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i1Display Pro review
Monitor and projector calibration, with ambient light measurement
The i1Display 2 has been a reliable and popular calibration device for several years. However, when we first looked at it, many people were still using CRT based displays and LCD displays only had fluorescent back-lighting inside them.
Display technology has moved on, with wider ranges of colours (gamut) and new LED based back-lighting.
Keith Cooper has been testing X-rite's latest display and projector calibrator, the i1 Display Pro, an all new design of colorimeter.
There is a more basic version called the ColorMunki Display (full review), which is aimed at a wider market. This review looks in detail at the 'Pro' version. It compares specifications between the devices later in the review and offers some thoughts as to what might best suit different users.
The examples shown are using Apple Macs, but the software generally works in the same way on Windows machines.
Special offer from B&H Mon 18th July 2016 only: i1 Display PRO monitor calibrator $149 - $100 off
Original article written Summer 2011
Only the other day I was visiting a company to give them some photography training and I discovered that not one monitor in their design department was calibrated.
Colour variation between screens was accepted as 'just one of those things' and thought to be part of the difficulties of getting accurate colour.
Fortunately I had a monitor calibrator with me and was able to show the difference it made to my laptop - colour management isn't about perfect colour (whatever that is), in a business context it's about getting things right first time more often. I believe quite a few calibrators are now on order (we don't sell equipment or software by the way)
It won't magically make your prints match your screen, but it should help improve things. If you can't say that the colours on your screen are accurate, then how can you be sure what to expect when someone else looks at your images or prints them.
I'm going to assume that if you are reading this review then you've probably decided you need some form of calibration...
However, just in case you are still wondering just what this 'Colour management' stuff is, I've a very short guide to colour management page that might be of help. There are also links to further information at the end of this article.
The key new hardware features are listed by X-rite as:
Software has also moved on from the old i1Match software used previously for monitor calibration and profiling.
The new device uses i1 Profiler software - this is an updated version of what I looked at in our i1Profiler reviews
X-rite lists new functionality as:
I'll look at some of these later and try and separate the useful from the marketing led ;-)
The design of the new i1 Display device is a quite different one from the normal 'puck' style, such as the i1 Display 2 below.
In the photo below, you can see the diffuser at the top, which is used for measuring ambient light.
The black object to the left is the counterweight. This attaches to the USB cable and hangs behind your monitor when measuring it. The lead should be long enough for most display setups and the device worked fine plugged into one of the USB ports on our Apple monitor.
There is a light on the side of the device which flashes during operation in a reassuring way. If you leave the device connected for ambient light measurement, then I suppose it helps remind you that it's on your desk...
The sensor has a huge lens in front of it - be careful handling the device, since fingerprints won't benefit the long term accuracy of the device.
The 1/4-20 standard tripod thread is on the bottom of the unit.
If you're setting up a projector, then you will need a tripod head that tilts 90 degrees.
The measurements for projectors are carried out with the diffuser out of the way of the sensor.
The software runs on Macs and PCs, but it's worth noting that it won't run on older PPC based Macs.
I tried the i1 Display Pro on a MacBook Pro laptop and my own dual display Mac Pro desktop machine.
If you already know the new i1 Profiler software, then there is nothing new here. You are effectively using a different measuring device to run the same software that you would be using with an i1 Pro spectrophotometer.
So for all those people who wondered why you couldn't use an i1 Display 2 with i1 Profiler, then answer was (as widely guessed) that a new measuring device was on its way.
If you've an i1 Display Pro device plugged in, then i1 Profiler shows that the monitor/projector profiling parts of the software are enabled.
I'll cover some of the basic aspects of display profiling here, but if you're interested in the more advanced options, I'd suggest also having a look at the particular review of monitor profiling in i1 Profiler that I wrote a short while ago.
The majority of users should be comfortable with the basic/default setting for their monitors.
The only aspect I'd normally alter, is to use a reduced luminance of 100 cd/m2 for my desktop screens.
This lower luminance can help me get better shadow detail in my prints, since having your monitor too bright is the most common cause of prints coming out too dark.
Note the text to the side of the settings - this is context based help and offers some assistance in choosing your settings.
