I remember when thunderbolt came out there was a lot of discussion of how it had interesting magical bi-directional capabilities.
Does that mean there is a way to use an iMac Retina 5K as an external, secondary monitor for a recent MacBook Pro?
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According to Apple, no. The iMac Retina 5K does not support Target Display Mode.
Note that the iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2014) does not support Target Display Mode.
You can see it here.