MSI Optix MAG271CR review

To be the best, you gotta go fast

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Our Verdict

MSI’s latest Optix screen is a bit of an enigma, although it features an impressive spec list, the lack of availability right now, damages the overall accessibility of it.

For

  • Color is exceptional
  • Price point is good
  • 144 Hz and curved

Against

  • Pixel density suffers at 27-inches

In the world of first person shooters, which the MSI MAG271CR gaming monitor plans to conquer, speed is king. It’s all about those reactions: you can hone them, you can train them, but ultimately, if your screen doesn’t refresh fast enough, or your mouse can't send that input quick enough, you’re dead (in-game, at least). 

Even though only the small minority get paid to play games at the absolute high-end of eSports first person shooters, there’s nothing wrong with aspiring to have that same cutting edge tech they use to improve your own game play. After all, folks buy expensive cars even though they’re not professional race drivers, so what’s the harm in spending an extra bit of cash on a screen that’ll help improve your game?

All of that aside, that spiel is usually reserved for the run-of-the-mill first generation gaming panels we saw from yesteryear. 

Those were monstrous TN things running at 200Hz+, with a super-snappy 1ms response time, and awful ghosting, but hey! Color doesn’t matter right? It’s all about the killshot. 

Today however, well things have come a long way. What you’re looking at here is MSI’s latest MAG271CR gaming monitor. It has a subtle 27-inch frame, features an almost bezel-less design, a bright, crisp, and colorful VA panel, and a response time that doesn’t induce anywhere near as much ghosting as we thought it would.

Price

In the UK you’ll be placing down a hefty £383 to get your hands on one, and it’s only available from one retailer at the moment. In the US and Australia the MAG271CR still isn’t for sale.

That said, there’s a bit of a work around to this. On a screen, the most important aspect is the panel itself. You can forget the frills, the RGB, the headphone stands, if the screen isn't up to scratch, what’s the point? Fortunately, this Monitor’s LED panel is the exact same one featured in MSI’s MAG271C (£291, $300, AU$460), and the MSI G27C2 (£246, $252, AU$400).

That means if you just don’t like the added extras found on the MAG271CR, or can’t wait until it’s readily available, we’d advise you to check one of them out instead.

Design

So, before we get to the juicy good stuff, aka performance, let’s talk about the design. The MAG271CR is clean, seriously clean. The brushed aluminum styling is clean and crisp. From the front there’s nothing garish, no random spikes or crazy “gamer” lines, and the bezel is clean too.

Putting the thing together is relatively painless as well. It comes in three pieces, and you simply attach the main back to the panel, secure it in place with latches, then install two screws. You then attach the base with the included thumb screw and you’re good to go.

The MAG271CR offers vertical adjustment and tilt, but no rotation, which is a bit of a shame, especially at this price, but given the quality of that panel, we’re willing to let that slide. 

After all, this is designed for high frame rate gaming, not Photoshop work. You also get one DisplayPort, two HDMI 1.4 ports and a USB 2.0 hub available via passthrough.

There's also an included pop-out headphone hanger located to the left of the screen, to hang your headphones on after a long gaming session, and the RGB back light.

It is compatible with MSI’s Mystic Light, and touts the usual 16.8 million colors, with various profiles to set up.

Performance

So then, let’s talk specs. We get 27-inches of curved screen real estate, a VA panel with fantastic color reproduction, 178 degree viewing angles, 1ms response time, 144 Hz screen refresh rate, and a 1920 x 1080 full HD resolution. 

It isn’t half bad. The color depth is impressive, perhaps a touch over-saturated, and nowhere near as natural as an IPS panel, but still far superior to its TN equivalents. 

Given this is a screen predominantly designed for gaming, that extra saturation is a good thing, and it’ll look stunning when push comes to shove.

The refresh rate is also a nice addition. These 144 Hz screens are buttery smooth, both when using Windows and in-game (if you have a powerful enough PC to drive the frames to it). 

Given the fact the MSI Optix MAG271CR is 1080p as well, means it's not too difficult to drive in-game frame rates at that speed too. We’d recommend a GTX 1070 graphics card as a minimum to get the most out of it in today’s AAA titles.

When it came to our ghosting tests on fast moving imagery, the MAG271CR did well. There is some slight ghosting, strongest with red colors, but overall it generally performed well, and it certainly wasn’t noticeable in-game. Gradients were also very smooth, with minimal noticeable banding. During our refresh test we saw no dropped frames whatsoever, which is impressive.

The only really obvious downside is pumping that 1080p resolution through a 27-inch panel. Usually a screen size best suited for 2560 x 1440 resolutions or higher, 1080p looks a bit grainy, as the pixels are far more obvious here than at 24-inches, and you’re left with a pixel density of 81.59 PPI (Pixels Per Inch).

To give some clarity on that, a 24-inch 1080p screen has 91.79 PPI, a 27-inch 1440p 108.79 pixels per inch, and a 32-inch 4K panel 137.68. The higher the count, the smoother and clearer fonts appear, and the cleaner images look.

Verdict

Ultimately, if you can deal with the pixel density being a little bit less than desirable, this screen is pretty swell, while the panel itself is nothing short of incredible. 

To have a VA 27-inch curved screen that's driven at 144 Hz with a 1ms response time and limited ghosting, is just... well, if we’re honest, we didn’t think it could be done. The colours really do pop, and overall it’s just a nice experience to use it. 

We wish that the pixel density was a little higher, but all in all, they’re minor niggles in comparison to what you gain.

The biggie though is going to be availability, if MSI still isn’t shipping these by the time you read this, and you’re set on a 27-inch 1080p high refresh display, try picking up the MAG271C or the G27C2 instead.