MSI Optix MAG321CURV review: Fit for purpose

Over the years, MSI has established itself as one of the largest component manufacturers in the world, entrusted by PC builders for its solid and reliable bits that pull strings behind the scenes.  With ever-changing times, the Taiwanese company has started to diversify its portfolio by leaving the backstage behind, and putting its name on a range of peripherals. 

Monitors take centre stage on every gamer’s desk, and unsurprisingly, MSI has jumped on the bandwagon to release its very own branded 4K gaming monitor, the Optix MAG321CURV.

READ NEXT: Samsung CHG70 review (C27HG70)

MSI Optix MAG321CURV review: What you need to know

MSI’s latest product is a 31.5in curved VA-based gaming monitor that runs up to 60Hz at 4K, with support for HDR, too. Despite its large panel, it’ll leave a small footprint on your desk; its three-sided borderless design and adjustable stand ensure that it’ll fit into most gaming setups. 

READ NEXT: Best gaming monitors

MSI Optix MAG321CURV review: Price and competition

The MAG321CURV costs £450. There are a handful of 4K HDR monitors to choose from, and the cheapest of the bunch is the BenQ EW3270U, which costs £330. It’s a VA-based 4K HDR-compliant monitor, which doesn’t boast the same gaming credentials of the MSI.

Going up the pricing scale, there’s the AOC G2868PQU at £380; it’s a 4K TN-based panel that has comparatively poor colour accuracy. It does, however, have a faster-quoted response time over both the MSI and BenQ alternatives, which pro gamers will see as essential.

If HDR isn’t of importance, consider getting the Samsung U32H850 at £440, instead. It has a 4K VA-based panel that boasts better colour accuracy than the ones mentioned above. Designers, however, will want a factory calibrated monitor and one that offers a wide gamut coverage. Here, the BenQ PD3200U at £600 makes for an incredibly colour-accurate image.

And to those who are dead set on HDR, consider the Samsung C32HG70 at £550. It has a DisplayHDR 600 certification and runs up to 1440p at 144Hz.

READ NEXT: Gigabyte Aorus AD27QD review: A new player has entered the game

MSI Optix MAG321CURV review: Design, features and build quality

In terms of feel, the MAG321CURV is unlike any of the other monitors mentioned above, as it has a metallic frame; this gives it a superb, robust feel that oozes quality. Its solid build isn’t the only appealing factor as it boasts a three-sided borderless design, which means the rather large-sized monitor takes up less space on your desk. 

To adjust it, the sturdy metal stand provides tilt and height adjustment; there’s no swivel or rotation available, which makes sense given the 1500R curvature of the 31.5in panel. Having a curved panel isn’t up everyone’s street but personally, I find it adds a small degree of immersion to movies and games.

Adding your own personal touch to the Optix MAG321CURV is possible: there are customisable RGB lights around the back of the monitor. The LEDs aren’t bright enough to provide any real-world benefits, such as Philips’ Ambiglow technology, but nonetheless, are there for you to tinker with.

To tailor the lights, you’ll need to download MSI’s gaming OSD. The software-based settings operate through a mandatory USB Type-B input; through it, you can also tweak the monitor’s settings, add gaming profiles on a per-app basis, change the layout of how processes are displayed, adjust your Windows mouse and keyboard sensitivity and, of course, set the colour of your RGB lights.

Aside from the USB port, which also opens up the door to two USB e-A ports for flash drives, there are a few video inputs: DisplayPort 1.2, two HDMI 2.0 and a USB Type-C 3.1. The latter is a rarity on a gaming monitor, as the modern-day connection is usually reserved to productivity or business-grade monitors only. For audio, there’s a 3.5mm jack output for your headphones – there are no built-in speakers.

READ NEXT: Best gaming headset – our pick of the best

MSI Optix MAG321CURV review: Image quality

To test the image quality of this 31.5in 4K (3840 x 2160) VA panel, I opted to connect the monitor over DisplayPort to an Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics card. Upon using it, I found the colours looked washed out, feeling a touch subdued compared to BenQ’s PD3200U IPS panel.

Colour accuracy isn’t perfect either, as it manages an average Delta E of 2.32 and a maximum of 5.08. Comparatively, the Samsung C32HG70 is slightly better at 1.75 and 4.13 (lower is better), respectively. 

For a large-sized panel, its brightness uniformity isn’t bad; the panel on review had at most, a 15.14% variance at the bottom left-hand corner from the centre point.

The real problem, however, is peak brightness. At 332cd/m2, this doesn’t comply with any of the DisplayHDR standards – HDR400 (400cd/m2, or above) is a bare minimum for HDR but even that figure is laughable. If you’re looking for a real HDR experience, you’ll want to consider monitors that hit HDR600 or above, only. The Samsung, for example, manages a peak brightness of 667cd/m2.

As a result, HDR is quite frankly useless – with it enabled, colours in Destiny 2 lack vibrancy and don’t captivate me as much as the SDR image does. You’ll want to stick to SDR gaming with this monitor, in other words, which leaves a bad taste when you’re paying more for HDR.

READ NEXT: MSI Optix MPG27CQ review

MSI Optix MAG321CURV review: Gaming performance

To test its response time, I dialled through the monitor’s overdrive settings to find the sweet spot: in the ‘Fastest’ mode, the monitor suffers from noticeable inverse ghosting – these purple trails detract from the visual experience. On ‘Normal’ mode, the monitor is too slow to respond but doesn’t suffer from the same issues. It’s, ‘Fast’ mode, however, that marks the sweet spot – the monitor produces an acceptable level of ghosting while responding fast enough to changes in scenes.

^HDR on

Despite the acceptable response time for casual gamers, the Optix MAG321CURV’s input lag is a touch slow. Even with zero latency mode toggled through the OSD, the monitor isn’t able to deliver acceptable performance in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. As such, hardcore competitive gamers will want to look elsewhere. To be honest, I’d be surprised to see a competitive gamer settling for a 4K 60Hz panel, anyway.

As for AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync, the monitor doesn’t support either of those tear-free technologies, so you’ll have to resort to other methods – such as V-Sync – that adds considerable input lag.

^HDR Off

MSI Optix MAG321CURV review: Verdict

The MSI Optix MAG321CURV isn’t a perfect do-it-all monitor: it’s got mediocre colour reproduction, laughable HDR performance and suffers from noticeable input lag.

However, as far as 4K 60Hz monitors go, it’s among the fastest around, is exquisitely well-built, has all the right connectivity options and is sensibly priced, too. For casual gamers, or indeed console gamers, forced to adhere to a 60Hz framerate cap, the MAG321CURV is a worthy gaming peripheral.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *