Monitorning your Monitor

I’ve got mixed feelings about device/software based monitor calibration. Over the years I’ve tried various devices with mixed results – with the principle result being me usually resorting to setting the monitor’s calibration by eye. Fortunately, Apple’s got a pretty good tool for that sort of thing built right into the OS – so as long as your color vision is fairly accurate (see yesterday’s test) anyone can calibrate their monitor to create pleasing color. Likewise, Adobe used to offer the Adobe Gamma tool to Windows users for calibration purposes, but for the life of me, I cannot seem to find this application anywhere now. If anyone out there knows of a good free tool for monitor calibration in Windows XP, please let me know!

So after a fairly straightforward installation of the XRite Colormunki application on my 2-year-old MacBook Pro, I plugged in the spectro and fired up the Colormunki Photo software. As the default, the application asked me if I would like to calibrate my monitor. While this would have been the logical thing for me to do, I hesitated as the display on my MBP is horrendous. In an extreme case of “it seemed like a good idea at the time”, I ordered the glossy screen option when purchasing my MacBook Pro. During the first year of use, large unsightly gray blotches appeared in my display as the screen added a jaundiced yellow hue to everything. Fortunately, Apple authorized a replacement display under Applecare. Unfortunately, the new screen exhibits exactly the same problem, and my Applecare is now expired!

Thinking that my laptop display couldn’t get any worse, I decided to let Colormunki have a go before taking my MPB home and plugging it into my working monitor, an LG W2242TQ. Using the advanced settings I chose the target white point of D65 (standard) and hung the Colormunki spectro over the target (just like in the picture). After only a few minutes calibration was complete and Colormunki had applied a new profile to my MacBook Pro display. Then as if to solicit my approval, the software then insisted I toggle between a before and after view of my screen. The result was acceptable… not great, but OK for what I had already accepted as being a bad display.

My next adventure in calibration started when I got home and plugged the MacBook into my new LG monitor. Because the brightness and contrast controls on the LG were a bit difficult to get to (menus in Korean), I decided to let Colormunki do all the work and selected the “easy” setting. In the space of a few minutes, my LG monitor flashed several different hues and shades while the Colormunki watched and analysed. When the new profile was applied, I didn’t immediately see the improvement. It wasn’t until I toggled between before and after that I saw the dramatic improvement the Colormunki monitor profile had produced.

OK, the score so far… MacBook Pro display: slight improvement of a defective and deteriorating display – lets call it a draw… LG W2252TQ: better definition, enhanced shadow detail – I’d have to say a clear WIN. Now for the tie-breaker… a fairly new Dell PC running XP Pro SP3, cheap graphics card and an old no-name Chinese 19” LCD display. The picture on this monitor has always been utility grade at best, a victim of XP’s lack of a control panel capable of correcting gamma, a cheapo graphics card, the display’s age and original discount price. Good enough for word processing, e-mail, solitaire and not much else!

My first challenge was just getting the Colormunki application installed on the Dell. An extremely awkward network configuration and draconian firewall at my workplace made installing the necessary updates to .NET framework and Java a painful experience – eventually taking more than two days to complete. When the software eventually took, and I plugged the Colormunki into the Dell’s front USB port and let ‘er rip. The calibration went so quickly I was suspicious! However, the improvement was so dramatic that any doubt whether calibration had occurred quickly dissipated. In a word, the cheap old LCD looked fabulous!

So, the Colormunki wins the first round – Monitor Calibration. However, there are other more cost-effective tools for this job, including the Pantone Huey at under a hundred bucks. A spectrophotometer costs a great deal more, and should also do a great deal more.

Round 2 – Printer calibration…

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2 Responses

  1. Kathy says:

    That little tool seems work better than I thought.
    Just curious, how can you get a LG monitor with only Korea?

  2. zac says:

    Bought the monitor in Hailong (Beijing) and is set to Korean as default… i have to get a Korean to help me change it to something i can read… like CHINESE!!! 我是北京人!

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