Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System

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Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Getting Started

Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - Package - Front and Rear View
Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - Package - Front and Rear View. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Introduction to the Spyder4TV HD

If you spent a lot of money on your TV or video projector, you want the best image quality possible. The problem is that when you get your TV home, the factory default and preset picture settings don't always provide the best brightness, color, and contrast for your specific room and lighting environment. As a result, Datacolor provides a useful tool for both consumers and installers, the Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System, that provides an easy-to-follow step-by-step process that enables the fine tuning of your TV or projector's video and color performance. To see how this system works, as well as my evaluation of its effectiveness, proceed through the following photo illustrated review.

To start off, shown above is both a front and rear view of the Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System as it comes when you purchase it.

The front view of the box is partially transparent, which reveals the main component of the system, the colorimeter.

Moving to the right is a view of the back side of the box, will illustrate how the colorimeter is attached to your TV and is connected to your PC or laptop as well as a brief outline of how the Spyder4TV does its job.

Note: Click on photo for larger view.

For a look at everything that comes inside the box, proceed to the next photo.

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Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - Package Contents

Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - Package Contents
Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - Package Contents. Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Contents

Here is a look at everything that comes with the Spyder4TV HD package.

Along the back is the purchase-thank-you/warranty card, the Spyder4 Quick Start Guide, and Windows/MAC software.

On the table, starting on the left is the colorimeter cover and in the center are two bungee cords and the actual colorimeter assembly.

The provided colorimeter contains seven sensors that are designed to see the full color spectrum displayed on a TV screen. The colorimeter captures what it sees and then translates this information into a digital signal that is transferred to a PC or MAC via USB connection. This information provides the basis by which the software instructs the user on how to proceed with the needed adjustments to calibrate your TV.

Also shown are the test pattern discs that are used in conjunction with the colorimeter. On the left is the Blu-ray Disc, while on the right side are the NTSC and PAL DVD versions of the test pattern discs.

Note: Click on photo for larger view.

Proceed to the next photo.

03
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Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Colorimeter Attached to TV

Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - Colorimeter Harness Attached to TV
Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - Colorimeter with Harness Attached to TV. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Here is a photo of how the Spyder4TV HD colorimeter attaches to a TV. The bungee cords are looped through the detachable colorimeter cover and then stretched over the corners of an LCD, Plasma, or DLP TV. TVs up to 70-inches in screen size can be accommodated.

Note: Click on photo for larger view.

To take a look at how the software works, as well as a look at the test pattern menus on both the provided Blu-ray and DVD discs, proceed through the next series of photos.

04
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Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - PC Software - Welcome Page

Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - PC Software - Welcome Page
Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - PC Software - Welcome Page. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Here is a look at the PC/MAC software interface of the Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System.

In the main part of the menu are parameters that will be adjusted (color temperature, brightness, contrast, color, and tint).

When you press the "Next" button, the menu on the far left takes you through each step in the adjustment process.

Proceed to the next photo.

05
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Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - PC Software - Prep Checklist

Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - PC Software - Prep Checklist
Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - PC Software - Prep Checklist. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Here is a look at the "Before You Begin" menu page of the Spyder4TV HD system.

Just go through the checklist:

1. Equipment Check

2. Set your TV picture settings to Standard or Normal Mode

3. Set your Blu-ray Disc or DVD player to widescreen format (16x9 or wide)

4. In the appropriate test pattern disc (Blu-ray or DVD) into your player. If you are using a DVD player, make sure you insert the proper format disc (NTSC or PAL).

5. Connect the USB cable coming from the colorimeter to your PC or MAC's USB port.

6. Leave your TV, Blu-ray and DVD player on for 20 minutes before starting the calibration process.

Once the 20-minute "warm-up" time has passed, you are ready to start the actual calibration process. Make sure you have at least another 20 minutes available to complete the calibration process.

Note: Click on photo for larger view.

Proceed to the next photo.

