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The best monitor calibrators in 2022: keep your on-screen colors accurate

Man sat at desk using one of the best monitor calibrators

The best monitor calibrator is a must-buy for anyone working in photography. Because when you're viewing and editing your shots on screen, you don't want your eyes to be misled.

Most computer screens give a vibrant, dynamic picture, but this isn’t always the best for editing your photos. If you edit images on a monitor that hasn’t been calibrated, you may end up sharing pictures that are unintentionally oversaturated, too muted or have an obvious color cast.

It doesn’t matter which color space you select on your camera, or how you adjust Photoshop’s settings – if the screen has a warm cast or a cool blue cast and isn’t showing you an accurate picture, then any edits you make may be subtly or substantially out.

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To ensure your computer monitor is displaying colors accurately, it pays to regularly calibrate its brightness, contrast and color. To do this, you need a monitor calibrator, aka a monitor calibration tool or a colorimeter. You simply place it on your screen and fire a selection of colors at it. The device will detect any discrepancies, and your computer can then programmed to compensate for them. 

No amount of calibration can make a mediocre monitor into a dream display. But by using a calibrator, you’ll at least know that your monitor is performing at its best. Read on, as we list the best monitor callibrators available today.

The best monitor calibrators in 2022

(Image credit: Datacolor)
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The best monitor calibration tool overall

Reasons to buy

+
Fast speeds
+
Great overall accuracy
+
Good value

Reasons to avoid

-
Interface could be more friendly

SpyderX is the successor to Datacolor’s popular Spyder5 monitor calibrator series. It uses a brand new lens-based sensor system rather than the old honeycomb baffle on the Spyder5. The result is a claimed increase in calibration accuracy, especially in the lightest and darkest image regions, and a sub-2-minute calibration time, making this the fastest Spyder calibrator ever. In our hands the Spyder X Pro calibrated our test monitor in a staggering 1 minute 15 seconds. Given monitor calibration isn't a once-only procedure (you should calibration roughly once a month to ensure consistent color accuracy), such a noticeable time saving is very handy indeed.

Available in Pro and Elite flavors, both SpyderX versions offer features like ambient light monitoring and multi-monitor support. The Elite (number four on our list) adds projector profiling, pro-orientated advanced calibration options, and its video color space targets are useful for video editing, but for most photographers we reckon the Pro edition offers the best bang per buck.

Whichever version you opt for, Datacolor’s calibration software is easy to use, yet includes plenty of customization to suit lots of monitor types.

(Image credit: Calibrite)
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The best all-in-one monitor and printer calibration tool

Reasons to buy

+
Straightforward to use
+
Accurate monitor calibration
+
Very versatile 

Reasons to avoid

-
Combined hardware can be more awkward to use than separate devices

You usually need separate devices to calibrate a monitor and printer, but the ColorChecker Studio packs both functions into a single tool. Consequently it’s no surprise that this all-in-one device is bigger than a typical monitor calibrator, and it comes with a case to hold it on your screen during operation.

Monitor calibration is quick and easy, as is the printer profiling procedure. You don’t need to pause on every individual color patch on the two A4 test prints: just slide along each row of patches and the device automatically does its thing. Like monitor profiling, a custom profile is then saved, and you select this rather than using your printer’s default settings the next time you print.
See our full Calibrite ColorChecker Studio review (opens in new tab).

(Image credit: Datacolor)
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3. Datacolor SpyderX Studio

The best all-encompassing monitor calibration kit

Reasons to buy

+
Performs well in our tests
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Good value

Reasons to avoid

-
Bulky to store
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Print scanning not that smooth

The SpyderX Studio is actually a large collection of gear. The calibration kit consists of the SpyderX Elite monitor colorimeter, a separate SpyderPrint spectrocolorimeter for assessing printed output, and a small SpyderCube to help set the white balance, exposure, black level and brightness when shooting Raw images. 

The monitor calibration hardware and software, and the resulting color accuracy, are identical to the SpyderX Elite. Printer calibration requires you to print at least one sheet of color patches, which you scan using the SpyderPrint and a plastic ruler guide. 

