Hands on: Luna Display extends your Mac's display to the iPad wirelessly

Posted:
in iPad
Assorted app combinations have been utilizing Wi-Fi to extend the Mac's desktop to the iPad for some time -- but the new Luna Display plug from the makers of the Astropad app eliminates hacks from the equation, and is able to send fully accelerated video from the Mac to an iPad companion app.




The Luna Display dongle is either a USB-C or Mini DisplayPort device that plugs into a compatible Mac port to ferry information to a dedicated and free iPad app. In essence, Luna turns an iPad into a wireless, touch-capable display for the Mac.




AppleInsider has been using a prototype of the Luna Display plug for a year, and now the full version for a month while producing content. We've also used gestures, pinching, and the entire range of gestures allowable on Apple's Magic Trackpad -- and again, with no issues at all.

Compared to the Astropad standard edition that does not require the plug, the Luna Display dongle facilitates much faster video, given that it is now accelerated by the computer's GPU. Even in fairly busy small office and home Wi-Fi networks, we didn't have any problems. It did drop out a few times with quick motion when trying it out in a busy Starbucks, but the video signal rapidly corrected itself.

Don't get us wrong -- there is still some lag mostly because of latency from the Wi-Fi connection. It isn't a lot, and it is better than most wireless screen-extension apps. But, you can see it, and it is clearly tangible. We're not sure we'd want to play games on it, but productivity and email don't suffer at all from it.



We've examined a few different display extender apps for the iPad and MacOS and previously preferred wired implementations in the past, but the Luna Display continues to impress.

The company claims that the app works on iPads all the way back to the iPad 2. We can confirm that this is the case, but we can't recommend anything older than an iPad Air to use as a second display. The new sixth-generation iPad released in the spring of 2018, or an iPad Pro as we've used at some length work fantastically, though.

If you've got a relatively new iPad, and a MacBook Pro and are tight on screen real estate, AppleInsider recommends the Luna Display. We are less positive about the hardware requiring an additional $29 payment for Astropad to unlock the full potential of the Apple Pencil in conjunction with the Mac, given that the hardware costs $80 on its own for either a USB-C version or one with the Mini DisplayPort connector.

But, even without that, it opens up some unique use cases, particularly with devices running headless, like connecting to a headless Mac mini functioning as a home server or to a MacBook Pro from another room in your house.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    anomeanome Posts: 1,177member
    Bit of a bummer it's only US or Europe so far. Guess I'll stick with Duet Display for now. I know it doesn't have the same functionality, but for the limited uses I currently need, it's fine.
  • Reply 2 of 15
    dougddougd Posts: 208member
    Seems rather useless
  • Reply 3 of 15
    palegolaspalegolas Posts: 1,271member
    So I guess the iPad won't be online when it's connected like this? (Unless it's a 4G model?) Would very much like to try this. Astropad has a much better algorithm for transferring image than Duet Display, in my opinion. This is probably great. It's soooo weeeiiiird though, that Apple never introduced this feature on the iPad. It's just... weird. It's such an obvious feature. Even earlier this year, was it, there was a rumour that Apple was gonna do it, but it never happened. I feel like all this effort to create this specific hardware solution might fall flat once Apple is introducing their version of this.. But that might be tied to a specific new iPad model, so then users of older models will still benefit from this.
    emoeller
  • Reply 4 of 15
    Interested in more detail about why you can't recommend using an iPad 2 with this product? Are there performance problems? Or just due to the lack of a retina screen? Thank you.
  • Reply 5 of 15
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,725administrator
    sapote said:
    Interested in more detail about why you can't recommend using an iPad 2 with this product? Are there performance problems? Or just due to the lack of a retina screen? Thank you.
    Little bit of both. We don't have a functional iPad 3 to test on, but both the iPad 2 without Retina and iPad 4 with were too slow to really drive the display quick enough. The iPad Air worked nicely, though.
  • Reply 6 of 15
    I’m wondering what the final breakdown for price would be to use this with a drawing app? I liked Astro Pas but I HATED the fact that I had to just keep the window on my Mac as opposed to having its own space on the iPad. Have they got that sorted? I feel like I might really want to own this. 
  • Reply 7 of 15
    dougd said:
    Seems rather useless
    Thanks for sharing your deep insight on the subject. 
    StrangeDaysanome
  • Reply 8 of 15

