Next we switched to a Dell UltraSharp 2408WFP, which uses a high-quality S-PVA panel. Here the changes were less dramatic and subjectively, we actually preferred the uncalibrated settings as white was again given a slightly ‘warmer’ tone without obviously noticeable benefits compared to a manual calibration.
Surprisingly, the uncalibrated settings also came closer to our printer’s default result, which is where the Express’ lack of additional printer calibration as found in the higher-end Spyder3 models really starts to show. Of course colour accuracy is not subjective though, so the post-calibration results are almost guaranteed to be better than what you started off with. Other monitors tested also showed obvious improvements regardless of panel type.
Overall then, it can’t be denied that for the majority of users who don’t know enough to manually calibrate their screens with a colorimeter yet want the accuracy that using one gives, the Spyder3 Express does an excellent job. It’s easy as pie to set up and use and will benefit anyone, not just image enthusiasts or photographers. Depending on how well your display was set up to begin with, you’ll notice a marked difference in games and films as well.
At £73 the Spyder3 Express also offers decent value. However, we can’t help but feel that unless you’re on an incredibly strict budget, the extra £30 for the next step up Spyder3 Pro makes its little cousin utterly redundant. Not only does the Pro offer a wealth of extra software options, profiles and settings, but you also get more advanced hardware, including the desktop mount and ambient light sensor (which can intelligently differentiate between actual consistent light changes compared to flash or shadow effects). If you use more than one monitor or a laptop/monitor combo, you’ll also need the Pro or Elite as the Express can’t handle multiple monitors.
Extra flexibility extends beyond the included feature set too: as they share identical hardware, the Pro can be turned into an Elite with a simple software upgrade, and either model can be used for calibrating your TV by purchasing the Spyder3TV software. If you went for the Express, however, you’re stuck with what you’ve got. To top it all the higher-end models come with a two-year warranty compared to one year for the Express. Enough said.
If you want one of the easiest colorimeters on the market and are on a strict budget Datacolor’s Spyder3 Express delivers, but anyone who can afford the extra £30 should definitely plump for the Spyder3 Pro as it offers more advanced hardware and a ridiculous amount of genuinely useful extra features for this relatively minor additional cost.