capsule review

Personal Calibrator V

For decades, Barco has been to monitors what Rolls-Royce has been to automobiles: a name that represents uncompromising quality, with a price tag to match. The Personal Calibrator V is Barco's least expensive monitor to date, but it should come as no surprise that this "entry-level" Barco still runs a cool $3,499.

Why would anyone want to spend that much on a 21-inch monitor? Because it provides extremely accurate color, excellent uniformity, and razor-sharp images, even at 1,600-by-1,200-pixel resolution, with very little hassle. The monitor itself contains proprietary chips that use feedback loops to automatically control image size, geometry, and focus--straight out of the box. This continual process of self-calibration helps keep the monitor in optimal shape, and saves you time from excessive tweaking.

The Personal Calibrator V is a highly accurate monitor. Though the bundled Optisense colorimeter is not a top-of-the-line instrument, the monitor stores its characteristics in ROM, and with its CalibratorTalk software, it can easily compensate for the instrument's shortcomings. Barco claims an average color variance of 4 delta-e CIELAB (CIELAB is a device-independent color model, and 1 delta-e CIELAB is, in theory, the smallest change in color someone with normal color vision can detect), but in our tests, using GretagMacbeth's Spectrolino spectrophotometer, the Personal Calibrator V actually did better, with an average error of under 3 delta-e. For comparison, decent 21-inch monitors with good third-party calibration packages will typically achieve an average delta-e in the range of 4 to 6, and they're unlikely to rival the Barco for color uniformity or image sharpness.

Barcos aren't for everyone, though. Barco has always been conservative in setting the monitor's maximum luminance, choosing an aim point of 75 candelas per meter squared (cd/m2). This is relatively low--too low for some people, especially those who have to work in bright, ambient lighting. You can't override the maximum luminance, so if you want a super-bright monitor, Barcos aren't for you. On the other hand, the relatively low luminance allows Barco to guarantee the display's calibration aim points for at least three years. Many of today's CRTs can reach a white luminance of around 130 cd/m2 when they're brand new, but running them at this brightness will burn them out fairly quickly.

One minor annoyance is that the current version of the Java-based CalibratorTalk software is incompatible with the current version (2.2.4) of the Mac OS Runtime for Java--we had to downgrade to version 2.2.3 to run the software. Also, if you absolutely must have a flat-face monitor, be aware that Barco is still using round tubes. I've never found this to be a problem, but tastes vary.

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