It’s great that Apple put out a high-quality display that costs a lot less than the $5,000 Pro Display XDR. But the Studio Display, at $1,600, is still too pricey for many folks. If you’d rather have a 5K display for way less than a grand, today’s featured M2 Pro Mac mini setup is for you if you’re willing to do some work.
Following an instructional video included below, the user converted a 5K iMac to a 5K standard USB display for about $700.
This post contains affiliate links. Cult of Mac may earn a commission when you use our links to buy items.
Mac mini drives converted 5K iMac USB display in setup
Redditor fromthecouv (“FTC”) showcased the well-equipped setup in a distinctively green room in a post with a highly descriptive title: “My Own Workspace Nirvana Milestone. Due in no small part to the ideas and inspiration from this sub and your photos (Thanks!). Open to suggestions for display wallpaper or anything else. Setup details in the comments.”
FTC said the setup was a year and a half in the planning. He replaced his rather aged 27-inch iMac from 2011 with a powerful and loaded new M2 Pro Mac mini. It packs 32GB of integrated memory and a 1 TB solid state drive (which is just the tip of the iceberg on the setup’s storage; see below).
He runs the mini with a 5K iMac converted to a standard USB display perched on a Rain Design mbase stand.
Naturally, commenters wanted to know how he converted the 5K iMac to a standard USB display.
“I followed this Luke Miani video walk through, using tools and tear down guides from iFixit, removing all the interior components and replacing them with the recommended video converter board,” FTC noted.
Miani’s video shows how to convert a 5K iMac to something very much like a Studio Display. It costs way less but it takes some effort for those not afraid to get under the hood. Care to try it?
Watch the video on how to convert a 5K iMac to a ‘DIY Studio Display’
Having handled the conversion, FTC offered some helpful advice, as well:
The only thing I would add to the info in the video is to be sure you actually disassemble and remove the display panel from the iMac first to get the correct panel model number before ordering the video converter board. I got in a hurry to order the converter board from the eBay seller and forgot this step and ended up ordering the wrong board. I got lucky because when I contacted the seller about my mistake they confirmed the board I purchased would still work, so I thankfully didn’t need to order a second one.
That, and then also be sure to give yourself plenty of time to complete the conversion. I’m fairly comfortable opening up hardware using tutorials like this and I still took almost a full day just so that I didn’t rush and accidentally damage the display panel in the process. But as long as you’re patient to follow the guides, are gentle with the panel and have some steady hands, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t be able to do this too. Good luck if you decide to try!
Stout storage and high-quality audio
The setup also includes dual external 2.5-inch Oyen digital drive enclosures for plenty of storage. They work with USB, Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 connections and fit solid state and conventional hard drives. FTC could have many, many terabytes of digital storage for big files like audio and video.
And speaking of audio, the setup’s no slouch in that department, either.
An Audient iD14 MKII audio interface connects to a set of Denon AH-D5000 reference headphones with noise canceling and a pair of JBL 305 MKII powered studio monitors elevated on Vivo desk clamp monitor stands. You can get the JBL speakers in 5-, 6- or 8-inch size variations, with or without a 10-inch subwoofer to fill out the bottom end. Looks like a pair of any of the speakers with subwoofer will run you less than a grand.
And who’s watching over the whole thing? A Totoro plush stuffed animal perched on the left-hand speaker in the photograph. The character first appeared in the Japanese animated fantasy film My Neighbor Totoro, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, in 1988.
Shop these items now:
Display and stand:
- Audient iD14 MKII audio interface
- Denon AH-D5000 headphones
- JBL 305 MKII Powered Studio Monitors/speakers
If you would like to see your setup featured on Cult of Mac, send some high-res pictures to email@example.com. Please provide a detailed list of your equipment. Tell us what you like or dislike about your setup, and fill us in on any special touches, challenges you faced along the way and plans for new additions.