X-Rite ColorMunki Display Review

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The X-Rite ColorMunki Display makes it easy and affordable to calibrate your monitors, laptops, and projectors.

(4 out of 5) Editor’s Choice

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Intuitive video and text instructions
  • Delivers a well-calibrated picture

Cons

  • Short USB cord
  • No charts

If you took your monitor out of the box, hooked it up, and set it to any one of the available picture presets, there’s a good chance that it needs to be calibrated. Fuzzy image detail and inaccurate colors are the most obvious signs that something is not right, but there are other side effects of an un-calibrated monitor, such as when your monitor’s output doesn’t match your printer’s output, or when images look different on your laptop screen than they do on your desktop monitor. Fortunately, there are calibration tools available that will have all of your monitors and laptops looking their best without spending a fortune. The X-Rite ColorMunki Display is one such tool. Using a combination of hardware and software, the ColorMunki makes calibrating monitors, laptops, and projectors quick and painless. The wizard-driven software offers excellent text and video help, but chances are, you won’t need it as the ColorMunki is very easy to use. More importantly, it delivers the goods, providing a profile that will let your monitor deliver consistent color quality and luminance levels. My gripes with the ColorMunki Display are minor; the colorimeter needs a longer USB cord and the software lacks charting capabilities. Neither issue prevents it from earning our Editors’ Choice for monitor calibration tools.

Design and Features
Like the Datacolor Spyder4 Pro, the ColorMunki Display uses a colorimeter to measure color and software that tells the meter what to measure. The software guides you through the calibration process, makes changes to your video card’s LUT (Look Up Table), and saves these results as a profile which your monitor uses to display consistent and accurate colors. The ColorMunki can calibrate CRT and LCD monitors and laptops, and it can also calibrate projectors, a feature missing in the Spyder4 Pro.

The ColorMunki is compact, measuring 2.5-by-2.5-by-1.5 inches (HWD). It sports a glossy black and matte black finish with the ColorMunki logo on both sides. A light diffuser is positioned over the meter’s optical lens. It’s used to measure ambient light and to protect the lens when not in use. It also acts as a stand for measuring desktop projectors. When it comes time to measure your monitor’s color and luminance levels, simply slide the diffuser up and rotate it to the bottom of the meter.

The colorimeter connects to your PC via a 70-inch USB cable with an adjustable weight. Although it’s few inches longer than the cord used on the Spyder4 Pro (67 inches) it is still a bit too short for users who have floor-standing desktop towers. White LED activity indicators are embedded on both sides of the meter, and there’s a mounting receptacle on the bottom for use with a tripod. To use the ColorMunki on a laptop or monitor, hang the meter over the front of the screen with the weight resting on the back of the cabinet. The weight holds the meter in place and keeps it flush against the panel.

The ColorMunki can be used on multiple monitors and projectors and the software can be installed on multiple PCs. It features an ambient light sensor to determine the best levels for your lighting environment and offers basic and advanced user modes. The basic mode is fully automated and adjusts everything for you, including brightness, using the ADC (Automatic Display Control), a feature lacking in the Spyder4 Pro. It also offers Ambient Light Monitoring, which checks your surrounding lighting conditions throughout the day and makes adjustments based on the new levels.

Installation and Performance

Setup is a piece of cake. Once you’ve installed and loaded the software the first screen asks you if you want to profile your display or your projector. Next, choose easy or advanced mode. If you choose advanced mode you’ll have to set the White Point (D50, D55, D65, native) using the drop-down box. D65 is recommended. You can have the ColorMunki automatically adjust luminance levels based on ambient light, set it to a value between 80 and 140 cd/m2, or use the monitor’s native mode. Text and video help is a mouse click away throughout the entire process.

While in Advanced mode you can elect to use the Ambient Light Smart control to optimize your profile according to current lighting. Here you can also enable the Flare Correct feature, which optimizes the profile if you have glare issues.

The ColorMunki is now ready to measure ambient light. (I like the video instructions that show you exactly where and where not to place the colorimeter when taking ambient light measurements.) The next screen instructs you to place the ColorMunki on the display to take measurements of gamut and color response. During this phase the ADC (automatic display control) feature will optimize color temperature, contrast, and luminance levels (if you selected basic mode). This process takes around 10 minutes, after which the software will create a new profile. You can set a reminder to re-profile the monitor within one and four weeks. This is also the point that you can look at a before and after comparison using various photo images.

Finally, you can have the ColorMunki check for changing ambient light conditions (in intervals of 5, 10, 30, and 60 minutes) and make corrections accordingly. Or you can opt to have the software notify you if conditions have changed significantly.

The only thing missing here that you get with the Spyder 4 Pro is charting capabilities, which is helpful when comparing gamut and gamma levels across multiple monitors. Otherwise the ColorMunki did a superb job of tuning the three monitors in my testbed, and it only took around five minutes per monitor. Shadow detail was greatly improved on my test photos and colors appeared uniform across all three monitors. The brightness level on the monitors was significantly lower after calibration than it was when set to the factory defaults, which translates to lower energy usage and for some, reduced eye fatigue.

Whether you have a single or multi-display setup, the X-Rite ColorMuki Display makes sure that you are seeing accurate colors and experiencing the best possible image quality that your monitor is capable of displaying. As with the Datacolor Spyder4 Pro, it is quick and easy to use and delivers outstanding results. Both products are excellent calibration tools, but the ColorMunki offers ambient light monitoring and automatic brightness adjustments, and it’ll calibrate your projectors too, which is why it is our Editors’ Choice for monitor calibration tools. I just wish they’d make the USB cord a little longer.

By John R. Delaney, PCMag


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