A few years ago, 1080p at 60 Hz was the standard for computer monitors, and everyone seemed happy. Since the display technology on mobile screens with a higher pixel density clearly prevailed, people demanded the same treatment on the high-end computer side. People wanted higher resolutions, faster response times, and higher refresh rates for competitive games, and curved screens for more immersive content.
MSI launched the Optix MAG27CQ and MPG27CQ earlier this year. two monitors that activate many check boxes in the function list. Both are curved 27-inch monitors with a resolution of 1440p, FreeSync support, refresh rates of 144 Hz and response times of 1 ms. They are also equipped with game-oriented display functions, and the MPG27CQ even has RGB lighting. However, these monitors appear to be similar on paper. The MAG is considerably cheaper. So let's see how it works and whether one of them is a good choice for your next gaming display upgrade.
Since this is a double check, I will examine the differences and similarities between the two models as well as their performance in games and with color accuracy.
As shown above, we have the Optix MAG27CQ ($ 380) on the left and the Optix MPG27CQ ($ 500) on the right. In the future, I will refer to them as MAG and MPG because the names can get confusing. From a technical point of view, they are almost identical, but differ slightly in terms of additional functions.
The MAG has a matte black and gray industrial design, while the MPG is more shiny. The stand for the MAG is much smaller than the MPG and generally has a subdued aesthetic. The MPG, however, has RGB lighting at the front and back and an apologetic "gamer" aesthetic.
Both monitors have a 1800R curve, which is not uncommon for larger gaming displays. If you've never used a curved monitor, the effect isn't as pronounced as you might expect. If you look at them directly, the slight curve is designed to keep more screen in your field of vision.
During actual use, I found the MAG level to be a bit too small or less stable. The state of the MPG was exactly the opposite. I found that the two front legs were a bit too big and took up too much space on the desk for my taste.
Fortunately, both monitors are VESA compatible. If this is a problem for you, you can always buy an aftermarket stand. The included stands move up and down to raise or lower the monitor, rotate left and right, and pan horizontally. None of the stands can be rotated to portrait mode, which makes sense since they are curved monitors.
In terms of I / O, the MAG has standard connections such as DVI, an HDMI 2.0, a DisplayPort 1.2 and an audio socket. No USB-C or additional connections. The quick-change monitor holder is located above the display connections. This makes moving the monitor very easy and is preferable to screwing.
When we move to the MPG, we find that it has a little more to offer. There are two HDMI 2.0 ports, a single DisplayPort 1.2, a USB 3.0 uplink and a combination socket for headphones and microphone. There are two additional USB 3.0 ports on the side, a headphone output and a microphone input. Overall, this is a nice mixture of I / O. Also unique for the MPG is an RGB strip on the back of the monitor and on the lower front panel.
The pattern design on the back is similar to that on the Infinite X Gaming desktop PC that we reviewed a while ago. Attaching RGB lights to the back has the goal of doing a color wash behind the monitor when it's on, but I found that they weren't bright enough to do this effectively.
The RGB lighting on the lower panel of the MPG is compatible with the SteelSeries Gamesense framework. While the lights on the back are just flaunted, the lights on the front can have real use in games. The Gamesense software can be integrated into certain games to dynamically control the lighting.
For example, you can program the lights to show your health, ammo, or any number of other parameters. This function is exclusive to the MPG model.
Neither of the monitors has visible buttons on the front, since both are controlled by a small red joystick on the right rear of the monitor for the on-screen display. It offers four directions and a medium click. It feels a bit cheap and thin on the MAG, but it could be worse. The joystick on the MPG is more robust and feels better. Both monitors have the same general menu design and functions, but the MPG has slightly more functions. Depending on your display settings, there are predefined display modes such as film, FPS, RTS and weak blue light. Especially for the MPG, MSI has added additional options for adjusting black levels, motion blur, latency, picture-in-picture and the possibility of reassigning the joystick buttons.
I like the joystick over traditional buttons on the front to navigate the menus, but it was a bit confusing at first. With nothing labeled, it was difficult to figure out which order of instructions to press to get to the menus I needed. There is also a strange quirk on both monitors, where you can only access the display settings when there is an active video input. When the monitor is asleep, it took up to 30 seconds for the monitor to wake up in the correct order to access the menu. This can make troubleshooting and configuration more difficult and is certainly an oversight of the design. For those who can't stand OSDs, the MPG can be remotely controlled using a software app for Windows and Android.
Another problem I couldn't figure out how to get rid of was an annoying regular message on the screen telling me that nothing was connected. If no input is made for the monitor, e.g. For example, if you put your computer into sleep mode, the monitor and its bright backlight will turn on periodically. For those who sleep in the same room as your computer or are in a dorm, this is extremely annoying.
As expected, both are great to play with. I personally think 1440p at 144 Hz is the current sweet spot for gaming. There are 240 Hz monitors with 1080p, but for non-competitive players, the advantage of increasing the resolution and sharpness to 1440p is more visually appealing than the refresh rate of 240 Hz.
If you switch to 4K at 60 Hz – unless you pay well for the best panels available today ($ 1500 +) – the drop from 144 Hz to 60 Hz is not worth the additional 4K resolution advantage. This will inevitably change as future hardware and connectivity standards come out, but for now, most players, like me, will stick to my 1440p 144Hz monitors.
Both Optix models offer extremely low response times of 1 ms. For testing, I focused on both film games and fast-paced competitive games. I used two different high-end Intel and AMD PCs that run on an RTX 2070 GPU.
