See How Easy Calibrating Your Display Can Be?
You’ve heard us say it in every monitor review: we always recommend calibration. It's often a challenge to put into practice given what the required gear costs and the training needed to achieve good results. While it is true that most displays look pretty darned good right out of the box, we have yet to encounter a review unit that didn't benefit from a precise calibration.
It’s important to remember that the science behind the industry’s video standards has two simple directives: display an image that is as true-to-life as possible, meanwhile creating the least amount of eye fatigue for the viewer. By making small adjustments in key areas, even inexpensive monitors can meet this goal. A few years ago, only very expensive professional products played in the accurate color arena. Now, with advances in technology and manufacturing, anyone can have a professional-quality image on their desktop. Products like Datacolor’s Spyder4 systems keep your display emitting industry-standard colors with ease, and without spending a ton of money. You don’t really have to know a lot about the science behind it to get good results, either. The software handles all the patterns and measurements without user intervention, and the end result is a better-looking, more accurate monitor.
And that was the purpose of today's story. We've been using Spyder4Elites for a while now, across several segments and in a number of labs. Everything about the process is so straight-forward that we figured showing you what we go through in each review might encourage more enthusiasts to take calibration seriously and get more enjoyment from their computing experience.
What impressed us the most is how the Spyder4's calibration settings are stored in a look-up table rather than adjusting the monitor itself. If you read our monitor reviews, you know that not every screen has the same available controls, and adjusting the color gamut is usually limited to a few presets, if it's possible at all. The same is often true for gamma, though none of the panels we've tested offer the ability to actually edit the gamma curve. Without software like Spyder4Elite, you're limited to your display’s own menu system.
Of course, the Spyder4 isn't perfect. We'd like to see a redesigned sensor that's weighted properly to ensure it lays flat against an upright screen. And there are other low-priced alternatives to Datacolor's solution, most notably the $299 CalPC package from Spectracal. This bundle includes the X-rite i1Display meter and the CalMAN 5 software suite with integrated pattern generation (we’ll be covering CalPC in a future article). Alternatively, you can also save $80 on Datacolor’s Elite product and get the Spyder4Pro. You give up multi-screen matching, SpyderTune, unlimited choices for calibration parameters, and the screen uniformity tests. But for only $169, it gets the job done. X-Rite's ColorMunki Display sells for around the same price.
Besides the walkthrough, hopefully you’ve also gotten a little exposure to the technical justification behind calibration and color reproduction in displays. Our next installment will discuss this science in much greater detail. The theories of color perception go back to a time when computers filled a room and didn’t even have a video display. These theories are what guide modern color science. Stay tuned!