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TourBox Neo Review 2021

Creators looking to move 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 array of customizable buttons and dials. It’s smaller than big keyboard-style devices, like the Loupedeck+ ($249), so you can more easily find a spot for it on your desk, and a less expensive proposition than the $549 Loupedeck CT. Our Editors’ Choice winner in the category is the Loupedeck Live, but you might find the Neo to be a better fit if you prefer buttons and dials to a touch-screen interface.

Editors’ Note: This review has been updated to reflect changes made in the updated TourBox Neo hardware and software. It was originally published on August 5, 2020.

A Small Black Box

The Neo is an updated version of the TourBox. They’re basically identical from a design perspective, so we’re updating our coverage of the older version of the hardware. The Neo has the exact same layout, is finished in slightly darker plastic, and adds click-in functions to its central and flat control dials.

The TourBox is a stealthy accessory. Its matte black finish, modest footprint (3.5 by 4.5 inches, HW), and lack of flashy lighting makes it almost invisible on the desk, especially if you prefer to edit photos and video in dim light. The only on-device lighting is a small green power indicator.

Thankfully, its buttons and dials are identifiable by touch. The asymmetrical curves, along with varied button sizes and shapes, really work here—it won’t take long before you develop some muscle memory. I got the hang of it (mostly) after a solid morning of Lightroom editing.

There are eleven buttons in total, along with three clickable dials—it’s a lot to put into a surface that’s not much bigger than a Polaroid. They’ve got names that are easy to remember, too—Side, Top, Tall, and Short for the oblong ones, Up, Down, Left, Right for the directional pad, and C1 and C2 to round things out.

TourBox on Desk

There’s one more button, Tour, 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. They do different things in different apps—more on that in a bit.

I’m very happy with the construction—the composite plastic has a bit of a matte finish and feels quite nice. The designers have opted for a USB-C connection, and a short cable is included. The TourBox’s aesthetics may be understated, but there’s nothing shoddy here.

TourBox Knob

Its software is pretty slick, too, and required to get it going. 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 installs easily—earlier versions lacked digital signatures, but version 2.2.4 installs without having to give macOS any sort of special permission. You’ll need to give the device permissions to control your computer via its accessibility functions. It’s not out of the ordinary, however—with all the extra 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 what creative app you use. It ships with premade profiles for Adobe Lightroom Classic, Photoshop, and Premiere Pro, and you can either download, customize, or scratch-make profiles for other apps.

TourBox App

The specific functions of knobs and buttons changes based on what software you’re using and how you choose to configure the device. The TourBox is certainly built with Adobe apps in mind, and goes beyond keyboard shortcuts when it comes to mapping functions to Photoshop and Lightroom.

I 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 and others. TourBox also has user-made profiles for Affinity Photo and Capture One available for download. Profiles you create are more limited, though, when moving away from standard apps—you’re only able to assign key presses 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 knob is used to dial in changes. Lightroom is very reliant on slider controls, they’re used to adjust pretty much everything, ranging from canvas rotation to exposure to color channels.

By default, you get quick access to exposure, contrast, black, white, highlight, and shadow adjustment via button taps, and the Scroll wheel is used for color channel adjustments.

Lightroom AppYou can reposition the persistent reminder overlay, or hide it if you’d prefer

On-screen reminders are there to help, too. Press the Short button and Contrast will flash on the screen. There’s also a persistent, always-on-top reminder showing the active functions of the four-way directional controls and turning the Scroll wheel.

The reminders are welcome, especially if you want to get deep into customization. I kept things pretty simple, swapping out some adjustments I don’t often use for functions I do. I tend to flip between the Library and Develop modules pretty frequently, so I assigned them to C1 and C2.

There are other ways to go, though. If left without their own dedicated functions, you can use C1 and C2 to assign secondary and tertiary functions to the Tall and Short buttons. Likewise, you can use assign extra functions to the directional controls, they work in conjunction with the Side and Top buttons.

TourBox AppThe TourBox configuration app includes Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and Lightroom-specific functionality, 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 around the screen to position to your liking. You’re also able to set it to light or dark mode, and adjust its size and opacity. It can be hidden if it gets in the way or if you don’t find it to be useful.

There’s also some common sense 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 a lag going from shot to shot (Lightroom is not the speediest app, especially if you have a big catalog), and the dial doesn’t have detents, so more often than not I’d jump ahead two or three images when I just wanted to move on to the next photo.

Still, I was happy with just how easy it was to reassign buttons and experiment with controls, even if every configuration wasn’t a home run. On-screen feedback is helpful too, despite being a bit obtrusive. Its configuration doesn’t go as deep as competitors like the Loupedeck Live and CT, both of which use touch screens with the ability to craft multi-page and nested sets of touch controls.

The TourBox is a good choice for editors who like to keep things a bit more simple. Its buttons and dials are welcome for folks who like an analog control experience, and they’re sensitive enough to support fine adjustments, certainly finer than dragging a slider left and right with your mouse or trackpad.

TourBox on Desk

Hands-On Editing

If you spend a lot of time working on highlight, shadow, color channel, or similar adjustments, the TourBox Neo could be a good fit for your Lightroom workflow. It’s relatively compact, well made, and priced lower than the competition. I’d certainly recommend it over the Loupedeck+, a big $249 keyboard-style controller with comparatively limited functionality in Lightroom.

Our favorite console is the Loupedeck Live. It includes control dials, a touch screen, and buttons, and supports a wider set 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 more basic, but there’s something to be said about keeping things simple. It’s a useful tool for creatives who prefer a bit more hands-on control than you can get with a mouse or a trackpad, and certainly worth a look if you spend a good portion of your day moving Lightroom sliders to and fro.

TourBox Neo Specs

Number of Keys 11
Interface USB-C
Key Backlighting None
Media Controls Dedicated
Passthrough Ports None
Palm Rest None

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Further Reading