Review: Datacolor SpyderX Pro

Datacolor released their Spyder X Pro and Elite color calibration tool and software earlier in 2019. They kindly supplied Wetpixel with a SpyderX Pro test unit, and we have been testing it ever since.

Regular color calibration is a crucial ingredient in ensuring that images appear as desired on multiple devices and when printing them. If color fidelity is critical, calibration should be carried out when the light conditions that are being edited change. Even a change in the angle of a laptop screen can make a significant difference is now colors appear. For those using a static display in a single, controlled setting, monitor calibration will still drift and may cause issues. Given that most tend to prepare images for printing on desktop machines out of preference, regular calibration is still an essential part of the workflow.

Datacolor released their Spyder 5 calibration system in 2015, and have further developed their colorimeter in the years since. This critical component of the 2019 SpyderX features a new lens-based, more accurate way of measuring color. The manufacturers claim that the new colorimeter measures screen color more precisely than previous versions, avoid color casts by assessing white balance more accurately and will show better detail in the shadows.

Along with the hardware, the SpyderX features redeveloped software. SpyderX Pro offers “one-click” calibration or more in-depth step by step modes. The SpyderX Elite has an “expert mode” that gives unlimited calibration options (it can also calibrate front projectors and has a proprietary StudioMatch option, which creates a target that is shareable between multiple displays to ensure uniformity).

There are three options available: ReCAL, CheckCAL, and FullCAL. These options allow efficiency when checking calibration on a monitor that has already been calibrated and is in the same position, for example. The recommendation is to use the ReCAL option when wanting to ensure accuracy before a specific editing job, while the FullCAL option should be done at least monthly.

The app offers the option of reminding when calibration is due. The period between calibrations is user definable within it.

Other features include Spyderproof, which allows live assessments of calibration using either a supplied composite image or the user’s own (the Elite version enables the use of a full-screen view).

Uncalibrated view with user’s own image

Calibrated view with user’s own image

The SpyderX monitors the ambient light in the room and automatically adjusts the display(s) to one of 5 levels.

Lastly, the SpyderX Pro and Elite can both analyze a monitor’s performance in terms of color, brightness, contrast, gamut, tone response, and white point. One feature that is unique to the Elite version is the option of soft proofing images, with paper ICC profiles or simulated device displays.

The SpyderX ships in a small cardboard box, and it is good to note that the packaging is minimal although sadly, the device is held in a plastic holder in its box. The packaging contains a link to the download site for the software and a serial number that is used to activate it.

The sensor itself is supplied with an integrated USB type A connection. It is compatible with USB 1.1, USB 2.x and USB 3.x versions. Depending on how your editing suite is set up, it may be worth noting that the attached cable is 1.5 m (60 inches) long.

Like previous Spyder colorimeters, it has a conveniently integrated counterweight that protects the sensor surface and makes for a surface to place the colorimeter on when it is monitoring ambient light levels.

To get the colorimeter to sit flat against the monitor’s surface, it is necessary to tilt the screen a little.

Datacolor has vaunted the improved speed of the SpyderX. Their official figure is that the new colorimeter and software is twice as fast as the previous version.

Full calibration time

ReCAL time

This may not seem significant until you realize that this tends to make you calibrate more often. I find that I now calibrate before very major editing session, as opposed on a monthly schedule (which used to slip sometimes). A complete calibration takes around 1.5 minutes, which is bluntly no time at all during a working day. This is particularly the case when using multiple monitors.

The Pro version of the software is intuitive and straightforward to use and allows for adequate control for most things. I did not review the Elite version, but I think the additional ability in it to match the calibration across multiple monitors is a valuable addition in many cases.

The Spyder app sits in the Mac menu bar on the top of the screen, and by clicking on it and selecting the Profile Management option, users can choose any profile. This is convenient, particularly for a quick and easy option with devices that work in different light conditions.

The app offers the option of reminding when calibration is due. The period between calibrations is user definable within it.

Another improvement is the accuracy of the colors rendered. This is hard to objectively judge but suffice to say that I am pleased with the calibration results provided by the SpyderX.

The SpyderX is another evolutionary improvement on a family of excellent devices. The added speed is an encouragement to calibrate more often, and the software retains its user-friendly and efficient design.

If you want to get the best from your imagery, you should be regularly calibrating your displays. The SpyderX is an excellent tool to do this with.

The SpyderX is available from Datacolor, Amazon, and your local specialist photographic retailers.

FTC Disclosure

Datacolor supplied a SpyderX Pro to the reviewer for the review.