X-Rite i1Display Pro Display Calibrator Review

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If you're a graphic designer, the most capable monitor in the world can be deemed meaningless if it doesn't accurately represent the colors as they'll be seen on the medium you're designing for.  You can pay a premium for monitors that are pre-calibrated, but if you (or an entire office) is trying to keep costs down, and who isn't, a display calibrator can allow you to ensure greater color consistency across all of your workstations even with a mix of monitors.  X-Rite's i1Display Pro comes bundled with their i1Profiler allowing novices and pros alike to quickly calibrate and evaluate the displays they count on to get it right the first time.

 

Overview


Perfectly. Amazing.

The X-Rite i1Display Pro is the ultimate solution for Creative Perfectionists who demand speed, options and flexibility to attain color accuracy.

Color Perfectionists know that a calibrated and profiled display is a critical element in an efficient digital workflow. Nobody wants to spend hours at their monitor perfecting images or video only to find that their display wasn’t accurately representing their digital files. What you see on your monitor (or projector) has to match your digital file or you will never be happy with the result, no matter how much time you devote to perfecting it.

In our world, perfection is not too much to ask for. X-Rite i1Display Pro delivers.

 

Enhanced features include:

  • Technologically advanced and ergonomic multi-functional measurement device
  • Next generation i1Profiler software for calibrating and profiling all modern laptop and desktop monitor and projector technologies
  • Broadcast video standards support: NTSC, PAL SECAM, and ITU-R Rec.BT.709
  • Infinite control of white point, luminance, contrast ratio, gamma and more
  • Multiple monitor and workgroup profiling
  • Intelligent Iterative Profiling – an adaptive technology that measures and analyzes the color capabilities of each unique display for increased accuracy of profile
  • Profile optimization – create unique patch sets for optimal results
  • X-Rite Ambient Light Smart Control - measurement, compensation and ongoing monitoring of ambient lighting conditions
  • X-Rite Flare Correct™ - measurement and compensation of display surface glare
  • Automatic Display Control (ADC) adjusts your display’s hardware to speed up process and eliminate manual adjustments
  • Display quality check and trending over time
  • PANTONE spot color optimization
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Unboxing and Included Accessories


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In addition to the i1Display Pro colorimeter, X-rite has included a typical user manual and the i1Profiler software.  Pretty standard stuff, so let's get into the juicier details and take a look at X-Rite's pro colorimter solution.


i1 Display Pro - Design


X-Rite's i1Display Pro is a rounded, palm-sized brick which looks quite inconspicuous on a desk top.  The top white circle is a light diffuser to allow for ambient light measurements while simultaneously protecting the colorimeter lens underneath.  About half way up one side is where the USB cable attaches which allows it to sit snugly on your display surface.  A sliding counterweight on the USB cable is used to balance the i1Display Pro while you're making measurements on your panel.  The bottom of the calibrator also has a threaded mount for a tripod or other mount which is particularly useful for calibrating projectors.

 

 Diffuser-Swivel

 

Speaking of projector calibration, the diffuser / cover / stand allows the unit to take a look at your projectors without the use of an external stand.  I'm always big on design features being able to hit two (or three in this case) birds with one stone.   With the diffuser opened up, we can see the thin foam padding that allows the i1Display Pro to gently seal against the surface of your monitor and keep dust (and light) from in interfering with your measurements.

 

Overall, the i1Display Pro is a compact and thoughtfully-designed instrument that is every bit as functional as you'd hope for in an easy-to-use colorimeter.


i1 Profiler


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Before I dig into using the i1 Profiler, I'll preface by saying that while many of the consumer reviews have complained about i1Profiler being buggy, I have yet to encounter any issues, so X-Rite has done a great job of clearing up any issues.  With that tid-bit out of the way, the i1Profiler has the entire suite of design-cycle capabilities built in for profiling and calibrating your display / projector, your printer, and scanner, but keep in mind these all will utilize their individual products (just being very clear that the i1Display pro will not work to calibrate your printer / scanner, but I'm about 99.76% sure you knew that).  This gives users a fully-unified and integrated experience that makes using X-Rite's design ecosystem as unobtrusive as possible.

 

Before profiling, the software gives you a number of options to define default display settings including LED type, white point target, luminance, contrast ratio, as well as "flare correct" and "Ambient Light Smart Control" as measured by the i1Display Pro through the diffuser.  Most color quality enthusiasts and pros won't like the idea of automatic changes outside of their control, but assuming accurate execution, they could be convenient features.  Of course, if you sit next to a window or for some other reason your ambient lighting may see frequent changes (cube neighbor likes to rave it up?), these features might seem appealing or you'll want to keep a close eye on how you perceive your display.  Either way, the i1Display Pro allows you to measure your ambient conditions as well.  To ease those less familiar with display profiling, the left pane also gives explanations, hints, and tips to let you know what the various parameters really mean and what they do.  Alright, let's profile some stuff.

 

Calibration / Profiling

Before profiling, the i1Profiler gives you another opportunity to make sure you do (or don't) want automatic adjustments.  Again, most of the color enthusiasts / pros / OCD types will want full control over the calibration process, but X-rite gives the less-neurotic (oops, did I say that out loud?) of us who want the quick and easy calibration the option for automatic brightness, contrast, and RGB gain adjustment if your display supports it.  We'll be profiling the ASUS PB278Q, which supports the automated controls, and overall we found them to work very well and took all the effort out of calibrating the display.  Get it set up, start the calibration, go grab a cup of coffee and it's ready when you make it back.

