Hardware monitor calibrators: Datacolor Spyder 3 vs i1 (Eye One) Display 2

As mentioned in previous posts, I came across colour saturation problems when editing my images and viewing them using different software (ViewNX, Noiseware, Windows Image Viewer), I decided that a hardware calibrator is essential for people who are serious about reproducing accurate colour renditions. For the full story on the saturation issues, read these posts.

Hardware calibrators are more accurate than software ones since software calibration is mostly done with the “eye” so human factors need to be taken into account, often leading to skewed results. For this reason, I started my search for a reliable hardware calibrator.

A search on the internet brought up a few common brands such as Datacolor Spyder, LaCie Blue Eye and i1 Display. Due to budget constraints, the LaCie Blue Eye was not taken into consideration. As for the other 2 brands, I prefer them to come with a certain level of customisable settings, so light versions such as Spyder 3 Express and i1 Display LT which have minimal settings to tweak are out. This left me with Datacolor Spyder 3 Pro and i1 Display 2. Read reviews of the Spyder 3 Pro here and i1 Display 2 here.

The main differences between these 2 calibrators are:

  1. Gathered from user reviews, it seems that Spyder products might have some sample variation, meaning that one may be dead accurate in its calibration, but the next might be slightly off
  2. Together with lesser presets of colour temperature settings than i1 Display 2, Spyder 3 Pro does not allow you to set a luminance value while i1 Display 2 allows for the selection of a pre-determined value or a user input of any figure (only the Spyder 3 Elite has this option but at a higher price)
  3. For my circumstances, the warranty support for i1 Display 2 seems better and more flexible

With regards to Point 1, the main problem here is that even if I purchase and use the Spyder product for my monitor calibration, there is no way which I can ensure the accuracy of its color calibration since there isn’t a reference to compare it to in the first place! This brings me to the point that it is essential to get a calibrator which you can get peace of mind with and keeps you from worrying about its reliability. Basically, it’s all about product confidence.

Point 2 does not seem to be of much concern for many users, but for people who do desktop publishing or prints, they might want to set their colour temperature at 5000K or 5500K instead of the more commonly used 6500K. The ability to select a custom luminance value is also useful if you do not want your monitor in the default setting, which might be overly bright for some. (For more about colour temperature and luminance, you might want to read this post on Lighting Your Workspace to get a better idea on how they work, although it could be overkill for many.)

As for Point 3, both products have a one-year international warranty but here is the difference:

  • For Spyder, you need to ship the defective product back to the dealer where you bought it from and have to cover shipping charges both ways.
  • For i1 Display, you can buy it from a local dealer/online shop but do not necessarily have to return it to the shop where you bought it for warranty support. Instead, you could send it to their HQ in Hong Kong (This is advantageous to me as I am based in Asia. Meaning that I can buy from a US online store but send it to Hong Kong which is nearer). Also, they will replace the unit if it is defective, plus they will cover the return shipping, which effectively means that the customer only pays the shipping for one way.

Lastly, comparing the prices of both products, since the price offered by my local dealer is way higher than those online, I have decided to purchase from online shops such as Amazon. As of now at local dealers, Spyder 3 Pro is selling for S$255 and i1 Display 2 at S$399. This is way higher than what they’re supposed to be! I can easily get Spyder 3 Pro at S$175 and i1 Display 2 at S$270 at Amazon. Add in shipping and Amazon will still be cheaper.

Even though Spyder 3 Elite offers better software features/reports at a lower price of S$255 at Amazon, I decided to go with i1 Display 2 for reasons mentioned above: I want standardised products, that is, I want products with the least sample variation and Spyder 3 Pro seems to be a little wanting in this area. Also, I prefer the warranty system offered by i1 Display 2 where I can send a defective to a country nearer to me, and on top of that, they’ll cover half the shipping costs. Although I could get Spyder 3 Elite with money spent on i1 Display 2, I reckoned that the extra software features are an overkill for me. Moreover, the other reasons already mentioned above play a more important part in my decision making.

With this, I have ordered the i1 Display 2 and now waiting for its delivery. Once I try it out, I’ll post my thoughts.

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