Datacolor SpyderTV Video Calibration System Reviewed

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Today's TV displays are so good that we've all gotten a bit lazy--be honest: when was the last time you ran one of those calibration discs to check the color or contrast level on your set?

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The main problem is that adjusting the set relies on one's eye to "see" what looks best-- it's so subjective. But the SpyderTV replaces that with objective results. And all you need besides the display and the colorimeter itself is a PC running Windows 2000/XP and a DVD player. SpyderTV attaches to the display with suction cups: gentle pressing works fine, but those who are worried can use the included tripod accessory instead (the preferred method for LCD, by the way). Once centered, it will "read" the display and transfer the data through a USB cable (the DVD disc provides full tutorial for placement). Since you'll want to do this for all your displays--Plasma, LCD, DLP rear projection, even CRT models--using a laptop makes the most sense (although wireless USB extenders should be available shortly)..

Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
Install the software, then just follow the "wizards" as they guide you through each step: the hardest part is finding your equivalent of "hue" and "black" and other terms referring to video settings in the menus on the display (since the same terms are not used by each manufacturer). We've attached SpyderTV to a Mitsubishi 62" 1080p DLP HDTV and darkened the room to lessen/eliminate problematic ambient light. Our DVD player is playing the special DVD included and outputting a widescreen image; both player and display were given time to warm up. We've also turned off "enhancements" on the display so as to have as neutral a start as possible.

Now we bring up test screens from the DVD player. Follow the software that analyzes various settings (such as the white balance, contrast, brightness levels, color temperature, tint, etc.), and make changes to the display as indicated. When done, a summary can be printed out (and a comparison of Before/After can be had by changing the settings back to where they were). But more importantly, the display has been calibrated to a "norm" that is objectively valid for the display. Compared to guesstimating, SpyderTV gives you a solid point of reference to start from.

Cool Down
The whole process took just over a half hour, and yes the image looks noticeably better: colors are cleaner, blacks have more depth, and contrast is right on. One can always use the chart as a jumping-off spot and make further changes based on personal preference: those preferring their skin tones more "red," for example, or wanting to reactivate enhanced color or black level features to see how it now looks.

We only wish this model supported front projectors (the SpyderTV PRO/$699 does and adds features such as grayscale and online support). Other than that, we have no complaints.
Also, SpyderTV is portable. Just toss it in the included travel bag, and it can go anywhere-making it just as ideal for use on that TV at a summer home or when visiting family or friends


MSRP: $249

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HTR Product Rating for Datacolor SpyderTV Video Calibration System

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