X-rite i1 Pro 3 Spectrophotometer

Simon Baker, 4 March 2020


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Our reviews at TFTCentral incorporate many different measurements to objectively measure performance of the monitors we test. One of the key tools we use in our reviews is an X-rite i1 Pro 2 spectrophotometer. This is used to measure the out of the box performance of the screen, its various settings and modes and ultimately to calibrate and profile the display for optimal performance - including to provide the ICC profiles we know a lot of people like to try on their display. X-rite are a very well established brand in this space, providing a wide range of color profiling and calibration solutions, not just for displays but also for printers, scanners, cameras etc. We are of course focused on display calibration and testing here so this article will be mostly geared to that area.

One big advantage of the i1 Pro 2 is that as it's a spectrophotometer, it can reliability read the white point (colour temperature) of modern LCD screens where varying backlight technologies are used. This is often a problem on lower cost colorimeter devices where they can sometimes have trouble reading the white point when you consider different backlight options like W-LED, CCFL, RGB LED, Quantum Dot LED, OLED and so on. This can often lead to an error of typically around 500k in the white point measurement on many colorimeter devices. The i1 Pro 2 gives us the flexibility to provide more accurate measurements in these situations and to optimise our testing across a wide range of displays. This is much better for those working with multi-screen setups, or needing to match colours across a large number of displays in an office environment or similar. These devices can also be used for calibration and colour matching across other non-display devices like printers, scanners, cameras, print etc.

It should be noted we do also use the new X-rite i1 Display Pro Plus colorimeter to validate and measure the brightness, black depth and contrast ratio of the displays we test. This device provides a better low black level capability and is also a bit quicker to use in practice. The combination of both the i1 Pro 2 and i1 Display Pro Plus gives us the capabilities we need for our reviews.

This article is looking at the latest addition to the i1 Pro family, the new i1 Pro 3 spectrophotometer. X-rite have kindly sent us the i1 Pro 3 Plus device for testing. As X-rite's website states, it is: "Designed for imaging professionals who rely on accurate color for their displays and projectors who want to track and verify monitor and print quality and who need to capture spot color measurement, the i1 Pro 3 is the answer. The i1 Pro 3 calibrates and matches up to four displays connected to a single computer and unlimited displays connected to different computers for consistent viewing. With the i1 Pro 3, you can quickly and easily create custom monitor and projector profiles that ensure the colors you view are true, verify soft proofs and print quality with built-in Quality Assurance (QA) tools, and easily capture and manage spot colors."

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Built upon the success of X-Rite’s i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer the i1Pro 3 features the next generation of industry-leading technology delivering increased accuracy, ease of use and an expanded professional-level feature set including the latest developments in ISO standardization. The i1Pro 3 is equipped with the X-Rite Graphic Arts Standard (XRGA) to make it faster and easier for companies and professionals involved in digital production printing to adhere to ISO standards and have confidence that data sent or received from all links in the supply chain are reliable and repeatable, reducing waste and rework. It provides real-time user feedback to ensure accurate measurement and a self-check tool that adjusts and corrects for minor shifts.



There are a range of benefits relating to display calibration provided by the new i1 Pro 3 packages:


Optimized Calibration and Profiles

  • Offers a custom, full-spectrum LED light source, which allows for single-pass scanning and improves device reliability and accuracy.

  • Measures M0, M1, and M2 simultaneously in a single-pass, cutting scanning time in half.

  • Reads smaller patches than the i1Pro 2 with improved accuracy.

  • Includes download link for i1Profiler software featuring basic and advanced modes for professionally calibrated and profiled monitors (including presets for video production workflows), projectors and scanners.

  • Support for measuring high brightness displays (up to 5000nits), improve emissive measurement, resulting in the best possible calibration and profiling of monitors and projectors.

User-centred features

  • Features an ergonomic design for easy cleaning and accurate measurements.

  • Provides real-time user feedback to ensure accurate measurement position and a self-check tool to adjust and correct minor shifts.

  • The basic packages also provide easy upgrade to i1Publish software to add complete printer (RGB, CMYK, CMYK + any four) profiling and quality control functionality, and camera profiling capabilities. 

  • Easy transfer of licenses from i1Photo Pro 2 and i1Publish Pro 2.



The i1 Pro 3 device offers a range of updated specs as provided below from the X-rite spec sheet. Of particular note you will see the increased peak brightness capability of the i1 Pro 3, now supporting displays up to 5000 cd/m2 brightness which will become increasingly very useful for modern HDR displays. The older i1 Pro 2 device had a maximum brightness of 1200 cd/m2. The minimum black depth is still 0.2 cd/m2 which is the same as the older i1 Pro 2, which is one of the reasons we bolster our testing with the X-rite i1 Display Pro Plus colorimeter which can measure down to 0.02 cd/m2.

Specs courtesy of X-rite:

Standard Packages

The underlying i1 Pro 3 spectrophotometer device remains the same in each of these packages, but the additional capabilities vary depending on your requirements. The license is integrated with the device so only those features you have bought within your package will be available within the different pieces of software etc.

  • The i1Basic Pro 3 is designed for imaging professionals who rely on accurate color for their displays and projectors who want to track and verify monitor and print quality and who need to capture spot color measurement.

  • The i1Photo Pro 3 is specifically designed for imaging professionals who require accurate color from their RGB printer, display, and projector, and want to track and verify monitor and print quality.

