Low latency Wi-Fi controller
Large game library
Uses disposable batteries
Unreliable bluetooth connection
Prime membership required
Think of cloud gaming like Netflix or Spotify, but instead of kicking back and watching a movie or jamming to some tunes, you’re able to stream and play games directly within your browser. If that interests you, now is a great time to try out Luna, especially since its base Luna+ channel of games comes free with a Prime subscription.
Yes, cloud gaming comes with concerns like performance, game availability, and cross-compatibility, but Amazon Luna checks all those boxes, making it all the more impressive that it gets so much right.
About Amazon Luna
If you have a Prime subscription, you can log into Luna from any supported browser from any device, then stream any game in the Luna+ channel without downloads, updates, or even powerful hardware. (Luna requires a Prime membership, but more on that later.) If you're on iOS, you'll need to add the Luna web app to your home screen, since there's no native app for mobile or desktop—but despite lacking a native app, Luna's web app is responsive (though may take a few seconds to load), easy to navigate, and packed with some nifty features.
Amazon recommends you connect to your Wi-Fi’s 5.0GHz network for the best response time and have a download speed of at least 10Mbps for 1080p playback, which is only a little more bandwidth than it takes to stream a movie to your TV. The company also suggests pairing the Luna controller to a 5.0GHz network, which helps improve latency.
What we like
The Luna controller helps lower latency
Like Google's Stadia controller, the Luna controller can connect to the service directly over Wi-Fi, rather than using your phone, laptop, or tablet as a middleman, for better latency. Combined with a strong internet connection, the service processes your controller inputs almost immediately.
For fast-paced platformer games like Carrion, which I played for a majority of testing, that's essential. You can also connect the controller to your phone over Bluetooth, but when I tried that, the Luna web app couldn't detect the controller. That’s fine, though, because when the controller is connected over Wi-Fi, the response time is nearly instantaneous over a strong connection.
In our testing—which involved filming myself at 240fps playing those games with the controller in-frame, and then counting the number of frames between my pressing the jump or attack button and my character reacting on-screen in Adobe Rush—we were able to get a latency of 25 milliseconds (ms) while playing Saints Row: The Third and 54ms of latency while playing Sonic Mania.
But in real-time, you’ll hardly notice any lag when you have a strong connection and little else happening on your network.
You can also use Luna without the controller. If you’re on a tablet or phone, Luna has touch controls that appear on-screen over the game, but they can be a little hard to see, and they’re nowhere near as comfortable or convenient to use as a hardware controller. That said, if you’re not interested in buying another controller, there’s a chance one of your existing controllers might work with Luna, or you can use your computer’s mouse and keyboard.
Luna offers several game bundles, each for a monthly fee, in addition to the free ones included with your Prime subscription.
There's a Jackbox Party Pack bundle, a Family bundle of games fit for the kiddos, a Retro channel, and an entire channel of Ubisoft games like Assassin's Creed: Valhalla. They all vary in price: the retro channel costs $5/month, the family channel costs $3/month, and the Ubisoft channel costs a whopping $18/month. For that, you’ll get access to games like Watch Dogs 2, Far Cry 6, and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, so there’s plenty for Ubisoft fans to dive into.
That all adds up pretty quickly, but you can also change subscriptions month-to-month based on your own needs, and only pay for what you're actually playing. It's also nice not having to worry about paying full price for any games.
You can even view all the games you can play with your current plan straight from your library, which is nice if you like to save yourself the disappointment of finding a game you dig only to see an additional fee attached.
Like any good cloud gaming service, Luna is available across a variety of devices, since you can access it from a browser. It works with up-to-date iPhones running iOS 15, Google Pixel, OnePlus, and Samsung phones from the S9 up to the S21 line running Android 9 or higher, PCs, Macs, and Chromebooks running Chrome version 86+. There’s also support for several Fire TV and Kindle Fire devices, as well, so you can play the same games on your TV
Cross-platform compatibility isn’t unique to Luna, however. Nvidia’s GeForce Now service and Google's Stadia are both available across the same platforms, for instance. That said, neither of are wrapped into a subscription plan with as many benefits as Amazon Prime, but it’s unfortunate that there’s no way to subscribe to Luna without a Prime account, though.
