The MSI Optix MEG381CQR Plus wants to be one of the best gaming monitors around, and in particular one of the best ultrawide monitors for gamers – the display panel measures a huge 37.5 inches from corner to corner, so you're getting a lot of monitor for your money.
And this is definitely at the more expensive end of the scale: depending on the budget you're working with, this might be out of the question for your next upgrade before you've even got as far as the main review (though we would hope that you'd still read it anyway).
Here we'll go into detail on everything you need to know about the MSI Optix MEG381CQR Plus, from the sort of performance you can expect to the features that are on board. If you want to know if this is one of the best curved gaming monitors, you're in the right place.
MSI Optix MEG381CQR Plus review: price and availability
The MSI Optix MEG381CQR Plus is out and available to buy now from selected retailers, which in the UK includes Amazon (opens in new tab) and AO (opens in new tab). The widgets embedded on this page will give you an idea of the best prices for this monitor currently available on the web, but at the time of writing it's available for around £1,200 / $1,600 online.
MSI Optix MEG381CQR Plus review: design and setup
There's no doubt that the MSI Optix MEG381CQR Plus is a beast of a display in terms of its size – measuring 897 x 466 x 326mm when assembled, and weighing in at 10.7 kilograms, we would absolutely recommend getting someone else to help you assemble this particular piece of hardware. Aside from the size, it's actually quite easy to put together, with the base slotting into the stand and the stand supporting the monitor. You do need a screwdriver though, for the four screws that connect the display to its stand and base.
When it comes to the overall aesthetic, we've reviewed some gaming monitors that try to be as subtle and as understated as possible – which isn't the style MSI has gone for here. Everything is loud and full on, from the pulsing (and customisable) RGB lights that flow around the back and the front of the unit, to the 2300R curvature that gives your games a more immersive feel. It's a bold design, but I quite like it, and you know right from the start that this is a monitor that isn't messing around.
The MSI Optix MEG381CQR Plus has a decent amount of flexibility when it comes to tilting, height and swivel adjustment. The only missing manipulation is the ability to rotate the display, so you can't switch it into portrait mode (which doesn't really work when you've got a curved monitor anyway). When it comes to the downward-facing ports on the back of the monitor, you've got two HDMI 2.0b ports and one DisplayPort 1.4a port. There's also a USB hub on the side, with two USB-A slots and mic and headphone ports, and even a 720p integrated webcam – though you don't get any built-in speakers.
I do like the little extra display down in the lower left corner of the monitor, which shows details such as the current resolution and refresh rate. The dial just next to it is a refreshingly different way of controlling the monitor settings and modes, and you're also able to bring up a full on-screen menu using the joystick around the back of the monitor on the right-hand side. However you access them, the options are easy to navigate around and won't have you searching for the display's instruction manual online.
MSI Optix MEG381CQR Plus review: features and picture
The key specs you need to know about are that this is a 37.5-inch IPS panel monitor running at a maximum resolution of 3840 x 1600 pixels – that's a lot of pixels, but you do need to use the DisplayPort connection to get up to that. The refresh rate goes all the way up to 175Hz, again if you use the DisplayPort connection, and the screen boasts a minimum 1 ms response time as well. Add in Nvidia G-Sync support, and there are a lot of impressive specs and technologies here.
Most of the time, whatever you throw up on the MSI Optix MEG381CQR Plus looks fantastic. I watched some movies and played some games on the monitor, as well as wrote part of this review, and everything looked rich, vivid and sharp. Movement was fluid, with minimal lag, and brightness and contrast levels when you ramp them right up are really impressive.
It's not quite a perfect panel however. Occasionally the colours would appear a little washed out – that could be fixed almost every time by cycling through the different modes and adjusting the settings, but it's worth pointing out. HDR performance (with HDR600 certification and 56 dimming zones) isn't the best I've ever come across either, and while it's not enough to put me off the monitor, you are going to be able to get better.
There are occasional signs of inverse ghosting in some scenes and in some modes too, and we'd also like to see more customisation options on the lighting. I don't want to get too negative, however: generally speaking, this is a superb-looking screen that's going to make your games look clean and smooth and detailed. It's also going to stand up very well when the gaming is over and you're doing something else with the monitor, whether watching movies or editing documents.
MSI Optix MEG381CQR Plus review: verdict
The MSI Optix MEG381CQR Plus brings together quite a specific mix of attributes in terms of both its aesthetics and its specs, and if it provides a lot of what you're looking for – the ultrawide form factor, the gentle curve, the high resolution, the lighting – then it's obviously going to appeal. This is a really well put together monitor from MSI, and one that handles tasks like photo editing and video editing really well, in addition to its prowess as a gaming monitor.
Choosing a monitor is all about finding the right compromise between various different factors, including the size, the resolution, and the refresh rate. As you browse the specs on offer between models, you'll notice that some screens excel in one or two areas, but there's always a trade-off to be reckoned with. What this particular device does well is get a good balance between all of them compared with its competitors, certainly when it comes to curved monitors of this size and aspect ratio.
I do have a handful of issues with the MSI Optix MEG381CQR Plus, but they're minor annoyances rather than major problems that would stop me from recommending the screen – the lack of HDMI 2.1, for example, or HDR performance that's good rather than great. Most of the time, you're going to get a superb-looking picture from the monitor, which is what most people are likely to be interested in.
Finally, it's a relatively expensive monitor, and that's important to bear in mind as well. For this sort of price you can get a decent monitor and a decent computer too, and all this needs to be considered when you're weighing up whether or not this is the screen for you. Despite a few drawbacks, we really liked the MSI Optix MEG381CQR Plus – it's a really good monitor that gamers will be drawn to.
MSI Optix MEG381CQR Plus review: Also consider
If you're shopping for a new monitor you've got no shortage of options, and that's perhaps a bit of a problem for the MSI Optix MEG381CQR Plus – it's got a lot of stiff competition. That includes the Samsung Odyssey Neo G9, which is about the same price as the MSI model but which gives you a better quality picture and even more screen size. If you have the space to accommodate the Samsung monitor, it might be the better buy.
We should also point out that there are a lot of more affordable gaming monitors out there, albeit ones that don't quite hit the heights that this MSI panel does in certain areas. The Dell S2721HGF is a case in point, which is only 27 inches from corner to corner – that gives you less screen, but it also means you're able to save quite a lot of money, too. If you've got more modest gaming ambitions, it's worth considering.