Amazon Luna Hands-On: Aiming for the Moon

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Cloud gaming has seen strong growth over the past few years, with Google, Microsoft, Nvidia, Sony, and even Amazon vying for the top spot. Competition is fierce, with each service regularly announcing new features and games. The newest kid on the block is Amazon Luna, which recently launched in the US after a limited beta. Now that the service is officially accepting registrations, let’s get into the details of Amazon Luna and see how well it works.

Keep in mind that my personal experience with Amazon Luna may not be representative of yours: a stream can be affected by a local network, the service provider’s network, not to mention how the stream is routed or the location of the game server. This can vary widely between game streaming services and regions. Ephemeral is a word that comes to mind, having tested many of these services over the years. For the record, my internet is 500 Mbps up and down, and all testing was done over Wi-Fi on a Fire TV Stick 4K Max, Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2, and Asus ROG 5, with the Luna Controller also connected over Wi-Fi. -Fi.

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Stability


Amazon Luna First Look Session Performance Quiz

Luna Upgrade Quiz

To begin with, let’s start with the most crucial: the stability of Luna’s streams. Over the past few years, I’ve tested several game streaming services, and have yet to find one that’s 100% stable. I find how a service handles lag is critical. In Luna’s case, I’ve experienced some dropped frames, which causes a bit of stuttering here and there, but I haven’t experienced anything yet that spoils the experience. The majority of games play smoothly, where any stuttering is short-lived and easily ignored.

After testing Luna for the past two weeks, I’d place it ahead of the pack when it comes to stream stability, slightly ahead of Nvidia and beating the pants of Stadia and Xbox Cloud Gaming. Of course, the nature of game streaming means that can change at any time, but for once I can say that game streaming is starting to feel viable. Whatever magical spell Amazon has cast on its feeds works, because the meltdowns I’ve experienced on competing services aren’t seen anywhere on Luna.

Equipment


Convenient Amazon Luna Standing First Look Controller

Luna controller front and center

Much like Stadia, Amazon offers its own controller, and it connects to Luna’s servers via Wi-Fi instead of connecting directly to your device (like you would via Bluetooth with third-party controllers). This type of setup reduces latency, which is necessary when streaming video games to ensure they are responsive. While it doesn’t work brilliantly on Stadia, I can confirm that some games are good enough that you forget it’s a streaming game. That’s pretty much the often elusive goal of cloud gaming, but Luna does a terrific job of delivering low-latency gaming with the Luna controller.


First hands-on look at available Amazon Luna hardware

Luna & accessories

As for the controller design, it’s a solid device and feels more sturdy and dense than the Stadia controller with its oddly noisy buttons and creaky triggers. The grips are a very dark blue that would look black if it weren’t for the black plastic face of the controller. Wands provide a wonderful pop of color; Luna’s signature purple, of course. Amazon opted for an Xbox layout with asymmetrical controllers (compared to Sony and Google, which place both controllers in the center). There’s also a nice textured back that reminds me of the last Xbox wireless controller, which is nice. Best of all, it uses standard AA batteries, so there’s no waiting while a controller recharges. Oh, and Bluetooth support is built in if you prefer to use the controller with a PC (you can also use it as a regular controller wired via USB).


And if you’re interested in co-op, there’s a feature called Luna Couch, and while support isn’t available for all titles, those that support multiplayer functionality work as intended, allowing every player to enter. a code to synchronize across the Internet.


Amazon Luna First Look Controller Clip

Luna controller + phone clip

Of course, if you prefer to play on your smartphone, an optional clip is also available to attach your phone to the controller. Like all controller phone clips, off-center weight is a crime, especially if you’re using a sizable/heavy gaming phone, but it’s still nice to have the ability to play Luna on the go.

