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I try to do as much work as I can on my laptop. The MacBook Pro is powerful enough to handle almost every photo or video editing job I can throw at it, and it's self-contained, which means I just need the laptop and I'm good to go.
As such, I've been wary of adding other "gadgets" into the equation. I don't use a mouse because I find the trackpad adequate, but I do use a graphics tablet -- either a Wacom Intuos Pro or a Wacom One -- for more complex work, mostly photo touch-ups.
But lately I've been using a tool -- a controller, to give it its proper name -- that has quickly become worth its weight in gold. And that's the TourBox Elite controller.
Dial and wheel material: PC & TPU double injection molding
Haptic motor: Linear motor
Connectivity: Dual-channel BLE5.0 & USB-C cable
Compatibility: macOS10.11 and above, Windows 10 and above (Windows 7 and 8 supported with additional drivers)
Dimensions: 116 X 101 X 44mm
Weight: 376g without batteries, 426g with 2x AA batteries
As for what software you can use with your TourBox Elite, well, the sky's the limit! Think of any photo or video editing app, drawing package, browser, or audio app, and the TourBox Elite will support it. I've tested it with the big-name software packages from the likes of Adobe, DaVinci, and Apple, and had no problems at all.
It just works.
Installation was a snap. You download and install the software, fire up the software, and choose whether to connect the TourBox Elite controller using a cable or Bluetooth.
I chose to use the controller in a wireless configuration and the whole setup process was super smooth on my Mac; the time from opening the box and having it working was less than five minutes.
On the desk, the TourBox Elite controller has enough weight -- and decent rubberized feet -- to keep it in place while in use, and the shape fits the hand like a glove, and is really comfortable to use, even for extended periods. Solidity on the desk is a must, and it's good to see that this is not a problem. If this controller was skidding around a desk, that would have been a deal breaker.
Now, the next thing you'll notice is that it has a lot of buttons and dials. A lot of them.
This might seem daunting in the beginning, so I recommend that you dive into the software and take a look at the presets. I've had a lot of experience with gaming mice and controllers that are simply encrusted with buttons, so it didn't take me long to get used to this, but even I felt the weight of trying to remember where each button and dial was, let alone configure each one with a specific task.
The software gives you a glimpse into just how much power this controller puts at your fingertips!
The buttons and dials on the TourBox Elite feel great, offering good feedback, and there's a haptic vibration feedback engine built into the controller too, which gives an extra dimension to using it. The switches also have a solid, positive snap action to them, and not only do you know that you've pressed a button, but accidental presses are very rare.
Again, this is key. If you're used to Macs, high-end PCs, and professional-grade peripherals, the last thing that you want is a peripheral that just feels... bad. Again, that would have been a deal breaker.
I'd expected this controller to feel plasticky, but it's very solid and weighty, and very well built, much better than even the best controller you find for a games console.
You can make the TourBox Elite as easy to complex to use as you want, but if it's your first time using something like this, I recommend setting a few buttons to do specific things and then getting used to those few buttons before adding more. This way, your productivity doesn't take a bit hit initially, and you quickly get to a point where you start to feel the benefits of TourBox Elite.
ZDNET's buying advice
If you spend a lot of time in front of applications such as Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, Premier Pro, DaVinci Studio, AutoDesk AutoCad, Capture One, or even one of the Microsoft Office apps, and you find yourself carrying out a lot of repetitive tasks, then you'll find the TourBox Elite invaluable. Yes, you have to put in the effort to learn how to use it, but stick with it, because the rewards are definitely worth it.
If there's one thing that I don't like about the TourBox Elite, it's how it's powered when using Bluetooth. I'd expected a built-in battery, but, instead, it uses two AA batteries. That's very old-school, but this is not a deal-breaker -- the batteries last a couple of months, and I have replaced the throw-away alkaline batteries and instead use rechargeable AA batteries.
If you can do without some of the "elite" features then the more affordable TourBox NEO might be better suited to you. This has all the same buttons and dials but is missing the more advanced features such as wireless Bluetooth connectivity, haptic feedback, and the ability to control two devices.