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Every photographer, designer & film-maker should calibrate and profile their monitors.

Datacolor vs X-Rite? It’s always difficult when you are presented with multiple products that do the same job. Many of you will face the dilemma between Nikon and Canon cameras or between Epson and Canon printers. Sometimes it comes down to what you are used to more than individual specs. The choice between the two major monitor calibration brands is hard for anybody new to colour management. Both produce excellent products, on the whole, and products from both stables will give you a more accurate monitor than you started with. However, there are major differences in hardware and software that you should be aware of and what follows are my personal recommendations for each product level – basic, intermediate and advanced. I’m not going to review each product or list or the features of them. I’m just going to concentrate on the differences between them and which I would buy.

Spyder5Elite

Datacolor’s Spyder5 colorimeter has been radically redesigned and offers significant improvements over the Spyder4.

ColorMunki Smile vs Spyder5Express

The ColorMunki Smile from X-Rite and the Spyder5Express from Datacolor are both aimed at the bottom end of the market and offer very basic and simple monitor calibration. Neither offer many software features or wide choices of calibration targets. Both stress ease of use over complexity and choice. For me the choice between the two products is fairly clear. The ColorMunki Smile is based on a very old colorimeter design and whenever I’ve tested it I haven’t been very happy with the results. By comparison the Spyder5Express uses the same hardware as a the rest of the Spyder5 range. The Spyder5 has been redesigned to give improved results over the earlier models and in my tests it performed very well and of the two I found the Datacolor software more intuitive to use. Another key selling point is that you can use the Spyder5Express with third party software such as EIZO’s ColorNavigator if you have an EIZO ColorEdge screen, enabling you to save money by not paying for extra Datacolor software features you are not going to use. So, my advice if you are after a budget calibrator is go for the Spyder.

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Datacolor’s software is very good and offers some very nice features, such as a comprehensive before/after evaluation.

ColorMunki Display vs Spyder5Pro

The two mid-range products are more evenly matched. The ColorMunki Display uses the same excellent sensor design as the more expensive i1 Display Pro, it just has more limited software. In my own tests the X-Rite sensor does slightly out perform the Spyder5. The difference isn’t huge and is more pronounced on cheaper displays but it is there. The Spyder5Pro software is very nice and a little slicker, better featured and intuitive than the X-Rite. You can still use the Spyder5Pro with some common third party calibration software but support for the ColorMunki Display is much more limited. It’s hard to recommend a clear winner and the two are balanced enough that it might come down to what price you can get for each of them. Both will do good jobs with common monitors such as iMacs etc.

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The X-Rite i1 Display Pro is very accurate and very reliable.

X-Rite i1 Display Pro vs Spyder5Elite

Again at the advanced range the i1 Display Pro and the Spyder5Elite are quite evenly matched. The X-Rite sensor still has a slight edge, but the software is a little buggy and generally just not as pleasant to use as the Datacolor option. Both are widely supported by third party software so that ceases to be a factor. I should probably come clean and tell you which I use, since I have both. I use the i1 Display Pro for my own screens. I use it with ColorNavigator for my main EIZO ColorEdge monitor, and with its own software for my MacBook Pro. I just find the sensor more reliable and more accurate, I do wish the software was a little better though. However, I’m not saying the Spyder5Elite is that far behind, it just tends to be a little more expensive than the X-Rite so that would also swing it for me if I was buying for the first time.