We have a very interesting product in the labs for review today. Corsair made its very first monitor, which they are announcing today. They sent units to reviewers ahead of time, so we gave them a full rating prior to official launch, which shows some added confidence from Corsair.
It's called the Xeneon 32QHD165, with the soup of letters and numbers indicating that it is a 32-inch monitor with a QHD resolution (also known as 1440p) and a maximum refresh rate of 165 Hz. The 32 inch mid / high refresh 1440p monitor category has accelerated this year with the introduction of high quality IPS panels and that is exactly what Corsair is using in their first display.
So it's big, it's flat, and Corsair claims 100% Adobe RGB coverage in addition to 98% DCI-P3 thanks to Quantum Dot enhancement. On the refresh rate side, it's 165 Hz, but it's also compatible with AMD FreeSync Premium and Nvidia G-Sync with variable update compatibility.
Corsair is aiming for the high-end segment with a price tag of $ 800, which puts it on par with the Asus ROG Swift PG329Q. Let's hope their execution is up to date to match this price level, always a big job if you're a newbie, but I won't write them off just yet.
Design and functions
On the design front we have the upper part which is pretty standard but also this lower stand part which we have never seen before. It's a little hard to describe what's going on with the base of the stand, there is a large, raised loop arrangement and also two small rear-facing legs for stability. While only the front bar section and two small legs make contact with your desk, all in all, it's a massive base. It takes up a huge floor space compared to what I've seen on other 32-inch monitors, which isn't exactly great.
However, Corsair uses high quality materials for the stand and the stand column, which are mostly made of metal and have a nice smooth surface. It makes the stand stable with very little wobble, despite the support height, tilt and swivel adjustment and good freedom of movement in all these areas. The upper part that houses the monitor is made of plastic, so not everything has that premium touch.
Nevertheless, Corsair has chosen a simple design for the rear, which I actually like. No "gamer" patterns, no bulging, thick rear case to accommodate pointless functions, just a clean black aesthetic and a reasonably slim panel housing. Corsair's decision to make most of this section out of a single piece of plastic worked very well. On the front you have typical bezel sizes with a small Corsair logo.
To my great surprise, Corsair did not incorporate any RGB LED lighting. In their peripherals and everything from AIO liquid coolers to RAM, they love to incorporate RGB LEDs, which I found pretty pointless on a monitor for the most part. I'm glad Corsair has resisted the urge to include RGB – aside from the display itself – and continue to offer lighting for things that are more useful.
For ports we have two HDMI 2.0 and a DisplayPort 1.4 as well as a USB Type-C that works in DP Alt Mode. The only 2.0 HDMI ports are a bit disappointing as they are limited to 144 Hz. HDMI 2.1 would have mitigated this problem and allowed the full 165 Hz in line with DisplayPort. There are also USB outputs and an audio jack.
The OSD is controlled by a direction switch on the back of the display. Very simple setup here, and I think this is one area that most likely suggests this is Corsair's first monitor. You get various color controls and a refresh rate display, plus sRGB mode and a strobe for the backlight, but it lacks other gamer features that buyers of high-end Asus and Gigabyte monitors enjoy, like cheat crosshairs, shadow enhancers, KVM switches, and so on.
However, Corsair has integrated the 32QHD165 into its existing line of products and iCUE software so that you can control these OSD functions through peripheral devices such as the Stream Deck. It also supports optional accessories like the Elgato Flex Arm, which screws into the top of the stand to mount a stream camera.
Of course, I was particularly interested in how Corsair would handle motion performance on their very first gaming monitor, so let's take a look at that now. Only three overdrive settings in the OSD, and the first of these is the normal mode, which is a classic overdrive-off experience with minimal overshoot and average response times around the 10 ms mark. This isn't actually bad for standard performance, which suggests Corsair is using a decent panel here, but performance could obviously be improved.
Fast mode at 165 Hz is a small improvement over normal mode. The average response time dropped to 8.60 ms, an improvement of a little more than 1 ms, and this also caused a small improvement in the cumulative deviation. This was achieved without affecting the overshoot, although the speed shown is generally not fast enough for 165Hz gaming.
