The premier live streaming tool, a Stream Deck is a programmable keypad designed to increase your efficiency and simplify the more nuanced aspects of live streaming. By creating and configuring all of your necessary programs into a press of a button, this alleviates much of the hassle live streaming can create. Using a Stream Deck will greatly improve your streaming experience and will change how you design a live streaming setup.
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What is a Stream Deck?
A Stream Deck is a fully customizable keypad that operates much like a small keyboard allowing you to macro many live streaming functions that would otherwise force you to alt-tab and search through OBS Studio or Streamlabs OBS.
There are a plethora of options that aim to cover all bases, however we’ll focus in on the most popular options along with some niche and a DIY solution. Elgato has produced 3 hardware keypads being the Stream Deck, Stream Deck XL and Stream Deck Mini, along with a mobile app aimed at those trying out some of the features Elgato has made available.
Along with the Stream Deck comes their software, a fully customizable suite of macros and options that make it simple and easy to control all programs from a capture card, your mixer, OBS, various overlays, Spotify, YouTube, donations and many more.
Let’s take a closer look at a few Stream Deck Alternatives and find out which best suites your live streaming needs:
Elgato Stream Deck
Out of the four plus options Elgato has produced in the last few years, the tried and true original is the Stream Deck. Aptly named, it has defined what a programmable keypad can be and has helped to revolutionize the live stream gaming niche.
While it has 15 fully programmable LCD keys, it sits at only 4.6 inches x 3.3 inches in size and fits perfectly on top of any gaming desk. The LCD keys are very bright and make for instant visual feedback along with the tactile feel of a keyboard.
It comes with a non-detachable cable sporting a USB 2.0 connector and an adjustable stand. The Elgato Stream Deck will latch onto the adjustable stand, making it a sturdy and easy to use experience while live streaming. It fully supports the newest features from Elgato like Key Creator, the software that allows you to create customizable icons for your macros. This is truly a remarkable piece of kit for any live streamer and it’s easy to see why it’s so popular with professionals on Twitch and YouTube.
Stream Deck XL
Elgato Stream Deck XL
The Elgato Stream Deck XL is the big brother to the original Stream Deck, sporting a whopping 32 LCD keys. Whether you’re swapping scenes, monitoring donations, adjusting OBS or Streamlabs OBS settings; it can all be done with the press of a button.
This version has changed more than an increase in LCD keys, it’s also added a removable USB type-C cable. The addition of leveraging USB 3.0 is required due to the bandwidth of the additional keys, as the backplane of the Stream Deck XL is a single LCD screen.
The Elgato Stream Deck XL roughly comes in at 7 inches x 4 inches in size and although much larger than the original Stream Deck, still very capable of sitting between your microphone and audio mixer on top of your gaming desk. This remains the premier programmable LCD keypad on the market and it continues to receive feature improvements from Elgato software updates. If you’re looking to take the next step to become a professional streamer, then this is the programmable keypad for you.
Stream Deck Mini
Elgato Stream Deck Mini
The Elgato Stream Deck Mini is a fantastic product made to serve the needs of the up and coming live streamers. It houses much of the same functionality as the previous two additions, however in a much smaller and more compact size.
With 6 bright LCD keys and at only 3.3 inches x 2.4 inches in size, it can fit almost anywhere, while remaining clean and visible to the eye. It comes with an integrated USB 2.0 cable and has the very same tactile keyboard feel as the previous Stream Deck’s.
While this version is designed to be smaller and more affordable, it is supported by the very same software functionality of the Stream Deck and Stream Deck XL. You can freely take advantage of the OBS, Streamlabs, Spotify and Tipeeestream integration regardless of which Stream Deck you choose.
Razer Tartarus v2 Keypad
The Razer Tartarus is a niche hardware option for a stream deck alternative and it boasts a 25-key keypad layout with a directional thumbstick and a full RGB lighting suite.
The keypad on the Tartarus is an ergonomic design with Razer’s “Mecha-Membrane” technology. It’s not an LCD screen like the Stream Deck, but it’s also not a clicky mechanical switch like various high-end mechanical keyboards. The “Mecha-Membrane” switch used on the Razer Tartarus is similar to the entry level Razer keyboard options.
Although fully programmable, the Razer Tartarus will require a bit of a learning curve to see it’s full potential. It requires Razer Synapse 3 software to utilize some of the macro and RGB lightning options, however when used alongside OBS Studio, you can fully macro and hotkey all keypad functions directly and take advantage of the 25-keypad layout.
Stream Deck Mobile
Elgato has invested in the creation of a mobile app for those of you that are interested in a Stream Deck without having to purchase one of the aforementioned keypads. This mobile app is a free download for both iOS and Android and has much of the same features as the Stream Deck, Stream Deck XL and Stream Deck Mini.
