Got hold of a Spyder3 screen calibrator at a very reasonable price today. This was lucky, because the standard Mac OS X tool is a bit clumsy to operate and keeps you busy for some time. And it has proven to be necessary to re-calibrate at least once a month.

There are several versions of the Spyder3. Spyder3pro is for screens only. Other versions can also calibrate printers. The Spyder3pro comes in a handy box which was easy to unpack. Built quality seemed fine, and a software CD (which holds software for both Windows and Mac OS X) accompanied the hardware. The manual was, well, slender in that it mainly consists of four sentences in quite a number of languages. Setting up the software was a piece of cake, even when the dialogs seemed very un-Mac. As was installation of the hardware because there is only one USB cable which is non-detatchable.

The logical next step was now to do a calibration run. This was advertised to be quick but it needed some minutes to complete. The difference to the manual approach is that you can get a drink while the colors pass by on the screen. Unfortunately the Spyder was not able to complete his work because of the substandard software that comes with the apparatus.

  1. The Software installs into the current user's home directory, where no software is supposed to install it's program files on a Mac.
  2. The dialog of the calibration tool is nonstandard on any OS. Would be no big issue would it be clear and operable. But some terms are unclear and one is explicitely sent to the help system. Here, ambigous und hardly understandable instruction is given how to differentiate between a brightness and a backlight control. But you need this knowledge to do the initial setup for the monitor.
  3. Being sent to the website (knowledge base) at the end, I was searching the German and the English database for "backlight" but found nothing (the link in the online help sent me to the search screen rather than to a solution).
  4. Well, I finally just guessed that the Mac screen is backlit and continued calibration. All seemed fine until the new icc profile was to be stored. Here a tech error message (giving source code location and hex error code) hit the screen and no color profile was created (as can be easily verified via the standard tools).
  5. Nevertheless the guided activity continued unaware of what happened and showed the great difference between the prior state and the now perfect calibration of the monitor...
  6. Again consulting the knowledge base, it did not come to complete surprise that there was no entry regarding the error message.
  7. While entering the ticket in Datacolors support application, I had to specify the product (Spyder3pro) and the OS (Mac OS X). But this did not bother the ticketing system and so it happily suggested reading (100% relevance) articles about how to attach SpyderTV to a TV set or how to use color profiles in Vista.

So from the should-work-out-of-the-box view the Spyder3pro was a virtual disaster. I cannot yet provide a review about the quality of the color calibration. Let's see whether the quality of Datacolors customer service will top the quality of the software. I have heared only the best and so I am looking forward to the response. Stay tuned for the update in part 2 of my review...