Once everything is installed you can hook up the colorimeter to a USB port and you’re ready to go. At 1.75m, its USB cable is long enough to cover most situations. You can place the device on the monitor’s surface using either the suction-cup (handiest when dealing with CRTs and glass-fronted LCDs) or use the moveable counterweight on the cable to balance the meter in front of your monitor (it helps to tilt the screen slightly backwards when doing this). It’s worth noting though that the counterweight grips the cable a little too tightly making it difficult to move, something Datacolor might wish to change on future iterations.
The calibration/profiling process really is as simple as it gets. You need to reset your monitor to factory defaults (which should include a colour temperature of 6,500K) and a “comfortable” brightness level. Once you start up Spyder3Express 4.0 it shows you the outline of where to place the colorimeter – don’t worry, felt pads protect against scratching the monitor’s surface – and then it’s simply a case of pressing “next”. The calibration itself is fully automatic and took just a few seconds over five minutes to complete (Datacolour claims five and 2.5 minutes for initial calibration and recalibration respectively). You’re then presented with SpyderProof, which shows you a selection of images and allows you to switch between calibrated and uncalibrated views of them.
Finally you’re given the location of the .icm profile Spyder3Express 4.0 has created after the whole process is finished, which allows you to rename or copy it. Overall, the system is almost as easy to use as the box suggests and shouldn’t pose a challenge for anyone who knows how to use a mouse.
But what about the results? First we tested it with a decent but old ViewSonic monitor based on a TN panel. After automatic calibration we could see more detail in our test image, tones were closer to what they were supposed to be (originally the image was created on a high-end monitor) and colour gradations were more obvious, while dark detailing also increased. This did come at the cost of white purity, but in this case was a more than worthwhile trade-off for colour-critical work – and those who want and can afford a colorimeter would probably buy a better monitor to begin with.