Developers looking to go beyond the keyboard and mouse in video and photo editing applications should take a look at the TourBox Neo ($ 169), a compact USB controller with a solid selection of customizable buttons and controls. It’s smaller than large keyboard-style devices like the Loupedeck + ($ 249), making it easier to find a desk space for, and a cheaper deal than the Loupedeck CT for $ 549. Our Editors’ Choice winner in this category is the Loupedeck Live, but you may find the Neo better suited if you prefer buttons and knobs to a touchscreen interface.
Editor’s Note: This review has been updated to reflect changes to the updated TourBox Neo hardware and software. It was originally released on August 5, 2020.
A small black box
The Neo is an updated version of the TourBox. They’re basically the same from a design point of view, so we’re updating our coverage of the older version of the hardware. The Neo has exactly the same layout, is made of slightly darker plastic and adds click functions to its central and flat rotary controls.
The TourBox is a secret accessory. Its matt black surface, its modest footprint (3.5 x 4.5 inches, HW) and the lack of any noticeable lighting make it almost invisible on the desk, especially if you prefer to edit photos and videos in low light. The only light on the device is a small green operating indicator.
Fortunately, the buttons and dials are identifiable by touch. The asymmetrical curves, along with the different button sizes and shapes, really work here – it doesn’t take long before you develop some muscle memory. I got the hang of (mostly) after a solid morning of Lightroom editing.
There’s a total of eleven buttons and three clickable knobs – it’s a lot to pack into a surface not much bigger than a Polaroid. They also have names that are easy to remember – Side, Top, Tall, and Short for the elongated ones, Up, Down, Left, Right for the D-pad, and C1 and C2 to top it off.
There is another button, Tour, which is right next to the central control, the button. At the top left is the vertical scroll wheel, at the bottom a flat dial. You do different things in different apps – more on that in a moment.
I am very satisfied with the construction – the composite plastic has a somewhat matt surface and feels quite good. The designers opted for a USB-C connection, a short cable is included. The TourBox’s aesthetics may be low-key, but there’s nothing sloppy here.
The software is also pretty slick and required to get it working. It’s available for macOS Yosemite or Windows 7 (or newer, in both cases) systems. I tested it with macOS 10.15 Catalina on a 2019 MacBook Pro.
It’s easy to install – previous versions lacked digital signatures, but version 2.2.4 can be installed without macOS having to give special permission. You need to give the device permissions to control your computer through its accessibility features. It’s not uncommon, however – with all of the added security built into modern operating systems, the days of Macs “just working” are behind us.
What’s your app?
How you use the TourBox in your workflow really depends on which creative app you are using. It comes with pre-built profiles for Adobe Lightroom Classic, Photoshop, and Premiere Pro, and you can either download, customize, or create profiles for other apps.
The specific functions of the knobs and buttons change depending on the software used and the configuration of the device. The TourBox was certainly developed with Adobe apps in mind and goes beyond the keyboard shortcuts when it comes to assigning functions to Photoshop and Lightroom.
I’ve spent all of my time in Lightroom, but if you’re more of a video editor, you can download presets for DaVinci Resolve, Final Cut Pro, and others. TourBox also offers custom profiles for Affinity Photo and Capture One for download. However, the profiles you create are more limited as you move away from standard apps – you can only assign keystrokes and mouse clicks.
In Lightroom Classic
The TourBox is all about slider adjustments in Lightroom Classic. Its buttons switch between different adjustment tools and the central rotary knob is used to make changes. Lightroom relies heavily on sliders. They are used to adjust pretty much everything from rotating the canvas to exposing color channels.
By default, you get quick one-touch access to exposure, contrast, black, white, highlights, and shadows adjustments, and the scroll wheel is used for color channel adjustments.
You can reposition the permanent reminder overlay or hide it if you want
Screen reminders also help. Press the short key and the contrast will flash on the screen. There is also a permanent, always on top reminder that indicates the active functions of the four-way directional control and the turning of the scroll wheel.
The memories are welcome, especially if you want to dig deep into customization. I’ve kept things pretty simple, exchanging some customizations that I don’t often use for features that I do. I tend to switch between the Library and Develop modules quite often, so I assigned them to C1 and C2.
There are other ways, however. If you don’t have dedicated functions of your own, you can use C1 and C2 to assign secondary and tertiary functions to the Tall and Short keys. You can also assign additional functions to the direction controls, they work in conjunction with the side and top buttons.
The TourBox configuration app includes Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and Lightroom-specific features, but other apps are limited to keyboard shortcuts and mouse clicks.
Keeping things straight can be a challenge and the on-screen overlay helps. You can drag it across the screen to position it however you want. You can also set it to light or dark mode and adjust its size and opacity. It can be hidden if it’s in the way or you don’t think it’s useful.
You must also use common sense when assigning controls. I thought it would be a good idea to use the flat dial to scroll from photo to photo, but it’s just not ideal. There’s a little delay from shot to shot (Lightroom isn’t the fastest app, especially if you have a large catalog) and the watch face doesn’t have detents, so I would mostly jump two or three pictures when I just wanted to move on to the next photo .
Still, I was pleased with how easy it was to reassign buttons and experiment with controls, even if not every configuration was a home run. The on-screen feedback is also helpful, although a bit intrusive. Its configuration doesn’t go as deep as competitors like the Loupedeck Live and CT, both of which use touchscreens with the ability to create multi-sided and nested sets of touch controls.
The TourBox is a good choice for editors who like to keep things a little simpler. Its buttons and knobs are welcome for people who like analog controls, and they’re sensitive enough to aid in fine-tuning, certainly finer than dragging a slider left and right with the mouse or trackpad.
If you spend a lot of time working on highlights, shadows, color channels or similar adjustments, the TourBox Neo could be a good addition to your Lightroom workflow. It’s relatively compact, well made, and cheaper than the competition. I would definitely recommend the Loupedeck +, a large $ 249 keyboard-style controller with comparatively limited functionality in Lightroom.
Our favorite console is the Loupedeck Live. It includes rotary controls, a touchscreen, and buttons, and supports a wider range of creative apps. The Loupedeck CT is available as a premium option – for $ 549 it expands the functionality of the Live, adding more buttons and a large central touch dial.
The TourBox Neo is a little simpler, but there is something to keep things simple. It’s a useful tool for creatives who prefer a little more hands-on control than what a mouse or trackpad can get, and it’s definitely worth a look if you spend much of your day flipping Lightroom sliders back and forth to move.
Comments are closed.