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

CalMAN RGB In-Depth

All of the different CalMAN products are built around a core engine. In fact, if you buy CalMAN Ultimate for $2995, you get every product built in to a single interface. How is this accomplished? Through a workflow-based system.

In our monitor reviews, we show you the custom screens used to capture our benchmark suite's measurements. These screens are created using CalMAN Ultimate’s design mode. CalMAN RGB works the same way; the workflows are created beforehand and plugged in to the main software engine. The difference is you can only use the included workflows and you can’t modify them. We’re going to walk you through the Standard and Advanced monitor workflows in this article’s hands-on sections. But first, we want to give you a tour of just what CalMAN is capable of.

Starting from the top, we have CalMAN Ultimate, which is what we use at Tom’s Hardware. This is a fully-customizable application with support for pretty much any meter and pattern source available today (including some older gear that’s no longer manufactured). SpectraCal has a lot of these instruments in its online store. However, if you already have an X-Rite product, for example, the CalMAN software is all you need to buy.

If you want to create custom workflows, only the top-of-the-line Ultimate product supports that. Fortunately, the other two pro versions, Expert and Professional, come with a large group of workflows that work in pretty much any situation. The thing to keep in mind is that no matter which version you use, they all employ the same core engine to manage both meters and pattern sources.

Moving down to more value-priced products, we have CalMAN Basic, Control, and Enthusiast, geared more towards HDTV calibration with workflows to match. They range in price from $149 to $399 and require that you purchase a meter and a pattern source. If you’re only interested in calibrating monitors, CalMAN RGB is the ticket. Bundled with a C3 colorimeter, it sells for $249. If you want a little more flexibility you can move up to Control or Enthusiast. With a C3 meter, they sell for $399 and $495 respectively.

To calibrate a computer monitor, it’s easiest to use a software-based pattern source. SpectraCal addresses this with its PC Client. This module is included with any CalMAN package and installs right along with it. Running from the system tray, it manages not only pattern generation, but can provide multiple LUT-based picture modes. If you choose to calibrate using only the display’s OSD, you can turn off the LUT.

While this may seem a bit confusing, we’ll cut through that by focusing on the $249 package. We’ll run the Standard monitor workflow, which is identical to what you’d see if you use CalMAN RGB.

Christian Eberle
Christian Eberle is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He's a veteran reviewer of A/V equipment, specializing in monitors.