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The best monitor calibrator tools for designers in 2020

best monitor calibrator
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Having the best monitor calibrator will help you check that your monitor displays colours as accurately as possible. As you're visiting this site, it's highly likely you work with colour – be that for video, digital art, design or photography. And as such, you'll know that accuracy is key. Here's our guide to the best monitor calibrators on the market right now.

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 Spyder5ELITE

(Image credit: Datacolor)

01. Datacolor Spyder5ELITE

The best 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
Expensive 

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)

02. 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
Expensive 

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. 

Datacolor Spyder5EXPRESS

(Image credit: Datacolor)

03. Datacolor Spyder5EXPRESS

The best entry-level screen calibrator

Settings: 2 | Laptop and desktop: Yes | Connector: USB

Budget option
Easy-to-use
Not as many settings as most
Professionals probably want more 

The Datacolor Spyder5EXPRESS is a really simple route to colour accuracy and is best for hobbyists, students and prosumers rather than pro designers. It's an easy four-step process with just two settings and you can see a 'before and after' view on preset images.

The software is available via a download link provided with the box. Professional creatives will probably be looking for more, though.

X-Rite i1Display Studio

(Image credit: X-Rite)

04. 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. 

(Image credit: Datacolor)

05. Datacolor Spyder5PRO

Another great monitor calibrator from Datacolor

Settings: 16 | Laptop and desktop: Yes | Connector: USB

Easy to use
Lots of settings
There are cheaper alternatives

Datacolor has a number of monitor calibrators on this list, and for good reason, as the company is a trusted name when it comes to making sure your monitors are displaying colours as accurately as possible. The Datacolor Spyder5PRO is more feature-rich (and pricier) than the Spyder5EXPRESS, but not quite as fully-featured as the Spyder5ELITE. This makes it a brilliant choice for people who want the best monitor calibrators for designers, but want to find a balance between features and price. It's easy to use and can help you calibrate your monitor in minutes. Despite its simplicity, there's a range of settings and ambient light profiles, with in-depth software for helping you get the most out of your screen.

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
Expensive

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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