Astro HQ’s Luna Display Dongle is Ready for Windows Users Offering a Seamless Connection Between PC and iPad
Written by Krisztián Vértes
Astro’s Luna Display is almost ready to offer a seamless connection between your PC and iPad (Photo by Astro HQ)
It's been a year since digitalEPIGRAPHY last reported about Astro's excellent dongle solution coming to Windows. With Apple offering their own mirroring solution baked right into their operating system, the small company has struggled to remain an appealing alternative for Mac users. Seeking a resolution, Astro decided to extend their portfolio beyond the Mac. In the past twelve months, the developers put a lot of effort into bringing their tech to Windows PC users' doorsteps. After raising the necessary funding in yet another successful Kickstarter campaign, the new dongle, Luna Display for Windows, is now ready for public beta testers.
Just like the Mac version, the PC alternative of the Luna Display dongle comes in two unit options: USB-C or HDMI (Photo by Astro HQ)
Astro is not the only player in town providing PC users with the ability to turn an iPad into a wireless second display. Duet has also been offering this capability via hardware acceleration for quite some time. Where Astro's solution excels is the seamless, virtually lag-free, and lightning-fast connection delivered via WIFI or USB thanks to their little dongle that does the heavy lifting. Naturally, we're most excited about the Luna Display's PC performance when used with Astro's excellent drawing software, Astropad Studio. The iPad app was recently updated adding support to Apple's M1 processors doubling the performance when used with the latest MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini. We've been eagerly awaiting to see how drawing on a PC will measure up when tethered to the iPad.
Well, now the time has come for everybody to try out Astropad Studio on Windows, thanks to the company's freshly announced public beta program, called Project Blue. Suppose you are a PC user looking into drawing digitally but hesitating over investing into a graphics tablet. In that case, the Luna Display might be your ticket into digital documentation on the cheap(er). Provided you own one of the newer iPads (iPad 6th-9th generation, iPad mini 5th generation, iPad Air 3rd, and 4thgeneration and iPad Pro 9.7, 10.5, 11, and 12.9 inches) and the Apple Pencil.
Again, where Luna has a clear advantage over regular external monitors (and, as a matter of fact, Apple's sidecar option) is the flexibility to work wherever you want, however you want – as long as you stay within the WIFI range of your computer. According to Astro: "Whether it's stepping away from the confines of your desk to working from anywhere within your home, you can create the ultimate wireless setup with minimal effort." The current set of features for PC beta testers are:
- Drawing tablet functionality: mirroring, Apple Pencil support, Touch support (pan and zoom)
- Limited Astropad Studio shortcuts and customization: Basic sidebar shortcuts, ‘Magic Gestures’, Hard & soft pressure curves, On-screen modifier keys, On-screen keyboard, External keyboard support, ‘Move and Zoom’
- Robust connectivity and performance: Connect over WIFI or USB, Low latency at 60fps, GPU support
Astropad Studio demonstrated on Windows PC, tethered to the latest iPad Pro (Gif by Astro HQ)
However, not all planned features are added to the software at this point, with such exciting functions as unlimited and per-app shortcuts, custom pressure curves, and pressure smoothing marked as coming soon. Even with the current limitations, Astro's offer seems like a must-try for the sizeable digitalEPIGRAPHY community using Windows machines. It is undeniable that many competitive "budget" drawing display makers have been recently reinventing themselves, creating better and better displays where quality and affordability are no longer at the opposite end of the scale. Today, it is possible to purchase a decent digital drawing companion for as little as 400 USD, which is less than what one would have to pay for Apple's most basic iPad and Apple Pencil bundle. Nonetheless, when it comes to versatility and durability, the iPad wins by a mile over any drawing displays, providing the freedom of untethered digital penciling via excellent native apps, such as Procreate. The app ecosystem readily available for any iPad user makes it a tremendous value in the long term, especially with the added benefits of useful accessories, such as Astro's Luna Display.
If you have the necessary hardware and would like to try out Astropad Studio for Windows, you can join the public beta testing by signing up through the Project Blue website. Participating in the beta doesn't provide you with a Luna Display dongle, as the miniature hardware accelerator is still in development. However, you can already download the relevant PC app and the accompanying iPad app for free to see the software in action for yourself. According to Astro HQ, after the Project Blue beta is over, Windows support will be rolled into the existing Astropad Standard and Studio apps as a free feature. Astropad Studio is currently sold as a $79.99 yearly subscription in Apple's iTunes store.