About Luma WiFi
You just finished setting up your new home office, only to realize that your WiFi signal stinks. Traditionally, this could be solved by adding a range extender—but what can you do if you don’t want to create a whole new network? Even if you do, how much signal strength are you willing to compromise?
With Luma WiFi, the company claims scenarios like these will be a thing of the past. Why? Their “intelligent” system provides you fast, reliable internet using technology that was previously only available to large companies (more about this soon), all in a safe, family-friendly package. Here are a few more of Luma WiFi’s potential benefits:
- Built-in hacker protection.
- A clear idea of who’s on your network and what kind of data is flowing through. You’ll be able to instantly view what’d happening on each device, in real time.
- Modern parental controls, including time limits, restricting access for specific users, and pausing the internet across the entire house.
- All of this is handled directly through Luma’s iOS and Android apps.
In a nutshell, Luma claims to provide a modern WiFi network that’s reliable, consistent, safe, and secure. In fact, because their devices provide “surround WiFi,” they’ll claim to help you “experience the fastest home internet anywhere.”
Realistically, is this what you can expect from Luma WiFi? Are there any important considerations to keep in mind? Is there anything similar? In this review, we’ll help you weigh all the information in order to make a smarter buying decision.
How Does the Luma WiFi System Work?
Luma’s Technical Specifications
Each Luma module features an octagonal shape that’s about 4” tall, 4.6” wide, and 1” thick. On the back, you’ll find two WAN and LAN gigabit Ethernet ports, along with one USB 2 port (a USB hub can be used to extend the number if needed).
A top of view of the Luma module
Each Luma module also features a quad-core processor, simultaneous dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz, Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, and a LED tri-color light ring on the exterior.
To set up your Luma WiFi system, you’ll plug the first module into your modem, which will provide access to your network. Note: Luma is intended to replace your router, but not your modem. From there, any other Luma devices will automatically connect wirelessly.
Luma WiFi Set Up
According to the company, you’ll typically only need three modules to provide a “surround” WiFi mesh network. If you’re not exactly tech savvy, Luma features a smart setup feature that shows you how to optimize your network, including where each module should go in order to provide the strongest signal. This—and just about everything else—is handled through Luma’s iOS and Android apps.
After setup, Luma will continuously use its intelligent network optimization to identify which devices you’re using, along with obstacles that might reduce your WiFi coverage, such as walls and wave frequencies. From there, it will figure out how to minimize their impact, without any help, in order to “get you the fastest data, everywhere.”
What Kind of Safety & Security Does Luma Feature?
Speaking of automation, Luma’s “enterprise-grade network security” will automatically help you keep out intruders, whether it’s your neighbor or a hacker on the other side of the globe. It will also instantly alert you of any viruses it detects on devices within your network, without the use of any additional software.
Within your Luma network, you’ll also be able to view who’s using your network, how much bandwidth they’re using, and even what kind of content they’re viewing. If necessary, you can add, restrict, or revoke network access, and the parental controls use a simple, easy-to-use rating system (G, PG. PG-13, etc.) to monitor the content your children have access to.
An example of Luma’s parental control rating system, one of the many features found in their iOS and Android apps.
Each member of your household can have their own account, so these parental controls will work regardless of the device your child is using.
Worried about how Luma uses your data? According to the company, the data they collect helps generate usage reports and provide instant activity information. If you choose, you can configure the amount of time this data is stored (up to one month).
What Is a Mesh Network? How Does it Compare to Traditional WiFi?
You’ve probably picked up on the fact that we’ve used the term “mesh network” a couple times already, but what exactly is does this mean?
In a nutshell, a traditional WiFi network operates using multiple access points (also known as hot spots) that transmit a signal. These signals are then picked up and utilized by other devices, like smartphones, tablets, and so forth.
As we mentioned in the introduction, if you want to extend signal range from a hot spot, the traditional way to do so would be through a range extender, although this term’s a little misleading. Why? Because:
- You have to create a whole new network in order to accomplish this (which you’ll have to sign on to in order to use), and
- These range extenders often only boost the original signal by about 50%.
Comparatively, mesh networks operate by spreading out the connection among many different modules, or nodes, that share the connection in order to communicate with one another. In layman’s terms, mesh networks spread the burden of maintaining internet access over a much broader area, thus providing a stronger signal.
Obviously, mesh networks are the wave of the future, as this technology has recently trickled down into the consumer market; previously, it was only used by large corporations due to overall cost. But is Luma your only option?
