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Ensure color accuracy with our recommendations of the best monitor color calibration devices. Most professional creatives calibrate their monitors regularly to make sure their photos look the same when viewed from another display or in print.

Whether you’re a photographer or designer, editing or retouching your photos in a non-calibrated monitor can affect the image quality. That’s because monitors are not the same, and they often vary the color output over time as they age. These hardware calibrators will help you bring your monitor to an optimal state, and ensure your photos look accurate across different displays and in print.

Why do I need a monitor calibrator?

The main reason to calibrate monitors is to maintain accurate colors. If all monitors were calibrated, all photos would look the same regardless of where they are displayed. That means whatever you see on your screen is what your client will see on their monitors or when they print the image.

Rather than relying on your perception and guesswork, a calibrator combines specialized hardware called calorimeter and software to perform precise color measurements and adjust your monitor profile to produce accurate colors. Some calibrators allow you to re-use the profile on different monitors for more consistent color matching.

The best thing is that it does not matter if you have a high-end expensive HDR monitor or a cheap everyday productivity monitor. Each display is capable of displaying accurate colors when calibrated. Just make sure to select the correct settings depending on the number of colors the monitor can display.

Datacolor and X-Rite are the two leading color management companies. Most of the calibrators featured in this post will revolve around the two companies, but we’ve made sure to select only the best options. Here is a comparison table of the best hardware calibrators in a glance:

The Best Monitor Color Calibration Devices 2020

ImageProductDetailsCheck Price
Datacolor SpyderX ProUSB Support: USB-A
Monitor Resolution: 1280 x 768 or Higher
Multi-Monitor Support: Yes
Ambient Light Monitoring: Yes
Projector Calibration: No
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X-Rite i1Display ProUSB Support: USB-A
Monitor Resolution: 1024 x 768 or Higher
Multi-Monitor Support: Yes
Ambient Light Monitoring: Yes
Projector Calibration: Yes
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Datacolor SpyderX EliteUSB Support: USB-A
Monitor Resolution: 1280 x 768 or Higher
Multi-Monitor Support: Yes
Ambient Light Monitoring: Yes
Projector Calibration: Yes
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X-Rite i1Display StudioUSB Support: USB-A
Monitor Resolution: 1024 x 768 or Higher
Multi-Monitor Support: Yes
Ambient Light Monitoring: No
Projector Calibration: Yes
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X-Rite i1Display Pro PlusUSB Support: USB-A
Monitor Resolution: 1024 x 768 or Higher
Multi-Monitor Support: Yes
Ambient Light Monitoring: Yes
Projector Calibration: Yes
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1. Datacolor SpyderX Pro – The Best Monitor Calibrator

Datacolor SpyderX Pro is our choice for the best monitor color calibration devices. One of the two SpyderX monitor calibrators from Datacolor, offering a fast and accurate way of measuring color. Unlike other hardware calibrators, SpyderX comes has a reasonable price tag, giving you the best bang for your bang.

The SpyderX replaces the famous Spyder5 series bringing a new and advanced method of measuring color suitable for photographers and creative pros. SpyderX Pro uses a fast and more accurate lens-based system than the honeycomb baffle in the old Spyder 5 models. The new lens decreases the calibration time, ideal for designers who calibrate their displays regularly.

Datacolor SpyderX Pro’s cutting-edge calibration technology improves light sensitivity and accuracy, which allows you to experience true colors, white balance, and more shadow detail.

Features

Besides the groundbreaking lens-based system, SpyderX Po packs many features to provide an easy user experience for beginners and advanced photographers. It comes with intuitive software that offers one-click calibration, using a step-by-step wizard for a fast and efficient process with no pro skills required. Onboard you get 12 calibration settings choices, allowing you to use different combinations of gamma, white point, and brightness, depending on your needs.

The calibrator has a built-in room ambient light sensor that measures the lighting in your room and lets you adjust the brightness and contrasts to optimal levels. It is a critical feature for designers who print their work. The software will suggest you recalibrate or automatically choose from the five ambient light presets, preventing your photos from looking dark in print because you edited them in a very bright monitor.

