Name: Datacolor Spyder4TV HD
Type: HDTV calibration tool
Price: £100.05 from Amazon
You've forked out more money than you care to share on a new HDTV set, and now you want the thing looking the best it possibly can. Enter the Datacolor Spyder4TV HD calibration tool. Through a combination of hardware and software, it promises to make your display match industry standards. But is it really much better than just using your own tweaking judgement? Read on to find out!
The Spyder4HD TV kit consists of a small, black pebble-like sensor unit and four discs; a Blu-ray calibration test disc, two DVD calibration test discs (one each for PAL and NTSC) and a software disc. That software disc is the important one, as all measurements and TV readings are carried out through PC software, with the pebblesensor merely transmitting information back to a PC across a super-long USB cable. As a result, you'll want to have a laptop or a moveable desktop PC and monitor nearby, or at least be prepared to move your HDTV nearer to a computer, as the Spyder4HD TV can't do its job without one. However, those looking to calibrate a PC monitor will, of course, need two computers handy; one to play test footage on the monitor, the other to read the sensor's findings.
To get started, you'll need to wait for the ambient light in your TV room to be as low as possible, and then hook the sensor unit to the front of your television. This shouldn't be a problem with either very small or very large flatscreen TVs, as the sensor is attached to very flexible bungee cords, holding it in place in the centre of your screen.
Get your test disc of choice playing on the screen and you'll then fire up the software and enter a roughly 20-minute long calibration process. The Spyder4HD TV sensor thoroughly measures settings like contrast, brightness, colour temperature, colour saturation, and tint, and suggests the optimal settings that your TV can achieve. There are also images for testing backlight settings and saturation too. It's a tedious process, but the results are pretty good, being a fair match for our own manual test disc settings. It's also very user friendly, meaning even AV luddites should be able to get a very good result from their sets at the end. However, those looking to really get the most accurate settings from their TVs may be frustrated to find that the Spyder4HD TV doesn't quite hit ISF standards, as it doesn't support tweaking individual advanced colour settings.
Once the process is completed, you'll be presented with a log of all the adjustments the Spyder4HD TV kit has made. The changes are presented through graphs, though a lack of numbers alongside the charts mean that tracking improvements can feel a little abstract at times.
The Spyder4HD TV kit comes highly recommended to AV newcomers who can't get their head around calibrating a TV away from garish shop floor settings. It'll deliver good results, holding the hand of a user through a lengthy process that could seem overwhelming otherwise. However, those who already have a test disc and know their way around a TV menu will find the tool doesn't deliver enough advanced calibration features to warrant their attention, and will likely consider it far too pricey when compared with a simple calibration disc.