2017 4K, 5K iMacs won't support Target Display Mode, despite Thunderbolt 3

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited June 2017
Apple has definitively stated that new 2017 iMacs will not support Target Display Mode, a feature that previously allowed some iMac models between 2009 and 2014 to use their built-in display as an external monitor for another Mac connected via Mini Display Port or Thunderbolt.




First supported on the Late 2009 27 inch iMac, the feature provided a convenient way to turn an iMac's internal display into an external monitor, and ostensibly served as a way to prolong the life of the machine after the computer itself grew obsolete. However, if there is a real component failure that stops the Mac from working, Target Display Mode would also fail.

The feature was continued in the Mid 2010 refresh of the same model, then extended across the iMac lineup between releases in Mid 2011 and Mid 2014. However, the feature was not supported in the Late 2014 5K iMac, apparently due to the fact that a single Thunderbolt 2 cable could not drive the full resolution of the new ultra high resolution display. No iMacs since have supported Target Display Mode.


Target Display Mode in action


With the recent release of new 4K and 5K models supporting Thunderbolt 3, which does have the bandwidth to drive a 5K (5120x2880) resolution, 10 bit display with 1 billion colors, the obvious question was whether Apple would revive the feature.

However, an Apple spokesperson told AppleInsider that 2017 iMacs are not designed to support Target Display Mode, and clarified that the feature is not planned to ever reappear. An Apple support page describing the feature, dated March 2017, also states that "iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2014) and later iMac models can't be used as Target Display Mode displays."

There are other ways to emulate the hardware trick in order to stream the display of one computer's desktop on another machine, but Apple's hardware based approach offered a true monitor-quality use of the internal display.
goldsteind
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 64
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,627member
    I'm not surprised.   Target display mode had to add a lot of hardware complexity for little real benefit.    
  • Reply 2 of 64
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    wizard69 said:
    I'm not surprised. Target display mode had to add a lot of hardware complexity for little real benefit.    
    The idea of being able to keep using a gorgeous display after the blackbox of hardware became too old to use seems like a great benefit to me.
    xzuwatto_cobrabestkeptsecretbshankjSnivelydysamoriarazorpitlarz2112BittySon
  • Reply 3 of 64
    > The idea of being able to keep using a gorgeous display after the blackbox of hardware became too old to use seems like a great benefit to me. Agreed, sounds very useful but never heard of nor used this myself. Wonder if target display is that widely used?
  • Reply 4 of 64
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    Wonder if target display is that widely used?
    I'm sure it wasn't. Wizard's right; the complexity (meaning: costs associated therewith) of implementing it is likely why it was removed. I would say it was also removed so that Apple could sell more external displays, but they don't make those anymore, do they…
    dysamoria
  • Reply 5 of 64
    With no better explanation from Apple it just feels user-hostile. Removing a really nice benefit without any clear reason just feels like Apple doesn't love us anymore.

    They would do well to tell us more than what they have so far.
    edited June 2017 dysamoriaBittySon
  • Reply 6 of 64
    seelyseely Posts: 5member
    Wish I new this before I bought one. I used target display a lot. Not necessarily a deal breaker but....... 
  • Reply 7 of 64
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,585administrator
    interdyne said:
    With no better explanation from Apple it just feels user-hostile. Removing a really nice benefit without any clear reason just feels like Apple doesn't love us anymore.

    They would do well to tell us more than what they have so far.
    To be fair, it's been gone for three years. There's just been a lot of social media chatter about how it might be back, so we decided to put that to rest.
    bshankdysamoriafastasleep
  • Reply 8 of 64
    stevenozstevenoz Posts: 208member
    Who knew? (I didn't.) I've never seen an iMac being used as a monitor for another Mac. And I've been around.

    But now that I know it can be, I'm disappointed that Apple (especially since they don't sell their own display anymore) has discontinued the feature.


  • Reply 9 of 64
    Target display is one reason why I remain on old hardware. It is more flexible.

    Apple couldn't seem to get 4k working for much of the latest Sierra release, and then there are the LG monitors, so has the MacOS feature set become too complex to resolve annually...?

    Target adds the capability of two (or more) simultaneous workflows using more than one mac, including an iMac server that doubles as a monitor, or a high end rendering iMac that can be checked upon while work continues using a Macbook using the iMac display(s) - this seems beyond the notion of using an older iMac as a monitor, to increase productivity...

    This was the brilliance of Jobs (potential of X-grid?) vs the suggestion of decline of pro support so widely read across the web - Apple just doesn't seem to offer pro flexibility from a 16gb limit on the macbook pro to the utterly proprietary and inflexible components on almost all (including 'trash can') but iMac ram...