Opt for the single-page print of 225 color patches and the scanning process demands accuracy, but it’s painless; choosing two pages of larger swatches is easier, and you can ditch the guide.

best monitor calibrators - Datacolor SpyderX Elite

(Image credit: Datacolor)
The best monitor calibrator for advanced features

Reasons to buy

+
Extensive customization
+
Some useful extra features

Reasons to avoid

-
Extras aren’t essential if you just want to calibrate and go 

The Elite version of the SpyderX colorimeter may look identical to its cheaper Pro sibling (above), but fire up the Elite’s software and you get a host of extra features. 

The most valuable is arguably the ability to calibrate your monitor not just to conform to a typical 2.2 gamma and 6500 K white point, but also to color space standards like sRGB, Adobe RGB, NTSC and Rec 709. 

Given that they use the same hardware, it’s no surprise that the Elite manages a very similar sub-two-minute calibration time to the SpyderX Pro. Both versions maintain excellent calibration accuracy scores with negligible Delta-E variation.

There's no doubt that the SpyderX Elite is an excellent monitor calibration tool, but we'd only recommend it over the SpyderX Pro if you specifically need to calibrate your monitor to suit video color spaces, or want complete control over every element of the calibration process. For more information, see our full Datacolor SpyderX Elite review (opens in new tab).

(Image credit: Calibrite)
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5. Calibrite ColorChecker Display Pro

A great choice for monitor calibration perfectionists

Reasons to buy

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Very fast
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Plenty of customization
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Accurate calibration 

Reasons to avoid

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Slightly daunting software
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Many extras aren’t essential 

When it comes to the best monitor callibrators, speed is important; because to ensure consistently accurate color accuracy, calibration at least once a month is advisable. The ColorChecker Display Pro is targeted at image quality purists who want top-notch calibration as quickly as possible. 

The ColorChecker Display Pro is designed to be a comprehensive monitor calibration tool; to this end, its calibration software is crammed with features. There are also extensive options for setting a range of desired brightness, gamma and white point. 

Keep things in Basic mode and it’s fairly easy to use, albeit not quite as intuitive as Datacolor’s SpyderX software. But venture into the Advanced mode’s interface and you may well be baffled by some of the more technical options on offer.

Product shot of Calibrite ColorChecker Display Plus, one of the best monitor calibrators

(Image credit: Calibrite)

06. Calibrite ColorChecker Display Plus

The best monitor calibrator for super-bright displays

Reasons to buy

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Up to 2000 nits
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Black current subtraction
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Supports USB-C

Reasons to avoid

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Expensive

The ColorChecker Display Plus is Calibrite's top-of-the-range model, and as such the most expensive. It's specifically aimed at professional filmmakers, editors, colourists and photographers using super-bright HD and HDR monitors. 

While the company's other monitor calibrators are suitable for displays up to 1,000 nits, this one can accurately measure luminance/brightness levels up to 2000 nits. It also offers higher accuracy in dark colours thanks to it use of black current subtraction technology. Plus as well as USB-A, you also get USB-C connectivity. 

Otherwise, though, there's not much difference from the Calibrite ColorChecker Display Pro. So to choose between them really is a case of weighing up the extra cost and the usefulness of these specific features.

Five things to look out for

Speed
Monitor output fluctuates, so you’ll need to periodically recalibrate. Most colorimeters will get the job done in a few minutes and remind you when another checkup is due. 

Ambient light detection  
Some calibrators can measure surrounding ambient light and adjust monitor brightness to compensate. Useful when comparing printed images with on-screen equivalents.

Monitor types
The tech inside your monitor will affect how it displays colors, hence a calibration device that can accommodate subtleties like LED backlighting should produce more accurate results.

Advanced features
Fancier options can calibrate color to conform to color standards, match color output across multiple screens, or calibrate a projector.

Printing
If you’re into home printing, your printer can also be calibrated to ensure it’s printing at its best. You’ll need a calibrator designed for printer profiling.

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