Elgato Stream Deck+ Review: Potential to Dial in Productivity


Rating: 8/10 ?

  • 1 – Does not work
  • 2 – Barely functional
  • 3 – Severely lacking in most areas
  • 4 – Functions, but has numerous issues
  • 5 – Fine yet leaves a lot to be desired
  • 6 – Good enough to buy on sale
  • 7 – Great and worth purchasing
  • 8 – Fantastic, approaching best-in-class
  • 9 – Best-in-class
  • 10 – Borderline perfection

Price: $200

Top angle view of Elgato Stream Deck+
Hannah Stryker / How-To Geek

Elgato’s line of Stream Deck customizable controllers have been popular options, but they were missing something. The Stream Deck+ addresses that void with twisting dials—or knobs. It turns out these continually spinning controls are a perfect complement to LCD buttons.

With that said, you may find yourself reaching past the knobs in search of more buttons. While there isn’t an abundance of use cases for the dials yet, you’re met with a satisfying tactile response for the plugins and functions they do control.

Here’s What We Like

  • Dials have a good tactile feel
  • Slightly new updated physical design
  • Bright, easy-to-read screen

And What We Don’t

  • Few dial plugins months after launch
  • USB-A cable in the box

How-To Geek’s expert reviewers go hands-on with each product we review. We put every piece of hardware through hours of testing in the real world and run them through benchmarks in our lab. We never accept payment to endorse or review a product and never aggregate other people’s reviews. Read more >>

Features: Dials and Buttons, Oh My!

Close up of dials on Stream Deck+
Close-up view of the dialsHannah Stryker / How-To Geek
  • Size: 5.5 x 5.4 x 4.3in (139.7 x 137.16 x 109.22mm)
  • Weight: 1lb (465g)
  • Keys: 8 customizable LCD keys
  • Dials: 4 360-degree encoders with push function
  • LCD touch panel: 4.2 x 0.5in
  • Interface: USB 2.0

The four dials, which turn 360 degrees, are the primary feature of the Stream Deck+ and stand out most when compared to previous models. With them comes a slightly redesigned physical appearance and a touchscreen strip above the dials. The LCD buttons are also ever so slightly bigger than the ones on other models. The increased button size might help with readability for small text but will probably go unnoticed.

You can configure these new hardware dials in the same way you edit buttons within Elgato’s software (available for Windows and Mac). The difference is that Stream Deck plugins specifically need to support the twisting dials, so at launch, you might not have access to the same plugins that you previously did with an older Stream Deck. I noticed the available apps were much more limited compared to the selection you get with button-only Stream Decks—although it can be tricky to tell which plugins support the new hardware until downloading them.

The dials do feel nice to adjust and rotate. They have a clicky, tactile twist to them. You can also press them to trigger an action, and that felt stable and pleasant, too. The smart screen above the dials displays what each of the four controls does. The area is also touch-sensitive, so you can press that to do the same thing as if you pressed the physical dial.

In general, I didn’t find myself touching the screen, but you could. You can also swipe left on the screen to go to a second page—and then swipe right to go back. I preferred to add a “next page” button instead of swiping because I didn’t want to smudge up the screen. The option to swipe, for those who want it, is automatically available right out of the box.

Back of the unit where the cable plugs in
The detachable USB cable plugs into the back of the unit.Hannah Stryker / How-To Geek

The Stream Deck+ comes with a detachable USB-C to USB-A cable. I wish it would have been a USB-C to USB-C cord instead. With no offense to anyone involved, this is a bit of a nerdy product. It should be forward-looking in its connectivity. If someone needs the older port connector, they can swap out the cable. The included cord is by no means a dealbreaker because it is detachable, but it was unfortunate because my computer has no USB-A ports.

Beyond the cable, the Stream Deck+ looks thoroughly modern and poised to complement workstations for years to come. It could have used a tiny bit more weight in its base to keep it completely planted no matter the force used to press a button; that’s the most minor of details, however, and the unit I used hardly budged on a regular basis.

A Blank Slate Looking for Tasks

Person using a dial on the Stream Deck+
The dials twist 360 degrees.Hannah Stryker / How-To Geek

Part of the appeal of the Stream Deck line of controllers is that they can be anything you want them to be, or at least pretty close to anything. They can open websites, string together multiple editing commands, and help save time in all kinds of ways. So, for those going into the Stream Deck+ without a specific use case, the possibilities can be either too daunting or too unimaginative. Either way, the outcome of underutilization is the same.

