Do I need to calibrate my screen?

Out of the box, a screen could often look different to a reference standard (what it is supposed to look like). It could look warmer / colder / colour might be slightly off / too vivid/dull, etc). This is generally normal. As even the displays on the same model could look different (be it on a laptop, or external display, or a TV). 

To get the best out of a screen, you would want to calibrate it, to be more accurate relative to the reference point (which improves the performance vs. the out of the box condition). Pre-calibration is not an industry standard, though the need for a more accurate display amongst the professional users, has become more common on higher-end workloads (e.g. video editor / CAD usage, etc). After calibration, normally the gap reduces between the screen's output, and the reference standard. 

The laptops designed for the higher-end workload (e.g: Dell Precision, HP ZBook, ThinkPad P series), will often have premium IPS display (with wide viewing angle) - and look decent out of the box. That said, if you're used to a reference display (or an existing display), it will look a bit off. There are fewer controls than an external monitor. So this article is about getting you started on colour calibration for a laptop.

Basics calibration for laptops (free)

This basic calibration note will be a walkthrough, useful for people who might appreciate more colour accuracy but do not require it for their work. 

Generally speaking, Windows & macOS both have free built-in calibrator tool (which are free to use). These are considered functional and simpler ways to get the display calibrated. For Windows - the tool is called "Calibrate Display Colour", type it into the start menu to find it (you can also type "dccw" into the start menu to find it).  

Calibrate with Intel graphics control panel + Windows tool:

Take a look at this video - "Tech Fun with Akshat" YouTube channel has done a useful video on calibrating the display using this combination. 

(Most users will have an integrated graphics card - be it from Intel or AMD; so you can control the colour in the Intel HD/AMD graphics setting; some people will have a dedicated AMD/NVIDIA graphics card - those drivers sometimes allows for display colour adjustment options in their separate control panels).


Calibrate with NVIDIA control panel:

In the supported systems, you could use the NVIDIA control panel instead, to manage the colour (this is normally an alternative instead of Intel + Windows calibration combo, as shown in the video above; this is because the NVIDIA control panel will take over the calibration profile). You might find that either Windows + Integrated graphics, or the NVIDIA standalone option to offer a better result (the latter could more time to fine-tune).

There is a useful video, kindly shared by Patrick Campanale on YouTube that shows cases the feature. This will not be applicable if the laptop only has an integrated graphics card (if so, the combination of Integrated graphics display setting + Windows calibrate option will be more useful).

Additionally, the availability of this setting could vary between laptops that have NVIDIA graphics (some laptops will not have this "adjust desktop colour settings" by the manufacturer's design - which is okay). To get started, try to follow the video below (if you're not seeing the NVIDIA control panel option, when you right-clicking the desktop - then try to download an up-to-date driver from NVIDIA; then reboot to try again). Tip: do adjustments in very small increments. 


Advanced users (if your workflow involves colour accuracy)

Your operating system will recognise an ICC profile, which relates to the colour data/colour space of your display. Whilst there are readily made ICC profile for external professional-grade displays online (for instance on TFT central), finding a colour profile for a laptop is more tricky.

The next option is a hardware colour calibrator. For the more advanced users (around £150-180)- you might want to consider an external display colour calibrator. The software will remind you to occasionally re-calibrate. 

DataColour Sypder & x-rite (Amazon link here) are two popular options

Many consumer displays will be used for enjoying the content, rather than for creating content - as result, they might always not fully require an expensive reference display, and sometimes might even prefer a more vibrant colour (vs. the reference). Whereas the designers & professional users (more proactive in the content creation side) will often have the desire for a well-calibrated display.

What do the broadcast/production people use?

This part will not be relevant for many. Though people working in broadcast/production often have a reference monitor (which could often cost upwards to £20k+; even the Apple's new XDR Display will cost around $4999 ex stand in the US). This is a bit out of the reach of the prosumer level buyers. The best way to think of it - is that people in that field will often absolutely need the accuracy, rather than want some accuracy as a good to have.