MSI Optix MAG322CQR Gaming Monitor Review – Essential curves

I have a confession to make. I’m obsessed with ultrawide, curved gaming monitors. I follow enough Instagram accounts and ogle desk setups every day. So imagine my glee when MSI reached out to us and asked if we’d like to review the new Optix MAG322CQR gaming monitor. I needed some answers first.

Is it curved? Oh yes sah! Is it 1440p? Yep. Does it have a high refresh and AMD Freesync? Absolutely. Ok, but is it colour accurate? Absolutely and it’s also HDR-ready. Wait, what?

On paper, the MAG322CQR looks like a perfect monitor. I’ve spent the last month using it as my daily driver. It’s currently connected to a seriously cool open-loop system from local Aussie boys Aftershock PC. But it’s been connected to my Xbox One X, a MacBook Pro and even the absurdly cool ROG Mothership. I’ve played an unhealthy amount of The Division 2, written a ton of articles and watched plenty of YouTube. So, is this monitor the holy grail?

MSI Optix MAG322CQR Gaming Monitor Review

Here’s a quick overview of the specs for the MAG322CQR (let’s just call it the MAG32 from here on out) monitor. As you can see, the MAG32 checks all the boxes for a modern gaming monitor.

Screen size31.5″ (80 cm)
ResolutionDisplayPort: 2560 x 1440 (Up to 165Hz)HDMI: 2560 x 1440 (Up to 144Hz)
Panel VADCI- P3: 96%
Adobe sRGB: 124%
HDR
Curvature1500R
Adaptive SyncAMD FreeSync
Video Connections1x DP (1.2a)2x HDMI (2.0b)1x USB Type C (DisplayPort Alternate)
USB Connections2x USB 2.0 Type A1x USB 2.0 Type B
Dimensions (WxDxH) – with stand710.38 x 513.6 x 266.5 mm / 27.95 x 20.11 x 10.33 inch
10kg

Legendary Design

I mentioned my obsession with Instagram desk setups and I feel the MAG32 is Gram-worthy. The design follows what I call boardroom gamer aesthetics. It’s an understated but elegant look that belies its gamer heritage and I’d be happy to use this on my office work desk. A silky ash grey colour scheme is contrasted by a curved glossy black strip on the back and brushed-metal look.

It looks quite elegant and the MysticLight RGB lighting the flows along the back is the cherry on top. The lighting is subtle and elegant but isn’t bright enough to illuminate surfaces behind the monitor. It’s really a cosmetic touch that makes the back of the monitor look good but offers no benefit to the user.

It would have been nice to have some additional lighting hidden along the lower bezel that could at least light up your desk. 

The rest of the back is very clean broken only by the red nipple navigation button for the built-in OSD and the various IO ports. There’s, of course, the VESA mount to which the MAG32’s stand connects via a few Philips screws.

The stand is a simple yet solid affair with two angled metal legs. They do have a bit of a footprint so you might want to check your desk has space.

The MAG32 is quite large but what do you expect from a 32-inch monitor? However, MSI has shrunk the bezels around the MAG32, so much so that it almost looks like the panel is floating on just the base chin. And despite its almost 7Kg, the main panel can easily slide up and down and tilt forward up to 20° but annoyingly, you can’t swivel it. 

Vibrant and fast VA panel for the win

The real star of the show here is the 31.5-inch VA LED panel. It sports a resolution of  2560 x 1440 in a wide 16:9 aspect ratio. And it’s really curved; 1500R which is much curvier but works fine with this aspect ratio. The curve is very noticeable with your apps but its rather easy on the eyes which have less distance to travel. The panel is also really fast at 165Hz refresh with a 1ms response time.

To say it is smooth would be an understatement. In the past several weeks, I’ve not seen anything like jagginess, laginess or screen tearing, whether in plain old Windows apps or intense gaming.

From FPS like The Division 2 to the slick platformer Ori and the Will of Wisps, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed gaming on this panel. The AMD Freesync Premium keeps things moving along very smoothly. But don’t fret if you are for team green because even though there’s no official certification, the MAG32 seemed to work just fine with NVIDIA G-Sync. 

Eye-popping, eye-searing

Colours are great too with 96% of DCI-P3 and 124% on the Adobe sRGB scale. Additionally, the VA panel has great contrast, 3000:1 which makes the blacks really deep and colours vibrant. It’s nowhere near an OLED panel but it’s very good for what it is.

Try playing Ori on this panel and you’ll think you’re looking at a painting. Colours are so vibrant and bursting with life while darks are deep and contrasty.

