Rteview of the SpyderX Pro Monitor Colour Calibration Tool, how easy is it to install and use the Spyderx? I take a look to see if calibration is worth the investment.
NOTE: This unit was given to me to perform this review. It is an unbiased review and opinions of the unit are solely my own.
Let’s take a quick look at the SpyderX Pro selling point and what it promises.
For serious photographers and designers who want a fast, precise and easy-to-use monitor calibrator that helps achieve their creative vision.”
The unit I received came in a small box with no instructions and no software. A small card within the box pointed me towards their website to download the drivers. I checked the box for the correct version of the software and noted I had received the SpyderX Pro for review. The link was an unsecured link as my browser reliably informed me, I gingerly downloaded the software and virus checked it straight away.
SpyderX Pro Review – The Software set up
I ran the software and was presented with yet another URL to visit, also unsecured.
The URL seemed like a diversion at this point. Being like any man I just want to get on and use the thing! On clicking “ok” another window popped up asking me to make sure that it is plugged in. On reaching for the device I notice the cable is 1.5 meters long. I plug it into my USB hub and nothing happens. Clicking “next” on the prompts and another prompt pops up asking me to “select the sensor from the following dialogue”. Only there is no sensor listed just a black box with “ok”, I click “ok”.
A new box pops up (i’m sensing a theme here) and presents me with a selection of options. Assuming at this stage that everything is fine I press on with filling out the options. I am not allowed to fill out the options at this stage as I guess there is something wrong with my USB hub, although the other devices all seem to work.
I try another USB port, not in the hub. Annoyingly the only USB I can access is the top-mounted USB on my PC. The cable is only 1.5 meters so has reached around a fair distance to get to my monitor and it is a bit of a stretch, it doesn’t quite reach. My workstation is big and sits way back under the desk. I use thick tape to hold it in place. The menus can now be filled out as it seems to recognise the device.
More boxes to confirm software activation and software updates. I am then presented with a Spyder X Pro Wizard to help guide me through the calibration process.
The Wizard first checks that my monitor has been on for long enough to warm up, makes me select a colour temp of 6500k and moves on to the monitor make and model. Once entered I move on to what controls my monitors have to offer. Kelvin and brightness, I have both. The next question is what backlighting technology does my monitor use. I check with the DELL specs and tells me that my monitors have 99% SRGB so I assume this is a Wide Colour Space and go for Wide LED option.
I’m greeted with a Calibration Setting window.
I select “ok” here and fish around for information about “room light switching”. I’m looking for a slick experience so switch on “Automatic Room light switching”. Working from home lighting changes all the time, I figured this would be a good idea. I don’t know if my monitors have such a thing but as I entered the model number in the setup I assume it knows more than I do.
The next screen says I should place the Spyder on my screen according to the on-screen location guide. Working with a multiple-monitor set up the screen I chose was my left screen, the one furthest from my computer and not the one I use for my colour work but still exactly the same make and model. My tape solution would have to do for the moment due to the cable being too short. This is less than ideal and wonder how people with three monitors can connect and profile their furthest monitor, clearly a bit of a drawback to the device! No instructions were given on how to operate the device. It warns me that the lens cap is on and I should remove it. I try again. I am not sure if my SpyderX Pro review is going as well as i hoped.
The SpyderX software tells me to adjust my screen brightness to match the indicators on screen. When I use the touch sensor menus, my screens offer to control the brightness. I turn up the brightness to maximum and the values on-screen don’t change. I seem to be miles from the target brightness.
As I can’t turn it up anymore I carry on. It “measures” a whole band of different colours and then presents me with a new preset of how my screen should look. It looks awful. It could be that because I could not meet the “brightness target” that things were messed up. I decide to contact SpyderX for support… Before I get my reply, the monitor I’m trying to calibrate flicks between the new “colour profile” just created by SpyderX and my old one. The profile seems to conflict with the “evening” warm setting that comes on late at night. It seems to randomly switch between the three and it is very off-putting. I can’t figure out how to stop this crazy light show I’ve got going on.
SpyderX Pro swift support
They reply the next morning and say they have not received the screenshot I uploaded to their “ticket” system for help. After an exchange of emails, Datacolour suggest I change the Dynamic contrast of my monitor to “off”, they assure me it is an option with my monitor as they looked it up for me. Eager to get this sorted and pleased with their customer support I delve into my monitor menus once more. I immediately hit a stumbling block. My monitor doesn’t have the option to switch off Dynamic Contrast as it is “greyed out”. No option to change.
I reset my monitor back to factory defaults and try again, no luck. Support suggest I read their ebook on colour calibration. It makes great reading if you have an hour or so and does stomp on the motto “quick calibration”, alas the PDF is not interactive and you cannot click through to the section from the menus to easily get to the relevant section. Making any lookups of issues you may be facing quite tedious.
