Elgato's Stream Deck+ Is The Touch And Twist Control Panel Apple's Touch Bar Dreamed Of Being

When Apple launched the Touch Bar back in 2016, it had high hopes that the versatile, touch-enabled function row would accelerate the workflows of the users of its MacBook Pros. Instead, many users wound up disliking it for some reason or another. While it was a good idea in theory — providing users with a dynamic function row that provided shortcuts to the user based on the context and apps they were using — the Touch Bar was pretty inconvenient if the software it relied on crashed.

In typical Apple fashion, the feature is still available with the latest MacBook Pro 13 — although Apple has admitted in an interview with WIRED "There's no doubt that our Pro customers love that full-size, tactile feel of those function keys," when asked about why it was axed from the other Pro machines in the 2021 lineup.

In the non-Apple world, however, there have been companies that have come up with alternative solutions to the Touch Bar, like the ASUS ZenBook Duo 15 that featured an entire pressure-sensitive touchscreen between the keyboard and the main display. Elgato's Stream Deck lineup, originally launched in 2017 (via Elgato), is an accessory originally designed for streamers, but has since become a staple for macro and shortcut-happy power-users. Elgato's streaming accessory recently received a massive update with the launch of the Stream Deck+, which takes Apple's Touch Bar functionality several steps further. 

The Stream Deck+ is customization heaven

The Elgato Stream Deck+, not to be confused with the Steam Deck, is a standalone accessory designed to house custom keyboard shortcuts to augment workflows for graphic designers, video and photo editors, and, of course, streamers. It features eight programmable physical buttons — each with its own tiny display — for custom shortcuts, a configurable touch panel, and four unlimited rotating dials with secondary push-button functionality. It's basically Apple's Touch Bar on steroids.

The biggest strengths of the Stream Deck+ lie in customization and third-party integrations and plugins. Elgato has a page dedicated to first and third-party plugins, with predefined setups for platforms like YouTube, Twitch, and OBS Studio, and you can also buy profiles for programs like DaVinci Resolve from Sideshowfx. Aside from pre-made plugins and profiles, the Stream Deck+ also allows you to create your own layouts and even script operations, essentially automating multiple options into one button press. Users can also set up an infinite number of pages to switch between workflows easily. 

At $199.99, you're paying $50 over the price of the Stream Deck and Stream Deck MK.2, which is a substantial bump in price, but perhaps reasonable if it complements your workflow well. Mind you, the Stream Deck+ doesn't seem to be a replacement for the regular Stream Deck or the Stream Deck MK.2, since both older devices are still available to buy — but it is a serious upgrade over its ancestors.