X-Rite ColorMunki Display review

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Intuitive video and text instructions
  • Delivers a well-calibrated picture
  • Can be used with projectors

Cons

  • No charts
  • Short USB cord

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 colours are the most obvious signs that something isn’t 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 compared to 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 a quick and painless process.

The wizard-driven software offers excellent text and video help, but the chances are that you won't need it as the ColorMunki is very easy to use. More importantly, it delivers the goods, providing a profile that will ensure your monitor delivers consistent colour quality and luminance levels. My gripes with the ColorMunki Display are minor – the colourimeter needs a longer USB cord and the software lacks charting capabilities.

Design and features

Like the Datacolor Spyder4 Pro (which we reviewed here), the ColorMunki Display uses a colourimeter to measure colour, alongside 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 colours. 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 a compact device, measuring 65 x 40 x 65mm (WxDxH). 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, and this is 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 colour and luminance levels, you simply slide the diffuser up and rotate it to the bottom of the meter.

The colourimeter connects to your PC via a 70in USB cable with an adjustable weight. Although it's a few inches longer than the cable used by the Spyder4 Pro (67in), 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, you 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 Automatic Display Control, a feature lacking in the Spyder4 Pro. It also offers Ambient Light Monitoring, which checks your 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 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 optimise your profile according to current lighting. Here you can also enable the Flare Correct feature, which optimises the profile if you have glare issues.

The ColorMunki is now ready to measure ambient light. (Incidentally, I like the video instructions that show you exactly where and where not to place the colourimeter when taking ambient light measurements). The next screen instructs you to place the ColorMunki on the display to take measurements of gamut and colour response. During this phase the Automatic Display Control feature will optimise colour 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 to four weeks. This is also the point that you can view 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 that the Spyder4 Pro boasts which is missing here is charting capabilities – helpful when comparing gamut and gamma levels across multiple monitors. Otherwise the ColorMunki did a superb job of tuning the three monitors I tested it with, and it only took around five minutes per monitor. Shadow detail was greatly improved on my test photos and colours 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.

Verdict

Whether you have a single or multi-display setup, the X-Rite ColorMunki Display makes sure that you are seeing accurate colours 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. That’s why we give it the edge over the Datacolor product, and one of our coveted Best Buy awards. I just wish they'd make that USB cord a little longer.