Why Pay $2,000 for an Apple Monitor When You Can Make One for $700?

Building a new monitor for your iMac will take you an hour and save you lots of money.
March 4, 2021, 4:48pm
Monitor under construction
Image: Ph

If you want to buy a new 5K monitor from Apple, it’s going to set you back more than $2,000. The comparable LG UltraFine is $1,299.  Faced with these expensive options, software engineer Phillip Caudell decided to build his own monitor 5K monitor for $700.

Caudell chronicled the project on Twitter. He started by buying an old iMac housing for $30 then bought the back panel off of Ebay for about $500. “By far the most expensive part, but it’s the exact same model as the one inside the iMac 5K,” he said in a tweet. He purchased a driverboard from Aliexpress for about $200 and put the whole thing together. The only downside is that he has to use two display ports to get its full 5K resolution. 

Caudell said he needed the extra monitor for work. He’s the founder of The Not So Big Company, a small software studio that’s building a new email client and he spends all day in Apple’s Xcode. “Anyone who’s used Xcode will tell you with all the panes, previews and debuggers open you have no space for anything else,” he told Motherboard in a DM. “So I wanted a way to have Xcode full screen, and have the simulators running beside it.”

His apps have retina assets—images with high pixel density—and the high resolution monitors help him do the work. “I wanted the display that would be running the app previews to also be retina, plus I thought it would be annoying having a non-retina display next to a retina one,” he said. “All the options I looked at were either too expensive, Apple XDR I’m looking at you, or wouldn’t look that great next to my iMac.”

According to Caudell, putting the monitor together was easy. “Honestly the longest part of the build was just trying to source all the components and figuring out what would work for my specific iMac,” he said. “The actual assembly only took an hour or so, the longest part was cleaning off the old display adhesive. From deciding ‘I want to have an iMac display’ to actually having one, it only took a couple of weeks.”