Andy Westlake investigates a versatile and affordable display calibration system
X-Rite i1Display Studio at a glance
- Colour profiling system
- Calibrates monitors, projectors, and mobile devices
- Works with Apple and Windows computers
- Free ColorTRUE app for Android and iOS
- See www.colorconfidence.com
If you spend a lot of time painstakingly processing and manipulating your images after shooting, with the aim of getting them printed or showing them off on your phone or tablet, then you’ll appreciate the importance of colour management. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting colours just right on your computer, only to find that they come out looking different in print or when viewed on other devices. To fix this, you need to invest in a proper colour profiling system, based around a hardware device known as a colorimeter.
X-Rite’s i1Display Studio is a simple and relatively affordable option that offers everything that many enthusiast photographers will need, supported by easy-to-use software. Inside the box you’ll find the colorimeter device, along with a piece of paper prompting you to download the i1Studio program from X-Rite’s website. The colorimeter itself sports a large lens at one end and a tripod socket at the other, with status LEDs on either side and a suitably long USB cable for working with desktop monitors. The lens is protected by a rotating cover, which can be also used as a stand for profiling a projector.
X-Rite’s colorimeter range
i1Display Studio is the most affordable of a family of three products, and is designed for enthusiast and professional photographers looking for an easy colour-management solution. The next step up is the i1Display Pro (£178), which promises faster profiling and an expert software mode with additional features. Meanwhile high-end users working with super-bright HDR displays may need the i1Display Pro Plus (£260). Both of these systems use similar-looking hardware.
Confusingly, X-Rite also offers the similarly named i1 Studio, which employs completely different hardware capable of both calibrating displays and generating paper profiles for printing, and costs £349.
X-Rite i1Display Studio: Profiling monitors
Once you’ve installed the software, the first thing you need to do is profile your computer screen. This is a simple enough process; plug in the colorimeter, fire up i1Studio, and follow the onscreen instructions. The device is designed to hang over your monitor on its cable, with a counterweight on the opposite side to stop it falling off.
The software takes you through the process step-by-step, with detailed help shown in a panel on the left side of the screen. Initially the system spends 20 to 30 seconds on a basic contrast measurement, after which it will prompt you to adjust your screen’s brightness to the recommended level. It’ll then proceed to measure 118 different colour targets, which can take anything up to about 6 minutes, depending on the speed of your computer.
Once this process is complete, you’ll be prompted to save the resultant colour profile, and it’s a good idea to give this a recognisable filename, rather than use the computer-generated version. It’s possible to view a before-and-after comparison of your monitor’s colour rendition, along with RGB calibration curves and a colour gamut graph. Unfortunately though, these don’t display very well on high-resolution Windows monitors. You can also set up a reminder to re-profile after a specific time, from one to four weeks, which is generally considered good practice for maintaining high colour accuracy.
X-Rite i1Display Studio: Profiling mobile devices
One neat feature that you won’t find elsewhere is the ability to profile your mobile devices’ screens using the free ColorTrue app. This works with both Android and iOS, although not necessarily with older devices. The main caveat is that you have to view your images within the app to see the correct colours, unlike on computers where the monitor profile is applied system-wide.
Profiling an Android device is a straightforward process: simply open ColorTrue, and then plug the colorimeter into the USB port using the requisite adapter. With iOS devices it’s a little more complicated; you need to have a computer running i1Studio with the colorimeter plugged-in, and connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your phone or tablet. In both cases ColorTrue will automatically detect the i1Display device, and then show an outline of where to position it on the screen. It’s easiest to lay your phone or tablet down flat on a table and place the colorimeter on top, and then let the app get on with. I found the process took six or seven minutes on Android, but less than half that time on iOS.
Once the calibration is complete, you can then select images from your camera roll or gallery, and view them in the ColorTrue app. It’s possible to compare them with or without colour calibration, and even simulate how they might look in print, using a range of built-in CMYK profiles. This all works perfectly well on iOS, but I found the Android app (version 1.2.0 at the time of writing) to be a little buggy. It has a bad habit of refusing to open some perfectly normal JPEG images for no readily discernable reason, occasionally crashing on the spot. This is frustrating, as the idea of being able to show off your images in a colour-managed environment is obviously very appealing.
X-Rite i1Display Studio: Verdict
I tested the X-Rite i1Display Studio with a wide range of devices, successfully profiling two Windows 10 laptops, a Samsung Android tablet, and two smartphones, one each from Apple and Huawei. I found it was easy to use and generated consistently accurate profiles, giving me impressively well-matched colours across five very different screens. In other words, it does what it’s supposed to do. The biggest irritation is the Android app’s occasional refusal to open certain images for no obvious reason.
At a similar price point, the main alternative is Datacolor’s SpyderX Pro, which costs £159. This is considerably quicker at profiling computer screens, but doesn’t work with mobile devices. Both systems generate similarly accurate monitor profiles, so it’s just a question of deciding where your priorities lie. But if you’re looking for a simple, straightforward and affordable colour-management system that will work your tablet and phone as well as your computer, X-Rite i1Display Studio is a great choice.