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Luma - Home Networking made "Simple?"

13 min read

Unboxing

Yesterday I received my Luma 3 pack in the mail and I excitedly drove home to set it all up. We have a pretty large house and two rooms in it are basically network dead zones; both on the lower first floor; my daughters bedroom and my wife's office. It was my hope that Luma would solve the dead zone problem.

The unboxing experience was nice. Nothing special. I guess it is supposed to feel like an "Apple" unboxing - but now-a-days everything seems to feel that way. The main box has a half sleeve over it that is where the main graphics are. You slide that off and then you can take the actual lid off the box.

luma box unopened

Once you open the box you're greeted with a generic welcome message on a thick piece of card stock. It's sort of double thick and almost appears like you can open it for more information. You can't - so don't waste your time like I did.

luma box opened

After you get the unnecessary cardboard out of the way you see the three luma's nestled in the box almost like a white honeycomb. After you take them out you have another card stock insert which you have to get through to get to the power adapters and a single, short, Ethernet (network) cable.

honeycomb of luma

It's all pretty orderly and pleasantly organized. I thought the first bit of card stock was kind of a waste; or at least they should have re-iterated on it that you need the Luma app installed before you try to install any Luma's.

Installing

Honestly, installation is pretty simple. So long as you don't have any complications with your network, and so long as every thing works the way Luma wants it to you'll think it's a piece of cake. Almost anyone could do it.

However, things weren't perfectly smooth for me and I ran into several hiccups along the way. Some of them are Luma's fault and are areas where I think they can improve. I'll try to denote those clearly, via bold text as I go forward.

The Hub

One of your Luma's is going to act as "The Hub" - at least that is what their support guy referred to it as. Yeah, I had to talk to support later in the process. I'll get back to that.

Remember, before you can install the hub you have to have the app on your phone. You also need to make sure your phone has some kind of internet connection other than via the home network you're replacing. Once your app is installed and open you basically just follow the onscreen instructions for setting things up.

  1. You create a Luma account.
  2. The app will ask you where in your house your putting the first luma.
  3. the app will ask you to name the luma from a decent list of room names. It would be nice if I could have added an option to the list. I have a unique room I put my third luma into.
  4. You plug the Ethernet cable into your cable modem.
  5. You unplug your cable modem.
  6. You plug the ethernet cable into your luma
  7. You plug in your luma
  8. You plugin in your cable modem.

I might not have remembered those steps in the exact order but that's the general gist.

Before setup begins you're asked if you want to use bluetooth or wifi. I chose wifi which didn't work very well becuase my phone kept switching between the luma setup wifi network and the open xfiniti wifi network in my neighborhood. Bluetooth is the default option. You should use it. The app says to keep the phone close to the Luma during setup. It doesn't say how close. Stay within five feet according the support guy. The App should be that specific and state "Keep your phone within five feet of the Luma during setup and registration"

At this point the Luma's front face will light up with a swirling blue light ring and the app will tell you it's setting up. Eventually the setup will finish (after a couple minutes and the blue light will be a solid blue. The app takes a while longer to realize the Luma has finished setting up but eventually catches up and presents you with the option to "register the luma" or something along those lines. You do that and the blue light ring pulses and goes out a couple times before, eventually, coming back on and flashing green about five times. Then the front light turns off for good. The app tells you it will be done when the Luma flashes green but it takes the app a while to realize the Luma is done and then finally it too indicates you're done.

One of the things you have to do during the setup, that I didn't mention, was name your network and provide a password. My initial inclination was to re-use the network name and password I had used before. It turns out the tech support guys suggests not to do that in order to prevent confusion for your devices. This ended up being a weird problem for me later. The Luma app should tell you to use a new network name when you're setting it up. This would have prevented a little of my later trouble.

After the first Luma finishes getting setup you're offered the opportunity to install a second Luma.

Additional Luma Installation

This process is very similar to that of the Hub but you don't have to identify your network. Much as I did on the first Luma (since it seemed to register so well) I used the wifi option again.

During this setup something went wrong. I have no idea what. The App just says "something went wrong" and gives you the chance to try again. This happened a few times until it failed with a message of the "IP Address Pool is Full" or something and to contact tech support. It makes me nervous that I can have a problem with simple setup that requires me to contact tech support to resolve. I fear that if Luma were to go out of business I'm going to end up with three white paper weights.

I contacted tech support and the guy I reached was very friendly and patient. He cleared up the IP Address pool but we couldn't get the second luma to setup. He ended up having me unplug it and then go back to the Hub, reset it, and install it again. We ran in to similar problems.

Here is where the Luma ran into some technical difficulties I don't think it should have had.

Xfiniti @ Home and Luma Are Not Friends

My internet service provider (ISP) is Comcast. I get internet service, cable, and home security provided through them. Home security is a wireless network system that uses my cable modem and a special wifi router that I was told has to be the first thing plugged into my cable modem. The wifi router admin page is all encrypted and locked and supposedly very secure. But you can plug other devices into the router and have it do simple pass through of internet service to whatever is plugged in.

This is how my old wireless router was setup. It was plugged into the XFiniti@Home router and everything just worked. But, the Luma base kept getting disconnected from the Luma servers because of this middle man router from Comcast.

