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Pantone Huey review

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Pantone Huey review

Review of the Pantone Huey monitor calibration system

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The Huey, from Pantone/gretagmacbeth sets a low cost entry point for monitor profiling and calibration software.

Keith has been looking at this unique device (it is a colorimeter) and the approach it takes towards offering colour management and improving colour on your display.

huey by Pantone

2013 – Because of the huey’s age, we suggest looking at the Spyder 4 express or ColorMunki Smile for basic monitor calibration.

2012 – See the Huey Pro review for current product info 

June 2007 – Pantone have sent us a huey PRO to have a good look at – the huey PRO has wider control over brightness and contrast, with separate menu choices for the selection of gamma and white point settings. It also supports multiple monitors. Keith has now written a review of this new product

The Mac version of the Pantone Huey is reviewed here, but the Windows version works in the same way.

Software Updates, user guide and product info [2015]

PANTONE huey 1.0.5 Update
Support for Microsoft Windows Vista.
English French German Spanish Italian Chinese (Traditional)

PANTONE huey 1.0.4 Update
Support for Mac universal with Intel-based Apple computers.

PANTONE huey 1.0.3 Update
Simplified Chinese language support. Improved calibration on Windows 2000 platform, the profile created will now be selected as the default monitor profile after calibrating with huey. Enhanced Metadata stored within the profile, providing descriptive information regarding the custom profile.

Monitor calibration

How do you know that a particular colour red on your monitor is correct? If you send me a picture, then how do I know I’m seeing what you did?

Pantone Huey - gretagmacbethIf you are completely new to colour management you might also want to look at the very short ‘What is Colour Management’ article I’ve written.

There is really only one place to start with Colour Management – your monitor. If it doesn’t display accurate colour, it’s difficult to get your prints right and even less likely someone else will.

Before calibrating your monitor on Windows PC systems, you should check to see that Adobe gamma is turned off if it was installed. We’ve got a short guide to removing Adobe Gamma that might be of help.At it’s simplest you should adjust your monitor by eye to get good brightness and contrast. There are various software tools that can help you in this (see the Viewing Page in the Articles/Resources section) but these are at best a partial solution (they rely on your eyesight for one thing).

You need a hardware device of some sort that will make the adjustments for you. The software that comes with the device builds ‘icc monitor profiles’ which are used by your operating system (MacOS or Windows for example) or software (such as Photoshop) to produce an accurate display.

There is one last aspect that is important — standards. There is no point in me having my monitor set up to some arbitrary setting, if there is no way of you knowing what my setting means.

Huey in cradleThis comes about from there being no one ‘correct’ way of setting a monitor. I’ll come back to this later when I’ve shown how the Huey profiling colorimenter and software works.

Will the huey make my monitor match my prints? I’ve been asked this a couple of time and have written a short article on how it will help, but why you need to consider some other factors as well.

What do you get?

The Huey is a small 10cm long device that comes with a stand, USB extension lead, software CD and pack of screen cleaner.

The picture shows the device at almost life size.

The sensor clips into the stand, and is used in this configuration to detect changes in room lighting.

One feature not mentioned in the (brief) literature supplied with the device, is that the base can hold the cable and USB plug underneath.

The grey patch half way along the back of the device is the ambient light sensor.

The four patches at the bottom are LEDs that light up when the device is being used.

Also, take care with that very thin USB cable, it wouldn’t take too much of a tug to break it.

The underside of the Huey, showing (left) the suction caps that hold it to a screen when being used, and (right) the 3 sensors used in making the screen measurements.

The screen cleaner is supplied to clean your screen before measurements, and help the Huey stick…

Huey underside

Using the Huey

Installing the monitor colour correction software on my Mac simply required dragging the application from the CD to my Utilities folder (this just happens to be the place I put such things…)

Opening the application for the first time lets you review the help file – but all it really needs is to press the START button

intro screen

There is a question mark icon to the right that reveals the help info. You should also be able to check for software updates, but all I got was a server error page — oops

Select your screen type (LCD in this instance)

select type of monitor to calibrate

Put the sensor into its stand to check room lighting

check room lighting

Room lighting measurement for my laptop

powerbook lighting check

… and on my desktop machine.

office lighting check

Next you are asked to attach the sensor to your screen.

