I’m In Love With My Huey

Pantone Huey ProMy $98 Pantone Huey Pro, that is.

I realize that this isn’t exactly a QuarkXPress topic, but it’s certainly a topic that every QuarkXPress user wrestles with: accurate color. I found that having accurate on-screen color became much more interesting when QuarkXPress 7 added the ability to display any document in any profiled color space (RGB, CMYK, CMYK+spot, press profiles, grayscale, etc.). With a calibrated display, you can actually trust the colors you’re seeing in XPress. (Note previous story “Preview in Grayscale, CMYK, and More.”)

But back to Huey:

Being a justifiably smug Mac user, I was reasonably satisfied with the color I was getting from my high-end CRT monitors. I had used Apple’s built-in color calibration tools, and my colors were accurate enough for casual use.

But then I bought a new LCD display and a new MacBook Pro, and I suddenly questioned the colors I was seeing. Each time I used Apple’s calibration routine (in the Displays pref pane), the result was different.

Along comes Pantone with their Huey Pro, and 15 minutes later I’m not only confident that the colors I’m seeing are reasonably close to what they should be, I’m out-of-my-mind happy that this little pen-sized device will keep them that way.

How? It regularly measures the ambient light in the room and adjusts my monitor to compensate. I have it set for every 30 minutes, but you can set it for any interval, or not at all.

The not-at-all setting is handy because you can use the Huey Pro to calibrate all the displays in your studio and then leave them alone. They’ll keep on using the latest calibration settings until the end of time. But only the computer that has the Huey plugged into it will benefit from regular, automatic adjustments. (The Huey Pro works equally well under Mac OS X or Windows.)

Oh, and it’s not limited to calibrating just one display per computer: if you have several displays attached to your Mac, it will calibrate each one. In fact, it asks at the end of its first calibration whether you want to calibrate your other display(s). Nice touch. (I’m not sure if this works with Windows.)

Here’s the simple setup routine:

  1. Drag the application from the included CD to your hard drive.
  2. Plug the Huey Pro into a USB port.
  3. Launch the Huey Pro application and tell it whether you have a CRT or LCD display. (Yes, it works just as well on CRT displays.)
  4. Adjust the brightness/contrast on your display until the application window looks a certain way. The device then measures the ambient light in the room.
  5. Stick the pen-sized Huey Pro device onto your display. In a minute or two, it finishes its measurements and creates a profile for that display. Name the profile and you’re done.

The application also thoughtfully offers to show you a before & after view, which in itself is a great selling point for the device. The difference for me was fantastic — better light/dark balance, more detail in the shadows and highlights, less eye fatigue, and an overall impression that I could see “more” than I could before.

The software, which runs continually in the background, can also remind you to perform a complete new calibration at any interval from one to 14 days — or never. I wish it would let me set it for “monthly” or “quarterly” because I really don’t want to be bothered every other week, but I also know that displays change their behavior over time. Every month or two would be fine with me. I hope Pantone provides this option in a future release.

(And while I’m complaining, here’s a bug you may run into: on some Mac OS X systems, the software loses contact with the attached Huey Pro. Unplugging and then plugging the Huey Pro back into your Mac’s USB port fixes the problem, but this sometimes happens several times a day. Pantone says they are aware of the problem and are working on a fix.)

That’s why I love my Huey. I hope you get a Huey to love, too.