06
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Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - File Name Assignment

Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - File Name Assignment
Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - File Name Assignment. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

After you have done checking off the items in the Prep Checklist, the next step is to assign a file name to a PDF document that will be generated at the end of the calibration process. This will enable you to store and/or print out a permanent report or record of the completed process that you can refer to. This is especially useful if you are going to use the Spyder4TV HD to calibrate more than one TV or video projector in your house.

Note: Click on photo for larger view.

Proceed to the next photo.

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Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - PC Software - TV Type

Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - PC Software - TV Type
Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - PC Software - TV Type. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

The next thing you need to do before starting your calibration is to identify what type of display device you are trying to calibrate.

Your choices are:

A. Direct View CRT TV (aka Picture Tube TV).

B. Plasma TV

C. LCD or LED/LCD TV

D. Rear Projection TV (can be CRT, LCD, or DLP based)

E. Video Projector (CRT, LCD, LCOS, DILA, SXRD, or DLP Based)

Note: Click on photo for larger view.

Proceed to the next photo.

08
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Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - PC Software - TV Brand/Model

Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - PC Software - TV Brand/Model
Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - PC Software - TV Brand/Model. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

The final step you need to do before starting the actual calibration process is to identify the exact manufacturer/brand and model number of your TV or video projector, and what room you are using it in. This is important for the final PDF file or print-out, especially if you are calibrating more than one TV.

Note: Click on photo for larger view.

Proceed to the next photo.

09
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Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System PC Software - Baseline Settings

Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - PC Software - Baseline Settings
Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - PC Software - Baseline Settings. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

To start the actual calibration process, you first need to register your TV or video projector's current settings. This also includes whether the setting range goes form 0 to 100 (with 50 as the reference point) or -50 to +50 (with 0 as the reference point). The setting range can be changed by the user to match the setting range of the TV or video projector.

Inputting the current settings provides a baseline reference for the software to use when asking you to make a specific setting change during the calibration process. During the calibration process for each category, using a series of black, white, and color test patterns, you will be asked to make repeated setting changes (as many as 7 or more) until the Datacolor Spyder4TV HD finds the optimal setting.

You proceed through each category one-at-time. When a category is completed, you will see a message on the screen to that effect, and have the option to view a test results preview that will later be available on the final PDF file report.

The whole process takes about 20-to-40 minutes.

Note: Click on photo for larger view.

Proceed through the next series of photos to see what the final calibration results were for the TV I used for this review, the Panasonic TC-L42ET5 LED/LCD TV

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Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - Calibration Results

Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - PC Software - Calibration Results
Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - PC Software - Calibration Results. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Here is a look at the complete PDF formatted result report that is provided at the end of the calibration process, which is composed of charts for each calibrated category.

The chart for each category shows a plot point for each setting used. On the right side of each chart the category is listed, along with the baseline (previous) setting, the optimized setting, how many readings it took to obtain the optimized setting, and how long the entire process to reach the optimized setting took.

Note: Click on photo for larger view.

Proceed to the next series of photos for a closer look at the result charts for each category.

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Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Calibration Results - Contrast

Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - Calibration Results - Contrast
Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - PC Software - Calibration Results - Contrast. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Here is a look at the calibration results for the Contrast category.

Note: Click on photo for larger view.

Proceed to the next result.

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Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System Calibration Results - Brightness

Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Calibration Results - Brightness
Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - PC Software - Calibration Results - Brightness. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Here is a look at the calibration results for the Brightness category.

Note: Click on photo for larger view.

Proceed to the next result.

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Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System Calibration Results - Color

Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Calibration Results - Color Saturation
Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - PC Software - Calibration Results - Color Saturation. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Here is a look at the calibration results for the Color Saturation category.

Note: Click on photo for larger view.

Proceed to the next result.

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Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Results - Color Temperature

Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Calibration Results - Color Temperature
Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - PC Software - Calibration Results - Color Temperature. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Here is a look at the calibration results for the Color Temperature category.

