Like its monitor-calibrating cousin, Amazon ($149.00), the Spyder4TV HD ($125) from Datacolor is used to fine-tune the color profiles in your life. But as the name implies, the Spyder4TV isn’t for your Mac’s monitor; this Spyder wants to correct the color on your HDTV.
There are four parts to the The Spyder4TV HD system: the software you load on your Mac, the color calibration sensor, the cradle and harness that holds the sensor pressed to your screen, and then the calibration disks you play on your DVD or BluRay player (both DVD and BluRay disks are provided).
Using the system means strapping the sensor to your HDTV via the harness, playing the appropriate calibration disk on your DVD or BluRay player, and then connecting the sensor to your Mac. From there, the Datacolor calibration software walks you through the process of adjusting your HDTV’s picture. The whole process takes about 20-30 minutes, and is about as much fun as folding your laundry.
But fun isn’t the point here, better picture quality is, and the Spyder4TV definitely delivers in that department.
The Spyder4TV works! I honestly wasn’t expecting a dramatic change, but after calibration, my HDTV’s colors looked richer, more saturated, and a lot more vibrant. This was especially noticeable while playing video games. I used to think Modern Warfare 3 was designed to have muted and drab colors. Turns out it was just my TV settings — now the game looks great.
Spyder4TV’s calibration system is also fairly straightforward to use. The system does a good job at walking you through the calibration process from start to finish.
And here’s an unexpected bonus: when not strapped to your telly, you can use the Spyder4TV’s harness as a slingshot to shoot water balloons at cars.
My main problem with the Spyder4TV HD is that it’s a one trick pony. With few advanced features, once you’ve used its main calibration functionality, it’s no longer of much use. For me, that’s hard to swallow since it costs about $125. It seems strange to pay so much for something you’re only going to use once.
And though the overall system is pretty straightforward to use, the calibration software can be a little confusing. Specifically, there are values you need to input into the Spyder4TV software during setup, but since HDTVs vary, the calibration software asks for values your TV may not have. That left me wondering if I was setting up the software correctly more than once.
If you’ve never calibrated your HDTV, odds are doing so could make a big difference in your picture quality. The Spyder4TV HD will no doubt improve your pixels, but I’d recommend finding a friend or two to split the cost with, so, after you’re finished with it, it doesn’t end up gathering dust in a drawer somewhere.