Elgato Stream Deck – Initial Impression

I have long been a fan of customisable macro keys – for my gaming and productivity.

I currently use Corsair’s (now no longer produced) K95 keyboard with 18 programmable keys. I also have an old Nostromo Gamepad (the newer models of which are the Razer Orbweaver and Tartarus product lines.)

I’ve generally found keyboard shortcuts to be useful while playing EVE. This may be in part because mouse travel time can become an issue when running multiple clients at 3000×1800. One of my favourite uses of Macro keys is for salvaging. I like to set up 4 keys to activate Tractor Beams on F1, F2, F3 and F4, and a second row of 4 keys to activate Salvagers on Alt F1, Alt F2, Alt F3, Alt F4. It is simple but speeds up the workflow and saves a bit of finger contortion.

One downside of having so many macro keys is that you can’t see what each one has been programmed to do. This becomes more of an issue if you run different profiles for different games and applications.

Elgato ( https://www.elgato.com/ ) – a company with a background in AV tuner and capture cards and now owned by Corsair, produce a number of programmable control pads with LCD keys. Their initial focus was on streamers and media content creators, but the devices can be configured to run hotkeys.

For the interest of it, I recently purchased the Elgato Stream Deck to play with.

https://www.elgato.com/en/gaming/stream-deck

This has 15 (5×3) LCD Keys.

 

The keypad has a fixed USB2 cord which was acceptably long and was able to reach my PC case sitting behind my screens.

The keypad feels solid. It comes with a stand which is a touch fiddly but allows the pad to sit at multiple different angles. The whole thing did not subsequently move when placed on my XL mouse mat.

You download and use Stream Deck Software to configure the device. It has some quirks – as all such keyboard / mouse configuration software seems to have, but I found it easy to work out.

While the colour and resolution of the LCD keys is fine for what it is, the contoured plastic covering over the keys distorts the edge of the image. If you are not looking straight down on the keys, the edge of writing and icons can be obscured. That makes the viewing angle extra important.

I am not a big fan of how the buttons feel to press. It is non-mechanical and each a mini screen, so I wasn’t expecting much. I find you need to be a little more deliberate / firm in pressing the keys than I would have expected, else it occasionally doesn’t register.

There are some quirks too.  The keystrokes don’t seem to be sent or registered by windows as quickly as my normal keyboard. There can be a perceivable gab between pressing a key and a resulting action, just long enough that you sometimes double press thinking maybe the first time wasn’t picked up. There were also some keystrokes that would work on my keyboard but did something else through the Stream Deck. For example, moving forward and backwards through locked targets in EVE worked fine on my keyboard, but the same keystrokes via the Stream Deck cycled through three different and odd actions.

Last of all it took a fair effort to find suitable icons to set up the device cohesively. In the old days you could find plenty of large free icon repositories online. Now most “free” sites give you a limited sample then ask you to subscribe or pay. It took a bit of trial and error to find icons that looked good (often needing to be a little smaller so they sat back from the edge) and had enough range to cover all the commands you wanted to use them with. In the end I grabbed most from:

https://icons8.com/icons

It probably sounds like I am not happy with the stream deck – but that is not the case.

I still have plenty of trial and error to go, but the Stream Deck does really help with workflow. I also very much like being able to graphically label the keys, which makes it more useful than the standard G# macro keys.

Currently I am using two folders of 14 keys for EVE.

The first is while generally navigating. I can trigger a D-Scan, jump focus to the Overview Window and move forward or backwards through the tabs, set my speed to 0 or 100%, recall my drones, open the system map and do a probe scan, open my cargo hold, open the save location dialog, or open the fitting, market or people and places windows.

The second is setup for mining or salvaging. I have the F1 through F4 and Alt F1 through Alt F4 keys, I can trigger a D-Scan, stop my ship, recall my drones, or run a 30, 60 or 90 second count down when I want to halt a strip miner cycle early.

It is positioned on my desk in a way that makes it fairly natural and easy to move too and from. All told so far, I suspect I will end up using it all the time.

Next I need to add folders for Dungeon and Dragons Online and World of Warships, and to try and ignore the ads for the 32 button Stream Deck XL which is being released in Australia in a couple of weeks…