The MSI MAG321CURV gaming monitor is a brand new offering from the gaming company MSI, and is the first time that they’ve combined a curved monitor design with a 4K panel. It retails for around £450 online from various vendors. A quick Google at time of writing threw back a ton of results, so you can pick your favourite retailer.
The MSI MAG321CURV is part of the Optix MAG series, It’s a 32″ beast that can produce an extremely detailed 4K picture, a refresh rate of 60Hz and a 4ms grey-to-grey response time. Its housing is made from metal and actually looks like a pretty smart offering for the desk, as long as you have the room. The real estate needed for the stand is rather small, but the monitor does stretch out a bit, with full dimensions of 28W x 20H inches.
The design is pretty minimal here, albeit smart looking. It houses a 31.5″ VA panel, with a curvature of around 1500R as quoted on the MSI website. This makes the monitor pretty immersive, especially when playing first person shooters or even racing titles. There was no noticeable stretching or distortion when it came to the left and right edges either which was fantastic. The panel itself being a VA panel offers some wonderful viewing angles, I had no issue with that at all. It can hit up to 103% of the sRGB colour spectrum, but only 78% DCI-P3 which means for games this is great, but for anyone wanting to do any kind of photography or videography colour work, it’s best to look elsewhere.
The monitor itself was extremely sturdy and it feels very premium. The stand for example is made from metal, and fixes to the monitor using the VESA 100 mount. It provides tilt and height adjustment, but no swivel which was a little disappointing.
The monitor also features a three-side borderless design for the top and sides, and the bottom bezel is also pretty skinny too. The whole thing is covered in an almost matte black finish, although it looks more grey if the right light hits it. On the back is an RGB strip to give it that gamers’ aesthetic, but it’s a far cry from something like the Philips Ambiglow technology. It’s nice, but you’re not going to notice it firing up from behind your monitor. I have mine set on a fade type effect which cycles through all colours, but it was pretty pointless.
On the back you will also be able to find for video a DisplayPort 1.2 which I used to connect to my GTX980TI, two HDMI 2.0 ports which I used one of them to connect to my capture card output for my PS4. Strangely enough there is also a USB-C input which will charge devices like my Google Pixel 4 or Macbook Pro, three USB 2.0 ports on the side which you can use for connecting keyboard, mice, memory sticks and the like and also a 3.5mm Audio Jack. Bear in mind that you will need to use a USB upstream cable from your PC to the monitor to take advantage of the USB ports for data transfer.
There is also a driver software that you can install onto your machine, which acts as the OSD. Personally, I preferred the app, as everything was on screen, and even though MSI have adopted for a joystick type interface to cycle through your menus, it’s nowhere near as innovative as having all the settings on screen in front of you. You will need a USB-Type B data upstream cable connected to your tower for this to work though so bear that in mind. The software enables you to change things like response times, brightness, contrast and all your finely tuned image settings, right through to the RGB strip on the back. It also gives you the chance to save your own custom profiles, so you can switch on the fly depending on what game type you’re playing, and even set a picture-in-picture with different software windows open on your computer.
In terms of image quality, unfortunately, this is where the MSI MAG321CURV slips up a bit too. Being a VA panel, colour accuracy isn’t the best, and images can look slightly washed out. One area though that is great is how deep the black levels are while still retaining some details. The contrast ratio is quoted at 2500:1 and is pretty good for a monitor like this. There is also HDR capability but its almost laughable, as the max brightness this monitor can hit is 300cd/m2. HDR as a a standard needs to hit a minimum of 400cd/m2 so quite frankly, leave the HDR turned off. More importantly, with it turned on, my games looked extremely washed out, especially when playing something like Destiny 2, where the vibrancy of all the energy types popping off during combat, looked in all honesty, quite rubbish.
The response time however is pretty good. I’ve set my monitor to the ‘Fast’ setting which I feel was probably the best. There’s still a smidge of ghosting, but it’s not bad at all. The ‘Normal’ or slowest response time becomes slower, which is fine for casual games for sure. On the ‘Fastest’ however, there is a noticeable ghosting. It’s not a monitor for competitive gaming which is a shame. Likewise, the input lag on this monitor is pretty offputting, especially for PC gamers playing faster shooters like Counter Strike: Global Offensive or the like. It’s not something you’d notice if you’re playing a casual game of Forza Horizon 4 through Xbox Games Pass. But, what did I expect from a 4K 60Hz monitor am I right?
The MSI MAG321CURV is far from the perfect monitor. It has shoddy washed out colour reproduction, terrible HDR effects, and with noticeable input lag, it’s hard to recommend to PC gamers. However, console gamers, don’t write this off just yet, as it has a sharp 4K image, and as you guys will be capped to 60Hz anyway, it fits hand in hand with this monitor. For more information, head over to the MSI website.