Datacolor Spyder5PRO Review (Page 3 of 4)

Page 3 - Software and Usage Experience

The Datacolor Spyder5PRO calibrating my 2015 Apple MacBook Pro (W-LED AH-IPS 13.3" LCD).

To see how the Spyder5PRO fares in the real world, I have tested it with the following displays:

Desktop Monitors
- Dell UltraSharp U2413 (GB-LED AH-IPS 24" LCD)
- Dell UltraSharp U2412M (W-LED E-IPS 24" LCD)
- Samsung SyncMaster 2053BW (CCFL TN 20" LCD)

- APPA02A on 2015 Apple MacBook Pro (W-LED AH-IPS 13.3" LCD)
- AU Optronics B156HTN03.4 on Lenovo ThinkPad T540p (W-LED TN 15.4" LCD)
- LG LP156WD1-TLB2 on Lenovo ThinkPad T520 (W-LED TN 15.4" LCD)

The setup process was pretty straightforward. I downloaded the software from Datacolor's website, and installed it on my computer. If you are setting up your Spyder5PRO straight out of the box, you will need to enter and activate the software key located inside the box. The good news is, after the initial setup, the activation stays with your hardware, so you will never need to worry about the key again, regardless of how many PCs you use it with.

For the first time you run the Spyder5PRO software on your computer, you will see the same screenshot above, except you need to check each section off individually to ensure you have acknowledged all of them. Subsequent times will allow this to be bypassed, where you can simply hit "Next" to continue.

If this is your first time running your Spyder5PRO, the wizard will ask for more information about your setup. Everything is very straightforward, and Datacolor has made some tweaks to the software to make everyone feel more at home. The new Interactive Help column on the right explains individual screens and options in plain English. Our screenshot above is a dialog that lets you select your display type, which includes Desktop and Laptop. Obviously, your laptop uses an LCD screen, but the options available in the subsequent menu will be slightly different.

Moving on with the LCD option, which most users will be using, the left menu bar shows which step you are on. The headers are pretty much what the text suggests -- Make and Model is for entering the make and model of your display (It is used strictly for identification purposes). Gone is the Display Technology screen, which allowed you to enter your display type (Unknown, normal gamut, wide gamut) and backlight type (Unknown, CCFL, WLED, RGB LED) in the Spyder4PRO. This is probably a good thing to simplify the process, since most people do not even know what they mean. The Identify Controls section lets you identify what controls are present on your monitor, so the Spyder5PRO can get you to adjust them later, if required. The options you can select include brightness and Kelvin presets. Contrast is no longer an identifiable preset.

Next, you can select the calibration procedure you would like to execute. Since my monitors were already calibrated when I took the screenshot, it has three options. This includes ReCal, CheckCal, and FullCal. Recalibration, as its name suggests, allows you to recalibrate a previously calibrated display by your Spyder5PRO. The advantage of this compared to a full calibration is it takes half the time required. Just for your reference, a full calibration will take approximately five minutes to run. This is not a big deal, but for those who have set a reminder to recalibrate their display every two weeks, then it will be less of a hassle. On the right, you can configure which monitor you would like to calibrate from a drop down menu. The window will then automatically move to the display you are calibrating, given that you have multiple displays connected, of course.

Once the necessary information is entered, the software is ready to work with your hardware colorimeter. A footprint of the Spyder5PRO will be displayed on the screen, as you can see in our screenshot above. If your LCD monitor is placed completely perpendicular to your desk, I would highly recommend you to tilt it back slightly, so the Spyder5PRO can rest on the screen comfortably. Otherwise, you will just be sitting there for five minutes with the colorimeter pressed against your screen, which is a pretty boring task, haha. This is not to mention you might block out the ambient light sensor, and prevent proper measurements in this regard. Anyway, once your Spyder5PRO hardware is in its place, hit "Next" to continue.

The Spyder5PRO software will switch to full screen mode on the monitor getting calibrated. This process is pretty automated, depending on what the software is able to control, and takes about five minutes to complete, as aforementioned. Recalibration will take two and a half minutes. Different colors will flash on your screen while the colorimeter does its readings. The latest software fills the whole screen with the same color rather than just a rectangle in the middle for compatibility with high resolution display. If you have selected options such as monitor brightness and/or ambient light, the software will prompt you to adjust your monitor settings during this time.

Once the calibration process is done, hit "Finish", and it will exit full screen mode to return to windowed mode. Here, you can switch between calibrated and uncalibrated view to see what changes have been made. The matrix of photos allows you to make a quick visual comparison, which is quite convenient. If you want, you can use custom images for proofing, and zoom in to individual pictures for a clearer look. Once you are happy with the results, hit "Next" to take a look at more quantitative statistics about your newly calibrated display.

Our screenshot above shows a graph generated by the Spyder5PRO software of my Dell UltraSharp U2413 in comparison with the sRGB standard. You can also select NTSC and AdobeRGB as your reference standard as well. As a guy who regularly benchmark computers, I find the Spyder5PRO's ability to produce quantitative results about my monitor to be very intriguing. Of course, most hardware calibration systems should provide the same data, but either way, I am a fan, haha. With the Spyder5PRO, you can no longer graph a second monitor to compare the performance of two different displays concurrently like the Spyder4PRO; this has been reserved for the Spyder5ELITE.

At this point, the calibration procedure is complete. You can set the software to remind you to recalibrate as soon as two weeks or as long as six months, as the performance characteristics of your monitor may change over time. Personally, I have set it to never remind me, since I am on the lazy end of things. Of course, this is just personal preference; if you own the hardware, some may choose to use it as often as possible -- especially if what you do requires top notch color accuracy.

For those who are interested, hitting the "Advanced Analysis" button will allow you to perform additional tests on your display. This includes gamut, tone response, brightness and contrast, as well as white point. I found them to be pretty useful in performing an analysis of my monitors, and it will produce quantitative results or graphs in the end, depending on the test. For example, I used the brightness and contrast test to equalize the intensity of my two displays sitting on my desk.

Overall, it was an absolute pleasure to use the Datacolor Spyder5PRO monitor calibration system. The instructions were extremely straightforward, and the step by step procedure was very intuitive, even for novice users. My only complaint is I feel the wizard is too simplified at times, leaving more advanced users harder to navigate through the menus. For example, it took me some time to figure out how to jump to the results page without going through the entire calibration process. This, in turn, made the Advanced Analysis section hard to access, which was undesirable, especially for users who just want to conduct a quick test on their displays. The only way to get there right now is to open the Spyder5PRO utility, select SpyderProof from the Shortcuts drop down menu, and hit "Next". It actually took me quite a while to figure this out, even though I own the Spyder4PRO and has done the exact same task before. If they can make the display interface less 'linear', or have labels that are clearer for advanced users to jump around, it would be excellent.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Software and Usage Experience
4. Results Discussion and Conclusion