There is no shortage of options, although I'd suggest that very few people will make use of some settings (and even fewer actually have a good reason to do so ;-)
One example, from a more specialised setup, might be measuring the light from your print viewing cabinet, to match colours more accurately.
This is however beyond the sorts of use I really require for any of our work here at Northlight.
Whistles and bells?
You can see that there is a setting for the grandly named 'Ambient Light Smart Control'.
This will adjust your monitor profile based on ambient light characteristics.
I'm told by X-Rite that this is most definitely not the Pantone huey 'randomly adjust my monitor when the sun goes behind a cloud' feature that I regularly tell people to deactivate.
That said, the idea of my monitor setup changing of its own accord is not one I'm comfortable with, and was pleased to see that it defaults to 'off'.
Creating a profile
The device will measure a number of colours on your screen, and can set screen brightness automatically if the feature (ADC) is available.
The device reports back the position of the ambient sensor cover, and reminds you to move it if need be.
Here's the device attached to my laptop, ready for measurement.
In general, I'd always suggest carrying out calibration in dimmed lighting, so as to minimise any interference with the measurements (particularly since the detector covers quite a lot of the device's screen 'footprint'.
After the readings are taken, you can see target/measured colours.
I usually set a meaningful profile name, but then again I test a lot of different kit - for most people, just take the suggested name.
I always put profiles at the system level, since one profile covers all my uses of the computer. However, you might have multiple users who prefer different setups for different tasks, where the user level profiles are more appropriate.
If you do take this approach, then be very careful that you know just who is logged in to the machine if you are looking at an image on the screen.
A whole stack of 'test images' are available for before/after comparison. To my mind, too many, and with not very clear names (YMMV)
Display curves and a 3D gamut display are also available for your perusal and amusement.
I tested projector profiling using a Sony VPL-CX21 XGA projector connected to my laptop - once again the software is very similar under windows.
The base of the device has a 1/4" standard tripod mounting underneath, so you will need to tilt your tripod head to point the sensor at the screen.
The ambient diffuser can be used as a stand, if you've somewhere it can rest during the process.
You can just follow the on screen instructions for projector calibration.
The only white point setting for projectors is 'native'. It's suggested that this is due to the typical viewing environment and that any other set point would diminish display brightness. Whilst this is true, I'd have liked to have the choice...
You may want to alter the controls 'by eye' on the projector before the process, since I've found that getting the projector looking reasonably OK before calibration can make for better final results.
See the ColorMunki Display review for a more comprehensive look at aspects of projector calibration
I often get asked for suggestions about learning more about the nuts and bolts of Colour Management.
My usual suggestion is Bruce Fraser's Real World Colour Management. My own copy is well thumbed. It's my first port of call if I'm asked a question and I feel I don't quite understand an issue well enough to be absolutely sure of an answer.
Check latest price/availability from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.ukRWCM 1st Edition RWCM
RWCM 2nd Edition RWCM
See some other books Keith has on the shelf, on our Books Page
The software offers numerous more advanced profiling and measurement options.
I'd suggest that unless you know you need them and more importantly -why- you need them, then such items are for the curious wishing to experiment.
The majority of potential users (myself included) are well served by the good range of standard options.
I've covered some of these options in the i1 Profiler software review, which is based on using an i1 Pro spectrophotometer, rather than the i1 Display Pro colorimeter reviewed here.
You can import and add colours to the target set that is used in the profiling process or profile QA (quality assurance) and profile optimisation.
The spot colours will need to be in a CxF3 (Color Exchange Format 3) library.
You can add Pantone spot colours via the Pantone Color Manager software.
The display QA functionality is, I'm sure, of use if you are looking after a large number of colour critical displays and want to spot variation and change, or which are 'best'.
Display QA Workflow (from X-Rite)
The quality test runs colour found on the standard ColorChecker card
After running the display QA test for my MacBook Pro, it failed!
As you can see, some colours are not close enough to meet the dE 1976 requirements.
Results can be graphed over time for recording the inevitable slow decline of your monitor's performance...
The Display Uniformity feature allows you to measure your monitor’s ability to display colour consistently across the whole screen. Data is collected by measuring the centre and then at eight additional points around the perimeter of the screen.
