If CES 2023 is anything to go by, the gaming world is absolutely smitten with OLED and Mini LED gaming monitors. So much so that you’d. be forgiven for thinking anything else is downright trash in comparison. Well, they are. Kinda. But the Asus ROG Strix XG32UQ flies in the face of the new kids on the block and defiantly raises a middle finger. This 32-inch, 4K monitor boasts a 160Hz refresh, 1ms response time and comes with two HDMI 2.1 ports plus a whole slew of gaming buzzwords to boot.
The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that the Strix XG32UQ doesn’t have OLED or Mini LED – which immediately raises the question of why it costs an eye-watering $1800! Even though it’s still cheaper than an RTX 4090, which you’d need to get the best out of it. After using it as my main gaming and work monitor for a few weeks, I can say it’s a great gaming monitor. But given the availability of OLED and Mini LED, is great enough?
Asus ROG Strix XG32UQ Gaming Monitor Review
The Strix XG32UQ is definitely an ROG monitor when it comes to design. It’s got a plain front with tiny bezels that don’t draw attention. The back is where you’ll see the signature Cyberpunk style etching on one side of the plastic panel. There’s also a big ROG eagle eye logo that’s usually RGB-ised but now it’s just a shiny mirror finish.
The other half is clean with just the big, tactile buttons and joystick nub for the OSD menu. There’s a removable panel that hides the Strix XG32UQ’s ports, like power, audio out, USB upstream, two USB-A downstream, DisplayPort 1.4, and two HDMI 2.1 for 4K120Hz console gaming. It’s a bummer that there isn’t any USB Type-C for connection to Thunderbolt 4 laptops.
The stand is a bit plain, but it’s sturdy and does its job well – you can tilt, swivel, and adjust the height, plus there’s only a teeny bit of wobble. There’s a cable channel for neatness, and a 1/4″ thread on top for mounting your stream camera.
This 32-inch monitor won’t take up a ton of desk space like some others do, so you can still fit your Elgato Stream Deck + and other items without your workspace looking cluttered. Unfortunately, the stand doesn’t rotate to a portrait position, so if you want to use the monitor that way, you’ll need to get a monitor arm. But don’t worry – it is VESA 100x100mm mount compatible, so it should be easy to switch out.
One irritation for me is the need for an external power brick. This isn’t some ultra slim monitor so why Asus? And another thing, for $1800, the XG32UQ doesn’t come with built-in speakers or even Asus’s excellent ESS Saber DAC for better audio output. Such a shame.
Taking a closer look at the panel, the XG32UQ has a 31.5” IPS panel with edge lighting split into approximately eight zones. Usually, the zones aren’t noticeable, but on black loading screens you can see them working. Since it’s edge lit, there’s some backlight bleed, especially in the lower two corners of the screen. As a result, blacks aren’t nearly as dark as what you get on OLED or Mini LED which takes the shine off the HDR experience.
Funny thing is, I noted in the spec sheet Asus claims a 1,000,000: 1 contrast ratio in HDR but Lord knows that’s not how it looks on screen at all. Contrast was far better in SDR in my experience. Colors were also then much richer and saturated in appearance. Speaking of colors, the XG32UQ supports 10-bit Wide color gamut as well as 96% DCI-P3 which makes it pretty decent for folks who want to do some color grading for video and photos.
You’ll love doing much more than gaming on this screen as a result. Add in the pin sharp 4K resolution and 144Hz native refresh and things look gorgeous and buttery smooth. And unless you own an RTX 4090, you’ll be pretty hard pressed to max out that refresh rate in 4K gaming. But since the XG32UQ packs VRR as well as AMD FreeSync Premium Pro and Nvidia G-Sync compatibility, even at slower frame rates things are still smooth and tear free. My RTX 3080 can only manage between 70-80 frames per second in most AAA titles at 4K ultra settings and I never had any issues.
However, if you want even more speed, the XG32UQ has an overdrive that boosts the refresh to 160Hz with a 1ms response time. This works especially well with super fast paced shooters where you need any and every advantage. Asus added the neat trick of a Variable Overdrive which allows the monitor to adjust the overdrive on the fly as your frame rate fluctuates.
Asus has a ton more tricks up its sleeve with features like ELMB Sync, Black equalizer, various game specific genre modes and GamePlus features like sniper mode, cursor, crosshairs. These are all very well laid out in the OSD menu that you navigate using the aforementioned chunky buttons on the back. I like these as they are easy to identify and use without accidentally hitting the wrong one because they are so pronounced. Although there isn’t a KVM switch in the monitor, there are multitasking features like PIP, PBP and the ability to change the aspect ratio and display size to either 25” or 27” — great for competitive players.
To sum it all up, the Asus ROG Strix XG32UQ is a top range gaming monitor that gets the job done very well. Games look stunning with great color and detail and smoothness at all times. Productivity and creative work also shines thanks to the excellent clarity, smoothness and wide color gamut. Sadly, the HDR experience isn’t what you expect from a monitor in this price range — the lack of dimming zones really hurts here, tanking the contrast when the monitor is at its brightest.
And remember, for just a little more money you get far better HDR performance from the likes of the Samsung Odyssey Neo G8 or the Alienware AW3423DW for just a little more cash. In fact, if it were my money, I’d spring the extra for those two or save even more cash by going for the MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD which is much better all round value for money than the XG32U.
But let me be clear, the Strix XG32UQ isn’t a bad monitor — that would be absurd. It’s just a very hard proposition given the current generation of high end 4K gaming monitors now available.