    I’m wondering what the final breakdown for price would be to use this with a drawing app? I liked Astro Pas but I HATED the fact that I had to just keep the window on my Mac as opposed to having its own space on the iPad. Have they got that sorted? I feel like I might really want to own this. 
    It’s $80 and another $29 to unlock Pencil features in AstroPad as it says in the article. Whatever drawing app would cost whatever it costs. The entire point of this hardware is that your iPad works as a separate monitor, not a section of the Mac screen. Did you even read the article?
  • Reply 9 of 15
    I did the Kickstarter for this last year and recently got my USB-C model anticipating upgrading my MBP this year. It’s still in the box as I haven’t upgraded yet, but looking forward to it. Even more so when I’m able to upgrade my iPad to a Pencil-compatible model. This will kill my need for a Wacom tablet 100%.
  • Reply 10 of 15
    chasmchasm Posts: 997member
    Thanks for this article. I've been hearing about this for a while but was under the impression that it was like Duet Display, but more expensive. Being wireless and yet just as usable as Duet makes a difference, though I'm not really the target market for this. Seems to me that they ought to offer a $99 bundle with AstroPad for those who need that.
  • Reply 11 of 15
    Is it possible to use this with an adapter from USB-C to USB-A? I'm not planing to upgrade my MacBook until next year.
  • Reply 12 of 15
    I did the Kickstarter for this last year and recently got my USB-C model anticipating upgrading my MBP this year. It’s still in the box as I haven’t upgraded yet, but looking forward to it. Even more so when I’m able to upgrade my iPad to a Pencil-compatible model. This will kill my need for a Wacom tablet 100%.
    Unfortunately, it's not a 100% Wacom tablet replacement. Oh man I have gone through several incompatible upgrades of Wacom.. Serial, ADB, Intuos (which would work fine if they'd update drivers but it's dead now on Mojave). And I assure you it's a totally different experience.
    On a Wacom, you can move the pointer around the screen and press to click. But on the Astropad implementation, you are drawing the moment you press the Pencil to the iPad. You cannot position the cursor and then press to start drawing. You must look at the iPad and put your Pencil point to the position where you want to draw.
    This is a bit disconcerting to old Wacom users like me, who spent years working with the abstraction of separating our hand-eye coordination with mouse and pen/tablet, to suddenly be actually drawing like on paper. I wish there were stronger native iPad apps so I could do the tough tasks like masking (must be PS compatible files) and just push them to my desktop. Oh hell, I just wish there was a Photoshop for iPad.
    But using PS with Astropad is an interesting experience. Hey I'll sketch a crude drawing of my layout using Procreate it's quicker than describing it.

    I keep my Magic Keyboard 2 under my 12.9" iPad Pro, but positioned slightly offset to the left, so I can draw with my right hand without bumping the keys. But I need the keyboard close by my left hand for using the alt-option-ctrl-shift keys, like any good PS user. I keep the iPad zoomed into just the drawing area, I don't like selecting PS tools with Astropad, so I glance up and use my Magic Trackpad 2 to click the toolpad or look at a larger scale view.
  • Reply 13 of 15
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 1,968member
    gutengel said:
    Is it possible to use this with an adapter from USB-C to USB-A? I'm not planing to upgrade my MacBook until next year.
    No, but there's a miniDP version.
  • Reply 14 of 15
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 1,968member

    charles1 said:
    I did the Kickstarter for this last year and recently got my USB-C model anticipating upgrading my MBP this year. It’s still in the box as I haven’t upgraded yet, but looking forward to it. Even more so when I’m able to upgrade my iPad to a Pencil-compatible model. This will kill my need for a Wacom tablet 100%.
    Unfortunately, it's not a 100% Wacom tablet replacement. Oh man I have gone through several incompatible upgrades of Wacom.. Serial, ADB, Intuos (which would work fine if they'd update drivers but it's dead now on Mojave). And I assure you it's a totally different experience.
    [...]
    Not sure why you'd prefer the abstracted hand/eye thing is preferable. This way it'd be more like a Cintiq where you are actually looking at what you're drawing on, which is what I'd definitely prefer for airbrushing/masking/etc in Photoshop or sculpting in 3D software etc. That negates the need to see a cursor floating around as well. Obviously if you prefer the other way around, stick with the Wacom.

    Also they're bringing Photoshop to iPad next year, it was reported on a few months ago. 
  • Reply 15 of 15
    Personally I think Apple should buy them and just incorporate the capability inside every MacBook sold to formalize and expand kn Continuity.  Unlike the Microsoft approach of making shitty convertibles why not extend the function of our iOS devices to support the Mac.

    and iPad as a screen extender

    and an iPhone as an auxiliary input device?


Sign In or Register to comment.