MSI Optix MPG341CQR full review

New monitors are rarely too exciting except for the die hard enthusiasts. A few extra inches here, an improved contrast ratio there - the numbers go up, but it's rarely enough to get you hot under the collar.

Things are a little different with the MSI Optix MPG341CQR. Yup, the name's a bit of a mouthful, and it's got the usual exhaustive (and exhausting) array of specs to run through, but it also has something a bit new: AI features that actually seem like they might be useful.

MSI announced the new monitor at CES earlier this year, but revealed more about how all the artificial intelligence stuff works at Computex, and it was all enough for us to give it one of our five Best of Computex Awards. Here's why.

Price and availability

When it launches the MPG341CQR will set you back £869/$899. Either way, that should be some time in Q3 - July to September - but a specific release date has yet to be confirmed.

Obviously that's not cheap - even by the standards of the rest of our best gaming monitor chart - but there's enough packed in here that it must just justify that big ticket price point for you.

Looking smart

Most of the time when you talk about a monitor the focus is firmly on the display's specs, but here the more interesting stuff is arguably elsewhere. Yes, the display's great - we'll get to that - but around it you'll find other goodies.

Most of that is driven by the camera placed underneath the screen itself. This little webcam isn't just there to use for streaming and the like - instead it drives the artificial intelligence features baked in here.

First up, there's facial recognition software - like you might have on your phone - which is intended to recognise who's using the monitor at any given time. No, it won't lock it if someone else sits down, but instead it will recognise saved users and load up specific profiles and settings for them - ideal if your monitor is used by a few people with different tastes.

Even if this is purely for your own use, the AI stuff has its place. That's because in addition to looking out for people, it's also keeping an eye on light levels in the room, and will adjust brightness accordingly, saving you from excessive light when you're gaming in the dark, or helping it match the glare if you're playing during a sunny day.

There's another helping hand here from MSI's Night Vision mode, an optional software trick that will brighten up the darkest parts of the display - and only those parts - to help illuminate particularly dark scenes in games or films so that you don't lose the detail into the shadows. In the demo I saw (admittedly, on one of MSI's other new monitor launches) the effect looked slightly aggressive for my taste, but it did do a great job of brightening dark spots without whiting out other areas.

Finally, there'll be support for Amazon Alexa, essentially letting you turn your desktop PC into a smart home hub, and it's integrated with SteelSeries GameSense, which will let you link the RGB lighting to all sorts of in-game alerts.

I didn't get to test the AI features out fully on the show floor, but if they match their promise they could be a minor game changer for some, a convenience for others, and at the very least they're just something a little different.

Premium screenium

If the AI smarts haven't drawn you in, the good news is that this is still an almightily impressive display in its own right. The 34-inch VA panel has an ultrawide QHD resolution (3440 x 1440) in a 21:9 aspect ratio, with a curvature of 1800R.

It's anti-glare - another point for how it handles light - and packs in a 144Hz refresh rate and 1ms response time, so the thing is fast. A 3,000:1 contrast ratio, 400 nits max brightness (DisplayHDR 400), 84% DCI-P3 and 105% sRGB colour gamut coverage round out the core specs. In person it looks just as good as those numbers suggest, though the Computex lighting is hardly an ideal testing environment - we'll test it more thoroughly when we have it in the office for a proper review.

The ports are frankly exhaustive - it would almost be quicker to list what isn't here. There's two each of HDMI 2.0 and USB-A 3.2, along with one port each for DisplayPort 1.4, USB-C, USB-B, a Combo Jack, mic in, headphones out, and a Kensington lock slot.

Not enough? There's also an included webcam mount, so you can attach your camera of choice for streaming, along with an integrated mouse bungee - attachable to either side of the display, to suit your preference.

Finally, (phew) there's the RGB lighting. Five strips run along the underside of the screen, while a separate array arcs down one side of the rear of the device. As already mentioned, you can run the lighting on its own or link it up to various alerts and triggers with SteelSeries GameSense.

Early verdict

Monitors are tricky to test at a tradeshow - it's about as far away from controlled lighting conditions as you can get - but so far I'm impressed by the Optix MPG341CQR. It's not cheap, but top specs and interesting AI integration could be enough to make this a very compelling high-end offering.

Specs

MSI Optix MPG341CQR: Specs

  • 34in VA display
  • 3440 x 1440 resolution
  • 21:9 aspect ratio
  • 1800R curvature
  • 144Hz refresh rate
  • 1ms response time
  • 3000:1 contrast ratio
  • 400 nits max brightness
  • AI features
  • RGB lighting
  • Webcam & mouse bungee mounts
  • 2x USB-A 3.1
  • 2x HDMI 2.0
  • DisplayPort 1.4
  • USB-C 3.1
  • USB-B 3.2 Gen1
  • Headphone jack
  • Mic in
  • PC to monitor audio jack combo