The MSI Optix MAG272CQR is a mid-range gaming monitor that still tries to include loads of high-end features – like a curved design, a huge refresh rate and a 1440p resolution.
This panel is clearly trying to be all things to all gamers – whether you’re a keen esports fan or want to make the best single-player titles look good. Can it succeed, though, and can it justify its $400 US price and £400 UK price in a busy market?
Read our MSI Optix MAG272CQR review to find out exactly how good this screen can be.
MSI Optix MAG272CQR Review – Headline Features
The MSI Optix MAG272CQR is a 27in display with a 2,560 x 1,440 native resolution. That’s a good figure – it delivers a density level of 109ppi, which is high enough to make games look impressively, enjoyably crisp.
The 1440p resolution is also high enough to provide ample on-screen real estate for most types if gaming. If you’re used to a 1080p display, this is a noticeable step up.
The resolution is a smart choice for most gaming PCs. Driving a 1440p display at a high refresh rate is not an easy feat, but a far wider array of graphics cards will be able to handle it when compared to higher resolutions, including widescreen panels and 4K displays.
The MSI Optix MAG272CQR has a peak refresh rate of 165Hz. That’s a great figure – higher and a little better than many of the displays at this price, which peak at 144Hz. That figure will ensure butter-smooth gaming in all scenarios as long as you’ve got a graphics card that can handle it. This screen uses AMD FreeSync 2, which means it works with both AMD and Nvidia graphics cards.
The only way you’re going to get smoother, faster gaming right now is by buying a screen that goes beyond 165Hz – which, right now, means a 240Hz display. To get one of those at the size and resolution to match the MSI, you’ll have to spend around $600 or £600 and also have a more powerful GPU. Also bear in mind that you get diminishing returns as refresh rates increase – so only the keenest esports players will need anything more than 144Hz or the MSI’s 165Hz rate.
The third key feature on the MSI Optix MAG272CQR is its curved design. We’re seeing more curved screens these days, and they help make images more consistent and games more immersive.
The MSI’s 27in diagonal is not particularly big, which means it has a curve radius of 1500R. That’s tighter than the most conventional 1800R curve used on many other gaming monitors, and it makes the curve a little more pronounced – an 1800R curve on a 27in display would have been too subtle to make much difference.
Rest of the Spec
Under all that, the MSI Optix MAG272CQR is built using VA technology. This makes lots of sense – VA panels are known for having better contrast than IPS or TN screens.
VA panels don’t necessarily have the best colours when compared to IPS displays, but they’re still good enough for gaming. They’re also not quite as quick when it comes to rendering motion on the screen, but the MSI shouldn’t suffer too badly here.
Elsewhere, the MSI has a top-notch 1ms response time – easily good enough for any kind of fast-paced gaming, whether it’s for single-player experiences or esports competitions.
You don’t get any speakers on this display, though, so you’ll need a headset or speakers connected to your PC.
Setup & Design
The MSI Optix MAG272CQR’s base slots into its stand easily and attaches with one tool-free screw. You’ll need a screwdriver to attach the stand to the rear of the screen, though. It’s not a long or complicated process, but it’s a little disappointing that the MSI doesn’t have the sort of snap-in, tool-free mechanism that so many other screens now use.
When it comes to connectivity, it’s reasonable. The MSI has DisplayPort and two HDMI ports, and it has USB-C – a future-proofed addition that can be used for either display input or device charging.
That’s a good start, but elsewhere the MSI only has one audio jack and two USB 2.0 ports. Those USB ports are old and slow, and they’re positioned around the back of the screen, facing downwards – so they’re not easy to reach, either.
The MSI’s on-screen display is well-planned, responsive and attractive. It’s dominated by red and black graphics, and its top row has important information that is always displayed. All of the usual options are in sensible places – nothing is difficult to find.
The entire menu system – and the numerous quick-selection options – are navigated by a single joystick. There are no extra buttons. It works well: the joystick is intuitive and sturdy, and we never had problems navigating the various options.
MSI’s screen looks good, too. It has slim, narrow legs, and its stand and rear cover are made from plastic but finished with a smart brushed metal affect. There’s a row of RGB LEDs at the rear, too, and a headphone holder. Its bezels are pleasingly slim.
