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23rd February 2006
Pantone huey display monitor calibrator tested
by Ian Burley

Pantone's new huey monitor calibrator is not just the smallest and most affordable device of its kind, but also the fastest.

ColorVision Spyder2express review
Price: 69.95 (incl. VAT) Buy one direct from Colour Confidence.

Product type: Display monitor colour calibrator
Platforms supported: Windows 200, XP/Mac OSX 10.3 and later
unconventional looking device

Pantone's huey is certainly an unconventional looking device

Until recently, Pantone and ColorVision were synonymous with affordable monitor calibration through their range of Spyder products. Pantone has now ended its relationship with ColorVision in order to get into bed with GretagMacbeth, an acknowledged leader in digital colour management but not so well known for low cost solutions.

The Pantone huey is the most unusual example of monitor calibration hardware I've yet seen. It's a stick-like design, four inches (10cm) long and about half an inch wide. Most other calibrators are circular in basic design.
The huey sensor

The huey sensor, front side up next to its stand. The white blob in the centre is the ambient light sensor.

On the front you will see four red LEDs, a white ambient light sensor and two clear plastic lens-like apertures that, on close examination, simply appear to be lugs for locating the clear plastic front panel of the unit.
The underside

The underside of the huey sensor has three holes for colour sensing, plus eight micro suckers for attaching the unit to the surface of the screen.

On the underside of the device are eight micro suckers for temporarily fixing the huey to the monitor screen, plus three holes in a line, which probably lead to the colorimeter or colour measuring sensor.

The whole thing connects to the host PC's USB port via a remarkably thin cable. An extension lead is provided in case the main lead is too short. You also get a desk stand, made out of very lightweight plastic, incorporating a cable-tidy design in the base.

In use
Software installation is quick and easy via a single installer file and, certainly in the case of a Windows machine, the PC must be re-booted after installation.
ambient light is sensed

Prior to calibration, ambient light is sensed. In this picture, the huey is actually upside down in its stand an easy mistake to make, but not critical for this stage.

When the huey application program is run, it, first of all, asks you to identify whether or not the monitor is an LCD or CRT type. If you select CRT, there are additional stages to navigate in order to set optimal brightness and contrast though, to be honest, I have seen clearer methods of achieving this in other programs.

If you have an LCD monitor or you have completed the contrast and brightness set up with a CRT monitor, you are asked to ensure the huey is situated in its desk stand, facing yourself, so an ambient light intensity reading can be taken. We'll come back to this feature in a paragraph or two.

Next, you are prompted to position the huey on the screen by lining it up with a facsimile of a huey on-screen. The six micro suckers are too weak to do an LCD screen any damage, but their stickiness is not that good either. Some wipes are provided to clean the screen for unobstructed sensor readings and for improved adhesion. The huey sticks more convincingly to a CRT screen surface.

the calibration sequence

Here the calibration sequence, lasting less than a minute, is in full swing.

Click on 'next' and the calibration process begins. Every time a rendered colour is sensed, the LEDs light up in sequence, which is very pretty but it is also reassuring that the device is working correctly. On our test PC, the sensing phase of the calibration process was over in less than one minute, making it the fastest screen calibrator I've used to date.

Next you are invited to remove the huey from the screen and then you are given the option of viewing before and after screen views to see if the calibration has made a positive difference. A niggle here is that the comparison does not appear to be with the previously instated monitor profile. I repeated the calibration expecting the before and after check to reveal no difference, but it did.

Automatic ambient light detection and compensation
Next, you are asked if you would like to let the huey sense the ambient light for any changes and compensate by varying the screen brightness. This means the huey jumps into life once a minute, LEDs rising and falling, heralding a light sensor reading. If a large enough change in the ambient light is detected, the screen brightness will change accordingly after a few seconds.

Pantone can't really escape from the comment that the huey has a rather gimmicky side to it. But that's forgivable if it does its job adequately and, on the whole, I can happily report that it does. I tested the huey on no less than eight monitors; seven LCDs and one CRT and on all but one, which happened to be the lowest specification LCD, a good result was obtained. Even though I couldn't satisfactorily use the contrast and brightness wizard for the CRT monitor calibration process, the result using default settings was still very acceptable. We did notice an occasional aborted calibration for no apparent reason, requiring an exit from the software and a re-start from the beginning.

What a huey can't do is extract every ounce of quality from your display because it doesn't offer the kind of comprehensive colour channel balancing and brightness and contrast setup that more expensive solutions have. Its speedy calibration clearly works, but greater precision is gained through the longer procedures of costlier systems.


DPNow rating system explained..

Performance Calibration is quick and we obtained decent results. However, there is only limited monitor optimisation prior to calibration.
DPNow rated: Good
DPNow rated: Good

Ease of Use Being an uncomplicated device, the huey is easy enough to use, though it doesn't stick to an LCD screen as reliably as we'd like.
DPNow rated: Good
DPNow rated: Good

Features As monitor calibrators go, the huey is quite basic, although its ambient light sensor is unusual at this end of the market.
DPNow rated: Average
DPNow rated: Average

Build quality The lightweight stand, thin USB wire and poor LCD adhesion marked the Pantone huey down, but it's not too bad.
DPNow rated: Average
DPNow rated: Average

Value for money There is nothing as good as the Pantone huey that is close in price and for this reason we think it rates as excellent value for money.
DPNow rated: Excellent
DPNow rated: Excellent

Overall ratings - At DPNow we don't much rate stars and percentages because they mean one thing to one reviewer and something else to another - this is why we use our own rating system above, but as the industry demands such devices, we reluctantly provide them, based on our concept of the product's target market, the competition and how we got on with the product while testing it.

DPNow rated: 85%

DPNow rated: 4 stars (out of 5)

The bottom line:
Pantone's huey is simple, but effective and definitely an asset if you haven't yet invested in hardware monitor calibration. It's sheer simplicity and relative ease of use means you won't be put off using it frequently, as you should in order to compensate for changes in the monitor as it ages. If you are very serious about your photography, a more expensive solution should be worth the extra, but a huey is already a big step forward from simpler calibration solutions that rely solely on a human visual response. We're happy to award the Pantone huey a 'Recommended' overall rating.

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