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I want to buy a new monitor. I'm thinking of something like a Dell U2410 or HP 2475w - a decent size, but not too big. And a decent quality.

This will be mainly for development, web browsing and a bit of photo editing.

I've read that these monitors are "wide gamut" monitors, and might need calibrating properly before use. I've read various articles showing all sorts of fancy graphs about calibration and colour performance. They talk about buying hardware tools to calibrate the monitor properly, or going through manual steps to calibrate - comparing images by sight, etc. All this stuff scares me!

I just want to buy something that is decent quality that will work pretty well out of the box.

Should I be worried about monitor calibration?

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Calibrating is more about color matching for professional printers (for example, they want to insure the color on their catalogue will match what they save on their monitor). – MGOwen Dec 22 '09 at 2:14
up vote 1 down vote accepted

I'd say it depends on how important color accuracy is to you. Dell actually provides a monitor profile for the U2410 (though it looks like it might have a few issues). Assuming a working color profile from the manufacturer, the colors you see in color managed applications might be 'good enough' for your purposes. If not, acquiring a colorimeter and generating a custom profile for your individual monitor (as opposed to the specimen the manufacturer used) might improve the situation.

Keep in mind that on a wide color gamut display, colors in applications with no color management will likely appear 'over-saturated'. In that case, the application is probably assuming all the world is sRGB (which hasn't been that bad of an assumption for most of the last decade). The U2410 does have an sRGB mode that will give you 'normal' colors in this case, though, it too, has issues.

I'm actually looking at a U2410 at the moment using the 'Standard' preset, with the Dell Profile loaded and Firefox doing mode 1 color management. I'm happy with the result. The only place I'm not getting fairly accurate colors is the 'Game' preset. Unfortunately, Direct3D seems to use sRGB internally and I don't think any color correction is occurring anywhere. The sRGB preset on the U2410 incurs a response time penalty, so I don't generally game in that mode. I don't think the colors in most games are realistic to start with, so it doesn't bother me that much. I'm not sure I'd notice anything if I didn't flip between sRGB/Game to compare. I might actually invest in a colorimeter to generate a custom profile for each preset. I think the Dell provided profile is for Standard mode.

Note that the Dell U2410 and HP 2475W are using quite similar panels. The U2410 panel is just a newer revision of the one in the 2475W (though who knows, HP might switch to the new rev at some point). I haven't been able to find out much about sRGB mode on the 2475W so far.

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Thanks. I don't think I'll be using any colour managed applications. Like I said, mostly programming stuff and web browsing. It's reading about this colour management and over saturation in non-colour managed applications which has got me worried. Will people in images on the web and videos on YouTube look like they've got a fake suntan with the out of the box settings? – A_M Dec 22 '09 at 6:36
Stick to sRGB mode and you shouldn't have a problem with funky colors in non-managed applications. Though you might want to get in front a U2410 and see if the dithering is going to bother you in normal usage on that preset. It possibly (I'd say probably, except now that I've mentioned it, you'll be looking for it) won't. That raises another interesting question, is the Flash player color managed? Hmmm, looks like yes, it is, as of version 10. – Mark Johnson Dec 22 '09 at 19:14
Dell has started shipping a new revision (A01) of the U2410 with updated firmware that contains a fix for the dithering issues. I haven't seen it in action yet myself, but word on the street it is that it does the job with no downside. – Mark Johnson Jan 26 '10 at 17:23
Beta version of an updated ICM here: – Mark Johnson Jan 26 '10 at 17:28

Yeah, you should think about calibrating your monitor. It'll look nicer.

Is it something you have to spend money on, and do before ever using it? Not at all. The people who are spending this much money on tools are enthusiasts, who want everything they can get out of their monitor, or work on photographs all day long. When you get your monitor, just fiddle with it as you use it, that's all you need to do :)

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No, you don't have to but it doesn't hurt either.

If your work is not "color-critical" (and it seems like it isn't) there is no need to do it. But I would recommend it anyway. Only if set up correctly you will get the best picture quality from a high-end monitor.

A simple colorimenter like the Pantone Huey should do the job here. It's not too expensive and is easy to use.

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Short answer, No. Long answer, unless you are doing very intensive photo/video work or a huge videophile you will never see the benefits of a detailed calibrating. I would simply use an image such as the one below and adjust the contrast and brightness until the background looks black instead of grey and only see one black vertical bar on the left. Also, a lot of monitor calibration revolves around buying a high end monitor that is built to be calibrated.

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There's a difference between "calibration", which is important only if the colors you're looking at on-screen have to match some other output device, and "tweaking" to make sure that it's set up for what you do.

Many modern monitors have an HDMI port - if you have a decent DVD player, hook it up to the monitor, and run one of the THX certified DVDS, which have a pretty good calibration suite. Depending on the monitor, you may have to migrate the settings to a different input, but it'll still help you figure out how to adjust it for your configuration.

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