Thought Starters

How Apple Should Have Combined the iPad and Mac mini

We turned our iPad into a wireless display for the Mac mini

All-powerful. Brilliant. Magical. Every Apple press event serves up new marketing rhetoric for product debuts. So when Apple recently announced redesigned iPad Pros and an all new Mac mini, we were excited at the possibility of using Luna Display to drive the iPad as a wireless, primary display. Could a Mac mini and iPad combo create a workspace that’s even more brilliant, more powerful, and more magical? We investigated.

A computer sitting on top of an Apple product with Luna Display plugged in.

A new workspace that combines the best of Mac and iPad

To bring our idea to life, we used Luna Display — hardware that turns the iPad into a second display for your Mac. Luna works over WiFi, so you can wirelessly connect your Mac and iPad into one workspace. We were curious to see if Luna could also turn the iPad into the primary display for Mac mini. 

Our initial thought when we got Luna up and running with the Mac mini was “this is like a whole new Apple product!” It really felt like that. In many ways, it was so obvious and second-nature to use the iPad as your main display. The iPad Pro has such a large and beautiful screen, that of course you’d want to find a way to use it in your workflow.

A worker uses their fingers on a tablet to work on a powerpoint.

But still, this setup was mind-blowing in other ways. There’s definitely an element of inception to using your iPad as a display for your Mac. When you launch Luna, you’re running your macOS on your iPad; and when you close out of the Luna app, you have a regular iPad Pro again. It’s strange and exciting all at the same time, but once you settle into your workflow, it makes you wonder why this hasn’t been an obvious product pairing for Apple all along.

This setup truly combines the best of both Mac and iPad, with the processing power of the Mac mini and the edge-to-edge retina display of the iPad. Using Luna, we’re able to take full advantage of every pixel on the iPad at full retina resolution. It offers more ways to interact with your macOS too, where you can seamlessly flow from mouse, to keyboard, to Apple Pencil, to touch interactions. And since Luna runs over WiFi, you have the flexibility of a completely wireless workspace. It all just works.

A woman uses her iPad as the display for her Mac mini.

Getting started with your iPad as the display for Mac mini

If you’re interested in trying this setup, here’s everything you need to get started: 

  • Mac mini
  • iPad. We used the latest 12.9” iPad Pro
  • Luna Display
  • Accessories. We used the Magic Keyboard, Magic Mouse 2, and Apple Pencil (2nd Generation)
  • A reliable WiFi network

When you’re ready, you can find a set of instructions for getting setup here: Headless Mode

A wireless keyboard and mouse, tablet, and Mac with Luna Display.

Creating new ways to work in the Apple ecosystem

Anyone with a close eye on Apple will notice there’s a common theme with each hardware announcement: Apple is always trying to outdo itself by creating more powerful standalone products, as if each product is slowly creeping up on the boundaries of another product.

iPhones are so big now that they’re practically mini iPads, and iPads are marketed as “like a computer, unlike any computer.” But the reality is that even though the iPad keeps getting more powerful, it hasn’t replaced the computer yet, and people are still reaching for their Macbooks to get real work done.

So while Apple is caught in the myopia of pushing standalone products, we’re looking for ways to harness the power of the entire Apple ecosystem. Instead of limiting ourselves by using each product individually, perhaps a combination could be greater than the sum of its parts. And that’s exactly what we’re aiming to do with Luna Display.