MSI Optix 32-inch monitor review: Gaming excellence for PC and console alike
Quick verdict: The MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD monitor carries a serious price point, but if you're serious about PC and console gaming it's a great display.
- Great colour accuracy for most game types
- Highly suitable for mixed PC and console gaming
- Well calibrated out of the box
- No portrait mode support with supplied base
- No integrated speakers
MSI's premium MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD gaming monitor has a name that only a Star Wars droid could love, and a price tag that will leave some gasping. However, for that price point you do get quite a lot of very high quality monitor suitable not only for the PC esports crowd, but also console gamers looking to wring the most out of their shiny new PS5s and Xbox Series X consoles.
Design: A big box yields a big display
I normally wouldn't comment too much on the packaging of a monitor, but the MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD is rather special in this regard. By special, I mean "huge", because by 32-inch screen size standards, this thing comes in an enormous box.
Is it trying to fool me that it's actually a bigger display than it is? No, it's not, and annoyingly it comes packed in a lot of polystyrene that any buyer's going to have to find some way to responsibly recycle. MSI could, I think, do a little better in this regard.
Once it's out of the box, you're faced with a nearly bezel-free 32-inch panel with a small strip at the base of the monitor. If the MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD is going to do double duty as a work monitor as well as a gaming one, the lack of general adornment is appreciated. Those who do want to intimidate their foes will like the RGB strip at the rear of the monitor, which is naturally customisable if that's to your taste.
The MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD ships with a heavy stand base that's very easy to assemble in place, although it's also suitable for mounting on a sufficiently robust monitor arm or wall. While you do get a degree of height and tilt adjustment, there's no scope for portrait mode if you're a big fan of classic Tate mode shooters, or were planning on using the MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD for work portrait mode needs.
The MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD uses a joystick display for its OSD controls, offering up a lot of configurability with relative ease. There's a lot of complexity in its many menu structures, although it does do the usual trick of using specific joystick directions for specific needs, like quick input switching.
When it comes to connectivity ports, the MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD has a lot to play with. You get DisplayPort 1.4a, dual HDMI 2.1 and USB-C for video connectivity, along with an impressive 6 USB-A type ports for peripheral connectivity and 3 USB-B ports for full KVM functionality. The size and weight of the MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD does mean you probably don't want to be swapping out peripherals frequently, and only 2 of those USB A ports are easily accessible on the side of the display.
Then there's the issue of size. There's just no way of getting around the fact that a 32-inch monitor on your desk is a lot of screen to look at. I did persevere with it for a while at my work desk, but my own circumstances (and my ageing eyes!) meant that I found it just a touch overwhelming, so I set it up on a secondary desk primarily for gaming purposes. Your own tolerances may vary there, but either way you're going to need a sturdy desk and plenty of space to accommodate the MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD.
What you don't get with the MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD is any kind of integrated speaker. Is that a huge loss? For the pro gaming crowd probably not, as they'd likely prefer a good set of gaming headphones or discrete speakers to carefully track in-game sounds. For those looking for an all-in solution, it might have been a nice inclusion at this price point.
Performance: The display is great for PC and console gaming alike
The reason that MSI charges what it does for the MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD is because of its core specifications. Its 32-inch display is 4K (3840x2160) capable with refresh rates up to 144Hz. There's an expected balance here between resolution and refresh rates, so if you thirst for greater than 144Hz to help you with your headshots, you'll have to look lower down the resolution scale. Still, 4K is nothing to sneeze at and it gives the MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD plenty of scope for connecting up more than just a PC.
That's because its dual HDMI slots are fully HDMI 2.1 compatible, which means that they're capable of getting the most out the Sony PlayStation 5 or Microsoft Xbox Series X with an HDMI 2.1 compliant cable.
Not every console game will currently shift up to 120Hz, with many providing either fidelity or performance modes within specific games, so you won't see the absolute best out of every title all the time. Still, the simple flexibility of the monitor here is a great plus all by itself. With a little judicious cable shuffling you could have a gaming PC over DisplayPort, PS5 over HDMI and even your work PC over USB C all hooked up to the MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD simultaneously.
Further sweetening the specifications game, the MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD boasts FreeSync and G-Sync compatibility for fans of adaptive sync in their games. If you're looking more towards the professional work space, it's also got a claimed 117% DCI-P3 coverage, HDR 600 compatibility as well as presets for sRGB or Adobe RGB depending on your precise work or play needs.
For those baffled by the jargon, the MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD claims – and essentially delivers – very good colour accuracy and refresh rates whether you're gaming on it or working on it. While you could do both with the picture in picture feature, that'd probably get you fired outside of a gaming studio, so maybe don't go down that path.
What I did appreciate about the MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD is that while it gives you a lot of tools to tweak to your precise preferences, out of the box it's already very nicely calibrated for most purposes. As you'd expect out of a gaming monitor, there are presets for specific game types to more readily differentiate FPS gamers from racing gamers, but I suspect most could get by very well without having to change a thing. Sometimes, you just want to get on with the game at first, but there's nothing stopping you fiddling around to get your own personal version of what a "perfect" picture might look like.
Diving into the gaming world, the MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD did a superb job of realising the real world aspects of Mexico in Forza Horizon 5, even if those details were blurring past me at ludicrous driving speeds. Dipping into a game with a more sombre yet cartoonish look, where brighter colours make the game pop, Hades looked superb while still keeping its moody aesthetic intact. The sheer ridiculous spectacle of Mortal Kombat 11 came through well with truly vibrant reds on every splattering hit.
While I can't claim to be particularly good at FPS games, I had no issues with Halo: Infinite's bright and colourful worlds, or the degree to which I could easily make out finer details even on darker multiplayer maps.
Did the MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD make me into a multiplayer FPS god, sniping foes at will? Nope, but I sure looked pretty getting owned over and over again. Your own skills may of course vary.
Should you buy it?
- Buy it if you want an excellent premium gaming monitor for both PC and console play.
- Don't buy it if you need higher refresh rates or simply can't afford it.
The outright price of the MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD is going to be the biggest barrier for anyone wanting one, because it's not a cheap monitor even for a larger display. You do get a very nice quality panel with a lot of connectivity options and tweaking potential depending on your gaming needs.
It's best suited I think for those who mix up their gaming between PC and console, specifically PS5/XBX console. Sure, you can score an HDMI 2.1 TV for your console needs, but they're even pricier than the MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD right now, and if you're sitting close enough at your desk you still do get that expansive field of view effect anyway.
MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD review: Pricing and availability
How we tested
The MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD was tested over a 2-week period using it for both gaming and productivity tasks, although mostly it was used for game testing, because it's a rather game-centric display in just about every aspect. It was hooked up to a PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and desktop PC to assess visual quality over a number of games covering strategy, driving, FPS and fast action titles.
The author cannot claim to be a pro gamer – because he's not – but he's been writing about the consumer technology market and gaming since 1998 with extensive knowledge of this space. The MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD used for review was loaned by MSI for the purposes of review.