Skip to main content

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

No-frills 4K gaming monitor with a curve

MSI Optix MAG321CURV
(Image: © MSI)

Gaming monitors without G-Sync or FreeSync are rare in today’s marketplace. The question then becomes: Are there enough other features to make that display a good gaming monitor? Can good image fidelity alone produce a good experience without FreeSync or G-Sync? There is no definitive answer, so we’ll resort to, “it depends.” 

(Image credit: MSI)

The MSI Optix MAG321CURV has several things going for it. The fact that it’s a 32-inch 4K monitor for $400 is a big plus. You don’t have to go back very far in time to find the same form factor for $3,000. Early adopters know what I’m talking about. If you want a large 3840 x 2160 pixel screen with accurate color and good contrast, this panel delivers the goods.

But how it fares with gaming will depend on what games you’re playing and your skill level. With a maximum refresh rate of 60 Hz and no Adaptive-Sync, there will be occasional screen tearing artifacts. If you have a graphics card that can maintain 60 fps, however, the impact is minimal. Those with higher skill levels will probably want to look elsewhere.

Though it is billed as an HDR monitor, the MAG321CURV doesn’t do the technology justice. In our experience, HDR images didn’t look much different than SDR ones. When we played Call of Duty: WWII, we preferred the superior shadow detail of SDR mode. On the plus side, we had no complaints when playing SDR games based on the sRGB color space.

If you want a low-budget 32-inch 4K monitor, the MAG321CURV is a good choice. If you want a high-performance gaming monitor, look elsewhere.

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