AOpen 32HC1QUR – Design and Features
The AOpen 32HC1QUR features a 2,560 x 1,440 (2K) resolution screen running at a native 144Hz. This makes it the coveted “144/144” often discussed in e-sports circles as the sweet spot for modern high resolution gaming. It also uses a VA panel, which produces better colors and richer blacks, as well as improved viewing angles compared to more common TN panels often used in gaming displays. The downside is that the panel is rated for a 4ms response time instead of the 1ms often quoted on gaming monitors with TN panels.
The use of a VA panel is important because it pairs perfectly with the improved visual clarity of the 2K resolution and high refresh rate. Side-by-side with a TN panel like the Acer Predator XB2, the AOpen 32HC1QUR clearly offers richer colors, though, interestingly, when compared against my VA-packing Viotek GN32DB, the colors appear slightly washed out. I’ve reviewed nearly a half dozen similar VA monitors in the last two years and this was the first time I encountered such a need for calibration out of the box. Thankfully, it’s easy enough to fix through the OSD, but I’m disappointed it’s necessary. The blacks, however, were deep with no backlight bleed or hotspotting. Contrast is definitely a high point of the 32HC1QUR.
Don’t go looking to this curved gaming monitor for HDR content, however. It features a maximum brightness of on 250cd/m, which falls 150cd/m short of entry-level DisplayHDR400 requirements. It also only supports 8-bit color instead of the 10-bit needed for HDR. While this clearly sets it behind the increasing number of HDR monitors coming to market, it’s right in line with the quality SDR monitors for both brightness and color depth.
AOpen uses the “super thin bezel” design I found on the MSI Optix MAG 321CQR and which has really become popular in gaming monitors over the last few years. Unlike the MSI, AOpen doesn’t make any claims about being “edge to edge,” or even mention the bezels at all on their product page, but the physical frame is extremely trim at 2mm thick. There is also a black border around the display of another quarter inch. Even though this border is a visual bezel of sorts, having such a thin physical frame really makes the screen feel spacious.
At 31.5-inches corner to corner, the 32HC1QUR sits right on the edge of being a large format screen. It’s large enough, in fact, that you’ll need to move your head to take it all in unless it’s set back a bit from where you’re sitting. That said, I found this very minor and easy to adjust to once I balanced out a good viewing distance from where I was sitting.
In fact, 32-inches is officially my preferred size for widescreen gaming monitors. The added size takes up more of your field of view, a bit like sitting in front of a big-screen gaming TV, and the displays’s generous 1800R curve seems to wrap into even more of your field of vision. The effect definitely draws me into the game more and the curve is much more effective than with a TV you’re set so far back from. The curve is well-implemented, too, with no visual distortions or “bending” at the edges of the screen with text.
That said, for a monitor this large, it’s very disappointing that AOpen has included such a barebones stand. It’s two parts, the feet and the mounting arm, and offers only limited tilt (-5 to 15 degrees) and pivot adjustments. The problem is that the monitor sits about two inches too high, so when you need to turn your head to take something in outside of your field-of-view, it’s almost always to look up. Screens this large need height adjustment but, thankfully, it supports VESA 100×100 mounting for aftermarket stands. That said, this setup felt extremely familiar as it is almost exactly what you’ll find on budget alternatives from Viotek, Pixio, or, indeed, many Korean monitors you can only find on eBay. Clearly, the stand is one of the sacrifices AOpen made to keep costs down.
Another was in the monitor’s connectivity and multi-display abilities. Around the back, you’ll find one input each for DVI, DisplayPort, and HDMI, but there’s no picture-in-picture if you’d like to use more than one at a time. You can swap between each input manually, though DVI is limited to 75Hz instead of the 144Hz on the the others. There’s also an audio line-out since the monitor can act as a sound card but has no speakers of its own; confusing as there are speaker grills built into the frame.
Just above the rear I/O is the joystick controller that doubles as the power button. I was happy to find it easy to navigate the on-screen display, though it lacks directional shortcuts for fast setting changes. Along the other side of the rear is your power connection, and I was pleased to see that AOpen used an internal power supply with the traditional 3-prong connection. It’s a much better solution than the single prong external power supply on the MSI Optix MAG, offering better long-term durability and easier cable management without the big power brick.
