I'm looking into get a 27" iMac, and I'm debating whether to get the 2010 or 2011 versions. With the 2010 version, I can use the iMac as an external monitor for my gaming PC with the use of a mini-displayport adapter.

Unfortunately, the 2011 iMac doesn't support mini-displayport input anymore. The incoming signal MUST be a full thunderbolt signal. Unfortunately, there are no video cards for the PC that support thunderbolt yet, and probably not for some time to come.

So does anyone know of any adapters for converting a DVI signal into thunderbolt? I really want the upgrades from the 2011 iMac, but being able to use it as an external monitor for my PC is a deal-breaker, and that forces me down to the 2010 model.

  • 2
    I'd pick up a used 2010 model as used macs hold their resale very well and you can usually sell them for close what you paid. You need DP in, so why worry about something you don't need.
    – bmike
    Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 2:08

3 Answers 3


No there is not a DVI, Displayport, or even a VGA to Thunderbolt adapter available yet.

It looks like if such a device were to be made it would have to have a DisplayPort input, to work, or include active convertors for other legacy signals because DisplayPort is the integrated video signal with Thunderbolt.

Thunderbolt Arch

To do this a DisplayPort to Thunderbolt adapter must be possible first, hence requiring a full Thunderbolt Controller with a Display port input. Since a device like this has not been built yet, but technically should be possible according to the double ended arrow in the diagram for the DisplayPort signal on the external controller, it should be possible for such a device to exist.

If an when built this would provide a true Thunderbolt signal including a DisplayPort signal and could meet Apples requirements for Target Display Mode on Thunderbolt equipped iMacs, however there is a gray area as highlighted below.

iMac (21.5-inch, Mid 2011) and iMac (27-inch, Mid 2011) support Target Display Mode via Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable (2 m) when the source is another Thunderbolt-equipped computer.

So how enforcing Apple is between the terms Thunderbolt-equipped computer and Thunderbolt-device would also factor in if this will work or not...

So at this point we are waiting to see if a Thunderbolt to DisplayPort device is possible, and if that device would be able to send a signal that a thunderbolt equipped iMac would accept while in Target Display Mode.

At this point its just to early to tell if adapters will be available. So yes avoid Thunderbolt iMacs if you want to use Display Port - Target Display Mode, or buy a external Display to share between your PC and Mac.

I wold say external display for the Win, Win case!!!


It seems you may connect thunderbolt peripherals to display port devices. 2011 MacBook Pro and after to LED Cinema Display. But not the contrary. pre 2011 MacBook Pro to Thunderbolt display. http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13727_7-20043524-263.html


UPDATE: I've since learned what I originally wrote (struck out section) is wrong.

As far as I know only the 2010 iMac can be used in target display mode. You can't do it with any other iMac (or any other mac).

Even if/when you can get a PC with thunderbolt support, you still won't be able to use the 2011 iMac with it, or (probably) any future iMac model.

Perhaps you should get a mac mini, or a second hand/old mac pro, and a 27" display from someone else? I've had a 30" Dell for years, originally plugged into a PowerMac and now a Mac Mini, and soon either another Mac Mini or a MacBook Air. It's worked out great for me.

There is nothing special about the iMac's display. Apple doesn't make their own LCD's and several other manufacturers get theirs from the same factories as Apple.

  • 1
    More than just the 2010 iMacs support Target Display Mode
    – MrDaniel
    Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 13:19
  • Evidence please, showing that you can't use with a PC with thunderbolt
    – MrDaniel
    Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 13:22
  • Thanks for clearing that up. I read on an apple support website (not from apple) that the 2011 model doesn't support target display mode. Obviously that info was wrong. Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 19:39

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