I exchange more emails with Datacolor. They swiftly suggest running through the application again. I can now meet the on-screen targets and set the Spyder running. When complete my monitors don’t match in colour temperature. Getting more despondent I email support again.
The swift response I got back from support was an essay on the very technical aspects of colour calibration and the caveats. 1100 words to be precise. From what I could decipher, the device I have is not that great for profiling a multi-monitor setup. For one screen it is fine.
The essay that was sent to me suggested resetting everything again, this time changing my LED technology from “Wide LED” to “Standard LED”. Next, to select “enable RGB sliders” to preset a manually adjusted white point before calibration could begin. Then run the whole process in the dark. This “dark calibration” was to ensure no room lights affected the SpyderX and no adjacent monitor light affected the calibration of the other monitor. This gem of information only came to light when I questioned the initial results I obtained. It was not in the on-screen instructions!
I did everything as suggested and now my monitors match but the white is a very blueish white. Every time I go out of the room and come back in again I realise just how blue the white looks. It bothers me that something is still not right. I check the “essay” once more. At the very bottom of the “essay” on colour profiling, the bottom paragraph reads.
“The SpyderX Elite offers the StudioMatch function and the SpyderTune option to adjust screens optical to match as close as possible.
Please have a look at this webinar recording to learn more about these functions (at 33:45 mins): Video This video shows the Spyder5ELITE+ that has the same functionality on this function).”
Confirming that the SpyderX Pro is not best suited to matching two monitors. With my monitors now showing blue and much work missed because my monitors have not been right since starting the process, I reload the profiles I’ve had been using. I have been satisfied my existing profiles have got me where I am today and get on with some work that pays the bills.
A few days later I received another email from Datacolor confirming only the SpyderX Elite can help me.
What did I learn?
If you have single monitor setup you would honestly not know if things have gone right or wrong, you would have just assumed the SpyderX Pro had done its job. Because I had two monitors and one looked different from the other after calibration, I had to start questioning everything that was happening. Even if you have followed the instructions it seems there are other factors that could affect your final results.
Be prepared to work for results. If you want a “quick” colour calibration as in the sale blurb be prepared to put the work in to get results. If you are busy and think you might be able to do this in a lunch break, think again. It was far from the “quick calibration” I was hoping for.
Problems with the SpyderX Pro.
Multi-monitor sets ups – It is not simple and honestly, you need to be a professor to match two monitors with the SpyderX Pro. There was no “step by step” for multi-monitors and only after exchanging emails with tech support did I get more information to help me get it right. At this point, I had to give up as all the monitor profiling messed up my ability to work. The resulting “blueness” of my monitors has left me frustrated and let down by something that was meant to be simple and the answer to a “perfect” monitor colour.
Single Monitor – You have to trust it has done its job. After seeing the difference between two identical monitors, there is nothing to compare it to if you only have one. So you just have to trust it!
The cable is too short – Multiple monitors will have trouble getting the cable to reach.
Software – Does not alert you that if you have multi-monitor setups you could expect weird results and does not guide you through the problems you may face.
EDIT: Updated Below
I have received a code to update the license to a Spyder Elite. I run the software again setup and calibration are much as before. There are two additional steps. Initially, one to match both monitors brightness and then after colour calibration another setup to fine-tune the “perceptive” colour or the neighbouring monitors. Basically, if the monitors next to the primary monitor need any slight tweaks to make sure your eyes see them as matching, this is where this is done.
With this new “ability” even though it is exactly the same unit just a tweak in the software I was able to match my monitors more closely to each other.
One last point I want to cover. This was written by a colour calibration novice. I was looking for a “hand hold” all the way through. The software does not deliver here. There is no product description, what all the parts are for and what they do. If I had this knowledge, I would understand in the first instance that the SyperX Pro has an ambient light sensor built into it. The SpyderX should be plugged in at all times to benefit from “automatic room light switching”. The device constantly monitors the room lights itself. I confused this with some types of monitors have their own built-in light sensors.
There is no doubt that both the SpyderX device and software are very thorough. It is another hardware tool to ensure your photo restorations, video editing, graphic design g There does need to be warnings both on the box and in the software to make it clear that SpyderX Pro is only suitable for single monitor set-ups.
The SpyderX Pro software happily allows many monitor profiles and allows you to profile one monitor directly after each other and provides a useful profile chooser. When running the profile chooser a popup appears on both my monitors showing which profile is installed. This tool makes sense for multiple-monitor setups but perhaps should also contain warnings that if using the SpyderX Pro, it cannot be used to aid the matching of two identical monitors side by side.
After scanning the SpyderX website and at the time of writing this review there are no obvious warning about dual or triple monitor setups. it currently says
“CALIBRATE ALL OF YOUR MONITORS SpyderX allows you to calibrate multiple laptops and desktop monitors”
When I received the code for the updated software the Elite software was able to help and get the job done.