Build quality is also decent. The MSI is sturdy enough to be carted to gaming events and it’s light enough to carry around with relative ease.
The MSI also has 130mm of height adjustment and it can tilt back and forth. It supports 100mm VESA mounting too. It can’t swivel from side to side, though, and there’s no portrait mode.
The MSI Optix MAG272CQR has impressive image quality out of the box. It has an initial brightness level of 229cd/m2, which is fine – high enough for any sort of gaming task. Its black point of 0.09cd/m2 is fantastic, and instantly justifies MSI’s choice of a VA display. That black level is deeper than almost anything else at this price, and it’s better than any IPS or TN panel.
Those figures create a contrast ratio of 2,544:1. That’s another brilliant result – twice as good as any IPS gaming display.
These three results have a big impact on gaming. The black point means that darker areas are incredibly absorbing, which huge depth and subtlety. That contrast ratio means that the whole range of colour on this display is vibrant and punchy – from the low-end right to the brightest areas.
You’re going to get noticeably more depth and punch from this display than from any IPS gaming panel.
The MSI Optix MAG272CQR has good colours, too. Its average Delta E of 2.07 is great – easily good enough to ensure colour accuracy during gaming. Its temperature level of 5,989K is slightly warm, which means white shades on this screen have a tiny red tinge, but it’s not a big enough deviation to cause serious issues – especially when few games have large white areas and games are often moving at speed.
MSI’s panel rendered 99.4% of the sRGB colour gamut, which is a great figure – high enough to handle any colour required by any current game.
The MSI also has good uniformity. The panel’s backlight strength only deviated by around 11% in the corners. That’s good – better than most curved screens manage.
When it comes to mainstream gaming, the MSI Optix MAG272CQR easily has the quality required. Its huge contrast and great colour accuracy means the latest titles look bold, punchy and attractive.
That said, this screen isn’t without issues. Don’t switch to any of its gaming genre modes, for instance: they all make Delta E levels far worse. And, despite MSI claiming that this screen is “HDR Ready”, it’s not. Despite its good contrast, its backlight isn’t nearly strong enough to make any meaningful difference in HDR games.
For our Optix MAG272CWR review we also used the MSI’s overdrive settings and used a tiny bit of ghosting in fast-paced games. This is likely because the MSI uses VA technology rather than TN. The vast, vast majority of people won’t be bothered by this. Most people won’t take this screen beyond its 165Hz refresh rate, let alone notice this small ghosting issue.
However, if you’re a top-tier esports player then you’ll want to bear this in mind.
MSI Optix MAG272CQR Review – Conclusion
The MSI Optix MAG272CQR is an impressive display in several key areas. Image quality, for starters: ignore its lack of HDR ability and its poor gaming modes, and you’ve got a screen with stunning contrast levels, great black points and top-notch colours. Any game will look fantastic as long as you don’t go fiddling with any unnecessary settings.
Elsewhere, the MSI has that immersive curved design, a solid resolution and a refresh rate that peaks at 165Hz – which means plenty of real estate, an immersive shape and butter-smooth operation in any kind of game. The 165Hz refresh rate is only a modest increase over its 144Hz rivals, but it’s still a boost – and a welcome bit of extra pace for esports gamers in particular.
The Optix isn’t perfect: its ports are inconsistent and marginal ghosting will be noticed by the keenest competitive gamers. You’ll also need to check what kind of graphics card you’ll need to run your chosen games at 2,560 x 1,440 and at the triple-figure speeds required to make use of the 165Hz refresh rate. Not every GPU will be up to the task depending on the games you want to play.
For the vast majority of single-player gamers and esports enthusiasts, though, the MSI Optix MAG272CQR is very good: its has superb image quality and a well-balanced specification. It’s an impressive and versatile mid-range gaming display.
Panel Technology: VA
Native Resolution: 2,560 x 1,440
Syncing: 165Hz AMD FreeSync 2
Display Inputs: 1 x DisplayPort 1.2a, 2 x HDMI 2.0b
Ports: 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB-C
HDR: HDR Ready
Warranty: 1yr RTB