Calibrating your monitor is one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve your image quality. While you can’t control the way an image looks once it gets to your clients or viewers, you can control how it looks when you are editing it. There are several choices available for monitor calibration, I personally use the Datacolor Spyder X. Recently, a friend (who uses an older Spyder 4 Elite unit) asked me how important it is to upgrade your calibration device since Datacolor recently discontinued support for their older calibration units. Like anything else, accuracy and speed increase with subsequent product releases. There is a large jump in the accuracy of the calibration you get from an older unit when using Datacolor’s latest offering. What if you want to keep using your old calibration unit? Are there third-party options for calibration software and how do they stack up to the software package form Datacolor?
If your calibration unit is no longer supported, DisplayCal can use almost any calibration unit and get a decent quality calibration – but at a price. I started with a fresh windows 10 install, and the latest version of DisplyCal (220.127.116.11) to explore the install and calibration process.
Starting with a fresh install of Windows 10, I downloaded and installed DisplayCal. I used a Spyder 4 express, which I felt was a good real-world test of this software with an older calibration unit. During the installation, the program asked if it could download and install a couple of other programs, which was a concern, but I installed them since I was playing the part of a crash test dummy for you all. Installation went smooth without a hitch, and we were off to calibration.
Calibrating with DisplayCal
I started up the program, and it immediately found my Spyder 4 and set off calibrating my monitor. Now, calibration takes time no matter what program you use, but DisplayCal took nearly an hour to fully calibrate my monitor. My computer has an i7 Extreme with 64GB of ram and runs on an SSD, so PC speed wasn’t the bottleneck. Once completed, I would not say that the calibration was great, I would say it was adequate compared to the software that came with the Spyder 4 (which is 32 bit). Fearing something went wrong I started the calibration process again with equally adequate results. My next test scenario was someone (like my friend) who tried DisplayCal instead of buying a new calibration unit. My task was to completely uninstall the DisplayCal software and install the Spyder X software.
This is where things went terribly wrong. I uninstalled DisplayCal but the other programs that it installed during the initial installation remained and didn’t have entries in add/remove programs. To make matters worse, the new programs switched the driver each time the calibration unit was plugged in (no matter which one I plugged in) to the DisplayCal drivers – even though I had removed the program. This made the calibration unit invisible to the Spyder software – not cool. I did some digging on their forums and found that going into the registry was the only way to completely remove the drivers. So, just for this issue alone, I would not recommend DisplayCal unless you are comfortable mucking around in your OS folder and even scarier, removing registry entries. For someone who isn’t computer savvy, I would recommend a windows reset to get rid of the software and avoid problems.
DisplayCal did a reasonable job calibrating my monitor, but I would not suggest installing this program until it is a bit more mature. Without exception, a program should give you the option to remove all the components it initially installed and should always have an entry in the add/remove programs for the less technical PC users. I would bypass this program and take a look at the latest version of the Spyder from Datacolor for a great calibration experience.
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