Results are reported in luminance difference (dL*) as well as color difference (dE).
Dealing with reflections?
One of the advanced features of the i1 Display Pro solution is a means of addressing the effect of ambient lighting on your screen.
This is certainly an issue, and one of the reasons that real colour purists dress in black and work in exceedingly dull looking offices...
However I'm minded to think that if reflected light from your screen is that much of a problem, then you should address your working environment first, not tweak your monitor settings to try and cope.
Using i1 Profiler with the i1 Display Pro allows you to create monitor profiles that allow for such effects.
You do this by taking additional measurements with the sensor not in contact with the screen. This light measured is a combination of screen output and reflections.
It's worth noting that X-rite's notes suggest that using this mode may lead to 'reduced colorimetric accuracy'.
Comparison with ColorMunki Display
We have a lengthy review of the ColorMunki Display, which covers this in much more detail, but it's worth pointing out the key differences between the two packages:
(Data from X-Rite)
The ColorMunki software is designed to be simpler to use, but is essentially doing the same thing, if you stick to the simpler options.
Advances in monitor technologies are covered by this new device (along with the option of updating aspects the device for future display technologies)
As a monitor calibrator, it works quickly and effectively, and profiles compare favourably with devices many times as expensive.
If I was looking for a comprehensive profiling solution for print and display, I'd certainly consider i1 Profiler with an i1 iSis for measuring and creating my printer profiles and an i1 Display Pro for my monitors.
I've not included any detailed numbers here, but the profile for my laptop (after a few more adjustments) seemed smoother in the shadows than that made with an i1 Pro spectrophotometer (the i1Display Pro being a colorimeter).
The software can seem a little complex if you were just looking for a monitor calibrator. To my mind the software still has rough edges in the usability department - nothing you won't get round, but it still feels like V1.0
Indeed, for basic calibration it's worth looking at the ColorMunki Display (full review). This is also a colorimeter which handles multiple monitors and projector profiling. It's noticeably slower to run, but for individual users this might not be so important.
Buying the i1 Display Pro
We make a specific point of not selling hardware, but if you found the review of help please consider buying the i1 Display, or any other items at all, via our links with Amazon or B&H
It won't cost any more (nor less we're afraid) but will contribute towards the running costs of our site.
The device does lack a bit of the solid feel of the old i1Display2 - I like to keep precision instruments in a drawer out of the way of dust and cups of tea - so having it sit on my desk all the while (for ambient light monitoring) is not a way I'd personally want to use it, even with the diffuser in place.
The ambient monitoring and 'flare' options certainly do work but are not, I suspect, included for more critical users.
I'd have preferred to see more comprehensive and detailed help directly available (explaining -why- there were certain options available for example). As such you have a myriad of options available in advanced mode, but no reason to pick anything in particular - although as I've said, you should perhaps take that as a hint that you don't need them...
I should note that X-Rite's web site does have more information available, but I feel it would be more use if some of it was included with the application.
At the moment, the i1Display Pro hardware is only supported by the i1Profiler software - I'd expect this to change over time, much as it did with the i1Display 2, where the device was widely sold in the OEM market with monitors.
The i1 Display Pro comes with the Pantone Color Manager software.
July 2011 - Info about i1Display 2/LT support under Mac OS 10.7
October 2011 - Eizo ColorNavigator software V6.0.1 now supports the i1Display Pro device (only for Eizo monitors BTW)
If you've any questions or comments - please let us know, or leave a comment on our blog
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Monitor calibrator with support for multiple monitor systems and projectors.
Uses i1 Profiler software for calibration and profile creation.
Also comes with PANTONE Color Manager software
Manufacturer details: X-rite
"i1Display Pro includes an end user license agreement (EULA) allowing a single user the ability to install and run unlimited installations of i1Profiler software on any number of computers that he/she owns."
Article History: First published June 2011 - updated July,Oct 2011
The views in this article represent those of Keith Cooper.
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Northlight Images prides itself on its independence when giving advice. We do not sell hardware or software and have no direct commercial links with any of the software or hardware vendors that may be mentioned here. See our Review Policy for more information.
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