    Is 5k really so much better than 4k? Is it worth all the proprietary inflexibility and inefficacy ? As always pros and cons: diglloyd.com/blog/2017/20170107_1234-evaluating-images-pixel-density.html

    Of course non-apple monitors routinely have multiple inputs - unfortunately where my dollars have needed to be redirected, not by choice but for professional workflow benefit & efficiency...

    edited June 2017 johnbearbshanktechprod1gy
  • Reply 10 of 64
    There goes my hopes of them making an iMac that will allow input from an xBox. 
    Sticking with Mac Mini (would really like a new one), because my monitor needs to do double duty as an xBox display. 
  • Reply 11 of 64
    johnbearjohnbear Posts: 86member
    No surprise for me since they removed the USB ports from the MacBook Pro and headphone jack from the latest iPhone. 
  • Reply 12 of 64
    wcmattwcmatt Posts: 3member
    Such a disappointment, and inconsistent with Apple's environmental ethos. The 5K display in these beautiful iMacs is likely useful and relevant for MANY more years after the computer part is outdated.
    xzudysamoria
  • Reply 13 of 64
    zimmermannzimmermann Posts: 204member
    interdyne said:
    With no better explanation from Apple it just feels user-hostile. Removing a really nice benefit without any clear reason just feels like Apple doesn't love us anymore.

    They would do well to tell us more than what they have so far.
    Nicely put: Apple doesn't love us anymore. It's a more money driven company than before. 
    dysamoria
  • Reply 14 of 64
    curtis hannahcurtis hannah Posts: 1,672member
    Oh I thought someone mentioned the new iMac had it again, to bad. I wonder what prevented it from coming back, was it not a cord bandwidth issue but maybe something else with the 5k/4k models?
  • Reply 15 of 64
    homiehomie Posts: 44member
    That is very disappointing to me and really makes me think twice about an upgrade.  I have an older 27 inch iMac and I use target display mode over thunderbolt almost every day.  It is so easy to plug my work MacBook Pro into my personal iMac and use that big screen for multiple spreadsheets or presentations.  

    This is is a huge disappointment.  
    bshankdysamoria
  • Reply 16 of 64
    appexappex Posts: 687member
    "2017 4K, 5K iMacs won't support Target Display Mode". Which means such expensive iMac is over after 7 years (not allowing further macOS updates). Apple should stop programmed obsolescence and release an affordable minitower Mac plus display. CPU may last for 7 years, but displays last more than 20 years. All-in-one desktops are a waste of energy, anti-ecological and aggression to planet Earth!
    dysamoriaavon b7
  • Reply 17 of 64
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,288member
    Target Display is nice tech but not used by many.  Most folks with iMacs will usually get rid of their old one for whatever reason so it's of limited use to the masses.

    Still, it was nice while it lasted.  Fortunately, I still have and use my old late 2009 27" iMac at another site in addition to my 5K iMac.  They just keep running.
  • Reply 18 of 64
    SupoSupo Posts: 1member
    Apple is hilarious. Keep taking use away and sell it off as a plausible reason like nobody uses it anyway after first saying it was removed because of inability, then saying it's never coming back. Just another reason to people not to upgrade and keep it up and soon people will have no reason to need you as Google is giving us enough to do without your ecosystem and we can then grab real hardware and enter an ecosystem that allows optimal workflow instead of this VIP fashionista club Apple is turning into. Sincerely, Proud Owner of All 2011 Steve Job products that are upgradable, work, can be fixed, has ports, has Target display mode, antiglare screens, 17", Ethernet, optical drives, battery indicators, MagSafe, digital audio in and outs. All MIA on your new useless crap. Tim Cook sucks. 
  • Reply 19 of 64
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,607member
    Supo said:
    Apple is hilarious. Keep taking use away and sell it off as a plausible reason like nobody uses it anyway after first saying it was removed because of inability, then saying it's never coming back. Just another reason to people not to upgrade and keep it up and soon people will have no reason to need you as Google is giving us enough to do without your ecosystem and we can then grab real hardware and enter an ecosystem that allows optimal workflow instead of this VIP fashionista club Apple is turning into. Sincerely, Proud Owner of All 2011 Steve Job products that are upgradable, work, can be fixed, has ports, has Target display mode, antiglare screens, 17", Ethernet, optical drives, battery indicators, MagSafe, digital audio in and outs. All MIA on your new useless crap. Tim Cook sucks. 
    Yes, I'm sure this was a Tim Cook decision...Nice troll first post! What makes you think Steve wouldn't have done what Apple did today? You act like the man was perfect and ran Apple perfectly like they never did anything wrong. Judging by sales, I don't think people really give a shit about optical drives, 17" screens, target disk mode, etc, etc... 

    The fact is that target disk mode was used by very little. It was a nicety, but not a necessity. There's a lot of engineering that goes into making something like Target Disk mode work for very little return. This could also be a limitation of Thunderbolt technology where it just might simply be not worth putting all kinds of time and effort into it. 
    mike1StrangeDays
  • Reply 20 of 64
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,607member

    appex said:
    "2017 4K, 5K iMacs won't support Target Display Mode". Which means such expensive iMac is over after 7 years (not allowing further macOS updates). Apple should stop programmed obsolescence and release an affordable minitower Mac plus display. CPU may last for 7 years, but displays last more than 20 years. All-in-one desktops are a waste of energy, anti-ecological and aggression to planet Earth!
    Its called a Mac mini...nobody buys it. Got anymore bright ideas?
    edited June 2017 StrangeDays
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