There was a time when livestreaming was novel in itself. Now, there are countless ways for people to customize their streams, whether it's with animations triggered by certain events or unique overlays, and the chances of a stream's audience growing without those add-ons is slim. Elgato's new Stream Deck Mini is meant to make it easier for people to streamline (heh) the way they manage the fiddly aspects of streaming.
Elgato released the original Stream Deck in 2017 with a similar goal. The primary differences between that device and its smaller sibling lie in the number of customizable LCD keys. The Stream Deck offers 15 keys you can individually program to switch between "scenes," activate sound effects, or perform other actions that would've relied on a bunch of keyboard shortcuts. The Stream Deck Mini has six.
The new Stream Deck Mini's reduced button count will limit its utility--although you can regain some of the lost functionality by assigning folders to keys--but it also means the device is much smaller. When you're already cramming a system, mousepad, keyboard, microphone and at least one monitor on your desk, chances are that cluttering it further with the original Stream Deck was a no-go for streamers with limited space.
Elgato said that since the original Stream Deck's launch in 2017 it has "continued support and has expanded Stream Deck’s functionality with new features, including a soundboard, GIF support, Streamlabs integration, smart profiles and much more." All of those additional features will also make their way to the Stream Deck Mini, further reinforcing the idea that button count and footprint are the only real differences.
The Stream Deck Mini is merely another product in Elgato's streaming lineup. Besides the original Stream Deck, the company also offers capture cards to allow streamers to broadcast from their consoles, as well as a collapsible green screen to make setting up custom backgrounds easier. (Elgato also made a Thunderbolt 3 dock, but that seems more like a traditional peripheral than something meant specifically for streamers.)
This portfolio makes Elgato a mainstay in the streaming market. It's no wonder, then, why Corsair decided to acquire the company in June. As more people hope to become the next big streamer, the lines between the gaming and streaming markets will probably continue to vanish. Why bother competing with an established brand when you can just gobble it up and reap the benefits of the work it's already put in?
Elgato said the Stream Deck Mini is available now from Amazon, GameStop and its online store for $100. The product is covered by a two-year warranty, and customer support will be available from both Elgato and Corsair (Elgato remains independent under the Corsair umbrella). So if the only things stopping you from picking up the Stream Deck were its size and price, well, it seems like the Stream Deck Mini was made for you.
The smaller size hardly seems like much of a benefit either. The original has a footprint of just 4.6 x 3.3 inches (11.8 x 8.4 cm), which would be roughly comparable to a smartphone. The Mini's footprint is 3.3 x 2.4 inches (8.4 x 6 cm) which might be around half the size, but I have a bit of difficultly believing that just about anyone would have trouble fitting a smartphone-sized device on their desk to begin with.
And on the topic of smartphones, if you are not willing to spend $140 on the original Stream Deck, and don't mind touchscreen-based buttons, there are free apps available for phones and tablets that can effectively do the same thing. Or, if you want the clicky feedback of physical buttons, and don't mind not having screens on the buttons themselves, you can buy a cheap $10 USB numpad, and use a freeware utility like HidMacros to assign its buttons to various key-combinations. Maybe even print decals for each of the buttons to identify regularly-used functions. Or if you have a keyboard with a built-in numpad that you don't regularly use, you could do the same with that.
It seems like giving the Mini 8 or 9 buttons, in either a 3x3 or 4x2 grid would have helped better justify a $100 price tag. Or keep 6 buttons, but at around $75. As it is, the pricing seems a bit high for anyone not willing to spend a little more for the full-sized model, especially when free or low-cost alternatives exist that will probably better serve those on a budget .