MSI Optix MAG251RX Gaming Monitor review: Fast response rates and great colour
Quick verdict: The MSI Optix MAG251RX Gaming Monitor delivers crisp visuals and fast refresh rates, but it's priced for the higher tier gaming market.
- 240Hz support
- Adjustable height stand
- GSYNC and FreeSync compatible
- Lovely colour reproduction
- Only 1080p
- Somewhat pricey for its size
- HDR support is rudimentary
You can game on any monitor capable of taking a video signal, but if you want to compete on the world-gaming stage, you've got to start to look at monitors built with faster refresh and response rates.
That's precisely what the MSI Optix MAG251RX Gaming Monitor promises. It's not quite the perfect gaming monitor, and it's rather heavily calibrated towards gaming usage, making it a good pick for a very specific niche.
While a lot of pro-level gaming gear – including much of MSI's output – tends towards the flashy, the MSI Optix MAG251RX Gaming Monitor almost feels a little understated and business-like.
It's built around a 24.5-inch IPS panel with a resolution of 1920x1080. Yes, that's not full 4K support, but then it does make up for that with support for refresh rates of up to 240Hz. Most esports afficionados would rather plump for faster refresh rates than specifically crisper visuals when gaming pride is on the line, so MSI arguably knows which way to hedge its bets in this regard.
Unpacking and building out the MSI Optix MAG251RX Gaming Monitor is a simple affair of attaching its spring-mounted height arm and base onto the monitor frame itself. You simply slide the monitor to the position you need and it generally does a good job of staying there. There's also a limited quantity of tilt adjustment if you need it, although vertical orientation isn't supported directly.
In connectivity terms, you get dual HDMI, DisplayPort and a USB-C/DisplayPort socket at the rear in the usual upwards-facing arrangement. As always, this is a touch fiddly when you're first hooking up your PC, but as long as you don't have to switch out cabling too often, it's not particularly an issue. On the side, there are 3 USB 2.0 A ports, although they'll only kick into life when you connect up the USB-B connector to your computer if you need to use them for mouse, keyboard or other peripheral needs.
The big selling point of the MSI Optix MAG251RX Gaming Monitor is that its display screen can run at up to 240Hz for some very fast refresh rates. It has inbuilt support for NVIDIA's GSYNC, so it can (and does) calibrate itself to the output frame rate of your GPU to reduce or eliminate screen tearing issues.
The MSI Optix MAG251RX Gaming Monitor uses a rear-mounted joystick/nub controller for onscreen functions. Honestly, while it's rather common in the gaming space, it's not my favourite way of choosing onscreen options because a nudge in the wrong direction can send you in the frustrating wrong direction, but it's entirely usable during set-up.
You can switch quickly between game modes tailored for specific game styles – racing, FPS and so on – set alarms and switch inputs with directions or bring up a full onscreen display for other adjustments with a click of the joystick nub.
Of course, the real test of a gaming monitor like this is in throwing some fast-paced action titles at it to try to see where it excels, and where it falters.
For the most part, I've got very few complaints, with fast action titles like Hades representing well, racing games such as Forza Horizon 4 zipping along nicely and even older fare looking crisp on the MSI Optix MAG251RX Gaming Monitor. I was particularly taken with the MSI Optix MAG251RX's colour reproduction, with some great onscreen pop for more colourful visual elements.
That's more than just a matter of pretty visuals of course because, with the monitor's esports focus, more colour detail could also help you out in identifying in-game elements, whether friend or foe.
If I'm nitpicking, while there's HDR support, it's only HDR400, which means you don't get nice local dimming, and the overall HDR picture isn't that much better than you might find on a regular monitor. For most gaming purposes, that's less likely to be a killer omission, but if you're also looking to use it as your streaming media portal, it's more of a concern.
Naturally, you don't just have to use the MSI Optix MAG251RX as a gaming monitor, and with its wide input array, it's quite suitable for work-related purposes as well. You probably don't need 240Hz to juggle spreadsheets – and probably shouldn't mention to the boss what you use the MSI Optix MAG251RX for after hours – but having used it for the past couple of weeks for a mix of gaming and content creation, I can vouch for it being very good for both purposes.
Should you buy the MSI Optix MAG251RX Gaming Monitor?
- Buy it if you want a top-line gaming monitor and can afford it.
- Don't buy it if you want more affordable visuals or better HDR support.
There's little doubt that the MSI Optix MAG251RX is specifically pitched at the esports crowd with a price to match.
That asking price is likely to be the most significant barrier to adoption because it's otherwise an excellent option for gaming and an entirely suitable (and quite nice) everyday work monitor as well. If your budget can stand it and you prioritise faster refresh rates, it's a very nice option indeed.