So I’ve been living with MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD gaming monitor for the past month and spoiler alert – it’s incredible. I’m so blessed to be able to review a wide variety of devices and I’m particularly fond of monitors but no single monitor has come this close to being perfect as MSI’s latest offering. The name might not be the sexiest or meaningful but the Optix MPG321UR-QD is a 32-inch, 4K gaming monitor with a Rapid IPS Quantum Dot panel.
It retails for about $1,600 here in Australia and for that massive sum of money, you get all the necessary features for next-gen console and high end PC gaming like HDMI 2.1, HDR, KVM switch. Using this monitor every single day for a month, doing my design work, playing games, writing my reviews, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to find fault with this monitor. Well, I haven’t found any worth mentioning. It’s impossible for a product to be perfect but this is nearly there.
MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD Review
The MPG321UR-QD isn’t the flashiest looking gaming monitor. MSI went for a much more boardroom gamer aesthetic than esports arena. The entire monitor is black with no outrageous curves or grills. In fact, looking at it head on, there’s nothing special besides the almost bezel less design.
The true beauty lies on the back panel which have a lovely brushed metal finish to the mid section as well as a large angled groove that also houses the Mystic Light RGB strip. The famous Dragon shield logo is etched in bronze while the OSD joystick mirrors the same color. I love how the back looks but it’s ultimately pointless since 80% of us will have it backed up to a wall never to be seen again.
As I’ve mentioned, the MPG321UR-QD is a 32-inch display which oddly seems wider to me than the 16:9 aspect ratio would suggest. Thankfully, the included stand is more than up to the task to keep it upright. It’s a short, sturdy pillar attached to a wide polygonal base that is really stable and doesn’t take up all of your desk. An interesting benefit I discovered was that you can use this base to place other desktop gadgets like USB hubs or external drives.
Range of motion is limited given the massive size of this panel but you can tilt it -5° ~ 20°, swivel -30° ~ 30° and adjust the height 0 ~ 10 cm. Forget about rotating it into portrait mode though I have no idea why you’d want to. In case you don’t want to use the included stand, theMPG321UR-QD can be VESA mounted.
In a small pouch in the back panel you’ll find all your I/O ports which include 2x HDMI 2.1, a DisplayPort 1.4, USB-C, 4x USB 2.0 and headphone jack. On the left edge of the panel are two more USB 2.0 ports for easy access. This means you can have four devices connected to the monitor at the same time meaning, a gaming PC, a laptop and both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S. The perfect setup for a clean gaming desk setup.
Quantum Dot Panel
The MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD employs a 32-inch Rapid IPS panel with Quantum Dot technology. Without getting technical, you can think of the Quantum Dots like magical pixie dust that when placed on top of the LED’s in the display, they get a much richer, brighter and vibrant output. It’s simplistic explanation but you’ll immediately notice the difference when you power on the monitor for the first time. Colors pop and sizzle in a way I’m only used to seeing on OLED displays.
The added benefit of combining IPS panel with Quantum Dot magic is you get superior color accuracy, range and contrast. TheMPG321UR-QD boasts a 10-bit panel with 98% DCI-P3, 100% Adobe RGB and 160% sRGB. These figures might not mean much to gamers but to creative professionals who do a lot of graphic design, photo and video editing, these numbers are critical. Typically gaming monitors busy themselves with low latency, high refresh and maybe HDR making the less than suitable for most things outside of gaming.
TheMPG321UR-QD on the other hand is near perfect for professional creators as well. The 4K resolution is perfect for pixel perfect work or large canvases. Color calibration is great straight out of the box but you can also choose from a wealth of Professional and Gaming color profiles to suit the need. I loved having quick menu access to Office mode for writing and then switching to DCI-P3 or Adobe RGB profile to edit photos in Lightroom. You can also make your own custom profile with ease and save it for later use.
And thanks to the MPG321UR-QD’s peak brightness of 600-nits and 16 local dimming zones, the monitor attains VESA DisplayHDR 600 certification. While those few zones are nowhere near enough for a true HDR experience, the MPG321UR-QD still manages to put on a jolly good show of it. There’s great detail in the darks and highlights with no smearing or blowouts. It’s nothing compared to the Asus ROG Swift PG35V which has like 512-zones but I dare say HDR on the MSI offering was much better – at least to my eyes. Even without HDR, the SDR performance is incredible and your games and Netflix all look stunning.
Playing Doom Eternal with HDR and Ray Tracing is an experience I’m unlikely to forget and now it’s the only way I want to play games. The rich, ruddy tones of the hellish landscapes, the brilliance of muzzle flash and explosions, the contrast and saturation bring the game to life in new ways. I’d find myself stopping and staring whenever there was a respite from demon slaying. The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt which I just got into is an older game but looks absolutely gorgeous on this panel. The vivid Velen sunsets always made me stop in amazement.
I’ve already alluded to how gorgeous games look especially in 4K HDR but make no mistake, without fast refresh and response, that would all be rather mute. The Optix MPG321UR-QD is capable of refreshing 144 times per second with a 4ms response time that is far more than adequate for a 4K display. However, let’s be real; even with the advancements in GPU’s and up sampling tech like Nvidia DLSS, high refresh 4K gaming requires a truly monstrous rig. And don’t even get me started on ray-tracing.
