I Think I’ve Become A 32-Inch Monitor Convert

I Think I’ve Become A 32-Inch Monitor Convert
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It’s a decision a lot of PC gamers will have to make in the coming years: do you roll with a 27-inch monitor as your main, or a 32-inch monitor?

For the longest time, I was more than happy to remain on the smaller 27-inch screens. If you ever do any recording or streaming, you’ll generally want a second monitor anyway. Sometimes you might want a second monitor that’s specifically tuned for productivity, content creation or video editing. 27-inch monitors are also a little more compatible with a wider range of monitor arms too, so going that route gives you more options for multi-monitor positioning if that’s your flavour.

But there are some things that can’t be replaced with size.

msi 32-inch 4k
It’s an IPS monitor, so anything with a lot of deep blacks — like Inscryption here — really shows off the limitations of the screen’s contrast. Image: Kotaku Australia

The monitor in question is the MSI MPG321UR-QD, which continues the monitor market’s tradition of naming conventions designed to be almost impossible to pronounce. Like another MSI monitor I tested last year, the QD refers to a quantum dot layer within the panel.

Compared to previous generations of IPS screens, this allows for greater colour reproduction across Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 spectrums. It’s basically the best attribute out of the box: MSI’s 32-inch screen (when calibrated) is not just good for gaming, but it’s probably one of the best multi-purpose gaming and content creation screens available.

It’s HDR 600 compatible, but as is still the case with a ton of gaming monitors, you really shouldn’t consider this suitable for HDR content. MSI’s 4K screen is only edge-lit with very few zones, and the IPS technology’s traditional weakness with poor contrast ratios is pretty apparent.

Unlike newer panels, like the next-gen VA ones in Samsung’s Odyssey monitors — any content that blends some amount of illumination with pure blacks creates a washed out look. Inscryption is a good example of this in an SDR context — most of the game takes place in a dark, candlelit cabin.

On the HDR side, it’s especially prominent in the urban environments of Cyberpunk 2077: the constant need to illuminate parts of neon lights, buildings and bleed from the UI elements at any given stage means the shadows and details in the dark are always struggling.

Everything from the box. Image: Kotaku Australia

But this is a problem you’ll get with any IPS-based monitor today, not just the MPG321UR-QD. The only way to eliminate that problem is to basically buy a 48-inch OLED TV, or to bite the bullet and adopt the more aggressive curves (and also reduced dimming zones) of Samsung’s VA panels. That’s just where the technology is at right now, and until gaming OLED monitors become commonplace, or mini-LED screens finally become available to consumers — the new MacBook Pros will have mini-LED 120Hz screens later this year — it’s a choice you’ll always have to live with.

In games where dark details aren’t so prominent, like the brightly coloured Overwatch, strategy games like Age of Empires 4 or Total War: Three Kingdoms, or even something reliant on a lot of bright highlights and powerful colours like Destiny 2, the MPG321UR-QD is a sight to behold. It’s even a serviceable screen in more competitive settings like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Valorant. It’s not the fastest option available in this category or resolution: the 4K 144Hz Eve Spectrum monitor, for instance, performed better in Blur Busters tests and produced a sharper image in motion than the MSI 32-inch, even when the MSI’s backlight strobing function was enabled. (The Eve Spectrum has a customisable strobing option as well, which really comes in handy for getting the most of those twitch-based shooters.)

But if you’re more the type to enjoy open-world adventures like The Witcher 3 or Horizon: Zero Dawn, racing games, or odysseys like Star Citizen or Elite Dangerous, that extra real estate does wonders for a game’s immersion. The extra size is better suited for console games too, and the difference on the productivity front is enormous.

Image: Kotaku Australia

Firstly, the array of ports is pretty substantial. You’ve got full HDMI 2.1 support — no sacrifices on the bandwidth either — and a whopping 6x USB ports, split across Type A and Type B. There’s two USB ports on the far left of the monitor and four at the back, as well as USB-C for alternate displays. There’s KVM 3.0 built-in, if you wanted to control multiple HDMI devices with the same set of peripherals. The unit is listed as G-Sync Compatible too, according to the specs sheet and my Nvidia drivers.

And while I’ve alluded to it earlier, working across multiple browsers on a 32-inch screen is life changing compared to a 27-inch monitor. You can do so on the latter and have plenty of space for everything to display properly, but you’ll often need to keep Windows display scaling at 100 percent — which often results in a lot of UI elements being difficult to see unless you’re fairly close to the monitor.

A 32-inch screen gives you a lot more leeway to maximise or minimise screens as required. It’s vastly better whenever you’re working in Photoshop, Premiere Pro, spreadsheets or Powerpoint presentations, especially if you have to reduce the working space to accommodate a second window on the side.

msi 4k 32-inch
You can’t help the things you love. But Cricket 19’s actually a good use case for the strengths of this screen: the vibrant colours, the immersion of the screen size, and playing at a high frame rate at 4K is no trouble for a lot of PCs. At least in this game. Image: Kotaku Australia

The only real kicker – as is always the case with any tech – is the price. In Australia the MPG321UR-QD is priced at $1599, which is actually remarkable given “good” 4K gaming monitors were legitimately around the $4000 mark only a few years ago. But that’s still an awful lot of money for the vast majority of people.

Of course, you’ll need a graphics card that costs at least that much to power most games at 4K with the requisite frame rate. There’s also a surprising amount of competition in the space, although each choice has tradeoffs of its own. The Gigabyte M32U is an increasingly popular pick and very well priced at $1199, but you lose out on brightness and the colour reproduction isn’t as strong as MSI’s here.

There’s also the option of smaller 4K, high-refresh rate monitors that can be bought for a little cheaper. The 28-inch Samsung Odyssey G7 — the flat-screen version — is a few hundred dollars less, although  it’s IPS based and only supports HDR 400, not the HDR 600 of the MPG321UR-QD. Gigabyte’s M28U is also available for around $1000 at some retailers, which is an excellent all-around value for what’s on offer and with some of the best input latency you can get in the 4K, 144Hz market right now. The EVE Spectrum with shipping is cheaper too, but that comes with a greater level of risk than what most people are comfortable with for this amount of money.

Plus, a 27 or even 28-inch isn’t exactly comparable to what the larger 32-inch models can offer. It doesn’t provide the same level of immersion; they’re not as beneficial for productivity. So given what’s available in Australia right now, MSI’s MPG321UR-QD is pretty well placed.

If the smaller size screens are a dealbreaker for you, and you’re more of a casual gamer or happy to accept something that’s not the fastest gaming screen on the market, MSI’s 32-inch beast is a great option. The HDR is still a key weakness, but that’s liable to remain the case until the new generation of OLED and mini-LED screens becomes widespread — and that’s not liable to happen for at least three to four years.

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At Kotaku, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.


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