  • The i1Publish Pro 2 is for designers, photographers, or prepress professionals who rely on accurate color throughout a digital workflow, the i1Publish Pro 3 is the must-have solution to profile and calibrate cameras, monitors, projectors, scanners, and both RGB and CMYK+ printers.


Plus Packages and i1 Pro 2 Comparison

The i1 Pro 3 packages listed above are also available as 'Plus' variants which feature a slightly different device. Spec and feature wise there are a few differences that are detailed in the comparison table below.

Above: the i1 Pro 2 (left) and the new i1 Pro 3 Plus (right)

If we compare the i1Basic Pro 3 to the i1Basic Pro 3 Plus packages the equipment that comes with each is also slightly different. The Plus package comes in a much larger box and has a much larger carry case as well. There is an additional polarizing filter included along with XL sized versions of the scanning ruler and backer boards. The ColorTRUE mobile app download from iTunes App Store is also listed as included with the Plus version.

Above: i1 Pro 3 (left) and i1 Pro 3 Plus (right) packages

Here is the comparison of the specs and features between the i1 Pro 3, i1 Pro 3 Plus and the old i1 Pro 2 devices. The full spec sheet of the i1 Pro 3 Plus device is available here from X-rite. Specs and comparison courtesy of X-rite:

i1 Profiler Software

We installed the latest version of X-rite's i1 Profiler software available from their website (v3.2.0, dated 15 Jan 2020) to test that and provide some insight in to its features and operation.

The main screen shows you which features are available to you, depending on the license for the device you have. You can select the calibration device here too, as the software is also designed to work with the i1 Pro 2 and i1 Display Pro colorimeters too. Above is the 'basic' menu.

You can also switch to the 'advanced' view to give you more options and features on the left hand side.

We went through to the display profiling section. You can define your targets here for things like white point, luminance, gamma and contrast ratio. We have selected our normal review targets here. This gives you good flexibility for selecting different targets depending on your uses and requirements.

You can also define the settings for the profile itself here on the next page.

You can then select how many patches are measured and tested during the automated calibration stage later. The small sample set has 118 patches and this still takes around 7 minutes to complete the automated stages when using the i1 Pro 3 device. More samples will potentially increase accuracy but will add to the time it takes.

You are then guided to calibrate the device itself by placing it on the provided white tile and pressing the button on the side. This takes around 8 seconds. Once completed, you are ready to carry out the calibration of the display. You need to press the 'start measurement' button beneath the coloured patches section, which may be hidden until you scroll down the profiler window.

The actual calibration is fairly straight forward. Once you've positioned the device on the screen, you are first guided through making adjustments to the monitors RGB and brightens controls, with a handy visual indicator on the screen showing you when you've reached optimal settings. This is very straightforward and it's important to get the monitor hardware set to the optimal settings before profiling the screen. This will help preserve tonal values and prevent additional banding. Once that manual step is done, the rest of the profiling is automated and you can just leave the device to it. It took around 7 minutes with the small patch sample set to complete this automated step, so it isn't particularly speedy. At the end you can save the calibration profile.

We also followed on to the 'Display QA' section which allows you to validate the performance using a range of different colour checker options. We stuck with the default X-rite ColorChecker classic here for now.

The ColorChecker classic validation takes around 1 min 20 sec to complete, and at the end you are presented with a report showing you thinks like the dE variance and a range of other validated performance criteria. This isn't quite as graphically pleasing as the charts we see in our LaCie Blue Eye Pro software, but it gives you good information nevertheless. There doesn't appear to be any measurement or validation of the colour gamut / colour space provided though within the software.

The software also includes a uniformity checking section. This provides a 3x 3 grid which guides you through taking measurements across the screen, and then confirming how uniform the display is at the end of it.

It will measure white luminance, as well as light grey and dark grey.

The uniformity checking process takes around 1 min 30 sec to complete. At the end you are presented with a visual indication of uniformity and you can select the tolerance level as well as check the uniformity from each of the three measurements - white, light grey and dark grey.



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Hopefully this article gives a good overview of the new i1 Pro 3 device and all the different packages that are available. X-rite are a very well established brand in the colour and calibration space and this is their latest spectrophotometer device at the upper end of their portfolio. It offers a great deal of flexibility and high end performance for display calibration and profiling which is our particular area of interest. The spec has been updated and improved since the i1 Pro 2 device, including better support for higher luminance levels and modern display backlights. We would like the device to have better black depth support, although it's easy enough to validate lower black depths and contrast ratios using our i1 Display Pro Plus colorimeter as well. The spectrophotometer technology of the i1 Pro 3 makes it suitable for measuring and calibrating a wide range of backlight and display types and avoids some of the challenges and issues that face many lower-cost colorimeter devices in this area. If you want to venture beyond just display calibration the additional Photo and Publish packages offer support for other devices like cameras, scanners and printers. There's even the Plus version of the device if you need some of the additional benefits that slightly upgraded device offers. It's not a device that's going to be suitable for an average consumer with a single display as it's an expensive package, but if you are looking for a more advanced device for your colour management needs, especially across a range of different devices, it's a great choice.


Check Pricing and Buy - Direct Links

Amazon US  |  Amazon UK  | Amazon GER

TFTCentral is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.ca and other Amazon stores worldwide. We also participate in a similar scheme for Overclockers.co.uk.


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