MSI Optix MAG251RX Review – IGNOctober 30, 2020
The question is, if you’re considering diving into the world of high refresh rates: is the MSI Optix MAG251RX the monitor you should pick up? At $360 a pop, it’s certainly one of the most affordable options out there. But we found it to also be among the best performing ones out there, with a low response time and a fantastic image quality.
MSI Optix MAG251RX Gaming Monitor Review
MSI Optix MAG251RX – Design and Features
The first thing you might notice about the MSI Optix MAG251RX is its build. It has a solid base and a sturdy stand that lets you slide and swivel the monitor up or down incredibly smoothly and without too much effort on your part. There’s a decent range of height and angle adjustability here too.
At the same time, there’s also enough resistance there so that the monitor holds its position securely. And, unlike other monitors that rock on their stand at the slightest bump of the table, this one actually stays stationary – a nice feature that comes in handy at the most intense moments.
Unfortunately, there’s no side to side pivoting here, so if you want a kind of angled setup, you’ll have to move the stand itself. And since we’re on the subject of weaknesses, we’re not too fond of the “Gaming Esports” sticker on the back – it’s kind of tacky.
This also isn’t among the largest displays out there. At only 24.5 inches, you need to be relatively close for this to be immersive, which means having spectators isn’t always an option. However, if you have a smaller desk space, it’s certainly a good size – its thin bezels give an extra bit of screen real estate as well.
Other than those gripes, there’s a lot to love about the MAG251RX’s design and aesthetic. It has a simple design with a bit of tapering here and there to give it a subtle gaming look without looking overzealous or gaudy. That makes it great for more than just gaming. You could even set this up on your office desk and no one would notice. Well, as long as that weird “Gaming Esports” sticker is facing the wall, that is.
The selection of ports here is great as well. There’s a USB-C port, DisplayPort, two HDMI ports, audio, USB Type-B, and three downstream USB Type-A ports. The availability of upstream ports here is extremely useful when you have a multi-computer setup. I was able to connect it to a gaming PC and a MacBook Pro at the same time so I could test its gaming performance and do other work on my laptop without unplugging either. As a bonus, the USB-C port could charge my MacBook Pro, so that’s one less cable to worry about.
The three USB Type A ports, separated on the left side, are extremely handy here as you can connect your other peripherals and devices to the monitor. This way, you can keep the same peripherals whenever you’re switching computers.
Another matter of convenience here is its menu. The entire menu is accessible via the single four-way joystick in the back near the bottom right corner. It can be a bit confusing to use at first, but you get used to it fast enough.
Of course, this being a gaming monitor, it has an RGB lighting strip on the back with 7 individual zones. Each zone can be customized by color and LED effects via the Mystic Light software, which is accessible through the Gaming OSD app. I actually like this setup – although it seems like it’s out of the way, it casts nice lighting in the back for a bit more immersion.
Essentially, this gaming monitor tones down that gaming aesthetic to a subtler shade and powers up instead on the features that help with gaming performance.
MSI Optix MAG251RX – Performance and Gaming
The MSI Optix MAG251RX is chock-full of features inside: certified G-Sync compatibility, 1,000:1 static contrast ratio, 10-bit color depth support, 100% sRGB color gamut, 400 nits of brightness and HDR support. It also offers a fairly wide 178-degree viewing angle so that the picture quality stays the same whichever angle you’re viewing from. And finally, it’s got night vision options, which is a smart black tuner that gives you more details in dark areas, anti-flicker and less blue light.
Of course, these are features you’ll find in a lot of other gaming monitors. What really makes the MSI Optix MAG251RX stand out here is it combines those with an incredibly fast 240Hz refresh rate and a quick 1ms response time. While some 360Hz monitors have crept onto the field, taking the crown for fastest display in the west, 240Hz is still plenty fast, especially for an IPS panel – impressive considering that not long ago refresh rates of this speed were limited to TN panels only.
I checked to see how this monitor measures up on the Lagom LCD monitor test, and it certainly passed with flying colors. It delivered a full range of contrast as well as black and white levels. It could do a little better on the gamma calibration test, but then again, that won’t affect your gaming. In practice, the picture quality on this monitor is crisp, vibrant and accurate.
I also tested it on the UFO test, and found zero to very minimal blurring, ghosting or any other artifacts. If there were any, they would have been hardly perceptible to the human eye… or at least, this human eye.
In practice, the games ran beautiful, sharp and smooth with indiscernible latency. I tested this on both graphically intensive games like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, as well as less graphically intensive ones that are more focused on speed like Rocket League. And, the experience was smooth, accurate and immersive.
I didn’t see any ghosting or motion blur while gaming, and that clarity is even more impressive on the fast-paced games. Of course, that 1080p resolution helps with maintaining your frame rates as well. 1080p might be starting to age with the 4K resolution slowly taking over, and can be a bit noticeable in games where a higher resolution is more beneficial than a faster refresh rate. However, it still looks great on a display this size, and with quick refresh rates it’s perfect for esports.
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