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The best monitor calibrator tools for designers in 2020

best monitor calibrator
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you're a digital creative, then having the best monitor calibrator your budget can stretch to is one of the most important purchases you'll make. 

This is because, for photographers, artists and video editors in particular, you'll need to ensure that your monitor is displaying colours as accurately as possible.

Rather than painstakingly doing it by hand/eye, you can use the best monitor calibrators on this page to help you. They are more accurate, and faster, and it means you can get to work safe in the knowledge that your monitor is showing colours as accurately as possible in a matter of minutes.

It's important that you don't just calibrate your monitor once - it should be a process you do regularly to ensure your screen is showing colours accurately, which means the best monitor calibrators are a fantastic investment. Also, the quicker they perform, and the easier they are to use, will save you lots of time overall. So, here's our guide to the best monitor calibrators on the market right now, and if you want to know how these tools work, check out our article on how to calibrate your monitor

Why do I need a monitor calibrator?

Calibrating your monitor ensures your colours are accurate. Essentially, that means you'll know that what you're seeing on your screen is what everyone else will see. This is especially important as your working environment can have a big impact on how colours will appear on a screen. 

Calibrating a monitor correctly also means you're looking after yourself. It will help to reduce eye strain when you're working intensively.

If you or your company have invested in a good quality monitor, these tools will help make sure it's performing as it should be. If you're not getting the most of of it, then you're not giving yourself the best chance of doing great work. 

Of course, monitor calibrators don't help if you haven't got a decent monitor in the first place, and we've got several guides that can help you out. Check out the best 4K monitors for designers or our guide to the best monitors for video editing

What's the best monitor calibration tool?

There are plenty of different monitor calibration tool options, including software downloads, online tools and the built-in calibration tools within Windows and macOS. But nothing offers the accuracy and ongoing reliability of a hardware calibrator. This is by far and away the best method to ensure you get an accurate display that reflects real-world colours. 

Now let's check out the top monitor calibrators. We've rounded up the best options based on price, features, usability and all-round effectiveness.  

Datacolor SpyderX Pro

(Image credit: Datacolor)

01. Datacolor SpyderX Pro

The best monitor calibrator yet

Much quicker than previous Spyder5
Great overall accuracy
Good value
Interface could be more friendly
No budget Spyder X 'Express' version

Datacolor is a well-known brand in the field of monitor calibration, and it's followed up its Spyder5 monitor calibrators (which are included in this guide as well) with the new SpyderX device, which improves nearly every aspect of the Spyder5 range.

It uses a new lens-based sensor system which speeds up calibration time, while also increasing the accuracy - an impressive feat which means you can be even more confident in the colour accuracy of your screen. And, for people who regularly calibrate their monitors (which everyone should do), this decrease in calibration time can end up saving you quite a bit of time in the long run.

This excellent monitor calibrator comes with useful features, such as multi-monitor support, and it can detect the light conditions you're working in to ensure your monitor looks its best. As always, Datacolor's software, which comes with the device, is easy to use, letting you begin calibrating straight away.

Datacolor Spyder5ELITE

(Image credit: Datacolor)

02. Datacolor Spyder5ELITE

Still a great monitor calibrator for professionals

Settings: Unlimited | Laptop and desktop: Yes, plus front projector displays | Connector: USB

Use in wizard or expert mode
Designed for professionals

Although the newer SpyderX Pro is now our pick for the best monitor calibrator overall, its predecessor the Spyder5ELITE, is still an excellent choice. As well as making laptop screens and desktop monitors just right, the Spyder5ELITE provides a lot more in terms of setup, but only takes around five minutes to calibrate (less for subsequent calibrations).

There's a simple wizard-based mode but also an expert mode, too. There are 'unlimited' calibration settings plus grey-balancing. You can calibrate all of your displays to a single target, while there's room light monitoring to determine the optimal monitor brightness. You're able to see 'before and after' results using your own images.

X-Rite i1 Display PRO

(Image credit: X-Rite)

03. X-Rite i1 Display Pro

Another top professional calibrator

Settings: Unlimited | Laptop and desktop: Yes, plus projectors | Connector: USB

Reuse the same profile on multiple displays
So many options

The incredible X-Rite i1 Display Pro comes with a heap of options, but then you do pay for it. You're able to use your profile across multiple displays (either on the same machine or network) as well as assess the ambient light in your workspace to set your monitor up for best results.

A technology called Flare Correct will measure and adjust your display profile for reduced contrast ratios caused by glare on your screen. Video colour standards are also incorporated, so video editors can set up their display for best results, too.

The X-Rite i1 Display PRO is a little expensive, but our price comparison tool trawls the web to find you the best price. The X-Rite i1 Display Studio below is a cheaper option. 

Want to measure super-bright displays over 1000 nits? Then opt for the X-Rite i1Display Pro Plus (also below) instead. 

(Image credit: Datacolor)

04. Datacolor SpyderX Studio

A great calibrator for professionals

Combined monitor and print solution
Good performance
Not great for beginners

If you're a professional who has the budget, and space, for the SpyderX Studio, then this is one of the best purchases you can make. It comes with the SpyderX Elite monitor colorimeter, as well as a SpyderPrint spectrocolorimeter for checking your printouts, plus the SpyderCube, which can be used to calibrate Raw images.

It's essentially an all-in-one kit that gives professional photographers and designers everything they need to ensure every aspect of their work is properly calibrated. This means it's pricey, and as there's a lot of kit, you'll need to make sure you have enough room for it in your office or studio - and it's a bit overwhelming for beginners. 

However, by offering a collection of some of the best calibration and colour assessing tools on the market right now, it's a fantastic choice for people who want to upgrade their entire setup with a single purchase.

X-Rite i1Display Studio

(Image credit: X-Rite)

05. X-Rite i1Display Studio

No ambient light monitoring, but it'll do the rest

Settings: N/A | Laptop and desktop: Yes | Connector: USB

Easy to use
Good value for what you get
No ambient light monitoring 

Sitting underneath the X-Rite i1 Display Pro above is the X-Rite i1Display Studio which offers almost all of the same features. The key difference is the lack of ambient light monitoring. This is a definite drawback if you really want to get things spot on in an office environment.

The measurement speed also isn't as high as the Pro but this may or may not bother you. For our money, this will calibrate your display very well without the extra expense of the Pro or Pro Plus. 

X-Rite i1Display Pro Plus

(Image credit: X-Rite)

06. X-Rite i1Display Pro Plus

Calibrate super bright screens, projectors and printers

Settings: N/A | Laptop and desktop: Yes | Connector: USB-A and USB-C

Calibrates screens and projectors
Supports HDR and super-bright displays

The Pro Plus sits at the top-end of  X-Rite's i1Display range of calibrators and it's the one to go for if you need to deal with super-bright displays. The company's other calibrators we've covered above handle up to 1,000 nits while this will manage up to 2,000 nits. 

As such, it's the best calibrator for HDR displays on this list, as well as other super-bright monitors that we're now seeing more of on the market. It also supports Black Current Subtraction to minimise noise. And, as with the company's other calibrators we've featured you can profile up to four separate displays. 

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