Elgato Stream Deck Mobile will provide you with a 15 button layout, allowing you to customize each of the buttons with macros, plugins, folders along with many more options.
While the app is free to download for both iOS and Android, Elgato will allow you to try it free of charge for 30 days. You have the option to use the mobile app after the initial trial for a charge of $2.99 per month or $24.99 per year. For those of you not interested in going with another piece of streaming hardware and would prefer to use your smartphone, the mobile app is the best way to go — almost all of the features at a fraction of the cost.
Additionally, if you’re on the iOS platform, you can use Siri to leverage voice commands with the mobile app instead of touching the screen!
Learn more about Elgato’s Stream Deck Mobile here.
Stream Puppy is an app that works on both Android and IOS devices that was designed specifically for Twitch streamers.
Alongside a Windows app, you can easily create and executive hotkeys and macros from your mobile phone to simplify your live streaming experience. Features include the ability to swap scenes, enable or disable push-to-talk, create keybinds for OBS, Discord and more.
There are three versions of Stream Puppy:
Stream Puppy Lite (Free)
- 6 customisable buttons
- 4 button colors
- Chat-activated triggers
- Voice-activated triggers
- Stream event triggers
Stream Puppy Streamer ($29.99 Lifetime License)
- Stream Puppy Lite features
- 45 customisable buttons
- 12 button colors
- Open desktop programs
- Run custom commands
- Hosting & Raiding
- View subscribers
Stream Puppy Pro ($59.99 Lifetime License)
- Stream Puppy Streamer features
- 60 customisable buttons
- Live web control center
- Real-time web volume control
- Multi-PC controls
Stream Puppy is a great stream deck alternative and all it requires is your mobile phone.
UP Deck is another free stream deck alternative that acts as a programmable control deck for OBS Studio. It’s available for both Android and iOS devices and aims to provide much the same ease of use and features that the other stream deck alternatives provide.
The app was originally designed for tablets and allows you to easily control various live streaming functions like recording, streaming, replays and adding animations to your OBS scenes. This app basically turns your tablet or mobile phone into a remote control for your Twitch stream.
DIY Stream Deck
There have been various forays into the custom or DIY market for stream deck alternatives and one stands above all others, the StreamPi.
The StreamPi is a Raspberry Pi designed to meet the needs of the everyday Twitch streamer. StreamPi is a completely free and open source project to help those with the mindset for DIY to create their own stream deck at a fraction of the cost.
With an active community along with a Discord server and Twitter the developers are keeping their community up to date with feature updates and improvements. The StreamPi has full integration with OBS, therefore you can hook in and it will automatically detect your scenes, hotkeys, macros, etc. Easy to use and fully customisable, StreamPi is the DIY stream deck for you.
Stream Deck Software
The software provided by Elgato for the Stream Deck is a powerful tool that allows you to craft and create custom keys, artwork, animations and integration with the most popular software programs. Once configuration is complete, you will be able to control nearly any program with the press of a button. Whether you need to adjust OBS settings, move your webcam to another location, bring up your green screen or various overlays, the Stream Deck software has you covered.
Elgato’s knowledge base has created a handy Quick Start Guide, which is a great way to just jump into it and start streaming.
Additionally, we’ll take a look at another Elgato program, Key Creator and how to integrate a Stream Deck with Streamlabs and OBS, two of the most popular live streaming software programs around.
Key Creator is a powerful tool provided by Elgato that allows you to fully customize the art and animation of the Stream Deck icons.
You can create high quality and easily identifiable Stream Deck icons through the use of additional layers, creating individual icons or an entire wallpaper for your Stream Deck; using all of the keypad icons to produce a single image.
The key creator also provides a library full of common and popular icons such as various Twitch icons, Chrome icons, mute and unmute, along with many popular emoticons. With this easy to use program, the possibilities are endless and it allows you to continue customizing your Stream Deck as your live streaming experience begins to expand.
Elgato has a live tutorial and demo where you can learn how to create and customize icons for your Stream Deck with Key Creator
Streamlabs OBS is a very popular streaming software tool and integration with your Stream Deck is paramount for any live streamer.
Elgato has an online knowledge base created to help new users with installation and use of their products. There is a helpful writeup provided by them on the integration of Streamlabs with a Stream Deck and some of related use cases. However, it is by no means an end all document as the Elgato software allows integration with almost any program through their SDK.
You can find more information here, however this is just scratching the surface.
OBS is the other major streaming software tool and a predecessor to Streamlabs OBS. This is the base open source program and sometimes isn’t as user friendly as Streamlabs OBS, however if you’re already accustomed to using it, Elgato has a handy walkthrough on how to setup and begin using your Stream Deck with OBS.
OBS integration is only four major steps and it’s quite simple to begin using your Stream Deck once OBS Studio is installed. You can find more information here.
Stream Deck Plugins
With the most recent software update Elgato has improved their software support by producing an SDK allowing others to contribute and enhance the usefulness of the Elgato Stream Deck software platform.
