Thunderbolt Display vs 2011 27" iMac in Target Display Mode?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by Saint.Icon, May 19, 2014.

  1. Saint.Icon macrumors regular

    May 11, 2014
    I find myself torn between the two. I've currently got a rMBP 13", and want the option to use an external display. I'd prefer to stick with Thunderbolt, so I'm looking at either the Thunderbolt display or a Mid-2011 27" iMac.

    Size-wise they're pretty similar. The iMac is a bit thicker, but has a Superdrive built in - which I don't have and need to buy. It also includes a Magic Mouse and Wireless keyboard - other purchases I'd need to make with the Thunderbolt Display.

    As I understand it, I'd only have the option of using the speakers on the iMac in TDM. This isn't really a big deal, as I don't use a lot of USB peripherals, and rarely use a webcam.

    The Thunderbolt display (refurbed), along with the accessories I need would be $1050 or so. The iMac is $1130.

    The iMac gets me all the accessories included, as well as a second, slightly more powerful (and upgradable) Mac. I don't particularly *need* the second Mac, as the rMBP covers most things well, but that's not to say that I won't make use of it if I have it.

    Which is the better option?
  2. smellalot macrumors 6502

    Dec 6, 2011
    I believe the iMac has to be booted up and running to use TDP mode. That's the biggest downside I see. At that point you might as well use it the way it was intended.
  3. boraski, May 20, 2014
    Last edited: May 20, 2014

    boraski macrumors newbie

    May 20, 2014
    Been using an iMac as a monitor for over a year

    I've been using an older iMac as a monitor for my early 2011 Macbook Pro for over a year. If you have an old iMac sitting around you are not using much or can get one more cheaply than a similar sized monitor, it's a good option. With that said, I am interested in getting a new dedicated Apple display if they come out with one this year. There are a few things you should consider:

    1) You do need to boot up the iMac in order to use it as a monitor. If you have multiple logins it will work from the login screen. That means it will use more power and probably make more fan noise than a dedicated monitor.

    2) Your Macbook will send audio to the iMac's speakers. But in order to control the volume, you will need to use a keyboard hooked up to the iMac. If you use a bluetooth wireless keyboard you will need to change the batteries every so often.

    3) The connection doesn't always work the first time and you might have to replug it in. It works almost always if you plug in the connector after both the Macbook and iMac are booted and the Macbook's screen is on.

    4) As far as I know, you can't use the iMac drive directly from your Macbook. You may be able to use it as a network drive, but I've never tried.

    5) As far as I know, you can't use the camera built into the iMac from your Macbook, in case you want to use it for Facetime/Skype/etc.
  4. flynz4 macrumors 68040

    Aug 9, 2009
    Portland, OR
    As the two other replies indicated... while you can use the iMac... it does come with limitations.

    I used my personal iMac as a TDM monitor for my work MBA for about a year. It was kludgy. I finally bought a ATD and it is a MUCH cleaner solution.

    Currently, I use my ATD as a second monitor for my 27" iMac... and when I need to, I use it for my work MBA instead. Very clean and easy.

    I'd personally go with the ATD. I'd wait to see if one is announced at WDC since it is so close... but I would be surprised if one was.

  5. Saint.Icon thread starter macrumors regular

    May 11, 2014
    What made it kludgy?
  6. FreakinEurekan macrumors 68040


    Sep 8, 2011
    Eureka Springs, Arkansas
    With a Thunderbolt Display you can add AppleCare Protection Plan for $99 and have 3 years of coverage; if the display goes out in the iMac in a month you're hosed.

    The TBD also is a full docking station for you - handles Ethernet, USB, camera, etc - you don't get all that with the iMac.

    I see the appeal of the iMac option, having a 2nd computer you can use for other purposes. You're trading off some convenience and warranty protection. Unless you have a specific need for the iMac, I'd suggest the Thunderbolt Display.
  7. Saint.Icon thread starter macrumors regular

    May 11, 2014
    The iMac is a refurb, so it has a year warranty, and I can add AppleCare as well.
  8. Saint.Icon thread starter macrumors regular

    May 11, 2014
    The iMac won out. The benefits of having a desktop were a bit better than the docking options of the TBD.

    Thanks to everyone for the help and advice. I greatly appreciate it!
  9. mcdisease macrumors newbie

    May 24, 2014
    Any ideas for how you're switching your iMac's keyboard and mouse between your Macbook and iMac? I disabled Bluetooth on my wife's iMac to use the keyboard and mouse, but this isn't a great idea since we'll have to hard boot her iMac to get it working again.
  10. Saint.Icon thread starter macrumors regular

    May 11, 2014
    I feel like I'll end up using the iMac as intended more than as a display, so this won't be as big of an issue for the occasional times when I need the big screen for the rMBP.

    I've got a backup wired mouse I can leave connected to the iMac to do the re-pairing as needed too. It'll be a little clunkier, but I think I'll get good use out of the iMac.
  11. angusmcfisher macrumors regular

    Dec 18, 2009
    I created a macro using Keyboard Maestro - worth checking out
  12. shoulin333 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 26, 2007
    the 2011 27" iMac is still a great machine. Throw in an SSD under the superdrive and add some ram, you won't be able to tell the difference in speed from your rMBP. Not to mention physically having a bigger screen and running in a native resolution of 2560 x 1440 is MUCH better than the rMBP's retina native resolution which only gives you the working area of 1440 x 900, even if it is a super clear 1440 x 900.


Share This Page