YouTuber Converts Old 5K iMac into Fully-Functional Studio Display

BY Chandraveer Mathur

Published 27 Apr 2022

iMac converted to Studio Display

Users and potential buyers of Apple’s $1,599 Studio Display know that it comes with a 27-inch 5K panel that lacks mini-LED backlighting and ProMotion technology, making it remarkably similar to the 5K 27-inch iMac’s display. One YouTuber decided to convert a 27-inch iMac into a Studio Display replete with a functional webcam, all for less than the Studio Display’s sticker price.

In a video documenting the project, YouTube creator Luke Miani says that with a bit of patience, it is easy to find a used yet functional iMac for around $600. He picked up a late 2014 model that isn’t supported by macOS Monterey and doesn’t have the greatest technical specifications to cut it as a daily driver PC.

On the one hand, it is easy to get started using the iMac as a standalone monitor using programs such as Luna Display or target display mode, which works just like Sidecar for iPad. However, it is far easier and foolproof to set up the panel as a “plug-and-play external monitor.”

With some help from iFixit’s toolkits and disassembly guides, Miani opened up the iMac and stripped it of the logic board, storage drives, and everything else except the display panel. More digging online led the creator to an adapter circuit board equipped with two HDMI ports supporting 4K resolution video input and two DisplayPort 1.4 connectors that can drive the iMac panel at its full 5K resolution, even when used independently.

Miani got rid of the iMac’s RAM access door so that the wiring could be routed outside the chassis. After that, the iMac is just one usable webcam short of rivaling the Studio Display. The iMac’s built-in webcam cannot be used because it is designed to connect to the mainboard using a ribbon cable. Moreover, the cable transmits data from the camera, microphone, ambient light sensor, and indicator LED. However, replacing the camera module with a USB camera designed for Arduino and Raspberry Pi projects is relatively cut and dry.

Apple doesn’t make it easy to refurbish and repurpose old electronics. However, this YouTuber’s project shows that with a bit of research, ingenuity, and effort, it is easy to repurpose old hardware into devices that could substitute for pricier modern alternatives.

What do you think of this project? Would you refurbish an old iMac into a Studio Display mini-me? Tell us in the comments section below.