Datacolor's Spyder4Elite Display Calibration System
For some time, we've wished for an easy-to-use, wizard-based monitor calibration solution. Professional suites like CalMAN work well, but require much more in terms of setup, configuration, and know-how. Datacolor makes its at-home calibration system, the Spyder4Elite, available to a number of Tom's Hardware's editors for tablet, smartphone, all-in-one, and notebook testing, and it satisfies this component of our reviews well. So, we thought we'd go over the process we use to generate results.
Included in the $249 package are Datacolor’s latest Spyder tri-stim colorimeter, a CD with all of the necessary software, and a desktop cradle that also functions as a tripod mount adapter. This extra part allows you to calibrate projectors by facing the meter towards the lens or taking readings reflected from the screen (which is our preferred method).
Along with sporting an affordable price tag, the Spyder4 also features a dead-simple software package that handles both measurements and pattern generation. In fact, it’s so simple that we only needed about 15 minutes to install the software, connect the meter, and calibrate our AOC I2757FH.
The meter connects via USB and has a weight on its cable so you can easily hang it from the top of your monitor. The feet are soft foam and are intended to make contact with the screen so that all ambient light is sealed out from the sensor. This is important because even a tiny amount of stray light can contaminate a reading.
The software itself is wizard-based and runs you through every step of the calibration. Simply answer the questions, follow the directions, and you’re done. A profile is generated for your display and then interfaced with your video card. You can turn the profile on and off from the Spyder4 entry in the Windows system tray. The meter also includes an ambient light sensor, which factors your workspace’s light level into the calibration process. This not only helps with color accuracy, but brightness as well. Setting your monitor to the proper brightness level improves your perception of the image, and reduces fatigue and eyestrain. Though we always use 200 nits as our standard, you may want to go higher or lower depending on your particular environmental conditions.
After the initial calibration, Datacolor's software continues to run in the system tray. Every one to 60 minutes (your choice) the meter will check the ambient light level and warn you if it has changed significantly, at which point you can change calibration profiles if you want. The software will also log calibrations, and tell you when to recalibrate at regular intervals. In our experience, LCD monitors don’t change that much over time, but professionals meeting exacting standards will want to take advantage of this feature.
For those who like to tweak, Spyder4Elite lets you specify any value you want for color, gamma, grayscale, and brightness. Also, at the end of the wizard, there is an option called advanced analysis that lets you run any individual test you wish, including screen uniformity. And if you just want to take a quick reading from a separate device like a cellphone or tablet, the meter function lets you do that as well.
Now we’ll run through the Spyder4Elite's wizard to see just what’s happening in a typical monitor calibration.