While it's tempting to start using your freshly-delivered monitor without adjusting the controls, you won't be getting the best from your purchase. Spend a few minutes getting the settings just so, and you'll find photos, movies and games looking as good as they should.
You don't need to spend money on fancy software, though. Instead, head here and you'll find an excellent set of image tests designed to help you tweak your monitor's settings. Each set of test images and patterns is clearly explained, and examples show you what the images should and shouldn't look like. And, if you want to run the tests on a system that doesn't have an internet connection, you can download them as an HTML file that you can view offline in any web browser.
|To go one step further than just simple tweaks, use a colorimeter like this Spyder3Express, which hangs on your screen
However, if you're more obsessive about image quality, you might want to consider a proper colour calibration tool, which enlists the help of USB-powered colorimeters that accurately measure the light and colour output from your screen. Datacolor's Spyder3Express
($149) is just one such device. Install the supplied software, hang the USB colorimeter on your display, and wait as the software works its magic.
We tried it on a worst-case scenario - an elderly HP laptop - and while it couldn't fix the lack of brightness, images that were once robbed of life by its cold, murky colour reproduction were transformed. Skintones looked natural, and landscapes were revived.
Professionals need to set their sights higher again, however. Indeed, if you need the flexibility to choose from different gamma curves or colour temperatures, or to calibrate multi-monitor setups, colour calibration tools designed to please the most demanding of design professionals soar up to and above the $500 mark.