Software


Luna homepage PC

Luna home screen

Luna’s meat comes down to the software, because that’s what you’ll be interfacing with, whatever device you choose. You have a website accessible on any supported browser/device, as well as a Luna controller app on Android and iOS, which is used to connect the controller to Amazon’s servers. If you have a Fire TV Stick, a Luna progressive web app is available, although this app is not listed on the Play Store, which excludes Shield and other ATV users. While there is a short list of phones that officially support the PWA (including Google, Samsung, and OnePlus handsets), unsupported devices can also install the PWA through Luna’s website. However, the PWA may not work perfectly. After testing the PWA on my Tab S8+ and ROG 5, which are not officially supported, things worked fine, but your mileage may vary.


Luna controller app

I encountered very few hiccups on Android, ChromeOS, and the Fire TV Stick 4K. Launching a game is as easy on my Chromebook as it is on my phone/tablet or Fire TV Stick. Like magic, the Luna Controller connects to a game’s servers (once set up in the separate Luna Controller app, which is a breeze). So while Luna’s software may currently seem limited, what’s available works well. This is what you want to see when buying a new cloud gaming service. After years of trying to fix endless issues on competing game streaming services, it’s a breath of fresh air that Luna works out of the box.

Monetization


Luna+ Breeding Culture

Selection of Luna+ games

Luna is monetized in the same way as Amazon Prime Video. If you subscribe to Amazon Prime, you get access to a handful of Luna games, just like you get access to a selection of streaming Prime videos. If you want to go beyond Prime’s small rotation of bundled games, there are a handful of game channels you can subscribe to. There’s Luna+ for $5.99 per month, offering a variety of titles, like Dirt 5, Resident Evil Biohazard, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon. But there are also Retro, Family, Ubisoft+ and Jackbox Games channels, which range in price from $2.99 ​​to $17.99 per month, with Ubisoft’s channel at the high end.



Luna chains

Luna channels available

You can subscribe to channels containing the games you want to stream, with the ability to delete one and switch to another at any time. Yes, you’ll have to juggle a bunch of different subscriptions through your Amazon account, but all subscriptions will be centralized under one account for easy management. Unfortunately, you can’t get individual games, even if there’s only one thing in a channel you want to play.

Personally, I don’t like the hassle of multiple subscriptions, so I prefer the Stadia and Nvidia models where I buy the games I want to play. Nvidia, of course, offers the best system for power gamers, as you’ll be able to play the games you already own on services like Steam and Epic. Thus, Luna may not offer my preferred pricing model, although I agree that a subscription model is ideal for those who like to test out a wide selection of games without having to commit beyond a month.

Final Thoughts


First Look Amazon Luna Leaning Forward

The Luna controller looks sleek

For me, Luna sits somewhere in the middle of the nascent game streaming space. Its streaming quality is the best I’ve experienced; reasonably stable, with clear images up to 1080p. Sure, there’s no 4K here yet, but that doesn’t mean streams look bad on 4K TVs. If anything, I’d say most games are comparable in graphics to Stadia and Nvidia, just capped at 1080p. Since all streams are already compressed, it’s not like you’re getting a true 4K experience on competing services anyway. For me, performance is of the utmost importance, and Luna masters it.

Closer rear Luna controller

In this particular case, my gear, my location, my favorite games, Luna seems to be working fine. Will this be true for you? Well, everyone guesses, which is why video game streaming is such a finicky beast. The good news is that it’s easy to check out the service, especially if you already pay for Prime. All you have to do is log in and start one of the free games from the Prime channel. Yes, the pricing can be an off after subscribing to the second or third channel, but at least you have the option to choose the types of game categories you want to experience.

So, like all game streaming services, Luna may or may not appeal to you, depending on your needs. One of the biggest issues for me is device support – it would be easier if more devices were supported on Android. But some growing pains are to be expected, and seeing as the price of entry is so low, there’s certainly no harm in spinning Luna to see how it stacks up on your network. For my part, I am certainly satisfied with Luna. I can easily see sticking to it for a while at least.


Amazon Luna Handy First Look Box

Luna controller box

Buy Luna Controller

Buy on Amazon


Amazon Luna is ready for the spotlight as availability sweeps the US

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