But as long as you have a Prime subscription, you can access a pretty good chunk of Luna’s library without any additional subscriptions or hardware purchases. Sure, the controller is pretty crucial to the experience, but it’s impressive how much you can access with just touch controls on your phone, or a keyboard and mouse.
What we don't like
No rechargeable battery
Unlike other similarly-priced controllers, such as Microsoft’s Xbox One Controller, Sony’s Dualshock PS4 Controller, or Nintendo’s Switch Pro controller, as well as those from Nvidia and Google Stadia, the Luna controller doesn’t come with a rechargeable battery.
You could swap out the disposable batteries Amazon includes for a pair of rechargeable ones, but that’ll still cost you extra. You do get added benefits like connecting over Wi-Fi and voice commands right from the controller, but Google offers all of that on their Stadia controller while also having rechargeable batteries. It feels like a small omission, but if you’re jumping between devices a lot, or you just play a lot of games, those extra batteries are going to add up over time.
Confusing game channels
While Luna offers a decent selection of games overall, its presentation could use some work. When you land on the service’s home screen, you’ll see a bunch of different curated lists of games, sort of like Netflix’s rows of categorized suggestions. Some of those games, like Alien: Isolation, Sonic Mania, and Carrion, will be readily available for any Prime subscriber, while others, like Street Fighter II, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, and any of the Jackbox Party Packs will cost extra.
There’s nothing wrong with having additional bundles, especially when the base subscription is included with Prime, but there’s no label on the home screen indicating what costs extra and what doesn’t. You won’t know that a game is tied to an extra bundle until you’ve selected it, which can lead to a lot of disappointment when you see games you like or want to try.
It’s tied to a Prime membership
If you’re already a Prime subscriber, Luna is a nice perk in addition to everything else you get. If you’re just an eager gamer looking for a convenient way to play games from your browser, you’re out of luck. Unlike other cloud gaming services, there’s no way to subscribe to Luna individually—it’s only available as part of the Prime subscription.
That leaves Luna feeling less like its own, fully-realized gaming service and more like another way to entice you into Amazon’s ecosystem. For example, where services like Stadia and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate let you purchase games outright and shows them alongside games within the service’s own library, Luna restricts you to what’s available in its channels and bundles.
If you’re a casual gamer looking to kill some time with whatever’s available, that might be fine, but there’s no way to secure your favorite titles and make sure you can play them a month or two down the road. There’s also no guarantee that the games that are on Luna today will be there a month or a year from now, and you might not always have a way to play new releases as you can with GeForce Now.
Should you buy it?
Yes, it's a good deal with something for everyone to try
There's a lot to love about Luna. Its library features plenty of games to choose from without requiring any additional fees, and the packages that do cost extra money mostly justify that extra cost—and that's all while offering a responsive cloud gaming platform.
Unlike other cloud gaming services, Nvidia GeForce Now and Google Stadia, for example, Luna stands out for being bundled with Amazon’s Prime subscription, rather than costing an additional monthly fee and offering additional add-on channels. You can’t buy games individually, so you’re left with whatever’s offered under the Prime plan or packed into one of the extra bundles. As for latency, Luna fared slightly better than xCloud in our testing—it’s impressive how well Luna works!
It's unfortunate that you have to buy rechargeable batteries or swap them out every time a pair dies, but the rest of the controller is still great; its ability to connect to Luna over Wi-Fimakes a notable difference in responsiveness. If you're looking for a way to try out a few games without shelling out the cash for a new console, Luna's fits the bill perfectly. If you end up not liking any of the add-ons, you can always unsubscribe before it costs you too much.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Staff Writer, Electronics
Jordan has been writing about and reviewing technology since 2017, with products ranging from tablets and apps to fanny packs and home office gear.
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