Bright and colorful
Wide port variety
Large screen size
Bad contrast ratio
A big obstacle to the MSI Optix MPG321QRF-QD’s ability to deliver a killer picture is its lack of contrast.
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About the MSI Optix MPG321QRF-QD
Here are the specs of the monitor we tested:
- Price: $700
- Display size: 32 inches
- Resolution: 2560 x 1440 pixels
- Refresh rate: 175Hz
- Peak brightness: 400 nits (rated), 600 nits peak (HDR); 367.9 nits (tested), 607 nits peak (with HDR)
- HDR support: DisplayHDR 600
- Color depth: (10-bit) 8-bit + FRC
- Color saturation: Rated for 144% sRGB, 95% DCI-P3; tested at 100% sRGB, 100% AdobeRGB, 95% DCI-P3
- Contrast ratio: 1000:1 (rated), 680:1 (tested)
- Pixel response time (GtG): 1ms
- Ports: 2 x HDMI 2.0, 1 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x USB-C (DP Alt Mode), 1 x USB 3.0 (upstream), 3 x USB 3.0 (downstream), 3 x 3.5mm
- VRR Support: Yes, G-Sync compatible
- Other features: VESA mount compatible with hardware, mouse bungee, integrated KVM switch, Mystic Light rear RGB lighting, quantum dots
What we like
The big, bright screen
There are some definite perks to going with a bigger display. The 32-inches the MSI Optix MPG321QRF-QD provides gives you extra space to benefit from the sharpness offered by its 1440p resolution, and ensures everything you’re looking at is simply larger and easier to see.
When trying to no-scope enemies off in the distance Borderlands 3 or tracking a target in Overwatch 2having them appear that much bigger gave me an edge.
The size of the display is well matched with its brightness, which can reach up to 607 nits when displaying HDR content or a lower, but still bright, 367.9 nits outside of HDR. These levels also make it a viable option as a TV alternative for a small room, with the ability to serve up extra utility as a dependable gaming monitor–just be sure to pair your own speakers as none are included.
Between the size and brightness, it’s pretty much always easy to see what’s on the screen, even with daylight in the room. It’s high-energy vibes through and through.
The crisp motion clarity
Just about every gaming monitor claims to have a fast pixel response time, with many boasting of speeds faster than 1ms. A good many of these monitors still end up with blurry trails behind fast moving objects that makes their speed worth a lot less than the specs would have you believe, especially VA panels. The MSI Optix MPG321QRF-QD gets it right, though.
Even though the MSI Optix MPG321QRF-QD only maxes out at 175Hz—slower than 240Hz competitors like the Samsung Odyssey G7 and Gigabyte M27Q X—it has a fast pixel response time that leaves almost no visible ghosting behind fast-moving objects.
Combine that with effective G-Sync compatibility that negates screen tearing, and the Optix MPG321QRF-QD displays 175 pristine frames of gameplay every second. Translated into real-world gameplay, tracking enemies in Overwatch 2 just got a lot easier.
All the ports
MSI has you covered for connections. The Optix MPG321QRF-QD hits all of the basics with its two HDMI 2.0 ports (supporting up to 144Hz at 1440p) and a DisplayPort 1.4 port (up to 175Hz at 1440p). It tops that off with a handy USB-C port that can carry an uncompromised 175Hz, 1440p video signal, convenient for laptop users.
There’s also the three-port USB hub, which can serve to connect peripherals to either a desktop computer or laptop, and a KVM switch to quickly swap between two inputs without unplugging anything. Two of those USB ports are conveniently on the left hand side of the monitor as well, making it much easier to plug and unplug devices on the fly.
MSI even included three different audio ports—3.5mm mic in, 3.5mm headphone out, and a 3.5mm combo jack—effectively covering all options. Not every display manufacturer goes the extra mile, but MSI did.
What we don’t like
The HDR performance
HDR on gaming monitors has always been hit or miss, and the MSI Optix MPG321QRF-QD definitely misses. Although this monitor is rated as VESA DisplayHDR 600, giving it the ability to hit over 600 nits while displaying HDR content, it doesn’t consistently look good while doing so.
The monitor is plenty bright and has exceptional color to work with, but it does a poor job of balancing light and dark elements. If everything on the screen is bright and colorful, it can look great. If much of the scene is dark and only a few elements are supposed to be extra bright, the monitor elects to just keep the whole display dark, not letting those highlights pop like they should.
Homelander’s eyes in The Boys just don’t look quite as menacing when they’re barely glowing through the dark. To top it off, the monitor sees a big reduction in color accuracy and contrast when HDR is enabled.
The poor contrast
The biggest hindrance to the MSI Optix MPG321QRF-QD’s ability to deliver a killer picture is its lackluster contrast. In my measurements, the monitor offered one of the worst contrast ratios I’ve seen at only 680:1 at best. The IPS display struggles to keep the backlight from bleeding through in dark areas when there’s bright content on the screen.
In one artificial testing scenario, I was able to see the monitor actually achieve a 1703:1 contrast ratio, but that was with HDR on, a large area all the way to one side of the display showing an extreme highlight (measured at 545 nits ), and about two-thirds of the display showing complete black (measured at 0.32 nits). This was far from representative of what the display manages in normal use.
That’s severely lacking when monitors like the NZXT 27Q and Gigabyte M27Q X exceed a 1,000:1 contrast ratio in normal use. The Optix MPG321QRF-QD doesn’t have much room for missteps with the OLED Gigabyte Aorus FO48U so frequently on sale (even as low as $600) while delivering higher HDR performance, an effectively infinite contrast ratio, super-fast pixel response times, and 4K resolution across a 48-inch panel.
Should you buy the MSI Optix MPG321QRF-QD?
Maybe, if it’s on sale
The MSI Optix MPG321QRF-QD faces ruthless competition. While it has some merits, it’s held back by poor HDR performance and a meager contrast ratio.
One big problem is that at its premium price of $700, there are much better performers, especially when it comes to HDR. That puts it toe-to-toe with the exceptional Samsung Odyssey G7 and the Gigabyte Aorus FO48U on occasion. Both basically deliver everything you might want from the MSI Optix MPG321QRF-QD and more.
There is one catch: the MSI Optix MPG321QRF-QD is often on sale, sometimes as low as $434. That’s quite the deal for a reliably fast and bright 32-inch gaming monitor, especially if you can overlook its contrast ratio. You can get more consistent quality from the NZXT 27Q or Gigabyte M27Q X, but you’d have to settle for a smaller display.
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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Mark Knapp has covered tech for most of the past decade, keeping readers up to speed on the latest developments and going hands-on with everything from phones and computers to e-bikes and drones to separate the marketing from the reality. Catch him on Twitter at @Techn0Mark or on Reviewed, IGN, TechRadar, T3, PCMag, and Business Insider.
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