Spyder4Pro: Display Calibration Device

After two years, Datacolor has upgraded their powerful, and popular, Spyder3 Display Calibrations device. The all new Spyder4 offers various upgrades and updates when compared side by side with the Spyder3, which include:

  • Improved accuracy compared to Spyder3
    • Average of 26% improved accuracy for monitors tested
  • Monitor Quality Analyzer (Pro and Elite models)
    • Advanced calibration accuracy test
    • Monitor quality rating
    • Display gamut graphing
    • Gamma and White Point test
    • Support for CRT displays (X-Rite product no longer supports CRT displays)
    • Supports RGB balancing adjustments
  • Advanced MQA (Elite only)
    • Uniformity luminance and color graphing
    • Advanced multiple display tuning
  • New SpyderGallery app for iPad /iPhone (free on the App Store)
    • The only calibration solution for the iPad & iPhone on the market today
    • Available on all Spyder models
  • SpyderTune (Elite only)
    • The ultimate tool for fine tuning your displays

Displaying proper color and brightness (aka gamma) is extremely important, whether you're an amateur or professional who deals with photos, video or graphics. With a plethora of display possibilities these days, each using their own unique color profile, it's almost a guarantee that your photos or graphics will look different on each display. For those who use multiple displays in their studio, this can cause some serious headaches. When your photos, videos, or graphics are your bread maker, you have to do everything within your power to ensure consistency in color and brightness. This is where the Spyder4 comes into play.

The Spyder4 system was created to help users (photographers and videographers alike) have precise color and brightness control on all our their displays. Whether you're using the latest in LED or LCD technology, an old school CRT style monitor, a projector, or even your iPod or iPhone; the Spyder4 has the ability to calibrate your device to ensure you are displaying an accurate and consistent representation of colors and brightness. Note: the displays that can be calibrated all depends on the model you use.

Datacolor offers three versions of the Spyder4, covering both the consumer and professional user's needs; and all those in between. You can choose the affordable Spyder4Express ($119 USD), Spyder4Pro ($169 USD, which we tested), and the Spyder4Elite ($249 USD). Check out the chart below to see the differences between each

Chart provided by Datacolor - click to enlarge

When you purchase the Pro system like we tested (about $169 USD), you get the following:
  • Datacolor Spyder4Pro colorimeter
  • Desktop Cradle/Tripod mount
  • Spyder4Pro Software CD
  • Quick Start Guide (in 10 languages)
  • 1-year warranty (for countries of the EU, the period is 2 years)
  • Free Support

Spyder4Pro Specifications

Measurement Device: Datacolor Spyder4Pro
Ambient Light Sensor (Built In): Yes
Number of Filter/Detector Combination: 7 Filter/Detector Technology
Accuracy (x,y typical): 0.0025
Aperture Size: 27 mm Diameter
Initial Calibration Time: 5 Minutes
Recalibration Time: 2.5 Minutes
Ambient Light Shield: 2 Inches
Mounting Methods: Universal
Counterweight and Tripod Mount
Desktop Docking Base w/Tripod Mount: Yes
Physical Dimensions: 1.5 in.(D) x 3.5 in.(W) x 4 in.(L)
Computer Connection: USB
Hardware Warranty: One Year (Two-Years for EU countries)

Physical Views

Here you can see the Spyder4Pro's retail package.

Next we have the Spyder4Pro colorimeter seated in the included cradle. This unit is approx. the same size as its predecessor (the Spyder3), which was noted as being 37% smaller than the Spyder2. With its smaller statue, the Spyder4 will take up less space on your desk, and it's much easier to toss in your gear bag for traveling assignments. The cradle also offers a Tripod mount on the bottom.

Here you can see the Spyder4Pro next to my Spyder3Elite unit.

Spyder4 Key Features:

  • Automated Color & Brightness Calibration - Spyder4Pro's simple, clear and automated process makes it straightforward to calibrate your displays to a reference condition. You can view and edit images with confidence on a display calibrated to show true-to-life colors and luminance adjusted for precise shadow/highlight detail.
  • Single sensor calibrates all of your displays - the Spyder4Pro works with your laptop, multiple monitors, television (with paid software upgrade on website), iPad and even iPhone. It works with LCD, LED, OLED, CRT and other display technologies. You can calibrate multiple displays connected to your computer.
  • Full-spectrum color sensor - Spyder4Pro's patented 7-color sensor improves upon colorimeters that use 3-channel RGB sensors. Each Spyder4Pro unit is individually tuned in the factory to accurately handle a variety of wide-gamut and normal gamut displays with ease.
  • Improved accuracy and stability - The fourth-generation Spyder4Pro has double-shielded color filters for an even closer match to CIE color standards and improved long term stability. Average accuracy increased by 26% and consistency between Spyder units has improved 19%.
  • Monitor Quality Analyzer - figure out the quality of your display, and compare it to other screens using easy-to-read maps of your screen's uniformity.
  • Display Graph - compare the gamut of multiple displays to one another, as well as to standard color spaces like sRGB and AdobeRGB. This helps you understand what colors your display can reproduce accurately
  • Iterative Gray Balance Option - Datacolor claims this is the "most accurate gray balance algorithm available". Helps you achieve the best gray calibration possible for your display
  • Fast Re-calibration Assistant - The "ReCAL" feature makes it quick and easy to recalibrate your display to compensate for changes that occur over time.
  • Adapts display to surrounding light - The lighting around you will affect image contrast and appearance. An additional sensor on the Spyder4Pro detects changes to surrounding light and adapts the display luminance accordingly.