It says that it’s OK to stick to LCDs, but obviously I didn’t attach it too well.

calibration sensor falls off

The sensor falls off my screen. You can see the blur of the red LEDs on the back of the sensor as it plummets to its doom (pure luck this photo!).

That’s it … I’m not sticking things to my rather expensive LCD screen!

I’d suggest that if you have an LCD you use gravity to assist.

I cannot recommend trying to stick anything to an LCD.

gravity assist

Tilting the monitor back allows the Huey to rest in place.

Note also the similarity in organisation between my computer desktop and actual office desktop.

Similarly, here is the Huey being used on my PowerBook.

sensor positioning

The screen shot below, shows one of the coloured patches that the device reads (grey in this case).

test pattern

The green dots display the progress of the calibration process.

When the 26 green dots are lit up, the process is complete.

calibrating a laptop screen

Afterwards you can replace the sensor in its cradle.

calibration finished

You can see just how much the calibration process has changed things by switching between corrected and uncorrected modes.

A GretagMacbeth ColorChecker pattern helps. The picture of the model is possibly there to show changes in skin tone. Not too much help given the amount of make-up she’s wearing and the lighting used :-)

I suppose someone in marketing decided it was a good idea …

showing monitor calibration results

Select a calibration setting that you want to use. I’ll explain what these actually mean in a bit.

choose a monitor setting

Do you want the software to update your calibration if the room lighting changes?

Yes please - randomly change my monitor profile for me

So, there you have it … your display is calibrated.

You can alter settings in a control panel afterwards, without needing to run the application again.


It’s very easy to use, once I decided that I really wasn’t going to stick things to my big LCD screen.

The software explains very simply what to do, and you end up with a calibrated monitor.

Well, yes you do, but calibrated to what?

The software installs (on the Mac) a preference panel that allows you to alter settings after you have carried out the calibration.

OK, here we see I’ve selected ‘Web Browsing & Photo Editing’ – since this is what I do quite a bit of…

monitor profile settings

It’s a good idea to have a reminder as to when to calibrate — but how long will it be if I tick that box?

I could have had all other kinds of settings, but what is ‘Special: Warm, medium contrast’ ??

monitor profile type

I looked further, at the monitor settings control panel. This is the standard system interface in MacOS X

Windows users — stick with me, it looks different on your systems, but the point I’m making is the same.

The clue as to what is going on is in the monitor profile name – ‘huey D65 G2.2 A45.19’

D65 and G2.2 refer (I assume) to the calibration settings.

D65 is the illuminant used – or what is often known as the temperature of the monitor (it is similar to what might be called 6500K in some calibration packages)

D65 is not quite the same as 6500K but it’s near enough at this level.

G2.2 suggests a Gamma of 2.2 (which is what I normally use with my display)

profile details

…but what about the A45.19?

I suspect this refers to the room lighting conditions, since it changed when I opened the curtains and got the software to re-check.

If automated this ‘feature’ can modify your display profile at set intervals. This can range from 10 seconds to 4 hours.

profile automunge settings

I went through the settings and found this (possible) correlation between them and profile names.

Setting Illuminant Gamma
gaming D65 1.8
web/photography D65 2.2
graphic design/video D65 2.5
warm low contrast D50 1.8
warm medium contrast D50 2.2
warm high contrast D50 2.5
Cool low contrast D75 1.8
Cool medium contrast D75 2.2
Cool high contrast D75 2.5

Would it really have been that difficult to include this table for reference somewhere?

A hypothetical example

A designer who hasn’t calibrated their monitor before decides to set it up with the Huey and is faced with the choice of settings. Now let’s assume that their monitor is a CRT with a native colour temperature of ~9000K (rather blue). They look at the options and decide that they all look a bit yellowish (newly calibrated monitors often look ‘wrong’), but no, ‘Cool: high contrast’ gives their graphics just the punch they were looking for.

What happens?

– they now have a default monitor setting of D75 and a Gamma of 2.5
– they produce some work and it goes off to a client
– client has no real understanding of colour management
– work goes to a printer
– prints look all wrong and the blame game starts.

