You have it correct, hardware calibration/calibratable in reference to screens refers to where the calibration actually takes place, not how the calibration is adjusted. So yes, hardware csalibration are the (Often) expensive screens from companies like Eizo, NEC, Quato, Barco, et al. They eacdh have in common a colour lookup table which is similar to those inside ICC profiles, but the screen itself has a CPU and memory and the LUTR is stored in the internal electronics of the screen.
Curiously, a hardware calibration has its adjustments performed by software, whereas a software calibration (when one has access to brightness, R, G, B controls on the OSD, etc) has its adjustments performed by hardware, a human pressing the hardware buttons on the front of the screen. Or there is a 3rd style, pure software calibration, which is what the vast majority of laptoip screens are like, with zero controls and all adjustments occuring in the LUT of the graphics adapter.
BTW, thanks for that bit of info re: v4 profiles causing Win7 to make things look very dark and overly contrasty. I recently got myself a laptop with a 1920x1080 LED screen and have only just started to profile it. Previously, I’ve always had laptops with screens of such poor quality there was never any point profiling them as I never used them for any colour management kind of work. But on this one, I used the same apps as you, and the same result. But I had no idea it was as simple as creating a v2 profile, which I’m about to do. Thanks for that.
For your laptop needing more brightness, why can’t you just type in a higher cdm figure when setting up the calibration? Instead of 120, perhaps try 130 or 135, until you have the brightness where you want/like it to be. Both i1Profiler and BasICColor Display 5 offer the ability to type in the level of brightness you’re aiming for, in cdm.
The instruction manual supplied with Display 5 has some very extensive explanations and descriptions of what each and every feature, function and option in the app does. It is very straight-forward and very easy to understand, IMHO. Give the manual a thorough perusal and you should have all the info you need to be able to create a profile which has the settings you desire.
If there’s anything you’re unsure of or are getting confused by some feature, just let us know and hopefully we can help enlighten you on the subject.