Pretty cool. And much better than the old eyeball method.
Digital photographers know that getting your monitor to accurately display the colors of their images can be a very tricky business. Until recently you either had to shell out big bucks for a professional calibration device or try the old eyeball method using preset color charts. Either method caused fiscal or literal headaches of their own. However, in the past couple of years we've seen budget priced calibration tools enter the market. Pantone's "Huey" is one such product.
Listed at a reasonable $89 (street prices vary), the Huey includes a USB Colorimeter, installation CD, desktop cradle, extension cable, and quick-start guide. The hardware and software work with Windows 2000, XP, Vista, and Mac OS X 10.3+. This review is based on Windows Vista and Windows XP installations.
Super thin USB cord.
The colorimeter itself is a small device about 4" x 3/4" with a hard plastic body, a light sensor, and indicator LEDs. The reverse contains tiny suction cups for adhering the device to your monitor during calibration. As nice as the device is, some suit in the corporate office thought a good way to save about three cents on production would be to use the thinnest, limpest, weakest USB cording he could buy in bulk. Perhaps his brother-in-law found a few cases of it after they "fell off a truck" or something. Seriously, I have never seen a USB cable so thin and fragile. Since regular use requires moving the device from stand to screen, more care should have been taken in selecting this material.
As with most USB products, the first step is to install the software then attach the hardware. The drivers and software install pretty fast and without any issues, however a reboot of the system is required. Additionally, the Huey software will load automatically every time you start the system. I presume this was to load the color profile information. Unfortunately, I could not find a setting to turn this "feature" off.
I frequently connect to my laptop from another machine via Remote Desktop Connection and this would cause the Huey software to crash when it was loading. I had no problems when using my laptop directly. While I know how to turn off startup items through Windows, Pantone's target market might not. Making this a configuration option would be most helpful. If Huey's software must be loaded for the color profiles to work, then this too is an oversight. Huey should simply create OS Color Profiles that can be loaded and unloaded manually.
Calibration is quite a simple process. Click the red and white Huey icon (and if your icon is NOT red and white, you really needed Huey) and the program launches... and immediately tells you to try again with the colorimeter plugged in. Oops! So first plug the Huey into a USB port (careful of the cord!) and THEN click the Huey icon. Yet another software annoyance; Instead of making us click OK and then re-launch the program, just have the program retry after clicking OK. That would be much more user friendly.
So once you finally have done everything in the correct order (no exceptions!), you are instructed to place the Huey in the desktop cradle with the LED lights facing you. (Of course, this is done with the cable side down just inviting it to kink and break. Did we mention how fragile it was?) The software first measures the light in the room. The next step has you removing the Huey from the cradle and attaching it to the screen in a marked spot on screen.