Datacolor SpyderX Pro supports multiple monitor calibration, providing consistent color performance across all the monitors. Calibrate your laptop to edit photos on-the-go and be confident your photos will turn out accurate, just like your home monitor. Other critical features include monitor performance analysis and exclusive SpyderProof feature that lets you compare colors before and after calibration to appreciate the SpyderX Pro.

OUR TAKE
Datacolor SpyderX Pro is a fully-fledged monitor calibrator for photographers and designers. It debuts a new lens-based color measuring system that’s fast and accurate, and importantly easy to clean. The lens pairs with intuitive software for one-click calibration. With support for multiple laptops and monitors calibrations, the Spyder Pro fits personal to professional use. SpyderX Pro provides impressive performance for the money.
PROS

  • Great features for the money
  • Ease of use and simplicity
  • Fast and accurate calibration
  • Room light monitoring
  • Supports multi-monitor setups
CONS

  • Not that deserves a mention
 

2. X-Rite i1Display Pro – Best Monitor Calibrator Alternative

The best monitor calibrator still reigns supreme, but you got to be ready to spend. Since its launch, X-Rite i1Display Pro has been on top of monitor color calibration devices providing impeccable profiling at incredible speeds. The i1Display Pro is the best monitor calibrator if money isn’t a problem.

X-Rite targets beginners to professional photographers and color perfectionists with its high-performance i1Display Pro. The device is compatible with the newest display types, including LED, Plasma, OLED, and Wide Gamut. Featuring advanced filter and optical system, i1Display Pro offers fast measurement speed with unmatched color accuracy allowing you to use minimal time profiling and focus on your editing work.

Features

The i1Display Pro combines intuitive software with two control modes, basic and advanced. Basic mode is wizard-driven, perfect for beginners and those looking to spend the shortest time possible. On the other hand, the advanced mode offers more complex user-defined options to achieve higher color accuracy. However, both methods deliver the same results, so you don’t have to spend more time on sophisticated features.

With Ambient Light Smart Control, i1Display Pro reminds you to recalibrate if the ambient lighting conditions change or automatically adjust your profile to provide accurate colors. X-Rite goes further to provide the best brightness levels for comparing printed photos to your display.

Other exclusive features include Intelligent Iterative Profiling, which optimizes the profile according to each display’s chroma properties, and Flare Correct to compensate for the reduced contrast ratio caused by reflections on the screen. You can calibrate different devices from monitors to projects and mobile devices. Use the ColorTRUE app when calibrating mobile devices.

X-Rite i1Display Pro supports color matching among multiple monitors connected to the same computer or displays within a workgroup. Calibrate a single monitor can re-use the profile for consistent color across all screens in your office, without wasting time calibrating each individually.

OUR TAKE
X-Rite i1Display Pro focuses on speed, providing the minimal time to prep your monitor for accurate on-screen colors. Though it costs a lot more than the SpyderX Pro, you get more customizations and options to achieve true colors and match it among all displays in your office. Combine speed with the AI features to profile monitors, projectors, and mobile devices with high precision.
PROS

  • Easy to use
  • Incredible speed and accuracy
  • Extensive controls and options
  • Ambient light monitoring
  • Consistent color matching for multi-monitor setups
  • Can calibrate projectors and mobile devices
CONS

  • Poor MacBook Pro support
  • Software needs improvements
 

3. Datacolor SpyderX Elite – Best Monitor Calibrator for Expert and Professional Photographers

Datacolor SpyderX Elite is the other monitor calibrator from the new Datacolor SpyderX lineup. It features the same calorimeter as the less expensive SpyderX Pro model, but fire up the Elite’s software, and you’ll understand why we chose it as the best monitor calibrator for expert and professional photographers.

SpyderX Elite is the advanced model of the SpyderX series, featuring more software capabilities and cutting-edge features for professional designers and photographers. It has the same lens-based calibration technology for speed and accuracy. However, you can now calibrate digital projectors and video and cinema calibration targets, perfect for those in the movie industry and animations.

