Categories: Review

Datacolor vs X-Rite – Which are the best screen calibrators?

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 Cannon cameras or between Epson and Cannon 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.

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.

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.

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.

Rob :

View Comments

  • When I initially commented I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each
    time a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the same comment.
    There has to be a way you are able to remove me
    from that service? Many thanks!

    • Sorry, I think only you can do that. Is there an unsubscribe option on the emails? You could also try going back to to the post and seeing if you can unsubscribe.

  • Rob,

    Your article is very well written, I understand you have an Eizo and that it provides its own calibration software.

    Did you try using the Xrite software vs the Spyder 5 software, to determine which may be more accurate / better? The software algorithms for these devices is everything. Eizo obviously optimizes theirs for their own displays. But for the "rest of us" how about an "out of the box" comparison? I own both the Xrite and the Spyder 5. Got the Xrite first (to replace an older Eye1Display Pro - updating) and did not like it for many reasons too great to go into here. Mostly though, it calibrated too warm at d65. The Spyder, which historically has never been as good as the Xrite products, now seems to be calibrating accurately, and much the same as my old Eye1. To be fair, I use the Eye1 with old old old LaCie Display software, which actually still works (10.12) So anyway, thoughts on that one please?

    thank you.

    • The EIZO software communicates directly with the monitor hardware and so gives a better/easier result. The Spyders tend to be have more device to device differences. If the combination of hardware and software you have works for you then that's fine. There are few right or wrong answers in colour management because it all comes down to personal perception of colour.

      • Rob, thank you for your prompt response. When I pointed out that the xrite calibration was noticeably warmer, like you could look at page white (253 253 253) and the that portion of the picture was definately amber not white as it has been for the last 1000 years on my current and previous displays, Xrite said "some people like warmer color". My response was, "no, you don't get to pick, it is either calibrated to a universal standard or not- there is no place for personal preference in color management, if you want to make your pictures warmer, then that is fine, but do it under a properly color managed standard." Then the blame game started, and apparently its all about me and my "perception" of color. I say their software algorithms are warm, I believe the screen puck is fine. Anyway, I'm not going to win this one, I moved onto the spyder, which seems to perform as expected. You are having good luck because you are using different and good software, with an xrite puck that is capable of rendering a good profile with that Eizo software. My problem is that I know the difference, but I am one of the very few. Most run that "feel good progress bar" that color management products deliver so well, and at the end of it one and all proclaim "I'm calibrated" Oh well sorry for going long, but I thought it would be good to get this out there for others and for you as well, since your appraisal has nothing to do withe the xrite package, but your own ( and other Eizo owners) personal situation. So your appraisal is valid for you and yoru Eizo, but not a good or fair appraisal of the xrite color package as a whole. Please, I do not mean to offend you, or minimize your review which I thought was great overall, just a point I would like to be known. BTW, fyi to give you an idea of my experience and color bkgnd, I have been color managed almost since the beginning, starting with "Colorblind" software, moving onto xrite for printer profiles over the years, Lacie displays and pucks, prior versions of the Spyder, which I did not like until the 5. I am primarily a still life photog, now shooting F&B in Las Vegsas, a former sinar 45 & 810 guy, now shooting with my 5ds, 5dIV and 80d(articulating screen needs). I use studio strobes on set and color calibrate each lite, on set with my old trusty Minolta color meter. I have two other minolta color meters in my safe, and I use those to check them against my on set meter to insure that they are all the same. which they are even after all these years, I calibrate my on set lights with CTB's & CTO of various strengths. Always shooting at 5000k, manually, camera set to same. In photoshop, I read color by numbers, including loading in my custom cmyk profile, to read cmyk next to rgb. I then poof virtually every image I send out on my Epson 3880 using EPSON (Atkinson) profiles, which are independent of any xrite or datacolor calibrations of my screen, So if it looks right on my printer, and my screen matches my printer, then it is a double check / validation. I view those prints on either my smaller GTI viewing booth which I used to use for chromes, or my larger new Just Normlicht print only booth. That is how I come to my conclusions about Xrite. Anyway, thank you for reading this, Sorry for going long, on this one.

        • There is no such thing as a universal standard and no one right color temperature. With white point temps especially, how warm it looks is as much dependent on your lighting environment as it is on the monitor itself. Apple is really on the right track here with their True Tone displays. It can be hard now to go to my color calibrated 4k displays after using the iPad Pro 10.5 display with Wide Color (albeit P3), Pro Motion, and True Tone. I never thought I'd say that about a mobile display!

          With the newer 4k displays I've generally have had the best success calibrating to the native temp, rather than to a predefined temp like D50 or 6500. I've found most new displays are natively very close to 6500 anyway and are slightly more accurate across the gamut if I use the native temp.

          FWIW, I've been color calibrating since the early 90s and have more consistently accurate results with the i1Display Pro than with the Spyder.

        • If your i1 Display Pro is that warm then it's probably faulty. It's rare but does happen. I've used i1 Display Pros with dozens of customers and dozens of different monitor types and it performs consistently well. When I ran a business selling hardware we always had fewer support issues with the X-Rite kit. I've taken 10 i1 Display Pros out of the box and compared them, and done the same to Spyders and the i1s are far more consistent. I've tested both against higher end devices and again the i1 wins. I too have been in colour management a very long time, since before ColorBlind, and the i1 Display Pro is the best screen calibrator, for the money, that I've seen.

          For other users reading this one cause of colour casts after calibration can be poor adjustment of the monitor hardware. If the monitor has poor RGB or colour temperature controls it can introduce a cast when you try to adjust it to the target colour temperature and when you then carry on and create a profile the software tries to compensate in the video card and you end up with a cast. Sometimes calibrating to the native colour temperature of the screen will give a better result.

          And there is no universal standard for monitor adjustment. Colour temp, tone curve and brightness can all be set differently depending on ambient light, what industry you are working in, and what you are trying to match to.

  • I don't have a lot of experience with color calibration, but I do believe any product is only as good as its customer service. My experience with a totally unresponsive Spider customer service puts them at the very bottom.