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MSI Optix MAG321CURV 32-Inch 4K Gaming Monitor Review: Budget-Friendly

No-frills 4K gaming monitor with a curve

MSI Optix MAG321CURV
(Image: © MSI)

The MAG321CURV is perfectly enjoyable without calibration, but we recommend adjusting the RGB sliders and setting the picture mode options to our recommended settings on page 1 for optimal performance. 

 Grayscale and Gamma Tracking 

We describe our grayscale and gamma tests in detail here. 

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MSI Optix MAG321CURV

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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MSI Optix MAG321CURV

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

With Game Mode and Pro Mode both set to User and Color Temperature set to Normal, the MAG321CURV’s grayscale tracking ran slightly cool. You can see a blue tint at 20% brightness and higher, which made the image look a little flat. Gamma was also too light. The error isn’t huge, and tracking is tight, but a VA panel looks better when the value is between 2.2 and 2.4. Our preference is 2.2, but if there is an error, we’d rather it be above the line rather than below, as is the case with the MAG321CURV.

The MAG321CURV’s RGB sliders are very precise and well-balanced, so our adjustments produced very visible gains. Nearly all steps are below 1 Delta E (dE), with an average of just 0.0855dE. That’s pro-level performance. Gamma is unchanged though, so a couple of presets would be welcome here. 

Comparisons

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MSI Optix MAG321CURV

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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MSI Optix MAG321CURV

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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MSI Optix MAG321CURV

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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MSI Optix MAG321CURV

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

A 4.74dE score before calibration isn’t terrible, but as you can see, this places the MAG321CURV at the bottom of our comparison pack, and many gaming monitors can do better. While the top four screens in our first chart are particularly good and don’t require calibration, the MSI does. 

After adjustment (second chart above), you won’t see an error on any of the monitors. Though the MSI finished fifth place here, its average error is below 1dE, which is professional display territory. 

Gamma is a mixed bag when comparing the numbers. The range of values is nice and tight, meaning the light average value isn’t a big problem. But we are sticklers for accuracy and would love to see MSI either add presets or up the default gamma tracking to at least 2.2.

Color Gamut Accuracy 

Though many gaming monitors are moving toward the wider DCI-P3 color space, the MAG321CURV sticks with sRGB and is very accurate in doing so. SDR games look very good on the MAG321CURV. 

For details on our color gamut testing and volume calculations, click here.

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MSI Optix MAG321CURV

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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MSI Optix MAG321CURV

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Out of the box, the MAG321CURV posted an average error of 3.0673dE. That’s mainly due to slight hue issues in the secondaries and a little undersaturation in the red primary. We were able to correct the hue errors with a grayscale calibration.

Our adjustments (see our recommended settings on page 1) nearly eliminated the error. Red was still slightly under at the 60% and 80% brightness points, but the secondaries are now spot-on. This is excellent performance.

Comparisons

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MSI Optix MAG321CURV

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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MSI Optix MAG321CURV

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Our calibration took the color gamut error from 3.07 to 1.68dE, an impactful gain. While we’d like to see a tiny bit more red, SDR content looked great. The light gamma contributes to the overall saturation level and it looked fine when viewing real-world material, but there is a little upward potential here.

With 101.3% coverage, there’s obviously no issues with covering all of the sRGB color space. But since this is an HDR monitor and most HDR content is rendered in the wider DCI-P3 color space, we checked the MAG321CURV’s DCI-P3 gamut volume. With 68% coverage, playing HDR games or watching HDR movies will be underwhelming, lacking that extra color the DCI-P3 color space affords. HDR support and extended color should go hand in hand.

MORE: Best Gaming Monitors

MORE: How We Test Monitors

MORE: All Monitor Content

  • burniemac
    The Philips 328E1CA is a curved 4K 32" VA monitor with adaptive-sync and it's going for $350 on amazon right now. Just a heads up for those interested in this form factor.
    Reply
  • cknobman
    Honestly surprised they would consider this a gaming monitor with a max 60hz refresh and no adaptive sync.
    Reply
  • Farkle333
    cknobman said:
    Honestly surprised they would consider this a gaming monitor with a max 60hz refresh and no adaptive sync.
    That was my first thought too....60hz ? why would you build a monitor with 1ms response time at 60hz makes no sense at least make it 75 is doable....First thing gamers look at are those 2 numbers.
    Reply
  • saunupe1911
    cknobman said:
    Honestly surprised they would consider this a gaming monitor with a max 60hz refresh and no adaptive sync.

    Yep! Any monitor or even TV for that matter that doesn't have adaptive sync isn't worth the purchase in 2020 unless you positively won't game on it.
    Reply
  • Leo-a-unique-username
    No point in this review :( 60Hz is not even considerable in 2020 unless it is dirt-cheap
    Reply
  • aarondr
    I've had this monitor for almost a year now. I don't trust the USB hub, which doesn't work with the USB-C port making it practically useless. The USB-C's power is weaksauce (10w) for anything but a tablet, and the OSD software works about 10% of the time. That said, don't be hard on it for lacking a higher refresh rate. 4k isn't there yet - only the most expensive monitors offer >60hz at 4k.

    I owned the Samsung UR590C which is the same panel this monitor is based on. The MSI monitor is cheaper, the stand is ridiculously better, port selection is better, and USB-C at least brings another DisplayPort input (to get 10-bit color). A back panel that has relatively unobtrusive light feature and is attractive is also a win over the UR590C which looks and feels cheap. You also get VESA mount compatibility with this display.

    I will say the lack of adaptive sync hurts. I expected it considering there are still marketing sites that list it as a feature for this panel (and was hinted at computex 2019 I think). Obviously I was hoping a firmware update might bring it, but I think it was just mis-marketed or the firmware wasn't ready at ship time. I had hope, as Samsung has brought freesync to other monitors, but the UR590C never got it, so I doubt this monitor ever will. I didn't get it for HDR (as it really does suck on this monitor - just a checkbox feature).

    There are still quite a few (although it's getting smaller) games out there locked at 16:9 and 60Hz where this monitor shines. Dark Souls, and StarCraft2 are 2 games I play frequently that are locked with these limitations - so this monitor is great for those - especially since framerate isn't a problem, even at 4k. The curve makes for a sublime experience - and I'm happy with my purchase (after selling the UR590C and grabbing this at $350).

    I would say the Phillips posted by @burniemac seems to be the real winner here, as it obviously is the same panel (I don't think anyone but Samsung is churning out 1500R 4K 32" panels) with adaptive sync, speakers, and lacks only the USB-C input and arguably useless hub. It's just a shame that MSI couldn't get adaptive sync in their variant, as it would make it better in my opinion if only for the port selection and excellent stand.
    If you're considering a 32" 4k curved monitor and you're locked (either due to console or game support) to 16:9, get one of these around $350 - you won't regret it. 4k at 32" is usable in Windows at 100% scaling - which is awesome. Otherwise, 27" 144hz adaptive sync monitors are better for your general gamer IMHO. Just be careful, I have a 27" 144hz, and hard to use despite being a better 'all around' monitor after getting used to the 32". Bigger is better in general use.
    Reply