If you’re looking for a budget-friendly computer monitor option, don’t get a 4K one. Or at least that’s what people assume.
While it’s true that the best 4K monitors right now aren’t exactly a bargain, there are a handful of displays that offer all that crisp UHD goodness for less. Case in point, the Philips 328E1CA Curved Monitor whose list of commendations extend beyond having a 4K resolution while being accessible to economizing consumers.
Yep! There’s much to love here: its 1500R curvature on a 32-inch that makes your viewing experience a bit more immersive, its 2500:1 contrast ratio for deeper and brighter colors, deliciously thin bezels, and that sRGB 122% color gamut that makes it a great choice for budding content creators.
Although there’s still some room for improvement, the Philips 328E1CA as it is right now is proof that a computer monitor doesn’t have to be expensive to be fantastic.
Philips 328E1CA Curved Monitor review: Price and release date
Excellent 4K monitors typically sit in the over $500, under $2,000 range, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find a good one that’s much more affordable.
The Philips 328E1CA Curved Monitor, for one, will only set you back $389 / £321 / AU$550. Hitting the shelves in early 2020, this superb combo of 4K and curve is certainly more affordable than most UHD offerings out there.
That isn’t to say there aren’t equally reasonably-priced alternatives out there. However, the Philips 328E1CA is still a very appealing prospect for those who want to finally join the 4K bandwagon.
Philips 328E1CA Curved Monitor review: Design and setup
More to its credit, while many cheaper monitors try to scrimp on features and build to keep that price tag low, the Philips 328E1CA Curved Monitor has done its best while retaining many of them.
This 4K display feels solidly built and comes with a few practical extras. Its back feels like robust plastic with a brushed aluminum-look coat of paint to give it a classier look and a faintly textured finish that prevents it from picking up dust or fingerprints. Its top and side bezels are also gloriously thin, making it look more expensive than it is.
The ports sit right on the back, which may seem strange at first and cause the cables to stick out when plugged in. However, that design detail does make them much more accessible. You no longer have to tilt your head in unnatural angles just to find the right port and make sure you’re sticking the cable in right. And, the stand does come with an elongated slot on back to keep unruly cables in check.
The port selection is decent as well – there are two HDMI 2.0 ports and a DisplayPort so you could potentially have 3 computers all connected at 4K resolution. There’s also audio in/audio out and a Kensington lock.
To be clear, there are still hints of compromise here. For one, while the Philips 328E1CA does tilt -5 down and +20 up, it has no swivel capabilities. There's also no USB-C port included, which is a big omission considering this is designed for professionals, many of whom are likely to use a MacBook or an Ultrabook with only USB-C ports on hand. But, there are ways around that, and most pro users have a hub or two in their arsenal anyway, so this isn’t going to be a massive deal-breaker for a lot of them.
Finally, there are the physical controls for the OSM, which are made up of an on/off button and four navigational ones that are situated on the display's undercarriage. While these do allow for easy menu navigation, a joystick button that’s round the back would have been a much more convenient option. But, at this point, I’m just nitpicking.
Philips 328E1CA Curved Monitor review: Features
Apart from its design extras, the Philips 328E1CA Curved Monitor also boasts a few features worth mentioning.
Much like most modern PC monitors, it comes with basics like a LowBlue Mode, which reduces eye strain, and FlickerFree technology, which minimizes eye fatigue. It doesn’t support HDR, sadly, but it does have SmartContrast that, when combined with that 2500:1 contrast ratio, makes images richer and more vibrant.
There are also two 3W speakers built-in, which is a bit rarer in cheaper displays. Unfortunately, while their inclusion is appreciated, the execution could have been better. These speakers sound hollow and don't have a lot of volume. I wouldn’t recommend relying on them for media consumption or video conferencing.
Luckily, Philips has done well implementing the curved aspect. That 1500R curvature is a terrific amount of curvature for a 32-inch monitor and only adds to its 178/178 viewing angle appeal. It's easy to see every corner of the screen clearly without having to adjust your gaze, so whether you're working or playing, you can drink in the whole screen at once.
Philips 328E1CA Curved Monitor review: Performance
Being a 4K monitor, the Philips E328E1 does as is expected, delivering crisp, clean, and detailed picture quality like no lower resolution displays can. VA panels are known for their impressive viewing angles, and this one doesn’t fall far from the tree either, touting a 178/178 viewing angle. Combine that with its 1500R curvature, and you’re essentially saying goodbye to eye strain.
Although its refresh rate only peaks at 60Hz – unsurprising as most affordable 4K monitors do – videos and images look great on it. Just bear in mind that gaming might not be as butter smooth as it would be on a gaming display with a 144Hz or 240Hz refresh rate. Same goes with its response time of 4ms, which is actually a bit better than the average 5ms on displays of the same caliber. However, the Philips E328E1 also doesn’t claim to be a gaming monitor so it’s easy to move past that.
It does come with adaptive sync, though, if you want to squeeze in a bit of a gaming session in between workloads. In fact, I tested it with Red Dead Redemption 2, which not only looks stunning on it but is immersive as well, especially with the adaptive sync on. That 4K resolution not only enhances the tiniest details in the game, but also adds to its depth.
Videos, images and games are absolute stunners with vibrant colors and crisp details. Whether it's high-resolution drone videos on YouTube, trailers to the latest MCU movie, or games like Cyberpunk, the colors simply pop thanks to that NTSC 99% and sRGB 122% color coverage, combined with its 2500:1 contrast ratio.
The only thing that I find wanting here is brightness, which is limited to 250 nits. Some people like their screens darker but I do like my displays 300 or more, so it is really more of a preference. That’s especially since it doesn’t claim to have HDR support.
Philips 328E1CA Curved Monitor review: Verdict
Affordable 4K computer monitors aren’t exactly a dime a dozen. At least not yet. The Philips 328E1CA Curved Monitor, however, adds another option to that slowly growing list. And, I must admit, the company has done well designing a “budget” option that doesn’t look and feel cheap.
This monitor feels solid, looks elegant (albeit on the simpler side) and comes with a few thoughtful extras that will undoubtedly come in handy, whether you’re using it for your daily workload or for casual home use. More importantly, it delivers when it comes to performance, offering a crisp, clean, and vibrant picture quality that stems from more than just its ultra-high resolution. It also has its higher contrast ratio, great color reproduction, and 4ms response time to thank for that. The immersive part, it comes from that beautiful 1500R curvature.
That’s not too shabby for something that will set you back less than $400 / £400.
Philips 328E1CA Curved Monitor review: Also consider
The Dell 4K S3221QS is similarly specced, featured, and priced at $374 / £349. It boasts 4K resolution, 1800R curvature, 60Hz refresh rate, and a 8ms response rate that can be overclocked up to 4ms. It’s also a little brighter and more vibrant with 300 nits of brightness and a 3000:1 contrast ratio.
Slightly cheaper is the Asus TUF Gaming VG289Q, an IPS panel with an extremely versatile mount, at $349 / £359. If you want to save some cash, this gaming monitor comes with a refresh rate of 60Hz and response time of 5ms, as well as the same 4K resolution and Adaptive-Sync support. It is slightly smaller, however, at only 28-inches and doesn’t have curvature – although its portrait mode adds a bit of versatility.