MSI today announced its latest HDMI 2.1-certified gaming monitor, the 28-inch Optix MAG281URF. However, what's interesting is that MSI is launching this new 144Hz 4K monitor at a time when there is a lot of drama surrounding the HDMI 2.1 standard found on the best 4K gaming monitors.
For those who need a refresher, check this article, but the Cliff's Notes version is that the HDMI 2.0 naming scheme is being supplanted by HDMI 2.1 – even if the device doesn't support all the original specifications. The most significant benefit of HDMI 2.1 over the 2.0b spec is that it provides 48Gbps of bandwidth compared to 18Gbps. This also allows 4K monitors to push 120Hz without display stream compression (DSC). HDMI 2.1 also brings several key features standard, including DSC 1.2a, Variable Refresh Rate, and Auto Low Latency Mode.
So while we're sure to see a flood of new gaming monitors labeled at HDMI 2.1 without actually bringing the added benefits of the standard (and thus causing confusion among enthusiasts), MSI isn't falling into the trap. The Optix MAG281URF is a fully certified HDMI 2.1 monitor, which means that it can leverage the 48Gbps pipe while supporting 4K resolutions at up to 144Hz. You'll also receive 4K 120Hz support with current-generation Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 consoles.
In addition, the Optix MAG281URF supports a fast 1ms gray-to-gray response time (Nvidia G-Sync compatible, from 48Hz to 144Hz) and a 1,000:1 contrast ratio. Typical brightness for the monitor is rated at 300 nits, but it can reach a peak brightness of 400 nits (VESA Certified HDR 400 certified). Since MSI uses an IPS panel, horizontal and vertical viewing angles come in at the typical 178 degrees. The monitor is also adjustable for height, tilt, swivel and pivot. MSI says that the Optix MAG281URF covers 95 percent of the DCI-P3 and 124 percent of the sRGB color spaces.
The port layout is pretty standard, with two HDMI 2.1, one DisplayPort 1.4a, and one USB Type-C port. You'll also find two USB 2.0 (Type-A) ports for connecting peripherals like a headset or gaming keyboard. Other notable features include an integrated KVM switch and an RGB light strip that runs along the monitor's upper backside.
Unfortunately, MSI hasn't provided any pricing or availability information on the Optix MAG281URF, but we've reached out to the company for clarification on those points. As for the whole HDMI 2.1 brouhaha that is currently swirling, we'll be sure to inform you on whether a monitor is genuinely adhering to spec or simply faking it in name only.
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Brandon Hill is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware. He has written about PC and Mac tech since the late 1990s with bylines at AnandTech, DailyTech, and Hot Hardware. When he is not consuming copious amounts of tech news, he can be found enjoying the NC mountains or the beach with his wife and two sons.