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MSI Optix MAG272C review

The MSI Optix MAG272C is a satisfying curved monitor at a reasonable price

MSI Optix MAG272C review
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Our Verdict

The MSI Optix MAG272C features a pleasant curve and decent 1080p performance, although some color and sharpness issues hold it back.

For

  • Unobtrusive curvature
  • Plenty of screen options
  • Plays well with headsets

Against

  • Some ugly presets
  • Unwieldy menus
  • Almost no angle or height options
MSI Optix MAG272C review: Specs

Screen Size: 27 inches
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Refresh Rate: 165 Hz
Inputs: DisplayPort, HDMI, 3.5 mm audio, USB-A, USB-B, USB-C
Dimensions: 24.1 x 17.9 x 8.9 inches

The MSI Optix MAG272C is the first curved gaming monitor that I've ever enjoyed using. For years, I've been skeptical of the format, believing that curves are a fancy aesthetic touch more than a way to build immersion. But the Optix MAG272C demonstrates that curved monitors need not be pretentious, or excessively large, or even especially expensive. At $300 (or less), the Optix MAG272C earns its modest asking price with an elegant design and good functionality overall.

Granted, the Optix MAG272C doesn't quite deliver in a few key areas. Some of its presets are downright ugly, and navigating its myriad options can be difficult, regardless of whether you do so via hardware or software. Reaching the ports is a pain, and height and angle options are almost nonexistent.

Still, as curved 1080p models go, the Optix MAG272C is one of the best gaming monitors you can buy, especially at the price. Read our full MSI Optix MAG272C review to learn why.

MSI Optix MAG272C review: Price and availability

While the MSI Optix MAG272C generally costs $300, it can go for as little as $250 or as much as $600, depending on the retailer. 

At the time of writing, the monitor is available at Adorama, B&H and CDW, although some retailers are restocking and shipping time will vary as a result.

MSI Optix MAG272C review: Design

I'm of two minds about the way the MSI Optix MAG272C looks. On the one hand, it's a handsome machine from an aesthetic perspective, with a gentle 1500R curve, a stately triangular stand and minimalist bezels. The control nub for the menus is around the back, but since the monitor is curved, that's not much of a problem. Better still, there's a separate power button on the bottom of the monitor, which makes turning the device on and off simple.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

On the other hand, the Optix MAG272C is a real pain to set up. After liberating the device from the box (which is not easy; I have never seen a styrofoam container wedged so implacably against a cardboard shell), there's a rather confusing assembly process for the stand and the back cover. You can't adjust the monitor's height, and the screen can tilt only a few degrees in either direction, so attaching and removing cables is an enormous pain.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

This isn't a huge problem for the power and visual cables, but it can be tricky to connect and disconnect headphones — which is too bad, since I loved the Optix MAG272C's audio routing and retractable headphone stand. Giving the screen more height and tilt options would have solved a lot of the monitor's structural problems.

MSI Optix MAG272C review: Screen

The MSI Optix MAG272C features a 27-inch 1080p screen with a 165 Hz refresh rate. The resolution is admittedly on the low end for a modern gaming monitor (even modest machines can generally handle quad HD resolutions), although the high frame rate is a nice touch if you prefer performance over looks. Many gaming monitors max out at 144 Hz, so the extra bump could get you higher frame rates than you might otherwise expect.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

On paper, the Optix MAG272C doesn't get especially bright, averaging 223.6 nits. Compare this with the similar Dell 24 Gaming Monitor S2421HGF, which delivers 283.4 nits. In practice, though, the Optix MAG272C looks plenty bright; I actually had to turn the brightness down when I first installed it because the screen was bothering my eyes. Unless you need to illuminate an entire room, you should be fine.

Color-wise, the Optix MAG272C has a rich palette, supporting 133.6% of the sRGB spectrum, with a Delta-E accuracy of 0.24 (lower is better). Compare and contrast to the Dell 24, which supports only 106.3% of the sRGB spectrum and has a Delta-E accuracy of 0.23, and it's clear that the Optimx MAG272C has richer colors and just about the same accuracy. For the price, it's a thoroughly decent range of color.

MSI Optix MAG272C review: Gaming performance

I tested the Optix MAG272C with a variety of games and genres, and found that its performance varied heavily depending on which presets I used. The monitor offers a variety of presets for different genres, such as FPS, RTS and RPG, all of which "optimize" the brightness, frame rate, color saturation, sharpness and other visual parameters. However, while some of these presets enhance the way the games look and perform, others drag the experience down.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

For example: The first game I played was Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition. With the Enhanced Graphics DLC installed, this game usually looks gorgeous, with deep, rich colors and richly featured maps. However, when I turned on the RTS preset, the game looked downright unpleasant. The high brightness and contrast washed out the colors, and the artificially high sharpness made the villagers and soldiers look cartoonish. Frame rates hovered around 60 fps in this mode.

Likewise, when I tried playing Overwatch, the FPS preset stripped out a lot of the game's rich colors and details, emphasizing pure performance over aesthetics. I understand that esports players may prefer this arrangement, but there's no reason why you can't have both in a 1080p monitor.

However, other presets weren't nearly as bad. Using the RPG preset for Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales and World of Warcraft, the games' colors looked vibrant and appropriately saturated, while the lower sharpness and brightness were easy on the eyes. The character models in particular looked appropriately defined, with a lot of detail in both their wardrobes and facial expressions. I got frame rates of around 100 fps for each game, but I imagine this could be higher if you do some tweaking in the hardware menus.

Of course, presets are only part of the overall equation. With enough tweaking, you can make any game look and play well, thanks to adjustable color options and frame rates. Just be aware that you'll have to do a lot of legwork, depending on the genre.

MSI Optix MAG272C review: Interface

The good news is that the MSI Optix MAG272C has plenty of interface options. The bad news is that those interface options can get unwieldy and arcane.

For controlling the Optix MAG272C's parameters, you have two options: The control nub on the back of the monitor, or the MSI Gaming OSD software. No matter which route you take, it's a complicated process.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

There are six main options: Gaming, Professional, Image, Input Source, Navi Key and Setting. (Not Settings. If typos drive you nuts, then MSI's interface tools are probably not for you.) Gaming is where you'll find presets and frame rate options. Professional lets you set parameters for productivity work. Image is where you can take a deep dive into color, contrast and more. Input Source is self-explanatory; Navi Key lets you adjust shortcuts. And Setting is, well, the settings menu.

I can't fault the Optix MAG272C for including a plethora of options, since you can adjust everything from motion blur, to "Night Vision" and "Eye Saver" modes, to programming an onscreen alarm clock. The only trouble is that there's an awful lot of parameters, and it's not always clear what each one of them does.

Likewise, the MSI OSD software is a little harder to navigate than it should be. Right off the bat, it's obnoxious that you can't control the monitor through the standard MSI Dragon Center software, and have to download a second app. But what's stranger is that the app options don't sync up with the menu options on the monitor itself, mixing and matching various categories and making it harder to navigate.

In its defense, the OSD software has more options, including automatically splitting the screen into various side-by-side app windows, and connecting to wireless displays. But it's still a lot of effort for relatively little return.

MSI Optix MAG272C review: Verdict

In our MSI Optix MAG272C review, we touched on the device's strengths and weaknesses, including its color-rich curved screen and its incredibly inconsistent presets. While the Optix MAG272C didn't look good in every single configuration I tried, I still found a lot to like about this monitor. If you can ignore some of the presets — or make your own — games can look absolutely gorgeous, and the curved screen is both elegant and subtle.

At $300, the Optix MAG272C is fairly priced, although those who prefer flat monitors should consider the Dell S2421HGF instead.