It’s not hard to see why MSI has taken such a sizeable chunk of the monitor market, especially with the MAG272CQR. Look at this combo: a 27-inch 1ms screen with 165Hz refresh rate, a decent VA panel with an unobtrusive 1500R curve and 1440p resolution.
Oh and if you can get one of them in Australia? They’re $499.
Available through JB Hi-Fi initially – when stock actually arrives – it’s hard not to see how the MAG272CQR won’t immediately appeal. It’s not an IPS panel like the LG 27-inch UltraGear 27GL850-B, so you’re going to lose a little bit in accuracy and colour. But you are getting 1440p resolution with a relatively fast response time – not exactly 1ms, but I’ll get to that in a second – and pretty decent picture quality.
The main strategy for most MSI monitors is to take a high quality panel – usually provided by Samsung – and then offer as many features as possible while undercutting the competition. And you can see that from a quick look at the spec sheet: a 3000:1 contrast ratio, maximum quoted brightness of 300 nits, 165Hz refresh rate over DisplayPort and 144Hz over HDMI, FreeSync support, a Samsung 1ms VA panel, 2x USB 2.0 ports on the back (good for peripherals), a little joystick and 3.5mm jack on the back for controls, up to 20 degrees tilt and a stand that goes as high as 130mm. There’s a USB-C port as well, so you can use this screen with a laptop quite easily.
The monitor doesn’t tilt from side to side, only up and down, but it’s hard to complain too much about that when you’ve got barely any bezel. The bezel is actually identical to LG’s 27GL850-B too, so you’re getting a good amount of real estate for those 27 inches.
One major area of difference with the MSI screen is in the build quality and setup. Rather than the simple two or three parts maximum to assemble the LG or Samsung screens I’ve tested recently, MSI’s MAG272CQR actually requires the use of a screwdriver. The back stand plugs into the rear of the screen, but has to be fixed in place with two screws that look a little like motherboard risers. It’s not a huge amount of work, but it’s not the most refined or cleanest design out there.
A bigger quality of life issue is the placement of the input ports on the back. There’s not a huge amount of space at the back, so everything’s quite cramped. It makes ports hard to access if you’re trying to swap out something without resorting to turning the whole monitor around for better visibility. It’s not the biggest problem, but it is something you’ll notice when swapping out devices.
Another quality of life problem: the 1ms issue. I covered this in the LG review, but basically: don’t use the fastest possible overdrive setting. The inverse ghosting looks so horrendous that you’re better off using the Fast (or Normal) “response time” modes in conjunction with 165Hz. And as before, forget using HDR on this screen: the maximum brightness isn’t even close to the minimum DisplayHDR 400 standard, which itself isn’t high enough anyway.
But these are small quibbles. The actual usability and function of the monitor is really good. There’s no strange restrictions or locks on most of the presets, the monitor ships with full sRGB coverage out of the box and the contrast levels are solid. It worked just fine with G-Sync enabled as well, which is a nice bonus since there’s no Nvidia branding or official support on the box.
I also appreciated how the factory calibration was, for a change, actually quite decent. It was a problem I had with the LG monitor, where the default settings were horrifically oversaturated and the screen needed a fair bit of manual tuning. MSI’s screen is quite nice out of the box, and while you should always calibrate every monitor, the reality is a lot of gamers often … don’t. So getting a picture that’s quite uniform, not too blue and quite clear without any massive saturation is great.
That’s not to say everything is perfect. The VA panel just can’t match the TN monitors for sheer speed and refresh rate, so it’s not a perfect fit for a gamer exclusively playing Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, Escape from Tarkov or any twitch-based shooter. I’d argue that it works really well for MOBAs like League of Legends, since those games don’t get the same benefit from extreme high frame rates in the way CS:GO would.
But it’s perfect if you just like playing lots of different games, particularly indies, third-person RPGs, or you’re looking for a single screen that works decently well across everything. I wish the build quality was a little nicer, but seriously? If you can pick this screen up for $499, the only real question you’d have is: what else would you buy instead? There’s faster refresh rate screens for cheaper, particularly Samsung’s CRG5, but a 27-inch 1080p screen isn’t a great desktop experience. 1440p IPS screens will get you better picture quality across the board, but you’ll have to pay a hell of a lot more than $499.
It’s genuinely really hard to complain for something this versatile at this price point. The MAG272CQR doesn’t excel in any one particular area, but it does everything pretty damn well for a price that’s really hard to ignore. That makes it a great fit for a primary monitor, or a perfect second screen. Even the traditional affordable monitor brand, AOC, doesn’t have a 27-inch model that does 1440p at 165Hz for less than $900.
Seriously, can you think of anything better at this price point? I can’t. The monitor will be sold exclusively through JB Hi-Fi when it arrives, although stock hasn’t landed at the time of writing.