Then we have the Fastest mode, the best mode for games with the highest refresh rate, as indicated by the lowest cumulative discrepancy number we've seen so far. This mode pushes us into the overshoot realm, and seeing 40% of the transitions with noticeable inverse ghosting is not the best result. However, the actual excess is small, so the level to which inverse ghosting is visible is quite limited and you are just swapping the blur trail from the previous Quick Mode for a slight bright trail in Fastest Mode. Overall, I think the motion sharpness is a bit better in Fastest mode, although of course some prefer the experience of Fast with no overshoot.
In terms of average response time, 4.26ms is decent and a clear improvement, so overshoot is only part of the story. Corsair claims a gray-to-gray average of less than 3 ms in their spec sheet, and our new, rigorous response time testing method doesn't quite meet that. But interestingly, this mode recorded at 2.99 ms using our older and more traditional method, so Corsair is reasonably accurate on the spec sheet, which is a nice change from most monitors that just throw "1 ms" at it without thinking.
While Fastest mode is the best for 165Hz gaming in my opinion, it's not the best mode for gaming over the full update range with adaptive sync variables. The lack of variable overdrive harms the 32QHD165 here, because at 144Hz and especially at 120Hz the Fastest mode simply has too much overshoot and now inverse ghosting trails are very noticeable. Fastest mode is therefore only suitable for locked 165 Hz games that you might get in an eSports title.
The best mode for adaptive synchronization is the fast mode, which keeps the reaction times under control and at the same time limits the overshoot to a negligible level even at 60 Hz. Most of the cumulative variance stays at 600, which isn't too bad. In the best case, however, it is significantly slower than the Fastest mode, so ideally I would have wished for a mode between Fast and Fastest that could have offered an optimized experience. Either that or a full overdrive slider that could have done fine tuning.
The results aren't the worst, but unfortunately the Xeneon 32QHD165 doesn't have a single overdrive mode, which is a frustrating omission for a high-end monitor. More overdrive modes or variable overdrive would be required to get the best single overdrive mode game. As it stands, most adaptive sync players should choose Fast mode, while those playing at 165Hz should use Fastest.
Compared to other monitors, the 32QHD165 sits exactly where it should be at the highest frame rate under the best conditions: among other things, in high-end IPS monitors that provide an average response time of between 4.0 and 4.7 ms. Unfortunately, the Corsair offer has by far the highest surplus, so there is clearly a need for optimization here.
Competing monitors like the Gigabyte M32Q and Asus ROG Swift PG329Q have less overshoot with a similar response time, while the LG 32GP850 goes back even further to reduce overshoot. With that in mind, this monitor may not be as powerful as its position on the chart suggests.
Due to the limited selection of overdrive controls, the 32QHD165 is not particularly impressive on average over the entire update range with settings optimized for variable frame rate games.
Fast mode doesn't have much overshoot, but is quite a bit slower than Faster mode, and that hurts the Corsair monitor's space in the table. For example, the PG329Q offers almost 50% faster response times on average with only a small increase in overshoot because it includes variable overdrive while the Corsair monitor does not.
Such inclusions can be so important for high-end products and unfortunately the Xeneon is missing.
Overall, however, the 32QHD165 still has a pretty good response time, and this is indicated by the cumulative deviation results. This metric tells us how close each monitor's response curves are to the ideal instant response and quantifies the balance between response times and overshoot.
Beyond the adaptive sync range, the 32QHD165 helps as a monitor with little overshoot in this table and overall it is only slightly worse than other similar high-end displays. For example, the gap between the Corsair monitor and the Asus equivalent drops to 19% in favor of the Asus model – so yes, the PG329Q is still better, but not much better, and the difference to a product like the 32GP850 is still less.
Of course, I'd love to see that number tweaked further through things like variable overdrive and more overdrive controls on a future Corsair monitor, but they clearly use a pretty good panel on the 32QHD165 and that results in good motion performance.
