I just purchased a Spyder4 Pro to use with my new NEC PA241. My reasoning for the Spyder4 was that I have many other monitors in the house that need calibration/profiling and I read somewhere in these posts that the i1 Display Pro software did not build profiles that were all that great. At least that is what I took away from the comments. But that was from comments that came out several months ago. <snip>
I have both the i1 Display Pro and Spyder 4 Elite. I've compared them using their bundled software (i1Profiler and Spyder 4.5 Elite respectively) as well as using 3rd party software, specifically Color Eyes Display Pro v1.6 and Argyll CMS.
First, comparing them as individual packages, the Spyder 4 Elite software had some serious bugs when first released but Datacolor did an excellent job of correcting those. Even with the updates though, i1Profiler is the clear winner in my experience as it renders far more linear greyscale response. The Spyder 4 Elite 4.5 software exhibited lots of bands and some color casts in a greyscale gradient where as i1Profiler was much more smooth. Another feature missing in the Spyder 4.5 Elite software is the ability to produce LUT based profiles (it will only produce a matrix based profile). There have been religious wars regarding LUT vs. Matrix profiles in this forum. For most people I don't think this is a huge concern but some would obviously disagree.
One particular usability gripe with the Spyder 4 Elite software is that it provides absolutely no method to measure the white point of another monitor and this in my opinion is essential to maintaining sanity when calibrating multiple monitors. Now that said, I'd say Datacolor does have the best visual
matching interface on the block. When you consider that measuring doesn't always produce a visual match (particularly when dealing with monitors of different gamuts, or monitors that use different backlighting technology), I'm a bit conflicted as to whether or not the absence of that feature is a good thing for most users or not. In practice though, visual matching adds a step that can potentially be eliminated if a measurement can do the job.
Due to the greyscale performance, other user interface/usability issues, and considering the lack of ability to measure a different monitor to obtain a white point target, I'm not recommending the Spyder 4 Elite to my clients. Initially I wasn't all warm and fuzzy with i1Profiler (with regards to monitors, I love the printer profiling) either as it had several glaring deficiencies too such as the inability to calibrate RGB levels but X-Rite has since rectified that and a number of other issues so as a stand alone package, I'm pretty comfortable with recommending the i1 Display Pro.
Now when we look at the pucks using the same software packages (Argyll or Color Eyes Display Pro), it's a little more interesting. The i1 Display Pro is the superior puck however, when both are compared on the same software platform, the performance gap between the two isn't as big as it is when comparing the packages (bundled software and puck together). Both are capable of rendering decent profiles when used with Argyll CMS. You start to see more significant differences between the two when applying the -K variable in dispcal and setting it to 1.0. For those not familiar with Argyll, the default configuration is with -K set to 0. The -K variable controls how much color correction is applied to the blacks. Most software packages do apply any color correction to the blacks and this is certainly the case with the Spyder 4 software, Color Eyes Display Pro, BasICColor Display, etc. Spectraview II does provide an option that allows to to calibrate blacks but the default is set to off (and I'm not sure but this may no longer be supported with the PA series monitors). The point here is that ultimately, this won't play a huge roll in the real world but it does demonstrate the limitations of the Spyder 4. Getting back on track, when -K1.0 is specified, the Spyder 4's weakness in the shadows becomes apparent as the resulting profiles contain lots of color casts in the shadows where as the i1 Display Pro performs quite admirably. Again, most software packages DO NOT do this so in most cases you're not going to hit this limitation.