 

Again, X-rite has left options for a default patch set, or if you prefer, patches from an image or other larger patch sets to suit your needs.  The basic patch set works quite well and gives a good balance of being thorough without consuming huge amounts of time.  Starting the measurement, the software will take control of your display, and set the testing window to Full Screen.  A little graphic will remind you to flip the diffuser around and give you an icon in the center of the screen to place the i1Display Pro. 

 

The first set of the test will adjust the brightness to the targets you've set, and a white LED can be seen from the sides each time a measurement is taken.  Again, if your monitor doesn't allow for automatic adjustments, these will need to be done manually. From there, it will cycle through each of the patches, with each patch displaying for about a second, the white LED showing that the measurement was taken, and then the next one will rinse and repeat until all of the patches are done.  From there you have the option to create and save the profile and/or compare it to another one.  You can rename it if you plan to have multiple unique profiles, and it'll show up under the "ICC Profiles" tab in the left pane.  The gamut in the profile results will show where the White Point, Luminance, and Contrast Ratio values compare to the targets you've set.

 

Overall, even to the newbies to display profiling the process is all very intuitive and only takes a few minutes to accomplish.

 

Quality

Ultimately, the end result you're aiming for by calibrating a display is to improve the quality of the colors represented.  So after you're through profiling, you can quickly check the quality of the profile with the quality function.

NOTE: One thing that might be confusing if you can't find the quality function is that you have to select the "Advanced" User Mode which can be selected on the "Home" page.

 

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Again, similarly to the Profiler, the Display QA function will give you options for the patch set and targets.  The next screen will have you place your i1Display Pro in the center of your display (and it'll remind you to flip the diffuser over) and it'll take measurements of the quality patches you have selected.  It'll then give you a quick summary of the statistics of the quality test including average Delta E of all of the patches as well as maximums and standard deviations.  It'll tell you the Delta E of each patch as well.  This ultimately tells you how well your display is doing in the grand scheme of color accuracy.

 

 

Uniformity

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Another important aspect of display performance is the overall uniformity of the panel.  This primarily allows you to look at how even the backlighting of your display is.  Since profiling / calibrating is usually done at the center of the screen, it's good to know how that varies across the monitor's panel.  The great thing about LED backlighting is that it has allowed for thinner, lighter, and sexier-looking displays.  However, the super thin displays still must make sacrifices to the backlighting and many of the best-looking monitors, despite using LED backlighting, have very spotty / bleedy backlights.  If your display is dialed in at the center, and it's horrific at the edges you might find yourself frustrated about where you should best keep your workspace windows.  The uniformity tests will help you identify your display's weak spots.

 

Uniformity

 The Display Uniformity tests will test your display in a 3 x 3 grid across your display and give you a position silhouette centered each section.  Let the i1Profiler know when it's ready, and it'll take a brightness measurement.  When you've gathered all 9 data points, it'll show you the luminance and associated delta brightness from the center of the panel.  In our monitor reviews, we've found pretty good correlation between display deltas and Delta E from the center of the panel.  A "workaround" for color quality uniformity is to simply place the i1Display Pro unit in various locations across the panel and record the values manually, and that'll give you a good idea of how your panel will perform at various locations.

 

Overall the i1Profiler is very intuitive to use, and the only confusing thing for us was finding the "Advanced User Mode" tab on the home page to allow us to get into the QA and Uniformity testing.  We didn't run into any bugs and the software performed fabulously.  The only feature we think is missing is built-in color uniformity.  It would be super-handy to have the QA tests rolled into the uniformity test so you can see what the Delta E deltas (that's a mouthful) are from the calibration at the center of the monitor panel.


 

i1 Display Pro - Final Thoughts


The concept of display calibration and accuracy management across an entire management, at face value, sounds like a tedious and expensive process.  X-rite, with their i1Display Pro, takes any tedium out of the process.  In addition to the graphics we do, it's a perfect companion for timely, consistent, and accurate measurements for our display reviews.  The software is intuitive, easy to use, and the built-in help pane makes it very un-intimidating for novices to use and understand all of the available features.

 

Advanced users should find plenty of functionality to stretch their color-obsessed intentions and the standard options provide plenty of functionality for a vast majority of users.  Keep in mind that X-rite offers similar products like the ColorMunki Display which offers you similar functionality but at a more affordable price point, although obviously some of the more advanced functionality will be stripped away such as measured or user-defined calibration targets.

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We've found the results to be extremely consistent and provides a perfect platform for us to calibrate our office monitors for graphic design work and also to provide a basis of comparison for various displays that we have and will be reviewing.  The only feature we think is missing is a QA (color quality) uniformity test, and if X-Rite could roll the QA checker into the Uniformity workflow, that would be a beneficial feature, in my opinion.

 

The overall suite allows photographers and designers alike an integrated solution for color management across the design-print-scan life cycle.  It's user friendly, quick, easy, and consistent; what more would you ask for?  At $249.99 it hits a good value position in that it will deliver results that are only marginally improved by much more expensive display calibrators.  For the extensive features and intuitive software, the $250 asking price doesn't seem particularly high for a professional-level device whose speed allows it to be used for individuals and offices alike. 

 

For those who are balking at the price tag of the i1Display Pro and don't particularly desire the advanced features and just want to be able to profile your displays, the ColorMunki Display (at $169.99) and the ColorMunki Smile (at $89.99) round out a tier of options to get you into improving your display's color profile.

 

The Good

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The Bad

  • Efficient, clean design
  • Consistent measurements
  • Quick calibration / measurements
  • Vast profiling / target options
  • Compatible with Auto Display Control (ADC)
  • Software intuitive to use
  • No built-in color quality uniformity

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