MSI Optix MAG341CQ Curved Ultra-Wide Gaming Monitor Review: A Price Breakthrough

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Grayscale, Gamma and Color

The MAG341CQ is an sRGB+ monitor, meaning its color gamut falls between the sRGB and DCI-P3 specs. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have an option for sRGB, but you might prefer the extra color saturation if you’re willing to accept lower accuracy.

Grayscale & Gamma Tracking

We describe our grayscale and gamma tests in detail here.

The MAG341CQ’s grayscale errors aren’t grievous, but the green tint in most brightness levels was visible to the naked eye. Green errors were easiest to see, thanks to human eyesight naturally favoring that primary color.

Another issue is gamma tracking, which is very light. The default setting is 1.8, which makes no sense for any content we’re aware of. The first chart above reflects the Warm color temp preset.

Adjusting the RGB sliders in the Custom color temp mode (second graph) offered a visible improvement. We couldn’t eliminate the red errors at 60 and 70 percent, but they were difficult to see in actual content. Changing the gamma preset to 2.2 and lowering contrast two clicks restored most of the lost image depth as well. We’re not happy with the dip at 90 percent, but this chart is a vast improvement over the default one.

Comparisons

With calibration to 200 nits, the grayscale error dropped from 5.23 to 2.31dE, not only improved perceived contrast, but also helped color gamut accuracy. Adjusting the white point made secondary colors fall into line.

Our gamma tweak also had a positive impact on color and contrast, but there was still room for improvement. Our MAG341CQ sample could only muster an average gamma value of 2.03, mainly due to the dip at 90 percent shown in the calibrated grayscale and gamma tracking chart. And its range of values is a bit wider than all but the MPG27CQ.

Color Gamut Accuracy

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

MSI has taken an interesting approach to color reproduction with the MAG341CQ. While it’s nearly a DCI-P3 monitor, the inner saturation points (20-80 percent) come closer to the sRGB spec. That’s a good thing because most content will look natural and reasonably accurate. Only the outermost points (100 percent) are significantly oversaturated. Bright images will show vivid color, which many will prefer. Our issue with the default result is that the targets are inconsistent—some points are undersaturated while others are over.

Calibration tightened  up the tracking quite a bit, with all points becoming a bit oversaturated. While this isn’t ideal, it is more consistent and therefore makes all content look better. This is the main reason to make the adjustments recommended on page 1. Grayscale calibration is the key to good color tracking. We’ve made some positive improvements here.

Comparisons

Even with calibration, the MAG341CQ lagged behind all the other monitors in color accuracy. While an average error of 3dE isn’t bad, the other screens did better. An sRGB option would have been a step in the right direction. In the past, we might have said these were good results for a gaming monitor. But in today’s market, few screens stray far from the proper specs. MSI might consider a firmware update to fix these issues.

As an extended color display, the MAG341CQ performed well. Those looking for the largest possible gamut volume will find it among the more colorful at this price point. Out of comparison group, only the MPG27CQ showed greater sRGB volume. And rendering nearly 80 percent of DCI-P3 is a plus. Note, if you need to use it for color-critical applications, a custom monitor profile is a must.

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Christian Eberle
Contributing Editor

Christian Eberle is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He's a veteran reviewer of A/V equipment, specializing in monitors. Christian began his obsession with tech when he built his first PC in 1991, a 286 running DOS 3.0 at a blazing 12MHz. In 2006, he undertook training from the Imaging Science Foundation in video calibration and testing and thus started a passion for precise imaging that persists to this day. He is also a professional musician with a degree from the New England Conservatory as a classical bassoonist which he used to good effect as a performer with the West Point Army Band from 1987 to 2013. He enjoys watching movies and listening to high-end audio in his custom-built home theater and can be seen riding trails near his home on a race-ready ICE VTX recumbent trike. Christian enjoys the endless summer in Florida where he lives with his wife and Chihuahua and plays with orchestras around the state.