Apart from big problems, game performance is generally subjective. When playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, I estimated the fast refresh rate of 144 Hz, and the input delay was not noticeable at all, which is crucial in this game. I was happy with the performance of the monitors and did not feel the need to add additional processing from the monitor. For example, on the MPG, you could set the RGB LEDs to show your health or ammunition, but I personally found the gaming experience more enjoyable without them.
On the more cinematic side, I also tried Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The game looks beautiful at 1440p and was really fun. The curve made the game a little more haunting, but wasn't a big factor. If your rig isn't powerful enough to run games at 144 Hz, both monitors come with FreeSync to avoid tearing (exclusive to Radeon GPUs, so we couldn't activate it on our faster GeForce GPU). Overall, I noticed nothing but poor when it comes to standard gaming sessions.
In terms of color accuracy, the results were generally acceptable, but not great. This should come as no surprise, as gaming monitors are less focused on accuracy and both have VA panels on the Optix monitors. If you are looking for a professional monitor, you should try the Asus ProArt PA32UC or Dell Ultrasharp UP2718Q.
For objective monitor tests, we use the SpecMANCal CalMAN software suite and an X-Rite i1Display measuring device. We start with the factory color accuracy results from the factory and then look at how they improve after a calibration session.
Starting with the MAG27CQ … a quick refresher that DeltaE values must be approximately 1 or less so that the monitor is considered acceptable for accurate color work. In all three standard tests, the stock MAG performed fairly poorly with DeltaE values above 3. That's pretty bad, but not as terrible as some other gaming monitors.
The grayscale test shows that the standard RGB values are far away. I'm not sure if this is only representative of my specific panel, but this is definitely something that MSI can improve. It should be just as easy to change the factory default values to better display the selected panel. There is also a strange drop in gamma levels between 80% and 100%.
After calibration, I was very happy with the performance of the monitor for a gaming monitor. It would certainly not be my first choice for color work, but you could get away with a light photo or video edit between game sessions.
The improvement in DeltaE values shows how much better this monitor can do for calibration when you want to use it for purposes other than gaming. If you do not use a professional color measuring device and set the RGB values to 50, 52 or 44, you will get a better viewing experience, even if it is not perfect. However, there is still room for improvement as higher quality gaming monitors can achieve DeltaE values below 0.5.
The RGB balance looks much better, but is still a little blue. This large decrease in gamma has also been largely corrected.
The uniformity of the screen wasn't terrible, but it could have been a little better. However, you cannot really compensate for this, as every pixel in the monitor can be slightly different and the backlight in this monitor style does not offer this type of control. In a dark room you can see a slight bleeding from the backlight, but it wasn't that it distracted.
Now we go to the MPG27CQ.
By default, the color accuracy is slightly better than that of MAGs. The DeltaE values are 2.26 for ColorChecker and 1.7 for grayscale and saturation. The RGB balance has a much narrower grouping, but the gamma values are significantly further away from their brand.
The created calibration profile did surprisingly well for a gaming monitor.
The results are slightly better than that of the MAGs, which suggests that MSI is bundling its panels and the more expensive MPG is getting a better display overall. For those without a colorimeter, the RGB settings that I would recommend here are 51, 52 and 44, respectively.
As with MAG, there is also room for improvement in screen uniformity. One difference to the MAG is that the MPG can become much brighter. The MAG has a maximum brightness of 250 nits, while the MPG has a maximum brightness of 400 nits. I tested this and actually measured a value of 270 nits on the MAG and 433 nits on the MPG.
As a general summary of the color performance of these two monitors, the MPG immediately provides slightly better performance, but the MAG provides slightly better performance when calibrated. The panel used in the MAG covers 85% of the NTSC area and 110% of the sRGB area. At MAG, its panel covers 90% of DCI-P3 and 115% of sRGB. Each panel behaves a little differently and nobody will buy these monitors solely for content creation, so the difference is negligible.
Both MSI gaming monitors offer excellent technical data, narrow frames and a relatively strong color performance for gaming monitors. The last big question is what is the difference between the MAG27CQ and the MPG27CQ.
Both are 27 "1440p 144 Hz monitors, 1 ms response time, support FreeSync and have a 1800R curve. Prices are the biggest differentiators in our opinion. We have seen prices for both monitors fluctuate, especially During the holiday season, at the time of writing, you can find the MAG27CQ for around $ 350 to $ 380, while the MPG27CQ sells for $ 460 to $ 500, a significant difference for what appear to be very similar monitors.
The latter gives you customizable RGB lighting, a more robust stand, additional display control options, an additional HDMI input and an integrated USB hub. However, if you covered up identifiable markers and just showed me the panels, I probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the two when it comes to everyday use and gaming. These monitors look similar to me, and that benefits MAG.
In order to correlate MSI's Optix offerings in our current gaming monitor buying guide, we chose a high-end product for $ 800 for the best 1440p monitor. The venerable Asus PG279Q offers a combination of an AHVA IPS panel, G-Sync and a refresh rate of 165 Hz. Like most G-Sync monitors in its range, the Asus sells for a premium. It's a great product that has been around for some time, but it hasn't dropped in price and remains an expensive proposition for many.
For about half the price, the MAG27CQ offers a compelling value option.
Although GeForce GPUs dominate the high-end segment, you may not be concerned about G-Sync support when using a Radeon-based graphics card. In fact, in our December update to the best graphics card buying guide, Radeons hit GeForces every time you spend less than $ 400 on a GPU. So if you can work with FreeSync, you can achieve significant cost savings, and the MSI Optix MAG27CQ is one of the best competitors for 1440p / 144Hz refresh rate / FreeSync.
While MSI is better known for its motherboards and graphics cards, its gaming monitors are definitely worthy competitors in a crowded market. If you can buy one for around $ 350, the MAG27CQ is an affordable gaming monitor with good specs and performance that won't disappoint.