Features

SpyderX Elite combines intuitive software and ambient light monitoring to offer straightforward color profiling with automated brightness control. It provides unlimited calibration options and standards compared to 12 in the Pro version. In terms of performance, the Elite is almost similar to the less-expensive SpyderX Pro. Let’s see why you would pay extra for the Elite:

Besides laptops and desktop monitors, SpyderX Elite supports projector calibration and video and animation applications. A Soft Proof feature lets you simulate how your photos will look on different devices and in print. With options such as printer models, paper types, ink sets, and color profiles, you can see how your images will look in print and make necessary changes before printing.

SpyderX Elite redefines multi-monitor calibration with StudioMatch and tuning for Side-by-side Display Match. StudioMatch allows you to create a standard target or ICC color profile that you can transfer to other computers to match the calibrations. You don’t have to calibrate individual monitors, which saves time significantly. With Side-by-side Display Match, you can calibrate both monitors at once and work the same profile for consistent and accurate results.

OUR TAKE
Datacolor SpyderX Elite is a high-end monitor color calibration device for professionals. It has the same hardware as the SpyderX Pro, but the difference relies on the software. It is excellent for photographers and designers working with both still and motion images. The ability to create a single calibration target and match all displays to that calibration saves on time and makes it ideal for large offices with multiple monitors.
PROS

  • Extensive customization
  • Fast and accurate lens-based calibration
  • Calibrating multiple displays is quicker and easier
  • Ambient light monitoring for accurate results
  • Supports projector calibration
CONS

  • Cost more for non-essential features
 

4. X-Rite i1Display Studio – Best Budget Monitor Calibrator

X-Rite i1Display Studio is an entry-level calorimeter from X-Rite for calibrating monitors and projectors. It comes with impressive features and easy-to-use software without breaking the bank. The i1Display Studio is the best budget monitor color calibrator in the market with impressive specs for the money.

i1Display Studio features an ergonomic design, lens-based system, and glass filters for accurate color measuring. It works with most modern monitor types, including LED, Plasma, RG Phosphor, OLED, and LCD, but not the best for very bright displays. If you’re working in the video industry, you’ll be glad to know that the i1Display Studio supports NTSC, DCI-P3, Rec. 2020, and many more video standards.

Features

X-Rite combines the i1Display Studio with the feature-rich i1Studio software to guide you through the calibration process. The software is wizard-driven to provide a straightforward way of calibrating your displays, so you don’t need any prior skills. With Intelligent Iterative Profiling, the i1Display Studio measures the color performance of each unique display for improved profile accuracy.

This calibrator works with monitors, laptops, projectors, and mobile devices. It supports color matching on up to four different displays. For mobile devices, download the ColorTRUE mobile app to ensure consistent colors from monitors to your phones and tablets.

Among the unique and best-selling features is the Flare Correct, which measures and adjusts your display profile to compensate for reflections on the screen surface.

Like the Datacolor calorimeters, you can compare before and after calibration results using different photos. X-Rite goes further to include a 3D profile gamut viewer, which shows how the created profile matches your selected settings. Combine Automatic Display Control (ADC) technology to expedite the process by avoiding manual adjustments of brightness and contrast ratio.

OUR TAKE
X-Rite i1Display Studio is a budget monitor calibrator targeted to creative pros. It packs essential features for calibration with easy-to-use software, providing fast and accurate results. While the i1Display Studio is an entry-level monitor calibrator, it provides all the features you need to tune your monitor’s colors to the industry standards.
PROS

  • Great value
  • Easy to use
  • Supports multiple monitors and mobile devices
  • Works with most display types
  • Automatic adjustment to accommodate reflections
CONS

  • No ambient light monitoring
 

5. X-Rite i1Display Pro Plus – Monitor Calibrator for Filmmakers and Photographers

X-Rite continues to dominate the color management niche with multiple monitor color calibration products ranging from budget to professional options. The i1Display Pro Plus is a high-end monitor calibrator targeted to filmmakers and professional photographers. It’s a perfect calorimeter for super bright and HDR monitors.

