TourBox Neo – review 2021

Developers looking to go beyond the keyboard and mouse in video and photo editing applications should check out the TourBox Neo ($ 169), a compact USB controller with a solid selection of customizable buttons and dials. It’s smaller than large keyboard-style devices like the Loupedeck + ($ 249), making it easier to find a desk space and a cheaper deal than the $ 549 Loupedeck CT. Our Editors’ Choice winner in this category is Loupedeck Live. However, you may find the Neo more suitable if you prefer buttons and dials to a touchscreen interface.

Editor’s Note: This review has been updated to reflect changes to the TourBox Neo’s updated 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 are basically identical from a design point of view, so we are updating our coverage of the older version of the hardware. The Neo has exactly the same layout, is made from slightly darker plastic, and adds click-in functionality to its central and flat dials.

The TourBox is a stealthy accessory. The matte black finish, the modest footprint (3.5 x 4.5 inches, HW), and the lack of flashy lighting make it almost invisible on the desk, especially if you’d rather 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 recognizable by touch. The asymmetrical curves, as well as the different key sizes and shapes, really work here – it doesn’t take long to develop some muscle memory. After a solid morning of Lightroom editing, I (mostly) get the hang of it.

There are eleven buttons in total and three clickable dials – there’s a lot to do when you’re using a surface not much larger than a Polaroid. They have names that are easy to remember too – 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.

TourBox at the desk

There is another button, Tour, which is nested right next to the central control, the Knob. The vertical scroll wheel is at the top left and a flat dial is at the bottom. You do different things in different apps – more on that in a moment.

I’m very happy with the construction – the composite plastic has a slightly matte finish and feels pretty good. The designers opted for a USB-C connection, and a short cable is included. The TourBox’s aesthetic may be an understatement, but there’s nothing bad here.

TourBox button

The software is also pretty nifty and required to get it working. It’s available for MacOS Yosemite or Windows 7 systems (or newer systems in both cases). I tested it with macOS 10.15 Catalina on a 2019 MacBook Pro.

Installation is easy – previous versions did not have digital signatures, but version 2.2.4 installs without macOS needing to grant any special permission. You need to give the device permission 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 the “just work” Macs 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-made profiles for Adobe Lightroom Classic, Photoshop, and Premiere Pro. You can either download, customize, or create profiles for other apps.

TourBox app

The specific functions of buttons and buttons change depending on what software you are using and how you configure the device. The TourBox was certainly developed for Adobe apps and goes beyond 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, or others. TourBox also offers custom profiles for Affinity Photo and Capture One for download. However, 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. The buttons switch between different setting tools and the central button is used to dial in changes. Lightroom relies heavily on sliders. They are used to adjust pretty much everything from canvas rotation to exposure to color channels.

By default, button tips give you quick access to exposure, contrast, black, white, highlight, and shadow settings. The scroll wheel is used for color channel adjustments.

Lightroom appYou can reposition or hide the overlay for permanent reminders if you prefer

On-screen reminders also help. Press the hot key and the contrast will flash on the screen. There is also a permanent reminder that is always up to date and shows the active functions of four-way directional control and turning the scroll wheel.

The memories are welcome, especially if you want to delve deep into the 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 Development modules quite often, so I assigned them to C1 and C2.

There are other ways, however. If you don’t have your own functions, 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 that work in conjunction with the Side and Top buttons.

TourBox appThe TourBox configuration app contains Photoshop, Premiere Pro and Lightroom-specific functions. However, other apps are limited to keyboard shortcuts and mouse clicks.

Keeping things straight can be a challenge and the screen overlay helps. You can drag it across the screen to position it however you want. You can also put it in light or dark mode and adjust its size and opacity. It can be hidden when it’s in the way or when you don’t find it useful.

Common sense is also required 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 bit of lag from shot to shot (Lightroom isn’t the fastest app, especially if you have a large catalog), and the dial doesn’t have latches, so I would mostly jump two or three pictures ahead when I was only going to the next photo wanted to pass over.

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 helpful too, although a bit intrusive. The configuration isn’t as deep as it is with competitors like Loupedeck Live and CT, both of which use touchscreens that can be used to create multi-sided and nested sets of touch controls.

The TourBox is a great choice for editors who want to keep things a little simpler. The buttons and dials 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.

TourBox at the desk

Practical editing

If you spend a lot of time highlighting, shading, color channeling, or similar adjustments, the TourBox Neo may be a good fit for your Lightroom workflow. It is relatively compact, well made and cheaper than the competition. I would definitely recommend it over the Loupedeck +, a large keyboard-style controller for $ 249 with comparatively limited functionality in Lightroom.

Our favorite console is the Loupedeck Live. It includes dials, a touchscreen, and buttons, and supports a wider range of creative apps. The Loupedeck CT is available as a premium option. For 549 US dollars, it expands the functionality of the Live with additional buttons and a large central touch dial.

The TourBox Neo is a bit simpler, but there is something to be said when it comes to keeping things simple. It’s a useful tool for creatives who prefer a bit more practical controls than a mouse or trackpad. It’s definitely worth a look if you spend a lot of your day moving Lightroom sliders back and forth.

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