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Back in February, I noticed Luma on Kickstarter. What made it compelling to me was the concept of a mesh network, which could in theory remove all deadspots around the house and guarantee excellent network throughput everywhere.

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As most engineers out there, I have a large number of wireless devices throughout the house and consistent throughput has always been a concern. In addition Luma promised some interesting security features including the ability to link users to devices on the network and then apply parental controls on a per user basis. The product also promised to proactively monitor the security posture of connected devices (done through a cloud based service). So for these reasons I pre ordered a 3 pack and received my devices earlier this week. I finally hooked up the devices and wanted to share my initial thoughts.

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SETUP

Setting up the Luma is a breeze! You literally hook up one of the devices to your modem or router, download an app via Google Play or the Apple Store and it walks you through the entire setup step by step.  I have my Linkys 1900ac and Luma running in parallel, both hooked up to my modem. I use the Luma primarily for media streaming devices. One of the access points did not successfully configure the first time during setup and i had to go through the process again. The process was extremely simple and intuitive nonetheless. Luma is geared to those who have zero knowledge about networking. Even my mom would be able to get through the configuration process successfully.

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The tool recommends ideal locations to place the access points but following the recommendations, I noticed that the throughput was not optimal. I eventually ended up placing the access points as close to each other as possible on the three floors and that seemed to give the best throughput.

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THE GOOD

  • As discussed above, the setup is extremely intuitive and simple
  • The product will appeal to most consumers who are not tech savvy due to the simplicity of the setup and exceptional network coverage.
  • Linking devices to users and applying parental controls on a per user basis is an awesome feature that appeals to parents like myself.
  • You can completely eliminate deadspots throughout your house while maintaining consistent throughout everywhere
  • Network security scans that monitor the security posture of all your connected devices is a nice feature. However it is cloud based.
  • The iOS and Android apps are very well designed, although they are pretty limited in features as of now.

THE NOT SO GOOD

  • Zero configuration options from a network perspective besides setting up a WiFi network. Not even the most basic settings.
    • No DHCP configuration options (scope, reservations, lease time etc)
    • No port forwarding
    • No advanced firewall options
    • No QoS settings
  • Cannot configure multiple Wireless Networks (beyond the guest network). Cannot separate 2.5 and 5 Ghz networks
  • Requires you to setup a cloud based account and uses cloud based network scanning solution that cannot be turned off. This is a major concern for some.
  • From what I can tell, the Luma acts as a forward proxy and also handles DNS resolution which is NOT CONFIGURABLE. I can see why this is necesary to filter traffic and apply parental controls. However I noticed a significant delay in DNS resolution (up to a 5 second delays) when trying to resolve URLs. This is extremely unappealing and a major show stopper for me. I also assume that this data is also flowing through their cloud service which is concerning.
  • While handling streaming video, so far I am noticing periodic network drops and freezing which I never noticed with my Linksys 1900ac. I will need to investigate further.
  • The throughput offered by the first wired Luma that you setup is almost three times higher than the rest. I am getting 300 Mbps on the main Luma and only about a 100 on the other two Lumas. I had read some reviews that claim the same flaw. With that said, 100 Mbps is not bad 🙂
  • A bunch of features that were promised on Kickstarter have not made it into the initial release. However, the support team tells me that they are extremely aggressive about updates and are updating the mobile app twice a month and releasing firmware updates pretty aggressively. So I’m pretty certain that they’ll catch up.

THOUGHTS OVERALL

In addition to Luma, there are a few other products out there that offer a similar solution, Eero being the most popular. The real differentiator with Luma (at least in theory) were the advanced parental controls and the fact that the devices itself are much more beefy with quad core processors and such. While I am honestly a little disappointed with my initial experience, especially with regards to all the missing advanced network features, I am cautiously optimistic that these will be rolled into the product soon. So here are my initial thoughts:

  • If you are not tech savvy and want a really simple solution that just works, provides you consistent coverage everywhere and you dont care about advanced network features, then LUMA IS FOR YOU!
  • If cloud hosted services are a concern, then Luma is not for you.
  • If you already own a Linksys 1900ac or a similar advanced router, I would honestly hold back for now and wait to see how the product evolves. Too many gaps as of now.
  • If your main reason for looking at the solution was parental controls, it might be a fit however not all the features have been rolled out. You could look at Circle from Disney to complement your existing wireless solution. You could also take a closer look at Eero.

I will update this post as I have more information to share!