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Do It Like Tom's: Calibrating Your Monitor With CalMAN RGB

Do It Like Tom's: Calibrating Your Monitor With CalMAN RGB
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A while back, we introduced you to display calibration with Datacolor's Sypder4Elite. Today we look at CalMAN RGB, which is the other major calibration solution. With extensive meter and pattern source support, it’s positioned as a professional’s tool.

In all of our monitor reviews, we stress the importance of calibration. Even displays that perform well out of the box can be made better with an instrumented adjustment. Some of our recent test subjects achieved near-perfect results after we took the time to calibrate them using the controls available in their OSD menus. While there are many tools available to help you accomplish this, two packages are the most-used in our lab: Datacolor’s Spyder family and CalMAN RGB from SpectraCal.

I wrote about the Spyder package in Display Calibration 101: Step-By-Step With Datacolor's Spyder4Elite, which, with its included tri-stimulus meter, can calibrate any display using a look-up table. That means you can dial-in devices lacking on-screen controls like tablets and smartphones. It’s always better to have choices so, to that end, SpectraCal gives us the latest version of its monitor calibration solution, CalMAN RGB.

Because our last calibration feature went live about six months ago, I’d like to re-introduce our philosophy towards display calibration. The mantra is a simple one: the most important reason to calibrate any display is to achieve consistency between the source of the content and the display used to show that content.

For instance, a camera films a scene using a particular set of standards for color, brightness, gamma, and white balance. The only way to see that material the way the director saw it is to match your display to those standards. Fortunately, there are parameters for video production that are the same as the ones used in games, digital photography, and other content creation systems. A majority of computer displays can come pretty close to these.

At Tom's Hardware, every monitor and HDTV we review is run through a large array of performance tests, and each receives a full calibration using professional-grade instruments and software. This yields accurate and repeatable results, no matter what type of display we work with. The rub is that we have thousands of dollars invested in our test gear, and that's totally impractical for you to match at home.

Datacolor provides a solution for under $300 that does a pretty good job of calibrating any display. SpectraCal does as well. In fact, SpectraCal has software and hardware solutions to calibrate pretty much any video display or projector on the planet. For $249, you can calibrate your HDTV using a DVD as your pattern source. And if you like to tweak, you can get fairly close to the power of CalMAN’s professional solutions for around $400. Or, spend $1000 on a SpectraCal C6 meter.

Whatever your needs, SpectraCal has packages that suit every display calibration scenario. And the company's meter and pattern source support is currently without equal. CalMAN can even control some displays, automating much or all of the calibration procedure. We’ll walk you through a monitor calibration with CalMAN RGB. But first, let’s take a look at SpectraCal’s complete software line-up.

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  • 8 Hide
    Heironious , March 19, 2014 2:30 AM
    250 bucks? They can keep it.
  • 8 Hide
    merikafyeah , March 19, 2014 2:36 AM
    I know it's exaggerated for the purpose of demonstrating differences in calibrated views, but you have got to pick a better "before and after" pic than the one you've been using up to now. They don't even compare the same subject. Half of the image is one thing and the other half is something else entirely. It's impossible to compare something if you're not even certain what exactly it is that you're comparing. I'd argue they don't even depict the kind of differences you'd see in calibrated vs uncalibrated displays, just different preferences in regards to artistic color-grading.
  • 1 Hide
    daglesj , March 19, 2014 2:52 AM
    Are the Datacolor Spyders now properly calibrated out of the factory? Apparently quality control and specs were not very well handled with the Mk3 and befores. Basically every Spyder 3 would give different results.
  • 9 Hide
    vertexx , March 19, 2014 3:00 AM
    Hate to say it, but this one reads like an infomercial....
  • 2 Hide
    sveinan , March 19, 2014 3:21 AM
    I would recommend a review on ColorHUG (about $110), open source display colorimeter. It's fast, and worth it's money (http://www.hughski.com/index.html).
  • 4 Hide
    T1249NTSCJ , March 19, 2014 3:43 AM
    displaycalGUI is another option if you already have an meter available.
  • -4 Hide
    T1249NTSCJ , March 19, 2014 3:44 AM
    displaycalGUI is another option if you already have an meter available.
  • -1 Hide
    MANOFKRYPTONAK , March 19, 2014 6:20 AM
    CNET reviews TVs and they post their calibration settings that they use for the best results. Each calibration is set up with professional tools, you can look up each tv by model number. I don't know if it is as good as this but.. its free! And it made a difference for me. But others like colorHUG, displaycalGUI, etc... are good just some different options if anyone is looking.
  • 4 Hide
    cangelini , March 19, 2014 8:20 AM
    Quote:
    Hate to say it, but this one reads like an infomercial....
    This is simply the follow-up to an earlier story we did on Datacolor's solution that was well-received: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/spyder4-monitor-calibration-image-quality,3581.html. Both tools are in-use in our labs--I think it's useful to show our readers what we use to review monitors and how they might achieve similar results. At least, that was the intent.
  • 1 Hide
    Evolution2001 , March 19, 2014 10:12 AM
    I'd really like to calibrate my projector using more than just my eyes for perception. Using either the Spyder or CalMAN solutions, which ones offers me the least expensive path to that goal? Is it better to buy one of their all-inclusive packages, or find a colorimeter and software independently?
  • 1 Hide
    vertexx , March 19, 2014 12:35 PM
    Quote:
    This is simply the follow-up to an earlier story we did on Datacolor's solution that was well-received: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/spyder4-monitor-calibration-image-quality,3581.html. Both tools are in-use in our labs--I think it's useful to show our readers what we use to review monitors and how they might achieve similar results. At least, that was the intent.
    Agreed - I read the first and this one - both are very informative. I wasn't trying to place any accusations of bias, just on how it reads. The first article read like "Here's what we do at Tom's for calibration" and was very clearly educational. This one just read differently - a little more like a commercial - that's all.