Is it worth spending $200 only to find yourself adding media controls already accessible on your keyboard? That doesn’t seem like an ideal solution. You should probably try to separate the general Stream Deck functionality of customizable buttons from what the new Stream Deck+ offers with its dials. A 15-button MK.2 model has been on sale for $130 and might make more sense for specific use cases, instead of this newer model.

Elgato Stream Deck MK.2

A fully-customizable 15-button desktop controller for content creators, quick actions, and maximizing productivity.

Programming Dials Is Slightly Limiting

Person holding Elgato Stream Deck + next to computer
Hannah Stryker / How-To Geek

As I was first getting the Stream Deck+ set up, I started by configuring one dial for system volume and one for skipping media forward and back when turned right or left. Skipping tracks is not a particularly good use for a dial, but at the onset, the available choices to use the dials were limited. At one point, I set a dial to scroll left and right depending on the twisting direction. It could be used to scroll through text and place a cursor, but that felt contrived. Other applications for scrolling might be more useful.

Eventually, the Philips Hue plugin added support, and I could adjust the brightness and temperature of different lights or lighting groups. That was handy and did work better than using buttons for the same function. It still felt less than compelling overall.

Using the dials to zoom, pan, and adjust camera settings was another use. If you’ve used MIDI controllers, you should find comfort and familiarity with the knobs. Usage will really depend on individual needs.

Even though availability is limited at the moment, more plugins will add support in the future. After a few weeks with the Stream Deck+, however, I found that I personally don’t need four dials as much as I need more buttons. Sacrificing the seven buttons of the MK.2 for the four dials on the Plus didn’t make sense for my tasks. It will if you want to adjust settings with a quick twist of your fingers, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking the dials are better than buttons only because they are new and novel.

As a tangentially related thought, some of the perceived scarcity of dial-supporting plugins is because of how those are highlighted, or not highlighted, in the Stream Deck Store. It’s hard to see and find them!

Searching for “Dial,” “Knob,” or “Deck+” yielded no results. I only found out Philips Hue had added support for the new hardware because I kept checking the configuration part of the app. Unceremoniously, it showed up as available. I wish there was a section or a spotlight dedicated to showing which plugins support the dials.

In general, the dials were responsive to the actions they were programmed to do. The Philips Hue one was occasionally slow to respond when twisting the lights’ brightness higher and lower. The lights also failed to turn on and off from time to time when the dial was pressed, but I suspect all those issues were due to the lights or Hue connection, rather than the Stream Deck+ itself.

Hotkeys, volume, and brightness, for instance, all responded instantly each time. I don’t recall a time when those settings lagged or didn’t feel like direct manipulation. The actual implementation of the dials and touchscreen is great.

Should You Buy the Elgato Stream Deck+?

Person swiping to second screen of the device
Hannah Stryker / How-To Geek

The Elgato Stream Deck+ is a great tool. I found the hardware to be well-designed and highly functional. The product, however, is a bit unique in that just because its hardware and software are well executed, it doesn’t mean everyone should rush to buy one.

People who can utilize what this tool offers will find a wealth of productivity. On the other hand, you may get stuck searching for uses to give the spinning dials and clicky buttons and find yourself a little disappointed with an expensive fidget toy.

And because this tool is such a blank slate, it’s hard to really pin down and recommend who should consider buying it. It still works great for video streamers and content creators, as long as they don’t need the extra buttons available all at once. At the moment, the dials will likely only be a deciding factor for people wanting to fine-tune their equipment and settings constantly.

I found the Stream Deck+ a solid addition to my desk, but not any more than another Stream Deck model or other macro pad would have been in the same spot. There are not enough general-purpose plugins and reasons for dials to justify this new plus model being the default choice—yet. There are better values from Elgato.

If you have the cash, however, and want the dials for the hope of future uses, that’s understandable. But just be aware that those uses may not come or arrive in the way you hope.

Here’s What We Like

  • Dials have a good tactile feel
  • Slightly new updated physical design
  • Bright, easy-to-read screen

And What We Don’t

  • Few dial plugins months after launch
  • USB-A cable in the box

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


KV Broadside loadouts: The best loadouts for Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone 2.0


Google Announces 9 Android Updates at Mobile World Congress