Software Installation & Setup

Installing Datacolor's Spyder4Pro software was a cinch. I was able to install the utility on my Windows 7 Ultimate (64 bit) machine in about 5 minutes, which included the download of a newer version of the software (v4.5.2). The install disc came loaded with v4.5, and as soon as I pressed the Install button on the screen above, the Datacolor software checked their site for the newest version, then prompted me with the option to dowload and install it.

Once the utility is finished installing (a restart was required for me), and you have entered your serial number, the application is now ready to use. When you first open the Spyder4Pro utility, it will open with the screen above. This software wizard makes it easy to use by any level user, simply follow the onscreen guide and it walks you through everything. Here it gives you four check boxes that you need to check before starting. They cover allowing your display to warm up for at least 30 minutes, check your lighting conditions within the room your monitor is in, reset your monitors controls to the factory defaults,, and be sure to connect the Spyder4Pro device (which will then install the drivers). Once all this is complete, you can press Next to continue.

First you choose the display type: LCD, CRT, or Laptop.

Next you tell the software what controls you have on your monitor: Contrast, Brightness or Kelvin Presets.

Depending on what control options your monitor has will determine what you will need to change during the calibration sequence. Before you start, you have to choose the settings for Gamma, White Point, Brightness, and Ambient Light. Datacolor will recommend which settings you should use, which we feel you should also use. However, it is nice that Datacolor gives more experienced users the option to adjust the settings to their liking.

Monitor Calibration

Once you've setup the Spyder4Pro Utility, it's now time to calibrate your display(s). Above you will see the initial screen, which wants to measure the amount of ambient light around your display; if yo left this feature on in the previous screen. This is done by placing the Spyder4Pro in its cradle, then pressing next.

Once the device has completed analyzing the surrounding ambient light, it will give you a recommendation on target settings for brightness and white point, along with the type of ambient light the sensor found; in my case it was "Medium". You can then keep your current settings, of accept the suggested ones from Datacolor; I recommend the latter.

After pressing Next again, you will now need to align your Spyder4Pro device with the picture shown on the screen. From here, you press Next and the software will now run through the calibration. You will see different shades of red, green, blue, black, gray and white being displayed on the screen, which the Spyder4Pro colorimeter analyzes to ensure colors are displaying properly. It took only about 5 minutes for this process to finish. Any time inputs are needed from the user (say to adjust the monitor's brightness setting manually), you are given a helpful scale to dial in the software's desired setting. Simply make a change, click update, and see if the scale is within the marks; not shown.

Here you can see the Spyder4Pro in place on my primary monitor. I found tilting my monitor back a bit helped with keeping the Spyder in place better, and allowed it to sit flat on the screen's surface.

Once the calibration has completed, you are prompted with the screen above; which allows you to choose the name of the color profile you've just created, as well as set the Calibration Reminder time: 2 weeks is default.

Your profile has been created and your system will automatically use this new profile. Your new profile (name you chose here) has been saved to C:\Windows\system32\spool\drivers\color"

This is message you'll see on the final screen in the calibration process.

Clicking Next once again will bring you to the SpyderProof page within this utility. Here you are able to compare your previous settings with the new ones that have just been setup using your Spyder4Pro. You should see a huge improvement in color, white point (aka white balance), and brightness; I know I did, and I've used these devices in the past.

This is the final screen shown when using this utility (if you have one display), which gives you a Gamut Graphing display to compare your display's profile to other monitors or standard profiles; like sRGB, AdobeRGB, etc. You also have options for Advanced Settings and Calibrate Another Monitor. If you're like me and run a dual monitor setup, you'll want to select the latter so you can be sure that both of your displays are good to go. To install the software and calibrate both of my screens took less than 30 minutes, and that included me taking my time to snag these screen captures.

Steve's Conclusion

We've been pleased with Datacolor's calibration units in the past, and that has not changed today. The Spyder4 is a welcomed upgrade over the Spyder3 (which was launched about two years ago), with an even easier to use software utility. The most novice of computer users should have no problem installing and using this device thanks to the step-by-step instructions and Help options provided by Datacolor; not to mention the suggestions for specific settings. The unit performed well for us, right in line with their 5 minute claims for initial calibration time per device. If you run dual monitors that are not identical displays, then you've probably noticed a huge difference in the color profiles for each; which is rather annoying to say the least. With the Spyder4 you can get both displays to look almost identical; which was the case for me with my 24" and 17" Dell monitors. If you're one who wants to calibrate your TV, the Spyder4 Pro and Elite packages offer a free upgrade to use with your TV set, which is available for download from their website.

The Spyder4Pro kit boasts a MSRP of $169 USD, which we feel is a very affordable price for such a powerful tool. While that may seem steep for the average consumer, they do offer the Express kit for just $119 USD. For the Pros, you have the option of the Spyder4Elite, which is only $249 USD, and offers much more fine tuning options over their other two offerings. Bottom line, I give the Spyder4Pro a high recommendation for any amateur to professional photographer, videographer, or graphic artist. In my humble opinion, this is a must have if you work in one of these fields. Check out the Datacolor website for more details.

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