The New Monitor and Color Diffs

I recently purchased a new NEC MultiSync LCD 1960NXi display to use as a second display with my PowerBook when I need to get some serious work done. The monitor has startlingly good color output and was brighter than most CRT displays I have seen in the past. It was also outshining my PowerBook monitor pretty heavily.

One fun trick is to run Windows XP in Virtual PC full screen on the laptop’s monitor while running the rest of my world on the new display. Very handy when designing graphics and CSS for new web sites to see how the dark side views things. Dark side indeed – the Windows gamma is so much darker. Some subtle color variations on the lighter side were appearing as white on the Mac side (or just much less subtle on the Windows side), while subtle dark hues appeared all black on the Windows output.

And besides, this monitor’s native ColorSync profile was blinding me. And the mismatch between it and the old built-in PowerBook display was a bummer.

With a quick calibration, this was made all better. In the Mac OS X System Preferences there is a Displays preference module, and there’s a Calibrate option in the Color section of that module. That little guy launches the Display Calibrator Assistant.

Running the Display Calibrator Assistant in normal mode yields pretty much useless results. Turn on the Expert Mode option to get a truly accurate display profile. I wound up turning my monitor’s brightness down to about 70% and set my gamma at 1.95 – a little less than halfway between the Mac’s usual 1.8 and the 2.2 PC standard.

The final match was very good color parity between the two monitors, especially when running Virtual PC, and a good approximation of color between what my Mac-using bretheren will see on the final website creations and what the Windows users will get as well. Not 100% perfect color accuracy between the two, but close enough for web work.