In order to get the Luma system to setup and stay working I had to remove the XFiniti@Home router from my cable modem and connect the Luma directly to it. Not a very good option considering I'm paying for home security and suddenly I can't use it just so I can have good network coverage throughout the house.

Back to the Hub

On the way back to the hub luma in order to check things out the tech guy told me it had gone off line (due to the xfiniti@home stuff I just mentioned). However, looking at the Luma I had no idea the front light was still out and there was no indication anywhere on it that it couldn't reach the internet. Plus, my phone was still connected just fine to my home wifi network - the luma was still broadcasting wifi signal but it wasn't able to communicate with the internet. Honestly the Luma should have something that indicates it's having a problem beyond opening the app and seeing "offline" Plus, in the app when it says "offline" it would be nice if you could click on the Luma with the trouble and get a bit more information.

So when re-doing the hub after resetting it I offered to remove the Xfiniti@Home stuff so we could try it with a clean setup. Everything worked okay. In fact, I was basically able to get through the setup of all three Luma's pretty painlessly. There were a couple hiccups due to the App either being updated too quickly (telling me the Luma was ready for the registration before it actually was) or the app not being ready (and never telling me the Luma was ready for registration but it was). But eventually they were both setup okay.

However, a couple hours after re-introducing the Xfiniti@Home stuff the Luma's stopped working properly. One at a time they slowly stopped being able to communicate with the internet. Again, I had no idea by looking at the Luma's - they all appeared to be dead (no light on them at all).

Great Coverage - When it Worked

Honestly, once I installed the three Luma's and everything was working fine the whole house had great coverage. Amazing coverage really. I was getting far better wifi signal everywhere in the house than I was previously right next to my older (but not old) wireless router. The hardware is pretty cool and clearly pretty powerful.

Of course, it not working with my home security system was pretty much a deal breaker. But I thought of a work around.

Luma and Xfiniti@Home - Working Together

NOTE: Before I explain this I want you to know I don't know if this has any impact on your terms of service with XFiniti. However, XFiniti doesn't really offer any kind of loss insurance if your house is robbed anyway so take this all with a grain of salt.

I decided that I'd ignore the Xfiniti installer and I hooked the Xfiniti router up to the Luma's network out port. So my network diagram is sort of like:

Cable Modem -> Luma Hub -> Xfiniti Router

All hardwired together. The Xfiniti stuff all seems to work properly. All of the sensors in my house still communicate with the router and with the home touch panel and with my app. I can still remotely enable and disable the alarm via the app. Plus, Luma is working as it is supposed to throughout my house.

Overnight Update

The Luma supposedly got a firmware update last night. I don't know as I haven't been home and online at the same time since it happened to see if

  1. It Happened
  2. It Worked

The App

More than likely I'll have no idea if it happened because, quite frankly, the App kind of sucks at giving you information. I know they are trying to keep it super simple but there needs to be a way to at least access and see more detailed information about your network and the status of the mesh. Some kind of log in the app would be super helpful - even if it were secret and you had to jump through a hoop to find it. Right now the lack of transparency in the App is really disturbing and makes it very frustrating when things don't work.

I know there are updates in the works with the app. There needs to be! I can see devices supposedly connected to my network but I can't kick any off. Also, after resetting my hub and recreating the network; the new name I provided didn't get used - the old one was still used and, after everything was done, I had to go back into the app and rename the network to the new name.

Likewise, when I setup everything the third time (after the Xfiniti fix) the new name I used for the third Luma wasn't used; it ignored "Media Room" and kept the old name of "Basement". So even though I moved it (to a different part of the house and gave it a new name) the old name is still used. It would be great if I could rename a Luma after it's installed (edit: You can rename a Luma after it's installed). It would also be good if I could use the little house-map diagram to redefine the position of a Luma after it's installed.

Finally

In the end I spent about 5 hours messing around with the Luma's until I had them working (and my alarm system working) as I needed them to. 5 hours was way too long.

  1. I should never have to contact support about an IP Pool. Why do I?
  2. The Luma's shouldn't have to be able to talk to Luma HQ in order to work.
  3. The XFiniti router in the middle shouldn't have been a deal-breaker
  4. The Luma App should be refreshed via push notification faster than it is when you're installing/setting up.
  5. The App should give the option to see more detailed information about why something failed.
  6. Maybe while you're adding a new Luma to the mesh the other Luma's (or at least the Hub) should be steady Green so you know it's all good. You can't see the network status in the app while adding a Luma).
  7. The front panel light should be able to be manually activated from the Luma to get a status signal (red for not working, green for good to go!).

Not all was bad though.

  1. The support guy was super friendly
  2. The app is clean and easy to use
  3. The wifi coverage in my house is excellent
  4. The price($350) is substantially less than the primary competitor eero ($499).
  5. They are actively working on it to improve things.
  6. I actually like that the lights are off when things are working and good.
  7. The device is fairly attractive and looks okay sitting out in three different rooms of the house.

Hopefully, my fears about having paper-weights won't be tested (Luma going out of business or bought and product is discontinued). But for now I'm tentatively happy with the end result.

Luma

is neat but the "skills" suck. I shouldn't have to remember key words to have it search things. Just @Google it @Amazon!