They attacked the monitor market a few years ago with a pretty simple strategy: Undercut competitors while matching others on the key features — good quality panels, high refresh rates, and relatively trouble-free design. It wasn’t all perfect, with earlier models having a few design quirks that I wasn’t a huge fan of.
But for the most part, MSI nailed their brief. And their MAG274QRF-QD, which retails from between $829 to $859 in Australia, has done just that.
Also, it’s one of the worst names imaginable. But just about every monitor name is awful, so let’s carry on with it.
The MAG274QRF-QD is basically MSI’s answer to the super-popular LG 27GL850 monitor, a 27-inch 1440p screen with 165Hz refresh rate. It’s an IPS screen, following on from some of MSI’s releases last year. And crucially, it’s pitched as a “Rapid IPS” screen, which is basically a new IPS panel from AU Optronics.
It’s also a refresh of the base MAG274QRF model, which also has all the same specs as the MAG274QRF-QD except for a quantum dot layer. If you’re not going to use your monitor for any kind of After Effects, DaVinci Resolve, Photoshop or so on, the quantum dot layer probably might not be worth it. The base MAG274QRF is selling at most places for $769, which is a solid price for the 1440p/165Hz/IPS combo. (It’s even going for $655 at Amazon right now, although there’s very little stock.)
Whatever model you get, you’re getting some of the improvements that MSI has learned over the years. The flared, triangular base has been scrapped for the simpler square design first seen on their esports monitors. There’s no curve on the MAG274QRF-QD or the base MAG274QRF, and both screens are G-Sync Compatible. The USB ports aren’t quite as accessible as the MSI 25-inch 240Hz monitor, but otherwise it’s largely the same design.
But let’s focus on the 27-inch QD, which is the monitor I’ve been testing and how I’ll refer to it from here on in for simplicity.
Like just about any gaming monitor from the last couple of years, MSI’s 27-inch QD screen has a “frameless design”. That just means the bezel is the kind of pinky fingernail-like thickness that everyone wishes the Nintendo Switch had. (Although later this year, we might all get our wish on that front.)
The 27-inch QD also fully rotates, which counters one of the downsides of MSI’s chassis design. Unlike Samsung or LG, the I/O ports are a very traditional, vertical design. That can make USB ports a hassle to access, but being able to rotate the screen makes life infinitely easier.
The main thing most people will care about, however, is the gaming performance. And from an AU Optronics panel that’s newer than the already very good ones in LG’s killer 27-inch screen, or some of the esports panels that showed up last year, MSI’s QD model is excellent. The screen has a quoted 1ms grey-to-grey response time, although that’s using the fastest response time in the monitor settings.
I’d highly recommend not using that, though. You’ll get some nasty inverse ghosting on moving objects, which isn’t such a problem in battle royales or games like Counter-Strike, but it looks absolutely awful in something like Cyberpunk 2077 or Horizon: Zero Dawn. (It’s especially noticeable in Cyberpunk particularly as the inverse ghosting is especially prominent in games with darker backgrounds/night time settings.)
But since you have to turn every other monitor down to Fast to avoid the same problems, it doesn’t affect the performance here. The last generation of IPS screens were already very good at high refresh rates, and MSI’s 27-inch QD screen is as good as anything you’ll find on the market that’s not a 240Hz or 360Hz monitor. It even supports backlight strobing (called Anti Motion Blur in the settings) at 120Hz. That’s something that the last generation of IPS screens couldn’t do. But I think most will probably leave it disabled: you lose Freesync support when the backlight strobing is turned on, and you lose a lot of brightness as well.
Setup is nice and easy, and MSI’s image profiles are pretty good out of the box. The colours are a little oversaturated, although some gamers might not have any issue with that. Many people are becoming accustomed to oversaturation being the norm, particularly thanks to mobiles and the way images and content is produced for that. Still, if you’re using the monitor for production work as well as gaming, it’s something to keep in mind.
This is where MSI’s QD panel has an advantage too, as it has better coverage of the Adobe SRGB and DCI-P3 colour gamuts (147 per cent and 97 per cent respectively). It’s still an IPS panel, so the contrast performance isn’t as good as, say, the Samsung G7 and G9 Odyssey screens. But the contrast levels are improved from older generations of IPS screens, courtesy of that newer AU Optronics panel.
Unfortunately, HDR performance is still a non-starter. The HDR 400 standard is just nowhere near bright enough to showcase HDR content. MSI can’t be blamed for adopting and advertising an industry standard: that fault likes on VESA. But like other monitors in this price range, the MSI QD panel here just doesn’t have the local dimming zones, peak luminance and contrast to really display HDR content properly. So you’re better off thinking of the MSI 27-inch QD screen as a good PC gaming monitor first and foremost.
The only real kicker for the MSI screen is what happens in the rest of the market. Australians have a good mix of screens available. If you can live with the curve, the 27 and 32-inch Samsung Odyssey screens do better contrast and a higher refresh rate, although they retail from at least $1000. The Alienware AW2721D is more expensive than the MSI screen as well, but it supports G-Sync Ultimate and DisplayHDR 600 (although being an IPS screen, the contrast isn’t as good as the Samsung Odyssey, so keep that in mind).
If you want a better resolution, you’ll have to pay almost double the price of the MSI screen. The LG 27GN950-B is the best option right now, but at $1499 it’s definitely not cheap. And a lot of the HDR 600/1440p/240Hz monitors, particularly some of the ones announced by Acer and ASUS, are yet to hit the Australian market. (I’m hearing that Acer is doing a product launch later this month and there’s a good chance of some monitor news coming out off the back of that.)
But any of those new screens would all be targeting the $1000-plus market, since anything from $2000 upwards is liable to end up competing with LG’s popular OLED TVs. And that just makes the argument for the MSI 27-inch QD model even better. It’s at a great price for a 1440p/165Hz monitor, it’s got great performance, the design is solid and a lot of the traditional drawbacks with an IPS panel have been countered or at least minimised as much as today’s technology will allow. Unless other monitors are seriously competing — and actually available — on price with similar spces, this is the 1440p screen I’d splurge on right now.