I applaud the idea of getting more people to calibrate their monitors, and if this product was just aimed at consumers I’d welcome the simplification of the process and the decision to unburden them of the requirement to learn the basics of colour management (not that I think the principles are beyond most people).

BUT… this product is going to be purchased by many small companies looking to get their feet wet in colour management. You could say that they should go for a more advanced option such as the Spyder or Eye One Display that I’ve looked at elsewhere (reviews). However I know small companies – money matters, so the Huey will sell.

More concern needs to be given to educating users, rather than just selling a simple to use device (and it is simple to use)

OK, I’ll accept that having lots more people with calibrated monitors is a good thing, it’s just I’d like to have seen a bit more guidance in the application help, to explain why some choices were better than others.

Just because something is accurately set up, does not make it correctly set up…

There is a PDF quick start guide on the software CD, unfortunately it’s just a PDF of the printed guide you get with the product.

Profile quality

The software produced a distinct improvement in the displays of both my Apple 23″ Cinema display and 15″ PowerBook. Not up to what I’d get from more expensive equipment, but far better than any method relying on adjustments ‘by eye’

Because of the small sensor size I’d also suggest that you carry out your calibration in dimly lit conditions. It does not take much light reflected off the screen into the sensor to affect the measurements.

Other features

Another hypothetical example

OK, I’ve been working on some graphics for an hour or so. I decide to get a cup of tea and wander off. Someone else happens to come along and puts something on my desk for me, which shadows the Huey sensor from the main room light source. My profile just happens to automatically get altered right then. I come back, move the stuff left for me and get on with my work — only I now realise I’m not quite happy with some of the tones and colours I’ve used in my design…

fixed icon

No, I don’t think I’d really want my monitor settings changing with the weather — I’d leave the ‘Automunge’ feature switched off.

The interface of the software is quite well designed, but I found it irritating that it added an item in my menu bar that I couldn’t hide from within the Huey preferences.

I didn’t ask for that red icon! take it away


Very easy to use and set up. Profiles produced a noticeable improvement in displays.

I’d suggest using gravity rather than the rubber suckers, when calibrating LCDs. I just don’t like the idea of trying to stick things to a LCD screen.

At the price, it’s going to be popular, but I do take serious issue with the degree that the interface/help has been dumbed down, to the point of not including useful information that might help people make better and more consistent use of the product.

The help available provides no additional information to help you beyond getting the device to work (it’s fine for that). I just wish that the need for product differentiation had not removed the opportunity to educate users in colour management if they were curious. A short sighted omission and I’ll blame my favourite villains — marketing :-)

If you are considering the Huey, then you might also like to look over my reviews of the Pantone Eye One Display LT and Pantone Eye One Display 2, where there are charts comparing the 3 devices.

If you are going to get a huey, then I’d personally want to go for the ‘PRO’ version

Aug ’07 There is a downloadable PDF user guide that covers the huey and hueyPRO – essential reading if you just have the original huey

Additional notes added Aug 07

The huey -> huey PRO ($39) upgrade is also available in the UK, but do check the prices carefully, since it seems a rather unusual exchange rate was applied ;-)

If you are updating your huey to a huey PRO, then windows users will need to update firmware. I’m told (Thanks Gilles) that “the firmware zip file has to be extracted in the Pantone / Huey Pro directory ( C drive / Program files ). It is not mentionned in the instructions and upgrade may fail if not done properly. “

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More colour management and printing related information

For information about printers, paper reviews and profiling (colour management) see the Printing section of the main printers and printing page, or use the search box at the top of any page.
All colour management articles and reviews are indexed on the main Colour Management page - please do let Keith know if you've any questions, either via the comments or just email us?

Some specific articles that may be of interest:  

  • Why don't my prints match my screen? A short article showing why there is more to getting your prints to match your screen, than just calibrating your monitor. It's the vital first step, but you do need to consider some other factors for best results.
  • Why are my prints too dark - some basic suggestions to this common problem.

Articles below by Keith (Google's picks for matching this page)


Site update: Thanks for all your support and help - Keith & Karen
...Get our Newsletter for new articles/reviews and why not subscribe to Keith's YouTube Channel
...Keith's book about how to use tilt/shift lenses is now available.
Our site contains affiliate links - these help support the site. See our Advertising policies for more

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