5K iMac + Luna Display as an alternative to the Apple Studio Display

If you are looking for a cheap alternative to the Apple Studio Display, you can either compare numerous 5K monitors or buy a used 5K iMac with a 27-inch retina display. The resolution of 5.120 x 2.880 pixels is the same as the Studio Display, and with the "Luna Display" hardware and the free Luna Display Apps you can quickly and easily turn the iMac into a monitor. This works from the Mac, iMac, MacBook and also from the Windows PC. Below is more information on how to use the 5K iMac as an Apple Studio Display Alternative.

TL; DR: Here you go directly to Luna Display

Are you looking for a cheap Apple Studio Display alternative? Why not take a used 5K iMac with a 27-inch Retina display and connect it to the primary Mac via the Luna display? Here you will find the details, safe shops and current prices.
Are you looking for a cheap Apple Studio Display alternative? Why not take a used 5K iMac with a 27-inch Retina display and connect it to the primary Mac via the Luna display? Here you will find the details, safe shops and current prices.

Price comparison: Apple Studio Display vs. used 5K iMac

The Apple Studio Display currently costs 1.749 euros in the Apple Store in the standard version and 1.999 euros with nano-textured glass. You will incur additional costs if you want to have a tilt and height-adjustable stand installed (up to 2.459 euros in total). The 27-inch monitor with a screen diagonal of 68,29 cm, a resolution of 5.120 x 2.880 pixels, P3 color space and 600 nits of brightness is therefore quite expensive. You can get used iMac models from different years cheaper. Models with a 5K Retina display have been around since 2014, which makes the selection quite large.

Depending on the year and condition, you will find a wide variety of offers in used shops and on the Amazon Marketplace, on eBay and on eBay classifieds (but beware of scams!). In the following I have summarized a few current used offers from shops. Of course, these can vary again and again and some models can sometimes be sold out. However, this is a good insight into the low price of the 5K iMac as an Apple Studio Display alternative:

Use the iMac as a monitor with Luna Display: via WLAN or USB cable

Luna Display is a combination of USB accessories and Apps for macOS (as well as iPadOS and Windows). To use the iMac as an external display wirelessly via WLAN or a Thunderbolt cable, simply connect the Luna Display USB hardware to the source computer. The USB stick therefore belongs in the Mac, Mac mini, Mac Pro, iMac, iMac Pro, Mac Studio, MacBook, MacBook Air or MacBook Pro on which macOS is to be used and work to be carried out. The Luna Display App is then used both on this primary device and on the monitor iMac as a secondary device. 

The app connects the two computers and gives you the option of selecting one of them as a monitor. Once everything is connected and set up, you can easily move windows to the iMac, use its 5K display for photo editing, design programs, video editing and numerous other apps or for playing videos, films, series and documentaries. Whatever your purpose Multi monitor setup required - with this solution it works more cheaply than with the Apple Studio Display. You will receive purchase advice and offers for the Luna Display Hardware in the official shop.

Apple Studio Display is not available immediately

In addition to the price, there is another factor that is important when you are looking for the Apple Studio Display or alternatives: availability. Both used iMac models from 2014, 2015, 2017 to 2020 and so on as well as the Luna display hardware are available for immediate delivery. 

When you look at the store on the Apple website today - today is August 11, 2022 - the next possible delivery date of the Apple Studio Display is September 3, 2022. And that with express shipping, which means another 7 euros extra. So if you need a 5K monitor in the near future, which does not necessarily have to be an Apple Studio Display, the combination of iMac and Luna Display might be something for you :)

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5 comments on “5K iMac + Luna Display as an alternative to the Apple Studio Display”

  1. Thanks for the tip. So could I use my 2017 iMac as a display on the Mac Mini or Studio? On the website, Mac to Mac only writes from MacBook to iMac.

    If so, I would also boot two Macs and consume power with two power supplies (a separate monitor would of course also). Could you then use the hard drive of the iMac (partitioned accordingly) as an external HDD?

    1. Hello Uwe! Yes, both Macs need to boot normally and it also runs on the iMac macOS with the Luna Display program. You can of course make the hard drive available to other Macs by sharing macOS.

  2. Hello Jens, thanks for the quick reply. Wouldn't it also work with a Thunderbolt cable and direct connection? Or via a docking station, I use the CalDigit TS3 Plus?

    1. Hello Uwe! So, even if you manage to get the iMac recognized in target display mode (which is more than unlikely, see this post with lots of feedback on where it doesn't work), you'll only have Full HD resolution. That's not pretty on a 5K iMac. Therefore, my recommendation is the solution with the Luna display.

  3. Hi Jens,

    just to complete things: I got advice from Luna. Disabling FileVault is mandatory when using the iMac as a monitor on the Mac Mini or Studio. In addition, you would have to activate the automatic login.

    I'm having a hard time with that. I could register “blindly”. But I use a Logitech MX Keys on the Mac, which sometimes takes different times until the BT connection is established. If I then tap the arrow key too early to get to my login, I no longer know where I am. Of course, there is also security. I have secured sensitive data to some extent with VeraCrypt and have not stored their passwords in the keychain. In spite of this, a potential thief naturally has full access to the registration data for the bunch of keys with automatic login.

    There will probably only remain an external monitor. Or Apple still brings an iMac 27″ with M2 chip.

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In the Sir Apfelot Blog you will find advice, instructions and reviews on Apple products such as the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods, iMac, Mac Pro, Mac Mini and Mac Studio.