The panel is also rated at 300nits of brightness which isn’t much on paper(your iPhone 11 hits 1000) but I’ve often found my eyeballs searing when looking at white webpages like Google Docs. I actually had to turn the brightness down to less than 30%, especially at night.

And for all that brightness, the panel has an exceptionally low backlight bleed. You don’t see any brighter spots around the edge of the panel where the main backlights are.

The MAG32 also has two neat tricks to further save your eyesight – Flick-Free and Blue light filter. The odd thing is that I’ve noted my eyes getting more strained using this monitor than others so either mine is defective or I really need to stop working in the dark.

HDR not quite ready

MSI calls the MAG32 ‘HDR Ready’ but don’t mistake this for real HDR. It’s a form of emulation to achieve the semblance of HDR by boosting the overall brightness, contrast and shadows.

It’s not great.

The resulting picture is way too bright with overblown highlights and washed out dark colours. There’s also a weird oversharpening that makes things look jagged especially text and UI elements

I could sometimes find some acceptable middle grounds by fiddling around with Windows 10 HDR and monitor colour profiles but most users don’t have the time or inclination to do that. The HDR should just work out of the box. Regardless, you’ll be much happier with the HDR off because the MAG32 looks just fine without it.

Connectivity and monitor controls

Having a massive monitor like the MAG32 on your desk means you are going to be short on space. I had to put the PC under the desk just to make room and that can be a cable management nightmare. Thankfully, the MAG32 has enough ports to keep things relatively clean.

Aside from the obvious video inputs, DisplayPort, HDMI and Thunderbolt 3, the MAG has a very useful USB uplink. Using the bundled USB Type B cable to connect the MAG32 to your PC or laptop gives you USB passthrough. You can then connect your peripherals to the monitor instead of snaking cables all over the place. It’s something I’ve really appreciated since using the even more massive Alienware AW34DW monitor

A surprise bonus to this sort of connection is the ability to control the monitor’s display settings with your mouse and keyboard via the MSI GamingOSD app. You would normally rely on the annoying nipple button to activate the built-in OSD but using the app is so much better.

For one thing, it’s far easier to navigate, making selection and fine-tuning picture profiles a breeze. You can also create your own custom profiles and adjust the MysticLighting. It’s a brilliant idea that I’d love to see more manufacturers implement because we all hate using those rear nipple controls, am I right?

Should you buy it?

The MSI Optix MAG323CQR is a predictable but good gaming monitor. It checks all the boxes but doesn’t do anything particularly special. Instead, it focuses on the essentials and delivers on them wonderfully. The 1440p resolution is the perfect sweet spot for high resolution, high frame rate gaming. Its fast 165Hz refresh combined with AMD FreeSync delivers a buttery-smooth gaming experience all the time.

Sure, it’s far from perfect. I feel the calibration could be a smidgen better and it would have been better off without that lacklustre HDR implementation. But neither of these detracts from the overall package that this monitor is. And it doesn’t cost more than your entire rig either.

The MAG32 retails for about $750 in Australia which is average for 32-inch, 1440p, curved gaming monitor. But there’s some pretty stiff competition. Samsung’s CHG70 has a QLED panel with true HDR while the similarly spec’d AOC CQ32G1 and Acer XZ321QU are both $200 cheaper.

And if you drop the curve, you could get a great panel for as low as $400. But, that wouldn’t be gram-worthy would it?

The MSI Optix MAG322CQR is a great curved gaming monitor that nails all the essentials and earns our thumbs up.

The MSI Optix MAG322CQR curved gaming monitor was provided to PowerUp! by MSI Australia/ New Zealand for the purpose of this review.

MSI Optix MAG322CQR Gaming Monitor Review

Product Name: MSI Optix MAG322CQR

Product Description: Curved gaming monitor

Offer price: $750

Currency: AUD

Availability: InStock

[ More ]

  • Elegant clean and understated design
  • Excellent color and contrast
  • Sublime 1440p gaming experience and works with G-Sync too
  • Picture controls aren't fine grained enough
  • HDR is very disappointing
3.8
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User Review
2.86 (14 votes)

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Kizito Katawongahttp://www.medium.com/@katawonga
Kizzy is our Tech Editor. He's a total nerd with design sensibilities who's always on the hunt for the latest, greatest and sexiest tech that enhances our work and play. When he's not testing the latest gadgets or trying to listen to his three whirlwind daughters, Kizzy likes to sink deep into a good story-driven single player game.

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