At the very least, we’re talking Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 but preferably a 3080 or 3090, both of which cost more than this monitor and that’s if you can even get one. Even then, you’ll need NVIDIA DLSS to get most games to run over 100fps which is still well below the monitors refresh rate. Even the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X can’t really run games at native 4K 120 fps without some serious compromises to visual quality which would be a damn waste on such a crystal clear monitor.
I was most fortunate to have a review machine at the time that’s up to spec. AMD Ryzen 9 5950, RTX 3080 and 32GB RAM. The games I played all through the holidays ran absolutely smoothly with no issues albeit not close enough to taxing the monitor. I’ve played a fair amount of Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5 and The Witcher 3. Doom Eternal was the exception and I could get it to hit about 150fps with high settings and theMPG321UR-QD kept the picture smooth and lag-free.
TheMPG321UR-QD is G-Sync Compatible and although I couldn’t find explicit mention of it in the specs, it should also work fine with AMD FreeSync. In my play time, whether games were running at 40fps or 100fps, there was never any issues with stuttering or tearing. Unfortunately, I can’t speak to the performance with either Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 since I don’t have either of those consoles. But, I don’t see anything other than blissful gaming with both. Buyers will be especially pleased that MSI bundles a high speed 8K capable HDMI 2.1 cable with the monitor which is essential in getting the promised 4K 144Hz.
Enhance your play
TheMPG321UR-QD has several gaming specific features to enhance your play, some of which are actually quite useful. These are all covered by the umbrella feature called Gaming Intelligence or just G.I for short. Here gamers can find tools like Sound tune that uses AI to clean up your audio, Night Vision for improved visibility in dark games and Smart Brightness that automatically adjusts the monitors brightness based on ambient light levels.
Even more specific for shooter games are the Optix Scope which magnifies the center of the display so you can better snipe peoples heads off. I tried it and it does indeed give an advantage but the system to activate is still a little cumbersome and not something you’ll have the luxury of stopping in the middle of a Battlefield 2042 match to use. The Smart Crosshair is a supercharged on-screen scope that automatically changes color depending on the colors on screen at the time.
Besides those, theMPG321UR-QD is also working hard behind the scenes to keep your eyes from getting fatigued by using it’s Less Blue light and Anti-flicker tech. I will say, I never got tired of looking at this beautiful looking-glass even after 14 hour days so I guess it’s working as advertised.
Controlling the MSI OptixMPG321UR-QD is easy thanks to a simple and well thought out Onscreen Display or OSD. As with most Optix monitors, you navigate the menu using a little joystick on the back right of the monitor. I’m not a fan of this placement on such big panels because you often struggle to reach around the back in confined spaces. Putting the controls on the bottom bezel like Asus did on the exceptional ROG PG32UQX is the way to go. However, if you couldn’t be bothered with physical controls, there’s also the option to download the MSI OSD App and use your mouse to adjust settings with ease.
Regardless, the little nub is responsive and smooth. Once you open the menu, it’s easy to access the key features broken down into clear categories. Most users will likely spend most of their menu time in the top three sections; G.I, Gaming and Professional. The latter two are where you can pick from the different picture profiles specific to certain genres of games professional color modes.
One major irritation I had with the menu is that you can’t access it when the monitor goes into standby mode. This is a problem when the monitor is set to automatically change input devices. Sometimes, it simply wouldn’t acknowledge a signal from one or more of my connected devices leaving me stuck with a blank screen that I couldn’t navigate away from. This often led to too many restarts of the monitor to get it to work. In the end, I just turned off the auto switch function which ideally is really handy to have.
MSI’s new KVM 3.0 tech makes using those six USB 2.0 ports effectively so theMPG321UR-QD can be a true hub for your entire work and gaming setup. What’s especially cool about KVM 3.0 is that you can set it to Auto mode and it will intelligently switch your mouse, keyboard and other peripherals to whichever display input is active. There will be no cable swapping here and I can’t stress enough how big of a convenience this is.
As if that wasn’t enough, the monitor also supports Picture-in-picture and Picture-by-Picture so you can have two devices displaying on screen at the same time. The only hiccup is that the 16:9 aspect ratio means the two inputs will never really be proportionately sized which can lead to some rendering issues. Nevertheless, it’s there if you want to do it. I can see console streamers using this to monitor their stream chat from their recording PC on the side.
If it wasn’t obvious by now, the MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD is one of if not the best gaming monitor I’ve had the privilege of reviewing. MSI has nailed everything that the discerning AAA gamer and content creator could want. The IPS Quantum Dot panel is simply gorgeous in 4K with colors that are bursting with vibrancy without sacrificing accuracy. Whether you are creating the next NFT masterpiece, watching Netflix or ogling the beautiful forests of Zeta Halo, everything looks exceptional on this monitor. Any faults I could pick with this panel are literally beyond what the human eye would perceive anyway so they aren’t worth mentioning.
Rounding off the exceptional panel performance is the equally impressive I/O. Six USB ports has to be a record on a gaming monitor and combined with KVM 3.0, the utility is just wonderful. Also, having four video inputs is certainly more than enough for the average consumer. At $1600, for once I can legitimately say it’s worth the asking price and if you only ever bought one monitor for all your devices, then this would have to be it. The only thing that could make this monitor better is an OLED-QD panel. Until then, the MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD is an essential must have for those who can afford it.
MSI Australia kindly loaned us the Optix MPG321UR-QD monitor for the purpose of this review.