Note: Click on photo for larger view.

Proceed to the next result.

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Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Calibration Results - Tint

Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - PC Software - Calibration Results - Tint
Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - PC Software - Calibration Results - Tint. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Here is a look at the calibration results for the Tint (aka Hue) category.

Note: Click on photo for larger view.

Proceed to the next photo.

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Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - PC Software - Tools Menu

Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - PC Software - Tools Menu
Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - PC Software - Tools Menu. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Shown in this photo is an additional, short-cut way of performing a basic calibration for your TV that is also provided with the Spyder4TV HD. If you go into the Tools Menu (located on the top left of the main software menu), there are pull-down categories (with instructions) that employ some of the additional test patterns on the DVDs or Blu-ray Disc for adjusting Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness, and Color. These can be used to adjust your visually, rather than numerically, or you can use the provided adjustment opportunities to visually fine-tune the previously obtained numerical results to your preference.

This option is also handy if you have an older TV that doesn't feature numerically-numbered scales for its video settings. Using the patterns provided on the Tools menu does not require the use of the colorimeter.

Proceed to the next photo.

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Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Test Pattern Menus - Blu-ray

Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - Test Pattern Menus - Blu-ray Version
Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System - Photo - Test Pattern Menus - Blu-ray Version. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Here is a look at all the available test patterns provided with the Spyder4TV HD. The test patterns that are used in the calibration processed illustrated in this review are the first six patterns (starting on the top row left to right) included in the group on the top right. The group of three test patterns shown in the bottom right rectangle are for before and after comparisons, which provide you a way of checking your results with actual images, and also allowing you make any changes if you find that you prefer a variation on the optimized settings determined by the Spyder4TV HD.

The remaining patterns provide additional, optional, ways either for you, or an professional installer, to check other video settings and performance characteristics of your TV or video projector, such as: Color Gamut, Crosshatch, 64 Step Black and White, Grayscale, Color Bar accuracy, and Sharpness.

Note: Click on photo for larger view.

Final Take

Overall, the Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System was laid out logically. Once the software is installed, it walks you through everything you need to do set up the testing procedure and guides you through each calibration step, including an illustration of what test patterns to you need to access on either the Blu-ray Disc or DVD to proceed with each required measurement. Also, I especially liked getting a final report that I could save on my PC and/or print out for permanent future reference.

On the other hand, I did find that you do need to have a little patience using the system. It is best to have about an hour of free time to allow for your TV and other components to "warm up", install the software, attach the colorimeter to your TV screen and, finally, to conduct the test procedures.

Also, with some of the tests, you are asked to alternate between two test patterns, and although the software provides an easy to make sure you have the right one displayed on your TV, it is possible to get them out of sequence, which results in an error message. When this happens, you need to start the measurement procedure over for that specific category - which can eat up extra time if you made your mistake towards the end of measurement process the category in question.

As far as how the actual results affected the performance of the TV, I was pretty satisfied, except I felt that on final Tint category, I preferred less variation from the center reference point than the Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System indicated. However, that is not a problem as you also have the choice to make changes to your TV settings manually.

The Spyder 4TV HD is not as quick, or as easy, as using one of the currently available, and less expensive video calibration discs, that rely more on your sight, rather than just number measurements, such as the Disney WOW, THX Optimizer, or Digital Video Essentials. However, if you like the idea of doing just a little bit extra, and have some patience, to get better image quality from your TV, definitely check out the Datacolor Spyder4TV HD Color Calibration System. Once you get the hang of it, you will probably end up calibrating all the TVs in your house (and your neighbor's too!).

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Components Used in This Review

TV: Panasonic TC-L42ET5 (on review loan)

Blu-ray Disc Player: OPPO BDP-93

DVD Player: OPPO DV-980H

High Speed HDMI cables: Atlona

Laptop PC: Toshiba Satellite U205-S5044