The Elgato Stream Deck MK.2 is a kind of funny thing, a little plastic box with 15 plastic buttons. Each button has a tiny screen behind it, and when pressed can do any number of things - launching a program, changing to a new scene in a stream, adjusting your media volume, muting a microphone or sending out an alert. It's ideal for automation, giving you an easy way to trigger scripts or shortcuts that speed up the dreary parts of your job or your favourite game, and of course for game streamers it's invaluable. The MK.2 model normally costs £139, but today at Currys you can pick one up for £97 using the code GAMING30.
So what makes the 2021 MK.2 better than the original 2017 Stream Deck? Well, not much. The biggest leap forward has come in software, not hardware, and both boxes have access to the same features. There aren't more buttons, or fewer - see the Stream Deck XL or Stream Deck Mini for that. Instead, there are just three relatively minor changes:
- Interchangeable faceplates
- USB Type C port with a detachable USB-C cable
- Detachable 45-degree fixed angle stand
Perhaps unsurprisingly, that means there's little reason to upgrade if you've already got a Stream Deck - but it does mean that the Stream Deck MK.2 is just a little bit nicer than the older model if you're buying one for the first time. Those replacement faceplates are pretty neat, too.
For me, the Stream Deck is cool because it fulfills, in a way, a promise that was made many years ago when I was first starting in the industry. There was a keyboard concept called the Optimus, where instead of having letters permanently etched into the keycaps, it had tiny colour screens behind each key. With a full-size layout, that meant more than a hundred screens - or more accuarately, one screen subdivided into a hundred sections - and fed through transparent keycaps.
It sounded incredible, but the retail keyboards that followed existed in tiny numbers and initially cost $1600. They were also rather rubbish to use, with no real tactile feedback to speak of - it very much felt you were pushing a giant piece of plastic along a short tunnel, which you kind of were. The software experience was also dire, requiring time-consuming configuration to set each key's purpose and legend one-by-one. Later keyboards were smaller and cost less, but the concept had already shown to be a practical failure by this point.
A decade later, and the Stream Deck is an accepted part of the furniture in the streaming space, costing an acceptable amount of money with software that can actually support it. It's been a cool progression to witness, and makes the £97 discounted price here seem a little more reasonable...