Hardware, Reviews

Review: Datacolor Spyder4ELITE Display Calibrator

Today we are taking a look at the Datacolor Spyder4ELITE display calibrator/colorimeter. Most PC users buy a monitor and never touch the display settings, a small few may tweak the settings to their liking, but even fewer take the time to make sure their display is properly calibrated.

An uncalibrated display means that the colors showing on the monitor are incorrect. While this may not be a huge problem for the majority of users, most people would probably prefer to watch movies and TV shows, look at pictures, and play games using the correct and intended colors and appearance. For professionals that deal in digital art, photography, design, and videography, a well-calibrated display is absolutely necessary to ascertain that the colors being used will show up correct in print or on another computer.

Datacolor makes three display calibration devices: the Spyder4EXPRESS, Spyder4PRO, and Spyder4ELITE. The Spyder4EXPRESS uses a different device than the PRO and ELITE, both of which use identical hardware. The differences between the PRO and ELITE lie in the software, with the ELITE providing the most calibration options. The full chart of differences is below:

The Spyder4ELITE is a small device: 1.5 in.(D) x 3.5 in.(W) x 4 in.(L). It comes with an attached USB cable that has an adjustable counterweight on it, as well as a separate stand.

Also included with the device is a Quick Start Guide and a software CD with the serial number printed on the back of the disc case. This serial is necessary for activating the device?s software. Installing the software is a very straightforward process.

The Spyder4ELITE is made very simple to use. Once the software is installed on the computer, the user can follow the wizard to calibrate the display. Three options are provided: Step-by-step Assistant which walks the user through the calibration process, Studio Match which matches all of the PC?s displays as closely as possible, and Expert Console which gives the user all the controls on a single screen.

For the purpose of this review, we will go through the Step-by-step Assistant. Also, for users whose monitors have color slider options, we recommend going to File->Preferences->Advanced Settings and checking the box where it says ?Show RGB Sliders option in Identify Controls screen?. We also opted to select the ?Advanced? option for the User Interface, allowing us to take full advantage of the Spyder4ELITE?s features. This means that the following steps will be slightly different for us than if we had chosen the ?Basic? or ?Classic? options for User Interface.

The Spyder4ELITE software then gives the user the option to do a recalibration, check the accuracy of the current calibration, or do a full calibration of the display. The user also has the option to choose their preferred Gamma, White Point, and Brightness.

Next, the software will take an ambient light measurement and make the appropriate White Point and Brightness recommendations based on that. The software will then show the user where on the monitor the Spyder should be placed. Despite having the counterweight, we recommend tilting the monitor someone so the Spyder is resting fully on the monitor. If there is any separation between the display and the Spyder, the calibration results will be negatively affected.

At this point, the calibration will begin, and the program will instruct the user on when and how to appropriately adjust the settings on the monitor?s OSD (on-screen display) throughout the process. Once it completes, the user is given the option to save the calibration profile to the computer, and add a reminder to do future calibrations.

At this point, the software goes into SpyderProof, allowing the user to switch between the calibrated and uncalibrated views to see the difference in color.

The user can also click on SpyderTune to further tweak the calibration settings.

The calibrated results can now be compared against the sRGB, NTSC, and AdobeRGB color gamuts. For further testing, the user can click on ?Advanced Analysis? and choose from a variety of tests.
The Spyder4ELITE is an extremely easy to use product for beginners, but also includes the features and options necessary for advanced users and professionals. This provides the Spyder4ELITE with a broad appeal. Beginners may want to consider the EXPRESS or PRO models if they don?t consider the extra options available on the ELITE to be useful to them, though we recommend choosing the PRO model. Doing so allows the user to upgrade the PRO to the ELITE at anytime, since the only difference between the PRO and ELITE is the software they each use.

For advanced users, the ability to choose from an unlimited set of gamma choices and color temperatures provides great added functionality, along with the variety of other options not included with the Spyder4PRO. At a retail price of $249, the Spyder4ELITE is very affordable for professionals and advanced users, while still being in an accessible price range for more general users.

For a well-made, easy to use device that comes packed with features, we are giving the Datacolor Spyder4ELITE the Editor?s Choice award for Prosumers/Enthusiasts. Having the ability to calibrate a display is necessary for professionals and enthusiasts, and the Spyder4ELITE is the perfect tool for the job.