At 120 Hz, the Corsair monitor is not particularly impressive and this is where it suffers the most when compared to other high-end displays of similar specifications. A better overdrive set-up would have resulted in a better result here. Then that performance is pretty important for 60 Hz as the Xeneon includes a console mode that accepts 4K 60 Hz inputs and scales down to 1440p. The little overshoot is nice, but the performance is still a little below other monitors of similar spec such as the M32Q.
The input delay is strong, the 32QHD165 has under 1ms processing delay so this is not a problem and the only other thing that affects the latency a lot is the refresh rate. 240 Hz monitors are also available at a similar price and have lower latency due to their higher refresh rate.
The Corsair monitor is similar in efficiency to a product like the Asus PG329Q, which makes sense as I believe they both use an AU Optronics panel. However, this panel isn't the most efficient on the market, with lower power consumption values from monitors like the LG 32GP850 and the Gigabyte M32Q. But, by and large, not a big deal.
I am pleased that the Xeneon Backlight supports strobing, although its functionality is limited. Corsair only supports this mode when FreeSync is disabled, unlike a product like the Gigabyte M32Q, which now supports backlight strobing and adaptive sync at the same time. I got the feature working at 100 Hz, but 60 Hz strobing is not possible. There is also no fine-tuning for strobe timing or length, it is just an on-off switch.
Even so, backlight strobing works pretty well. The fact that this panel uses Quantum Dot Enhancement instead of KSF backlighting is a big boost to strobe clarity – no red fringing can be seen here.
There's a faint double image as the panel's response times aren't quite fast enough to keep up with 165Hz, but the overall clarity in this mode is better than the M32Q, much better than the 32GP850 and very similar to the PG329Q. This mode is worth experimenting with, especially for games with a fixed 165Hz update in competitive titles, although the lack of compatibility with variable refresh rates doesn't make it a top choice for everyone.
Color space: Corsair Xeneon 32QHD165 – D65-P3
Next we have color performance and as announced the 32QHD165 is an extremely wide color gamut display. I recorded 95% DCI-P3 coverage, slightly below the advertised 98%, but I was able to validate 100% Adobe RGB coverage. The high coverage of three color bezels (including sRGB) makes this display an extremely versatile display for content creation with Total Rec. 2020 83% coverage with the best monitors on the market today. You get a full 20 percentage point increase in color space coverage over a product like the M32Q, which is massive.
Standard color performance
The out-of-the-box experience is pretty standard. Corsair opted for flat 2.2 gamma instead of sRGB gamma, which is fine for PC use but not accurate since Windows uses sRGB by default. My device also had a slight reddish cast when it left the factory. As a result, the DeltaE grayscale performance was pretty average, but not terrible.
The bigger problem with the factory calibration is rather the extremely wide color space, which is deactivated by default. This leads to a high level of oversaturation when viewing standard sRGB or Rec. 709 content such as YouTube videos. This wide range of colors often leads to the sunburn effect, in which pink-brown tones are shifted into the red area.
So compared to other displays, the 32QHD165 is in the midfield for grayscale calibration, nothing wrong with this, but the color accuracy is very poor right out of the box and I wouldn't recommend people using the display this way.
Fortunately, Corsair includes an sRGB mode, so that's a tick for their first monitor. And the mode is very effective at narrowing the color space and completely eliminating oversaturation for everyday content. Unfortunately, grayscale performance is pretty similar to standard mode, and Corsair locks you out of all white balance settings, which is pointless and annoying.
Calibrated color performance
The only way to improve performance from here is to fully calibrate the display using DisplayCAL, or in this case, Calman Ultimate. Since it has no problem covering the entire sRGB color space, it is very easy to calibrate and achieves good results for sRGB and even other color spaces such as Adobe RGB or DCI-P3. In fact, a calibration for Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 is fundamentally necessary, since the color space exceeds both in the standard mode and Corsair does not offer any integrated modes for these color spaces as for sRGB. This is another area for improvement, although I would expect most professional or semi-professional users to calibrate it themselves anyway.
The brightness corresponds to the information provided by Corsair with a touch of over 400 nits, which is sufficiently bright for most applications and slightly brighter than most of its competitors. The minimum brightness is also great at 40 cd / m², so that the panel can also be used comfortably in dark rooms.
