside your stream setup. You shouldn’t have to worry about switching screens between games or during breaks. We have compiled the best stream deck for you to use for streaming.
You have come to the right place, as we have been doing this for a long time, and understanding everything a streamer needs to have the best possible stream they can.
Why Buy a Stream Deck?
If you’ve been getting into streaming recently, then you’ll know exactly how daunting it can be. There are a million things to keep on top of at any given time, and even when everything is going your way, something often goes wrong.
This could be an audio issue, forgetting how to trigger a chat command, or a game crashing from your constant tabbing in and out.
Stream decks offer an elegant solution for many of these problems. Essentially, they are customizable keypads, with which you can execute all manner of commands and shortcuts.
This article will break down some of the most popular options, and also take a look at some phone/tablet based alternatives, eventually deciding which is the best stream deck for you.
The Elgato Stream Deck XL offers a no compromise option; with 32 keys, you will have absolutely no issues fitting on every command you could want, and it’s likely that you won’t find a use for some of them.
The Stream Deck XL comes with a USB-C connector, which is both compact and very functional. The build quality also is fantastic, with satisfying key-feel and an ergonomic slant for easier visibility.
The unit also comes with a stand, if you prefer even more angle.
Arguably the best thing you get with the Elgato Stream Deck XL is the software. It’s incredibly simple to set up, and easy to customize.
It comes with a large array of default functionalities you can assign to any key you like. These include activating audio presets, posting to social media, and using OBS. With the software, you can also set a key to perform up to 9 actions, in any order.
So, you can start your stream, and post to social media to alert your fans, with the push of one button.
While all of this is great, the XL doesn’t offer anything over the standard Stream Deck, or the Mini, apart from the extra keys.
So, unless you are taking streaming seriously, it’s perhaps a smarter idea to save some money and go for the mini.
The Elgato Stream Deck Mini has only 6 buttons, which is less than a fifth of the XL.
Cheaper than the Elgato XL, you might argue that you are getting less for your money with the mini, and you will indeed be paying far more per button. However, for a lot of streamers, six buttons is more than adequate. Many might see the simple minimalism of the Stream Deck Mini more than worth the price tag.
In terms of build quality, the same high standard of the XL is met here. Quality plastic, a USB-C connector, and quality key switches lead to an extremely satisfying experience. One thing which may even be better in the mini is that it already has quite a high angle, making for fantastic key visibility.
This also means you can have it quite far away while retaining usability.
Just like the other options from Elgato, the near-flawless software is included with the mini as well. This means that you can get seriously creative with the possibility of multiple functions to make the most out of your six buttons.
For instance, you could have one button to set up everything you need to start your stream, and another to end it. If you think you could have every function you need on 6 buttons, then perhaps the mini is for you.
While Max Keyboard’s offering doesn’t have a catchy name like Elgato’s products, it does represent a smart alternative if you’re willing to put more effort into setup. Just like it’s more expensive competitors, the Falcon-20 offers a customizable control center for streamers and only costs $60. With 20 keys, the price to key ratio is phenomenal.
The build quality of the Falcon-20 is impressive, particularly as many see it as a cheap knockoff. The board showcases a thick aluminum plate, as well as ergonomic micro USB connectors, and long-lasting ABS keycaps.
In addition to this, you get a choice of Cherry MX switches, allowing you to achieve your favorite feel. The RGB lights are a fantastic bonus, too. They have 8 different modes, with every color bright and clear.
Unfortunately, the software is an obvious flaw. Particularly when compared to Elgato’s, it seems limited and clunky. There are reports of the installer clashing with antivirus programs, and the UI interface, although practical, is certainly quite ugly.
As well as this, it totally lacks the option to set one button to perform a sequence of tasks. However, it does slightly make up for this, as it is possible to set the macro pad to have a completely different set up of functions depending on what program is currently being used.
If you are on a tight budget and require a lot of 6 buttons, then the Falcon-20 is a solid choice. What it lacks in limited software, it makes up for in sheer button count, and build quality too.
Purchasing a totally separate device to gain maximum control over your stream may not be necessary. With Touch Portal and UP Deck, you use your phone or tablet to achieve much the same effect.
Both are free to download for IOS and Android, although they have limited functionalities unless you purchase the pro-versions in-app.
They are around $15, so are incredibly cheap when compared to the other options. For this price you’ll be able to have as many on-screen buttons as you like. On a larger tablet, having as many (or more) as the Stream Deck XL is totally feasible.
This means that the app option is by far the most cost-effective.
Much like the Falcon-20, the software these apps come with isn’t quite as sleek as Elgato’s, and they also lack the ability to do anything outside of OBS.
However, they are certainly very usable, and simple to set up. The fact that you can have as many buttons as you like means that you won’t run out of options any time soon. So, the limited functionality is arguably more than made up for.
Both of these apps are compatible with StreamLabs OBS, and the Touch Portal works with XSplit too. This means that they can control everything you usually do in Streamlabs OBS, without having to tab out. Touch Portal also offers an unparalleled level of customizability, with the option to set any images or GIFs as button icons, and customizable backgrounds. UP Deck has some options too, although they are not as impressive.
Unless you plan to stream very regularly and seriously, Touch Portal option is definitely the most cost-effective way to have your streamflow more smoothly. They have fantastic functionality, allowing you to control Streamlabs OBS and/or XSplit without tabbing out.
If you are a serious streamer, then the best option is the Elgato Stream Deck Mini. Buying it allows you access to their awesome software, which will in turn mean that you will have almost unlimited functionality from just six keys.