    I'd love to be able to rent one of these for about $20 for a day instead of forking over the $250 - wonder if that's possible.
  • 0 Hide
    blackened144 , March 19, 2014 2:12 PM
    I just bought a 38.5" Westinghouse 120Hz LED-LCD 1080p TV for about $260. When I first turned it on and saw the splash screen which is a white crown on an all black background you could tell there was a super bright spot in the middle that was so bright and annoying it made me want to put it back in the box and return it immediately. Fortunately I had things to do and I had to let it ride for a few days befroe I could return it. After it being on for the entire weekend though the horrible bright spot is no longer there and its a much better picture than the last LG 120Hz TV I bought for over $1000. That being said, there is no way in hell I would buy a $250 calibration kit for my $260 TV.
  • 0 Hide
    T1249NTSCJ , March 19, 2014 4:42 PM
    Quote:
    CNET reviews TVs and they post their calibration settings that they use for the best results. Each calibration is set up with professional tools, you can look up each tv by model number. I don't know if it is as good as this but.. its free! And it made a difference for me. But others like colorHUG, displaycalGUI, etc... are good just some different options if anyone is looking.
    Each display is different. e.g. Samsung displays don't all use Samsung panels, you'll need to go into the service menu to determine you either purchased a Samsung, Sharp or Chi Mei panel. Someone with a Sharp panel might not yield the accuracy of calibrated settings posted by someone with an IPS Samsung panel.
  • 0 Hide
    10tacle , March 19, 2014 5:07 PM
    I just bought a Crossover 27" Korean IPS 2560x1440 (a steal at $315 US) and am looking for a calibration tool. Still not happy with the Nvidia tool from the video card. With all the other HDTVs, PC monitors, laptops, and tablets I have, it would be well worth the investment to spend $250-$400 to get them all up to their best specs possible as I've never been really happy with any of their display settings, usually taken from ideas from AVS Forum member settings. I can understand the rejection of paying this kind of money for calibration on one or a handful of items, but if you have 10+ items that could benefit from one of these tools and are unhappy with their settings, IMO it is worth it. Not to mention you would still be using it on items purchased in the future too (like a shiny new 4K 30" monitor for $1200 a couple years from now).
  • 1 Hide
    Nada190 , March 19, 2014 9:59 PM
    Buy another monitor or calibrate current one? What a difficult decision.
  • 0 Hide
    Steven Stuu , March 20, 2014 12:58 AM
    with that money i can just buy a new monitor.
  • 0 Hide
    Nemesis_001 , March 20, 2014 5:03 AM
    Quote:
    A while back, we introduced you to display calibration with Datacolor's Sypder4Elite. Today we look at CalMAN RGB, which is the other major calibration solution. With extensive meter and pattern source support, it’s positioned as a professional’s tool.

    Do It Like Tom's: Calibrating Your Monitor With CalMAN RGB : Read more


    Is it possible to do a similar guide using Chromapure?
  • 0 Hide
    sritri , March 20, 2014 9:04 AM
    Can I calibrate an 27" 2011 Apple Cinema Display ?
  • 0 Hide
    godlyatheist , March 20, 2014 9:04 AM
    I can't find anywhere to buy this bundle for $249 like the article suggests. SpectraCal watns $299 for the C3 colorimeter + software. Their resellers want either $299 as well or it's out of stock. So even if someone wants to get this, they can't do it. I tried the Spyder4Pro before and it was terrible. Both my laptop (WLED, TN) and Dell U2412M (WLED, IPS) got a strong green cast after calibration and the software insists it is accurate. I returned it immediately. If you are not a professional, just pay someone $30-50 bucks to do it.
  • 0 Hide
    syrious1 , March 20, 2014 9:53 AM
    Cheaper
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