Currently there are a handful of useful and fun plugins available to download:
Voicemeeter Banana Integration
The Voicemeeter Banana plugin lets you control various features of Voicemeeter Banana through your Stream Deck.
You can create hotkeys that can toggle audio in a mute/unmute fashion. Additionally, you can control other functions like, lowering Discord audio, Windows game audio, Spotify, etc if they’re all hooked into Voicemeeter Banana.
The possibilities are endless with a plugin this powerful and these examples are only scratching the surface.
You can find the Voicemeeter Banana plugin here.
If you need to maintain a watchful eye on your CPU in order to make sure Windows Defender or other programs aren’t eating up valuable resources while streaming, then this plugin is made for you.
Sometimes all you need is a simple and handy visualization tool for your system and this is an easy way to keep an eye on it.
You can find the CPU Utilization plugin here.
If you have multiple inputs and outputs, for example; two microphones or a pair of headphones and a set of desktop speakers, then you can control switching between these with one button.
Toggle Audio Device hotkey allows you to swap between your microphones or headphones without having to alt tab in order to adjust menus or disconnect and reconnect additional hardware sources. One button swap, super easy.
You can find the Audio Output plugin here.
This plugin will make it quicker and easier to access Nvidia Shadowplay options without having to pause your game.
Some of the features provided by this plugin are as follows: Toggle Game Filter On or Off, Open the Game Filter Edit settings from your Stream Deck and the ability to switch between a preset list of Game Filters.
You can find the Nvidia ShadowPlay plugin here.
The Elgato Stream Deck SDK
If you’re interested in contributing to the SDK, you can read more information here.
Quoted from the aforementioned link:
The SDK has been designed to be:
- powerful: receive the key events, execute your own code on such events, customize the icon and text, …
- simple: the communication is done with simple json structures
- secure: each plugin runs in its own process
Please note that we built our sample plugins so that third party developers can reuse most of the code and don’t need to rewrite everything from scratch. If you plan to create a plugin written in:
- C++, you can reuse the files in the Common folder from the CPU plugin.
Objective-C, you can reuse the files in the Common folder from the Apple Mail plugin.
Additionally, there is a thriving subreddit over at StreamDeckSDK where community members are contributing to the SDK, creating and making improvements to plugins.
Stream Deck Macros
With Elgato providing an SDK and with a thriving subreddit providing various plugins from the community, naturally the next question is, what macros should I be using? Well, one user in particular has been providing the community with SuperMacro support for any Stream Deck product.
A community member, BarRaider has provided SuperMacro, a simple and powerful tool to chain events or keystrokes that are triggered from a Stream Deck keypad.
Stream Deck Scripts
However, if macros aren’t your thing or you’re looking for something potentially easier, then you might be interested in Stream Deck scripts, some of which you can find here.
Frequently Asked Questions about Stream Deck Alternatives
How to setup your Stream Deck?
The process of installing and setting up your Elgato Stream Deck is a fairly simple one. First you will need to connect the Stream Deck with your PC with the provided USB cable. Second, you will need to download and install the Elgato Stream Deck software. Roughly within a couple of minutes you can go from unboxing to full integration without breaking a sweat.
How to control Spotify with your Stream Deck?
The Elgato Stream Deck software has a plugin for managing and controlling Spotify. First you’ll need to install the Spotify Integration plugin from the Stream Deck software more actions tab. Second, drag the Spotify icon onto the one of the open button slots and link your premium Spotify account.
Now with your Spotify account linked, you can add any Spotify integration actions you wish to the open tabs provided and configure them in the property inspector menu. This allows you to play, pause, skip tracks and many more Spotify specific features that would otherwise require you to alt-tab and all from one key press of your Stream Deck.
Is the Elgato Stream Deck a capture card?
No, the Elgato Stream Deck is not a capture card or a capture device, it’s a programmable keypad that simplifies various live streaming actions into a simple and easy to use keypress. Not unlike macros from a keyboard, it can save you a tremendous amount of time from switching around programs to alt-tabbing between windows into a simple keypress.
Does the Elgato Stream Deck work with OBS?
Many of the functions that make OBS a necessary piece of software for live streaming can be integrated with a Stream Deck through a plugin.
You can customize and create macros and hotkeys for many OBS functions that would otherwise force you to alt-tab or switch windows in order to manually adjust OBS settings, screen placement, toggling mute or unmute and many more features.
The advantages of using a Stream Deck are numerous and sets itself apart as a powerful and necessary tool for many live streamers. The ability to make alt-tabbing and clicking through multiple windows and various options in order to configure settings are a thing of the past.
Once you create and configure your Stream Deck to your liking, all live streaming actions become a single key press of the Stream Deck. Helping to keep you more engaged with your audience and more engaged with your gaming experience.