I would like to know if there are any advantages to using this calibration software package instead of the ones that came with my colorimeter (a Spyder 2 Express)? I've read a number of reviews online, but none of them seem to answer the obvious question: Why would anyone pay lots of money for a software package that comes for free with your colorimeter?
The basic calibration software that comes with the Spyder 2 Express just does bare-bones calibration. It leaves many things up to however they are currently calibrated or set by the factory, such as screen luminance, and tries to calibrate as best it can.
More advanced calibration software, such as Spyder 3 Elite v4, or the Color Eyes Display Pro, perform much more extensive calibration. I have the Spyder 3 Studio Elite package myself, and use the Elite v4 software. It adjusts my screen brightness to a specific luminance (I usually calibrate to 120cd/m), sets a precise black and white point, and does more extensive color calibration. The Elite v4 software also supports synchronized calibration across multiple screens, as well as performing various tests over the full screen surface to check for things like screen backlight illumination evenness, gamma tuning, etc.
It sounds like the Color Eyes Display Pro does many of the same things. One thing about the Color Eyes software is it seems to be calibration device independent, so if you upgrade from one version of the Spyder device to another, or move to another brand, the Color Eyes software will still work.
After spending quite a bit of time researching display calibration software, and I've found that using a 3rd party calibration package instead of the Spyder Express software provides the following 2 advantages.
Multiple monitor support: The supplied Spyder2 Express software only allows you to calibrate your main display. If you have a second display, you'll need to buy the Spyder Pro software or resort to 3rd party packages.
Better integration with Windows: The Spyder2 package relies on an app that runs at startup to load the color profile into Windows. This is bad for 2 reasons. Firstly, this causes issues with some applications like some games. I find that with all Bioware titles (e.g. the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series) I have to always fiddle with the in-game gamma settings each time I play as the shadows appear too dark. This issue goes away when I use the color profile loader that's built into Windows 7. Secondly, it is another program to run at start-up and you'll see your display's color change the profile gets applied at log-in. I admit that this second point is rather minor :)
Being on a fairly tight budget, I couldn't justify Color Eyes Display Pro. In it's stead, I discovered dispcalGUI which is an open source monitor calibration package that works with various colorimeters including my Spyder2. The setup process is slightly involved, i.e. it's not a matter of clicking "Next" on the installation wizard. Nevertheless, there is ample documentation on the site and I had no troubles setting it up. The up-shot is that it works and produces profiles that are just as good as those generated by commercial packages (I measured this using the Color Eyes Display Pro trial, just before I uninstalled it :)) The downside is that the calibration process takes a bit of time if you elect to generate a high quality profile. On my laptop this took roughly an hour. Given that I can do other things in that time and that I don't frequently calibrate my display, this is something I can live with. Especially as I've saved over a hundred GBP by going down the free software route.