X-Rite Display 3 PRO Colorimeter

Officially known as the i1 Display Pro III, by any definition X-Rite’s new Display 3 colorimeter is a disruptive technology. In many ways, it is not useful to think of the Display 3 as simply a successor to the Display 2, which has been the dominant affordable colorimeter on the market for several years. The Display 3 is based on a completely different design and offers a level of performance profoundly superior to the Display 2, indeed profoundly superior to any colorimeter at anywhere near the MSRP price of $269.

For a full review of the Display 3 colorimeter, see New Gear.

It is also one of the easiest devices to use because it requires no dark reading calibration.

Despite this, it is an affordable mass-market device whose tolerances fall short of professional color analyzers.

We have developed a version of the Display 3, which we have named the Display 3 PRO, that offers substantially enhanced accuracy across a wide range of displays.

What we have done is provide a software-based refinement to and expansion of the existing calibration tables in the individualized license file delivered with each unit. To understand how this works, it is important to first understand the source of errors in tristimulus colorimeters.

In an attempt to accurately model human color vision, in 1931 the CIE defined the standard observer, which is characterized by three color matching functions, shown below.

 

A filter-based colorimeter attempts to mimic human color perception by matching these curves. However, accurately matching these complex curves using any reasonably affordable filters requires correction with a reference spectroradiometer. Otherwise, you cannot achieve the desired accuracy with different display types. A spectroradiometer does not rely on filters as a way of mimicking human color vision, but rather measures the spectra of a display directly. Its accuracy depends only on the bandwidth, sensitivity, and resolution of the device.

The inaccuracies of a filter-based colorimeter arise from a variety of sources.

  • The standard modes that the factory Display 3 ships with are based on a generic calibration from a reference device. The same calibration is applied to all Display 3's.
  • There will always be some unit-to-unit variation.
  • The instrument's accuracy may decline as it ages. However, because it is essentially a non-contact design whose newer generation filters are installed in a sealed environment, it will likely age more gracefully than previous models, such as the Display 2 and Chroma 5.
  • There is a natural variation in consumer displays—even displays of the same type!—so the operating modes of the colorimeter are no more accurate that these variations allow. The calibration tables of the factory Display 3 can only be derived from the general performance characteristics of the display type, not the specific display being calibrated.

Taken together, these four sources of inaccuracy—generic factory calibration, unit-to-unit variation, effects from aging, and a lack of consistency among displays—result in a device that, on average according to our tests, typically deviates from a reference spectroradiometer up to about 5-6 dE (CIELAB). Our PRO version of the meter will cut this source of error in half.

Of course, the best way to minimize these errors is to use your own reference spectroradiometer to correct the Display 3 for each calibration session on a single display. ChromaPure provides an Meter Correction module for just this purpose. However, the vast majority of consumers cannot afford a true reference device, which are very expensive. SMPTE requires a reference instrument to have a minimum accuracy of ±0.002 for the measurement of xy chromaticity coordinates at any luminance above 3 ft-L. The only instrument capable of this level of precision is a 5nm spectroradiometer. A tristimulus colorimeter will not offer this level of accuracy, nor will an 8nm or 10nm spectroradiometer.

The Display 3 PRO virtually eliminates 3 of the 4 sources of error and lessens the fourth for a small fraction of the cost of a true reference device.

  • First, we individually test each meter against a reference spectroradiometer on a CRT, several LCD flat panels, a plasma flat panel, and front projector with a standard UHP lamp in both luminance and illuminance modes.
  • Second, we include correction figures in the individualized license file that align the standard Display 3's response to our reference device. These two steps alone greatly improve the built-in calibration tables for the Display 3 and completely eliminate any unit-to-unit variation.
  • Third, for a modest fee, we will periodically recalibrate your Display 3 PRO to ensure it retains its initial accuracy. This service eliminates the problems associated with exposure to the elements over time.

The Display 3's accuracy is reasonably consistent when reading CRTs, plasmas, and front projector screens. The biggest problem by far lies with LCDs. Using the Standard mode the Display 3 may read one LCD very accurately and yet be off on another. It is difficult to achieve consistency when reading LCDs. Contrary to one widely-repeated myth, this is not an issue directly related to the difference between CCFL backlit and LED backlit displays. Some LED displays actually give the colorimeters less trouble than their CCFL counterparts. Also, the Display 3 can maintain considerably different levels of accuracy when comparing two CCFL displays. The problem isn't with LED backlighting. The problem is LCDs period. To address this problem, the Display 3 PRO ships with 7 different LCD modes. We may add additional LCD modes as needed.

A Word on X-Rite Licensing

This meter is offered by X-Rite in three configurations.

  • ColorMunki Display: A budget version of this meter family.
  • i1 Display Pro III (OEM): The enhanced version of this meter that is available through OEM suppliers, such as ChromaPure. It ships in a plain white box and does not include nor supports X-Rite software. It is supported by most major software vendors that also support the retail version. Other than packaging and licensing restrictions, it is identical to the retail version of the i1 Display Pro III.
  • i1 Display Pro III (Retail): The enhanced version of this meter that is available through standard retail channels (e.g., Amazon.com). It ships in retail packaging and includes X-Rite's basic PC monitor profiling software. This is the version we ship.

Currently, ChromaPure supports both the OEM and the Retail version of the i1 Display Pro III. We do not support the ColorMunki Display.

 

Summary


The result? The Display 3 PRO is a colorimeter that offers professional grade performance at a price affordable to the amateur hobbyist or enthusiast. Our tests show that the Display 3 PRO offers accuracy for color and the white point that in the majority of cases exceeds that of the i1Pro. Furthermore, its luminance readings are far superior to the i1Pro, both in terms of general accuracy and certainly in dynamic range.

Quite simply, we believe that this is the best sub-$1000 meter for video calibration on the market today. Is it a true reference device? No. But at this price it comes as close as any device we are aware of to this standard.

Front Projectors


For best accuracy, we recommend calibrating front projectors by taking readings directly off the screen. However, for those who wish to take readings directly from a projector's lens, the Display 3 offers a built-in color neutral diffuser.

Operating Modes


  • Generic LCD
  • Samsung Standard LCD
  • Samsung LED
  • Sony Standard LCD
  • Sony LED
  • LG LED
  • LG Standard LCD
  • DLP Rear Projection
  • CRT
  • Plasma
  • LED Front Projection-Screen
  • LED Front Projection-Lens
  • Front Projection-Screen
  • Front Projection-Lens

Prices


Display 3 PRO (Retail) w/ChromaPure Standard software and includes free ChromaPure video calibration Blu-ray disc and a 3 meter USB extender.

$569

Options

 

Upgrade of Display 3 (OEM or retail) to Display 3 PRO for existing ChromaPure users (You pay for shipping to us and we pay for domestic U.S. shipping back to you.)

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$175

Recalibration of Display 3 PRO (You pay for shipping to us and we pay for domestic U.S. shipping back to you.)

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$175