Datacolor Spyder4PRO Review (Page 3 of 4)

Page 3 - Software and Usage Experience

The Datacolor Spyder4PRO calibrating my Dell UltraSharp U2412M (WLED E-IPS LCD).

To see how the Spyder4PRO fares in the real world, I have tested it with the following displays:

- AU Optronics B140RW02 on Lenovo ThinkPad T420 (WLED TN 14" LCD)
- LG LP156WD1-TLB2 on Lenovo ThinkPad T520 (WLED TN 15.4" LCD)

Desktop Monitors
- 2x ASUS ProArt PA238QR (WLED E-IPS 23.8" LCD)
- Dell UltraSharp 2007FP (CCFL S-PVA 20" LCD)
- Dell UltraSharp U2412M (WLED E-IPS 24" LCD)
- Samsung SyncMaster 2053BW (CCFL TN 20" LCD)

- Panasonic Viera TC32LX60C (CCFL IPS-Pro 32" LCD)
- Samsung Series 6 UN55EH6000 (WLED S-PVA 55" LCD)

I have two regrets when testing the Datacolor Spyder4PRO. The first is my Dell UltraSharp 2408WFP, a wide gamut CCFL backlit S-PVA LCD monitor, died before I got my hands on this package. The second is my Dell UltraSharp U2413 has not arrived at the time of review, which is a wide gamut RGB LED backlit AH-IPS LCD monitor. Either way, we got a pretty diverse mix of displays on the list already, with various combinations of CCFL and LED backlights with TN, PVA, and IPS panels.

Since I do not have the TV calibration update, the HDTVs listed above are actually connected to a computer running Windows 7 Professional. Other monitors are connected to test PCs running either Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 Professional.

The setup process is pretty straightforward. I downloaded the software from Datacolor's website, and installed it on my computer. If you are setting up your Spyder4PRO straight out of the box, you will need to enter and activate the software key located on the CD sleeve. 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 Spyder4PRO 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.

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 Spyder4PRO. 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.

If this is your first time running your Spyder4PRO, the wizard will ask for more information about your setup. Everything is very straightforward, although it will really speed things up if you know a little bit about the technical specifications of your monitor beforehand. Thankfully, even if you have no idea what is going on, it will not stop you from continuing. Our screenshot above is a dialog that lets you select your display type, which includes LCD, CRT, and Laptop. Obviously, your laptop uses an LCD screen, but the options available in the subsequent menu will be slightly different, depending on your selection.

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), whereas Display Technology allows you to enter your display type (Unknown, normal gamut, wide gamut) and backlight type (Unknown, CCFL, WLED, RGB LED). The Identify Controls section lets you identify what controls are present on your monitor, so the Spyder4PRO can get you to adjust them later, if required. The options you can select include contrast, brightness, and Kelvin presets.

Once the necessary information is entered, the software is ready to work with your hardware colorimeter. A footprint of the Spyder4PRO 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 Spyder4PRO 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 Spyder4PRO hardware is in its place, hit "Next" to continue.

The Spyder4PRO 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. 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 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 Spyder4PRO software of my Dell UltraSharp 2007FP in comparison with the sRGB standard. You can also select NTSC and AdobeRGB as your reference standard as well. If you desire, you can graph a second monitor to compare the performance of two different displays concurrently. As a guy who regularly benchmark computers, I find the Spyder4PRO'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.

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 remind me in six months, as I do not find it necessary to recalibrate before six months have passed. 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 Spyder4PRO monitor calibration system. The instructions are extremely straightforward, and the step by step procedure is very intuitive, even for novice users. My only complaint is I feel the user 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, makes the Advanced Analysis section hard to access, which is 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 Spyder4PRO utility, select SpyderProof from the Shortcuts drop down menu, and hit "Next". It actually took me quite a while to figure this out. 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