Review: Luna Display
Luna Display, the little hardware dongle that turns your iPad into a second display, is now available to consumers. Luna Display was developed by the makers of the Astropad, an iOS app that turns your iPad into a graphics tablet for the Mac, and started out as a crowdfunding project on Kickstarter from the outside, it seems hard to believe that this diminutive little device can deliver on its promise of shifting millions of pixels wirelessly.
To operate the Luna Display, you need to install the Luna Display software on your Mac and on your iPad, and both apps are free. Simply plug in the Luna Display and your Mac will automatically launch the Luna Display app and tell you to launch the iPad app. A note will come on screen to tell you that your displays will blink a few times. It’s good they warn you because it would be a bit disconcerting otherwise. After a few blinks, you’ll see your Mac’s desktop showing on your iPad. The Mac will display a window entitled Luna Display Settings. This settings screen lets you tell the apps whether your iPad is to the left or right of your Mac. That works fine if the iPad is simply sitting on a table next to your notebook.
By now at least some of you are wondering whether your older iPad or Mac can run Luna Display. The good news is that compatibility goes pretty far back. In their compatibility section they say that it requires a Mac running macOS 10.11 El Capitan or later (yay) and for optimal performance they recommend 2012 or later MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and iMac. For the Mac Pro they recommend Late 2013 or better. You might be wondering how well Luna Display works from a latency perspective. If scrolling and moving windows around on screen is slow, then this isn’t going to be an option most people would want to use. It turns out that the response time of Luna Display is highly dependent on your WiFi signal. I have been using it primarily up at my desk in my studio which is quite close to my router and it performs really well. I tried it out on my back porch where the signal strength is poor and the iPad wouldn’t ever connect to Luna Display on the Mac right next to it. When I had a mediocre signal, the screen would look pretty jack while dragging a window or scrolling but once it stopped it was still clear and readable. As mentioned that you can use Apple Pencil to interact with your iPad over Luna Display. In this mode, you don’t get pressure sensitivity with Pencil like you do on the iPad Pro natively. However, you can combine Luna and AstroPad together and get the best of both worlds. I confirmed that pressure sensitivity worked perfectly.
There are a couple of constraints with Luna Display. You can’t use it with any kind of adapter or hub; it must be directly connected to your Mac. You can’t use it on multiple iPads at the same time, but you don’t have to do any pairing to toggle between two iPads. Luna Display currently shipping to the US, Canada, Japan (I’m looking at you Kaylee) and the European Union, I have had a problem on a few occasions where Luna Display wouldn’t connect, even at my desk near the router. I think it’s an interference problem with my Thunderbolt 3 dock and the USB-C cable coming into my Mac from the dock. I’ve noticed if I use the USB-C ports on the opposite side it works more consistently than on the side with the USB-C cable.
We have to say I think the $80 Luna Display is a great investment if you have an iPad or if you need to justify buying one.