X-Rite i1Display Pro Plus incorporates cutting-edge technology to meet the needs of professional photographers, videographers, and filmmakers. If you’re working with high-end monitors, such as OLEDs and HDR, the i1Display Pro Plus is the perfect tool for profiling your display. It delivers accurate profiles with brightness levels of up to 2000 nits.

Features

i1Display Pro Plus incorporates all i1Display Pro features with other additional advanced capabilities for a one-stop solution for all your calibration needs. Onboard leverage advanced features such as Intelligent Iterative Profiling, Flare Correct, and Ambient Light Measurement, for quick and accurate monitor calibration. It also has a before-and-after comparison feature, which lets you validate the results using X-Rite images or one of your own.

But why pay more for the Pro Plus instead of getting the i1Display Pro?

Besides supporting 2000 nits brightness, i1Display Pro Plus features T.1886 default gamma curve and Black Current Subtraction technology, which is ideal for displays with close to zero black point, such as OLED monitors.

The device is compatible with USB Type-C ports through USB-A to USB-C adapters. You can calibrate several displays, including projectors and mobile devices. To improve consistent color settings, you can re-use a profile with multiple monitors connected to the same computer or within a workgroup.

OUR TAKE
X-Rite i1Display Pro Plus is an outstanding monitor color calibrator for professionals. X-Rite targets prosumers, especially professional filmmakers and designers, who demand the best calibration performance and maximum control. This device provides the best value if working with brightest screens and high-end HDR monitors; otherwise, the X-Rite i1Display Pro should suffice.
PROS

  • Easy to use software
  • Supports HDR and very bright monitors
  • Calibrates screens and projectors
  • Re-usable profiles for multi-monitor setups
  • Automatic adjustment to accommodate reflections
  • Ready for Type-C connectivity
CONS

  • Not a good deal for standard monitors
 

Things to Consider When Buying a Monitor Calibrator

Speed

Most creatives don’t like calibrating their monitors because it takes a lot of time for the process to complete. However, hardware calibrators have advanced over time and can get the job done in a few minutes. Most of the options featured in this list provide quick and accurate profiling, and some remind you when to recalibrate.

Multiple Monitor Setup Support

If you’re working with a multi-monitor setup, color consistency is always a problem. Even when having the same monitors side-by-side with the same computer, the color output may vary because of various reasons.

Choosing a calibrator that can be used on multiple monitors is the best option to ensure uniformity and constant color output. Advanced calibrators let you re-use profile settings on multiple monitors connected to the same computer.

Ambient Light Monitoring

Have you ever edited a photo on a brighter monitor, and then see it in print? The results are always frustrating. That’s is because photos edited on a bright monitor look darker in print.

You can bypass the problem by getting a calibrator with ambient light monitoring. Such calibrators warn you to recalibrate when lighting conditions change, or automatically adjust the profile settings to ensure accurate colors in prints.

Best Monitor Color Calibration Devices FAQ

Why should I calibrate my monitor?

Calibrating your monitor ensures your monitor displays accurate colors that conform to industry standards, ensuring your photos look the same when viewed from a different display. Besides, the monitor’s color output fades over time with normal use. Calibration helps maintain accurate color output and keep the profile valid.

What’s the difference between monitor calibration and profiling?

Calibration restores your display to the optimal and standard color output, including luminance, gamma, and white point, enabling it to display consistent colors.

On the other hand, profiling measures how a display produces color and altering it to meet a particular state of accuracy or standard, such as sRGB or Adobe RGB. You can profile a monitor or printer for consistent colors of your printed photos.

Is hardware calibration better than software?

Using software alone for calibration relies on how your eyes perceive colors, and most of the time, you’ll be left to guess the colors. Hardware calibrating devices bypass the guesswork by providing accurate measurements for a precise color profile.

How often should I recalibrate my monitor?

How often you recalibrate your monitor depends on its stability and the nature of work you do. Recalibration after one or two is recommended, but creative pros and professionals who demand high color accuracy recalibrate their monitors after each project.

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