Review of monitor calibration product: huey

Pantone has released a new product for monitor calibration called the huey, developed in conjunction with GretagMacbeth. The interesting part of this story isn’t that we have another monitor calibration program in an already crowded market, but that it costs less than $100 (CDN). This is bottom-of-the-barrel pricing for a monitor calibrator. Previously, the lowest priced unit available was the GretagMacbeth Eye-One Display2 for $265. The purpose of this review is to determine how well this product compares to more expensive calibrators. Is it up to the challenge?

Product Overview and Notable Features:

The first thing that I noticed was that the device is very small, not much bigger than my index finger. It does feel cheap compared to the more robust Monaco or Gretagmacbeth products, mainly due to the thin USB cable and its light weight.

Another interesting feature is the ambient light monitoring option. When the huey is placed in its cradle and connected to the computer via the USB port, the software will compensate for changes in room lighting. I can see this being a positive option for gamers or web shoppers, but not for photographers or graphic designers who need more consistency. A changing component in the process is asking for trouble.

This is the by far the easiest calibration software I’ve ever used to calibrate and profile a monitor. Anyone can calibrate his or her screen with no understanding of colour management. It only takes a total of 5 minutes to complete.

Once the huey software is installed, you can’t use another calibration package. Huey takes over your ICC profiles and will always use one of its own profiles, even if you try to change to another vendor’s profile. The only way to use other profiles is to uninstall the product Testing was limited to the Mac.

You can’t calibrate two monitors on one system—huey can only control one at a time. You can use huey to calibrate another monitor on a separate computer, then disconnect the device and return it to your main display.

Profile quality

This product is not aimed at the high-end user looking to save a few bucks. If you’re serious about your work and the quality of your product, then this isn’t for you. Huey is targeted to the mid-range consumer looking for a quick and easy fix. Consider the cost to regain a client’s confidence and then consider if $300 is too much to spend so you can have confidence in what you sell.

My evaluations have been restricted to LCD monitors, as this is the trend in displays. The first profile was done on a new Dell 17” LCD. I evaluated both Mac and PC platforms. The end result was a profile that I could not use. The area of highest concern was the abrupt transition at the shadows. Posterization is the word that comes to mind. Colour was too green as well.

The second monitor was a three-year-old Mac G4 Powerbook 17”. This one was not as bad as the Dell LCD, but again it was not a profile I could use. The biggest area of concern was that the overall colour was too yellow, as seen in the gray balance.

The last monitor was a 2.5-year-old 23” Cinema Display. On this monitor the huey did a decent job. Colour was similar to the Monaco OPTIX XR Pro. The gamma was a bit higher resulting in a brighter representation on screen. The grays were neutral and it could be used for informal colour-correction work.

Based on the four systems and three monitors tested my, conclusions are that the product works well on a high-end monitor and not so well on less expensive LCD’s. The dilemma with this product is that those owning less expensive monitors will be the ones that purchase – and that may lull those not familiar with colour management into a false sense of security. “I’m calibrated because I have used my huey.”

Sure, it can make your screen look different, but four out of five monitors that I tried looked worse—to the point were I could be making some very inaccurate adjustments. If I wasn’t so involved in colour management (verifying images, evaluating gray scales calibrating over 200 monitors in the last few years) I would give the huey two out of five stars.