What if I told you that you could add a retina screen to your MacBook Pro for less than $ 100? And what would you think when I showed how it plugged into your computer?
The business card under this hardware gives you some hints, but where did this magic device come from and how does it work?
This story all starts at The Iconfactory office in Minnesota where we do custom app development. It's a collaboration space that we share with the nice people at Astro HQ, the producers of the popular AstroPad app.
Troy Gaul showed me the video from the Kickstarter page, Matt Ronge asked if I would give it a try ("Hell yeah!") And Savannah Reising sent me the prototype hardware you see above.
I have had two screens on my development machines since the 1
It also made me think of how to rearrange my home office because this is a great setup wherever you are!
The prototype came late late on Saturday, so here's how my Sunday morning started …
I put the USB-C hardware into the woman's MacBook Pro. My laptop is a bit older and uses Mini DisplayPort to attach external monitors (Astro HQ works on this interface, but prototypes are not quite clear.) The device immediately started flashing. Who does not love a flashing light on new hardware?
I downloaded the Luna Display app for Mac. It's clearly marked as a "Technology Preview" and I'm fully aware of what it means 🙂 For example, there are some menu options in this version, such as "Reload Codec Config" and "Luna Device Reset", which tells me engineers are still adjusting things. Like any Kickstarter project, everything I'm writing about now can not be in the shipping product.
Even the flashing light, which stopped after I launched the app, may not be in the final product. But I hope it's because it's easy feedback that the Mac page is not running. And it's flashing!
Earlier this week, I received a TestFlight invitation for the Luna Display app on iOS, so I got everything set up. After you start this app, you get a message saying "Watch your Mac". Man, I love it when developers think about how to use something!
On the Mac there was a dialog asking if PRO BABY could connect via Wi-Fi. It's my 9.7 "iPad Pro, so of course I clicked" Allow ", but it's good to know that they're thinking of who can see what's on my Mac.
At this time, Luna Display has been completely created. and I have two screens. This is awesome!
The Mac app presents two buttons: "Enable HiDPI" and "Display Arrangement." Getting the Luna screen in the right place was the first thing I wanted to do so it was very useful to have the other button.
The first button presented a message to "Install Luna System Extension." This extension is required to set the screen to a full retina resolution, but years of happy marriage have taught me that you do not install with a password on your spouse's laptop. So I refused and can not wait to do it when my miniDP prototype comes!
Since the Luna Display runs on an iPad, touches and pencil recording work as you expect. they're doing a bit too well, because I made me move my finger over to the MacBook sitting next to it. Maybe Microsoft is on something here.
I was also curious if I could use more iPads at the same time, I'm an iOS developer possible, I could have a MacBook with six monitors with varying resolution and speed. As we see next, there is a good reason that you are limited to just one iOS device at a time.
A Network Monitors
The first thing in my mind, and probably yours, is how is the display quality? And the answer to that question leads us to the most important part of this technology: the link between Mac and iPad.
When we renovated our bungalow in Laguna Beach in 1920, Wi-Fi was just running and speeds were & # 39; t big. As a result, we have a lot of gigabit Ethernet and not much motivation to upgrade a bunch of old Airport Extremes. The network is not very fast, but most devices that can roll it out can be hardwired.
Except now I have a Mac that sends screenfuls of compressed pixels to iPad's Retina Display over an aging network. And guess what?
The screen looks pretty good! If I look carefully, it's somewhat blocked as I move the windows around quickly, but things like the iTunes visualizer look much better than I expected.
I have some experience in merging pixels between a Mac and an iOS device, so that the effectiveness of Astro HQ's LIQUID technology is not lost to me. Obviously, something they've honed through the years of Astropad product. It also explains the strangely named menu item we looked at: "Update Codec Config".
There is also a "Vitals" window that you can open on Mac to see how well this technology works. I love to geek out on graphs and the data shown above helped me understand what was going on under the hood: it's about bandwidth. The more you can give Luna Display, the better it looks. You want the blue flowlines to be as high as possible. Bump in graphs is while I moved a window around furiously on the Luna Display – I saw similar results while running iTunes visualizer.
To make my wireless network worse than usual, I started downloading Xcode on another Mac connected to the same access point. This grew up around 50 Mbps, and the quality of Luna Display was dramatically reduced.
So yes, someone else in your office could destroy your productivity. Bummer.
A Wired Display
It was at this time that I remembered that you could also use a USB connection between Mac and iPad. Let's give it a try!
As soon as the cable went on screen quality was perfect. Wowza.
And the blue tombs you looked over? They were literally outside the chart with the USB connection.
(Something tells me that the price to upgrade my network will be a lot more than this kickstarter costs me.)
Conveniently, I think this is a likely configuration if you use these devices for an entire workday. The USB cable lets you share the power load and recharge during extended use. It also completely avoids the problem with your colleagues watching 4K video on YouTube all day.
In the likely event that you take your Luna screen while traveling, make sure to pack a cable because we all know how great hotel Wi-Fi can be.
A Screen With An OS
Everything else behaves exactly as you expect and works like any other monitor you want to connect to your Mac. The only difference with Luna Display is that it is an operating system that controls what is being sent to the other screen.
When you put the Luna Display app in the background with the iPad home button, the screen disappears from Mac after a few minutes. All iOS apps have limited time in the background, and Luna Display is no different. When this timeout occurs, you will see the Mac monitor reconfigured and Windows will move to new spaces. As soon as the iOS app returns to the foreground, all windows return to their original locations.
All new software has their own knowledge, but I experienced surprisingly few of them while trying the Luna Display. This product is much more mature than I expected from a technology guide.
One thing I did not expect to see was "Luna Display" as the color profile for the screen. Considering that I drive on the first "Display P3" device that Apple sent, this wider range should be exploited. Changing the profile did not seem to have any effect. I'm fond of a sticker for this kind of thing 🙂
Talking with Astro HQ developers is the reason why this version uses an 8-bit color line. They work with 10-bit color and wider gamut, since it's a great feature for designers using AstroPad.
There were sometimes things unexpectedly connected or hung up. Nothing serious, and it was easy to recover from (it's like accidentally pulling out a screen: Mac is handling so gracefully.)
Yet, developers are working to improve this situation, mainly due to overloaded Wi-Fi. They still have some work to do on their UDP-based network protocols when other HTTP requests begin to create bandwidth.
When I only had the device for a few days and tested on my wife's computer, I did not do any battery life measurements. I noticed that plugging in the USB cable between Mac and iPad caused the iOS device to charge, which reduced battery life to the MacBook Pro.
I know the people behind this device. They have delivered large products on macOS and iOS for many years, and I have great confidence that they will iron out some of the kinks in the Luna Display.
I also know that I never want a MacBook or iPad without this little bit of magic. Please join me to support Kickstarter.