The contrast ratio is pretty good for an IPS monitor, my device recorded over 1100: 1 which I think is on the high end when the panel variance is taken into account. Nevertheless, this is on par with the Gigabyte M32Q and better than other competitors such as the 32GP850 and the PG329Q, both of which have poor contrast ratios for an IPS. However, IPS panels generally have poor contrast ratios, especially when compared to VA monitors, which is a weakness.
The viewing angles are good, no problem with most modern IPS displays. The evenness was also average to good, the midsection was pretty uniform in all respects, with some sloughs along the left and right edges. Nothing worrisome and on a positive note, my device had a limited IPS glow, although this varies from device to device of course.
Finally, a quick word about HDR performance. Corsair is promoting DisplayHDR 400 certification, but this is a garbage specification that means nothing. In practice, the 32QHD165 lacks any form of local dimming, so it cannot generate the contrast required for true HDR. The monitor accepts HDR inputs, but in practice the HDR experience is like operating the monitor in SDR mode with increased brightness. Since it is physically incapable of high contrast ratios, I think the 32QHD165 should not be viewed as an HDR monitor at all.
Hot or not?
For a first try with a gaming monitor or another monitor, the Corsair Xeneon 32QHD165 is not bad. Surprisingly good. We don't know if this was an in-house design or if Corsair relied on an ODM for the heavy lifting, but the results are competitive with today's displays of similar specification. It's worth noting that this is a far cry from the junk Razer Raptor 27 we looked at recently that didn't perform anywhere near acceptable, and that was Razer's second attempt!
Movement performance is usually the most difficult and this monitor will do a fine job depending on the circumstances. Overall, it's pretty competitive with today's high-end IPS monitors, a little behind metrics like cumulative variance, but pretty fast at 165Hz. It also has great, albeit limited, backlight strobing. The main problem here is the features that can take a monitor from good to great performance, like variable overdrive, more overdrive modes, or a single overdrive mode experience. The 32QHD165 isn't on par with a top-of-the-line monitor in these areas, but you won't be left with a blurry gaming experience either.
Color performance is strong, with an exceptionally wide color gamut, making this display versatile as a dual gaming and productivity monitor. The top-end coverage of sRGB, P3, and Adobe RGB covers most of the essentials, and Corsair complements that with a usable sRGB mode to prevent massive oversaturation for everyday use. We could single out a couple of things about calibration etc, but it's a great looking display with decent IPS contrast, strong brightness, and respectable uniformity.
Where Corsair lacks something is functionality. Some people will miss things like shadow boosting modes or a KVM switch that you might get with other displays. Or things like backlight strobing and variable refresh rates at the same time. The design could probably use some tweaking too, but the barebones are there for a monitor that's pretty good at gaming, video playback, and productivity.
So the Xeneon 32QHD165 hardware is pretty good, how about the value? $ 800 is too much for this monitor in our opinion, and we think Corsair is too optimistic if they thought they could rival the established Asus PG329Q. The PG329Q is a very strong performer with better tuning and superior features and for similar money I would buy it.
Corsair also has the problem of competing with other product categories. You can get some really good 1440p, 240Hz displays at this price point – yes, they'll be mostly 27-inch models, but they're faster and more future-proof. There are also several 4K 144Hz options available these days for $ 800 or less, maybe on a smaller panel, but it's another category I'd strongly consider.
On the other hand, I think the 32QHD165 is better than the Gigabyte M32Q and LG 32GP850 – or at least very competitive with those models – and they typically sell between $ 400 and $ 500. The Corsair model offers slightly slower response performance, but much better color performance and clearer backlight strobing. I think Corsair could get away with a higher price tag than these models, around $ 500 to $ 600, and that's pretty good for a first try. However, it is a hefty reduction to the currently intended list price.
Finally, there are a few other warranty and support considerations for a first-time visitor. Corsair mitigates this with a 3-year warranty, which is on the better end for gaming displays, and their dead-pixel policy is decent. But there is always some risk compared to a more established brand with experience making monitors. We don't often include warranties in our reviews, but on this occasion we don't think it should be an afterthought even though they are an established brand among the PC enthusiast realm.