Are There Other Products Like Luma WiFi?
If you’re fairly tech-savvy and know how to set up and maintain your own mesh network, you’ve had a fair amount of options at your disposal for a few years now. However, for those of us without this background, your options are fairly limited if you’re looking for plug-and-play operation.
The good news is that you’ll have multiple options in the near future. This obviously includes the soon-to-be-released Luma WiFi system (more about this shortly), in addition to similar options like Eero, Torch Router, and Securifi. How does Luma stack up?
Each of these products seem to include similar features, like stylish designs, number and type of ports, security options, smartphone apps, processor speeds, and more. We will say that Luma seems to include a lot more security and parental control functionality than other options—although since only eero had been released at the time of our research, we’ll have to wait and see how the features play out in the real world.
What about from a price perspective?
How Much Does Luma WiFi Cost?
Luma modules are available in four different colors (silver, gold, orange, and white) and are priced as follows:
- 1 Device: $149 ($199 retail)
- 3 Devices: $299 ($499 retail)
Note: Luma was only available for preorder at the time of our research, and prices are expected to increase after shipping begins in spring 2016.
Each order will also include a power adapter, Ethernet cable, and quick start guide.
You’ll be able to cancel your Luma order before it ships, although after receiving your Luma WiFi setup, you’ll have 15 days to decide whether or not you’d like to return it. All systems come with a 1-year warranty.
In order to request a refund or process a warranty claim, you’ll need to call customer service at 800-684-LUMA.
Who Created Luma?
After working together for 15 years “solving complex networking and security problems for the largest companies in the world,” Dr. Paul Judge and Mike Van Bruinisse founded Luma to address the growing need for fast, simple, and secure WiFi networks.
Before co-founding Luma, Paul earned a B.S. in Computer Science from Morehouse College, as well as an M.S. and PhD in Computer Science from Georgia Tech. Paul also co-founded Pindrop Security, Monsieur Automated Bartender, and Tech Square Labs, and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including InfoWorld Top 25 CTOs and Atlanta Power 30 under 30 in 2007.
In addition to his role at Luma, Mike Van Bruinisse is also President and CEO of Purewire, an in-the-cloud security service, which was purchased by Barracuda in 2009.
Is Luma the Last WiFi System You’ll Ever Need to Buy?
As we outlined above, except for eero, many of these new in-home mesh WiFi networks have yet to see the light of day, so how well they’ll perform in the real world remains to be seen.
To this extent, common complaints related to eero cited frequent connection problems—although, since Luma utilizes its technology in a unique way, this certainly doesn’t mean you’ll experience the same.
However, keep this in mind: If you love geeking out and tweaking your mesh network until your heart’s content, plug-and-play systems like Luma might not be your first option. Why? Because they often sacrifice customization in order to improve ease of use for the majority of the population.
On the other hand, if you love trying out new technology as soon as it hits the market, Luma seems to be one of the lower priced options in this quickly growing field.
Not quite as great they make it sound
I had a Netgear router before, and when I saw this online, it sounded like it was going to give me great WiFi service throughout my home. It hasn't. I'd say it is average. I have an iPhone, and the setup is simple. That's about all. It doesn't have all the features it talks about, and it's too pricey for what it gives you.
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend
Mesh is a real breakthrough, but early
Luma is a significant improvement in coverage and throughput. I went through may routers and extenders, ending up pretty good coverage around the house, but there were dead areas, and one had to continually switch access points with different SSIDs. With Luma, there is complete coverage, significantly faster throughput, and just one SSID, so no switching! The system also seems pretty good at allocating bandwidth among devices and managing conflicts. I'm glad I got it.
However... the product is clearly immature. Many of the claimed features seem missing or incomplete, at least in the Android app. The "ten minute" setup didn't work at all with my Note 5, and I eventually borrowed an iPad to do the setup (support admits the iOS setup is much, much better than the Android.) Many obvious capabilities don't exist, such as being able to rename your "Living Room" device if you move it.
Fortunately many (maybe all) of the weaknesses are software, and I'm hopeful future updates will resolve current deficiencies. Meanwhile, it's great to finally have a simple, single SSID system that works well.
I would recommend Luma to some friends. For folks like me, the annoyances of my old system were much worse than the annoyances of this new system. For those generally happy with their current setup, I would recommend waiting.
Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend
7 out 10 people found this review helpful
Luma is a scam to a degree
All of the advertised features do NOT exist. Even basic routes features are absent. Sad.
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend