Last year, I backed the Luna Display on their Kickstarter campaign and I’ve had a couple months to use it. In case you’re unfamiliar with the Luna Display, it’s a dongle that allows you to wirelessly use your iPad as a second monitor for your MacBook. It’s available in USB-C and Mini Display Port models depending on your hardware needs. As of the time of this writing (10/17/2018), only MacBooks and iPads are supported.
Since I have a 2012 MacBook Pro, I needed the Mini Display Port model. I typically use my Wacom Cintiq 21UX as a secondary display for my MacBook, but I recently took that into my office for a project, so the timing of receiving the Luna display was perfect since I no longer have a graphics tablet for my home office.
In order to use the Luna Display, you’ll need the Luna Display, Astropad Standard, and/or Astropad Studio apps installed both on your iPad and MacBook. I have both the Luna Display and Astropad Standard apps and will cover the pros and cons of each.
The Luna Display app is for anyone who doesn’t already own or want to buy Astropad Standard or Studio. It’s the standard app they suggest using with the Luna Display and you’ll need to run it on both your iPad and MacBook Pro at the same time. All you have to do is plug in the Luna Display, start the apps ,and everything auto connects. You’ll then be prompted to choose where you physically want the iPad to act as the second monitor (i.e. to the left, right, top, or bottom of the MacBook). It also asks if you’d like to use it as a retina display, but my MacBook Pro was released just before the retina MacBooks and doesn’t support this feature. Yes, my MacBook is that old.
One benefit of using the Luna Display app is that you can use a 3rd party keyboard to control your apps. For instance, sometimes I want to go out on the porch to work on a project in Adobe Animate CC, but I don’t want to have to lug my MacBook around with me. This allows me to just grab my iPad, iPad Keyboard, and Apple Pencil, and I can control my MacBook from anywhere around the house. The keyboard is great for shortcut keys and full typing. The downside is that it doesn’t support pressure sensitivity while drawing. This can be problematic if that’s primarily what I’ll be doing.
If I’m going to be relying heavily on pressure-sensitive drawing, I’ll boot up Astropad Standard instead. Astropad Standard is more geared for digital artists and supports full pressure sensitivity when used with an Apple Pencil. You’ll see the options for brush pressure-sensitivity and tilt appear in Adobe Animate CC when Astropad is running.
The downside to using Astropad Standard with the Luna Display is that the 3rd-party iPad keyboard no longer works. Instead, you’ll need to use one paired to the MacBook if you want a physical keyboard. That being said, Astropad Standard does supply a soft button that brings up a list of customizable shortcut keys, which can eliminate the need for a physical keyboard.
There is just a slight delay when using the Luna wirelessly, which you may not even notice if you’re not using your iPad to draw on and only want it as a second monitor. This seems to go away when it’s connected via lightning cable, which is my preferred method anyway so that way my iPad gets charged as I’m using it. It is something to consider, though if you’ll always being using your Luna wirelessly for drawing.
Overall, the Luna Display is a great addition to anyone with an iPad and MacBook Pro who wants a secondary monitor with which to travel. Also, any digital artists looking to use Photoshop, Animate, Toon Boom, etc. on a drawing tablet that can be taken with you will benefit from this. I like having it as a Cintiq substitute and I’m glad I was one of the first Kickstarter backers.