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

Display Calibration With CalMAN RGB

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.

  • Heironious
    250 bucks? They can keep it.
    Reply
  • merikafyeah
    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.
    Reply
  • daglesj
    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.
    Reply
  • vertexx
    Hate to say it, but this one reads like an infomercial....
    Reply
  • sveinan
    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).
    Reply
  • T1249NTSCJ
    displaycalGUI is another option if you already have an meter available.
    Reply
  • T1249NTSCJ
    displaycalGUI is another option if you already have an meter available.
    Reply
  • MANOFKRYPTONAK
    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.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    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.
    Reply
  • Evolution2001
    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?
    Reply