Spyder4Pro and X-Rite ColorMunki are the two most popular consumer-level monitor calibrators available in the market. Like many people, I also asked myself the question “Which one is better and which one should I buy?”. They both are priced similarly and therefore the money is not an important factor for the decision.
Previously, I had borrowed Spyder3Elite from a friend to calibrate my laptop’s monitor (Dell XPS 15z) and my external monitor (HP ZR24w). Then I was quite happy with the result. Later, with the increased importance of the accurate color representation in my photos I had the necessity to buy one for myself and stop borrowing from friends.
Since I was already familiar with Spyder I decided to buy Spyder4Pro. However, the calibration results for my laptop display didn’t seem satisfactory to me, although the calibration for the external HP monitor was very good. The laptop had some green tint on grays and yellow to beige cast on whites. I tried many different types of calibration configurations but the green tint did not go. I even get in contact with the customer support at Datacolor but they happened to be quite unhelpful.
Then I start reading in forums about the issue. I found that many people complain against Spyder4Pro because of different reasons including a green tint but also there were quite satisfied users. At several places I read that X-Rite is the choice for professionals. Then decided to buy X-Rite ColorMunki, too. I bought X-Rite ColorMunki together with a Color Passport Checker for the same price as Spyder4Pro.
Unfortunately, X-Rite did not provide satisfactory results, either. The calibration with ColorMunki had also green tint on grays and yellow to beige tint on whites. I would say that the perceptual results were even more disappointing mainly because the calibration with X-Rite ColorMunki somehow had less contrast compared to the calibration with Spyder4Pro. It is well studied that the higher contrast makes the perceived image more aesthetic.
Like with the Spyder4Pro, the calibration of the HP monitor with X-Rite was also very good but again with slightly lower contrast. Having consistently bad calibration results for my laptop display and consistently good calibration results for the external monitor I concluded that my laptop’s monitor is not as good as the external HP monitor. In fact, Spyder4Pro reported that the laptop’s display covers 79% of the sRGB color space whereas the HP cover 98% of the sRGB color space. Probably, the calibrators fail to make a proper calibration for not so good monitors that have poor sRGB coverage. In few forums I have read reviews people complaining about green tint on grays and yellow to beige cast on whites. This further supports my hypothesis – you cannot make a monitor display a color if it simply has no capabilities to do so.
Differences between Spyder4Pro and X-Rite ColorMunki
So here I will outline the main differences between these two calibrators by giving examples and referring only to the calibration of my external HP ZR24w monitor. These two calibrators definitely operate in different way and generate different results.
The Luminance Reading
During the calibration process, both devices ask you to manually adjust your monitor’s brightness and contrast until the calibrator reads 120cd/m2. I find this the most important difference and a proof of how different these devices are. Spyder4Pro reads 120cd/m2 when the monitor’s brightness is set to 70 and the contrast to 75. However, with the same monitor settings X-Rite ColorMunki reads 163cd/m2. On the other side, X-Rite ColorMunki reads 120cd/m2 when the monitor’s brightness is set to 60 and the contrast to 64. But then, Spyder4Pro reads 91.3cd/m2. The mismatch in this reading shows that Spyder4Pro is less sensitive to light or simply one of the devices malfunctions. I would ignore the latter option.
High vs Low Contrast
Spyder4Pro generates a profile where grays appear darker or as if there is more contrast. As shown in the photo of the monitor below, somehow the gradient is not liner. The darks become suddenly too dark. On the other side the gradient on a calibration with X-Rite ColorMunki looks smoother. In fact in a properly calibrated monitor (with proper gamma value), the luminance (perceived intensity) of the grays should be linear (smoother). Because of this I would say that X-Rite ColorMunki achieved better gamma setting than Spyder4Pro. Nevertheless, these two calibrators seem to be good enough for most people out there.
You can also watch the short clip which I took while doing this experiment.