A few weeks ago I reviewed the TourBox Neo, an intriguing input device designed for photographers, video editors, and other creative types. That review is now somewhat outdated, for TourBox is now crowdfunding a new and improved version, the TourBox Elite.
What’s new? And is the Elite worth backing? Let’s find out.
Disclaimer: TourBox sent me a near-final prototype of the TourBox Elite for this review. This is a crowdfunded project, which means there is always some inherent risk. Only back crowdfunded campaigns if you’re comfortable doing so.
New feature: Bluetooth connectivity
The TourBox Elite offers dual-channel Bluetooth connectivity for wireless operation. This is a wonderful change (and something I requested in my NEO review), for it means the controller no longer has to occupy a USB port on a computer (that could be used for something else). Without a cord, I also think the controller looks cleaner and more professional; especially when sitting next to a wireless keyboard and mouse.
If you prefer the old way of connecting via USB, you still can. TourBox provides a USB-C cable in the box. The TourBox Console software will ask you to choose between Bluetooth and USB at setup and anytime a connection change is detected.
Concerning speed and responsiveness, I saw no difference between Bluetooth and USB. Both performed exactly the same when editing images in Lightroom and Photoshop, and I never experienced any dropouts or wireless signal issues when connecting via Bluetooth.
For some existing TourBox users, I could see Bluetooth connectivity being enough reason to upgrade.
New feature: Haptic feedback
Similar to a smartphone or video game controller, the TourBox Elite includes a new haptic feedback system. This causes the controller to vibrate and output sounds when using the scroll wheel, dial and knob.
Unfortunately, the haptic feedback system in the prototype controller I received wasn’t fully developed. I could sense little-to-no vibration, and the sound was rather loud (to me it sounded like a creaking door hinge).
I spoke with TourBox about this, and they informed me the Elite’s haptic system was still being developed, and sound and vibration would be improved in time for launch (which may come in the form of a downloadable firmware upgrade).
If the vibrations and sounds annoy you, they may be individually disabled for the scroll wheel, dial and knob through the TourBox Console software (pictured above).
What’s new: no more fingerprints
The Elite includes a new exterior finish that uses “anti-germ technology for the surface and a UV anti-fingerprint technique to keep it from fingerprints or stains.”
This is a welcome addition, for my NEO got smudgy and oily-looking after a few days of use. The Elite does a much better job of repelling fingerprints and looks much cleaner sitting on my desk.
What hasn’t changed
Besides the aforementioned, the Elite is otherwise pretty much the same as the NEO I reviewed. The hardware design and button layout is the same, though the Elite does feel a touch heavier due to the AA batteries and internal hardware changes.
TourBox has however changed the action of some of the buttons. Buttons now feel a touch tighter and less springy than the same buttons on the NEO. The scroll wheel at top left now glides smoothly without physical notches (you’re now supposed to “feel” those notches via haptic feedback).
The one button change I’m not crazy about is the side button. On my prototype unit, the button had considerably more spring and traveled farther than the same button on the NEO. I much prefer the tighter feeling of the NEO side button, and have shared this feedback with TourBox for their consideration.
Functionality wise, the TourBox Elite is just as good as the NEO. I enjoy using the controller in Lightroom and Photoshop; especially when using tools that feel more intuitive using wheels and dials (eg, adjusting brush size). The TourBox does take some time to develop sufficient muscle memory with, but it didn’t take long for the controller to become a productive addition to my photo editing workflow.
Room for improvement
TourBox improved the design and experience of the Elite, though there is still some room for improvement.
I’d much prefer a rechargeable, internal battery instead of two AA batteries. Removable batteries encourage waste, and it would be easier to recharge the controller via USB-C (similar to my wireless keyboard and mouse) instead of dealing with physical batteries.
I would also like to see presets for more applications in the TourBox Console software. Right now there’s Photoshop, Lightroom, and two Premiere presets. Additional user-submitted presets may be downloaded and imported separately, but it would be nice to see more built-in options for apps like Capture One, Final Cut, etc.
Crowdfunded campaign pricing
The TourBox Elite is currently being offered at the “super early bird” price of $178, which is 34% off the Elite’s retail price of $268. When that deal runs out, the “early bird” price of $188 will kick in (30% off). With both of these prices you may choose between a “classic black” or white controller.
TourBox is also offering a TourBox Elite SE (“Special Edition”) with a smoke-black translucent exterior. This is the model I tested, and is available for $206, which is 33% off its $308 retail price.
Which color should you get? I haven’t seen or used the white controller, but if I had to choose between classic black and smoke-black translucent, I’d spend a little more on the latter. It does a better job of repelling fingerprints and smudges, so it looks cleaner sitting on a desk, and I like the semi-transparent look of it.
Estimated delivery for backers of the TourBox Elite is February, 2022.