The OSD is quite straight forward. Like the stand, it’s fairly barebones with very straightforward options for adjusting brightness, contrast, and sharpening, as well as color balancing and temperature. In the gaming menu, you can enable OverDrive to help prevent ghosting (though this wasn’t an issue for me). There are also options to turn on FreeSync or enable an on-screen reticle for games that lack one. Nvidia owners will also be happy to know that this display does support G-Sync and I was able to enjoy adaptive sync with my RTX 2080 with no problems.
AOpen 32HC1QUR – Performance Testing
We assess displays using Lagom’s LCD Monitor Test Pages. I was especially curious to run these tests given the modest pricing of this FreeSync gaming monitor and that I had already found some clear sacrifices in construction. Note that I completed these tests with the monitor at stock settings with no color corrections beforehand.
The first tests I ran were black and white saturation. White Saturation did well and I was able to make out all but the brightest box. Blacks, on the other hand, were crushed and the darkest four were completely indistinguishable from one another. This indicates that, without calibrating it yourself, the monitor will struggle to display details in both dark and very bright scenes.
Next I ran the Contrast, Gradient, and Gamma Tests. The 32HC1QUR passed each with flying colors. There was no banding which shows that the monitor is more than capable of displaying its range of colors, whites, and blacks. The gamma test was also spot-on with no further adjustment necessary.
Finally, I ran the Response Time test. I observed very pronounced, dark red flickering in squares A-D, which represent dark to light transitions. Squares E-H, which test light to dark transitions, were much better. Interestingly, the results were almost identical to what I observed with the MSI Optix MAG 321CQR. This is directly related to the 4ms response time and shows that shifting pixels from dark to light is more difficult, and thereby slower, for the monitor. This could put it at risk for ghosting. Thankfully, Lagom also has a ghosting test.
As you can see in the image above, the leftmost bar is a slightly darker grey than the rest. This reinforces that dark to light transitions are a slower than light to dark, however, being limited to a single bar indicates that the issue is likely very reasonable, or even imperceptible, in actual use. This turned out to be exactly the case in games, as I didn’t come across any hints of ghosting whatsoever, even while actively searching for them.
The similarity in results to the MSI Optix MAG 321CQR is quite interesting. While I was quite taken aback finding them in the Optix, which MSI quoted at 1ms response time, they feel much more reasonable with AOpen’s quoted 4ms. In practice, both monitors were very responsive, though I look more favorably on the AOpen for offering same-level, if not better, in-game performance for so much cheaper. With the MSI, I was unsure whether I was observing ghosting in Battlefield 1; here, I know I wasn’t.
AOpen 32HC1QUR – Gaming
When I test new monitors, I always try first-person shooters first. It’s a demanding genre, requiring fast response time and visual clarity. That said, I was curious how an intense third-person shooter would fare. My go-to games in this test period were Anthem, APEX Legends, and Battlefield V.
Loading up Anthem for the first time, I was struck by how good the game looked. At 1440p with the monitor fully calibrated, being able to take in the detail of the world was just glorious and the large screen size actively worked to draw me into the game. I made the mistake of leveling up a Storm javelin for my first class (not something I would recommend) and found myself in over my head playing solo. The monitor made it easy to see every last projectile flying my way. The high refresh rate also made playing Superman through wilderness silky smooth and more exhilarating than ever.
Next up, I loaded up Battlefield V. Battlefield is a game that feels tailor made for a 144/144 monitor. The high resolution textures looked crisp and realistic on the 32HC1QUR. Before I calibrated the monitor, I really struggled to pick out enemies hiding in the shadows. After making those changes and going back, the issue was completely resolved and I felt just as competitive as every other player. The 144Hz refresh rate allowed me to stay accurate when performing quick turns as there was less motion blur. Before moving on, I tried the on-screen reticle which proved to actually be quite helpful when running-and-gunning with shotguns, though it felt a little unfair so I didn’t use it for long.
Finally, I loaded up my personal favorite, APEX Legends. This is a game all about fast motion, and sliding around the battlefield never felt so good. Between the high refresh rate and G-Sync, I was fluid and accurate, even racking up my best game ever. Whipping around fast to “check my six,” I was completely free of screen tearing and always able to keep an eye on my surroundings. Checking for enemies in the distance, the high resolution made it easier for me to discern player movement versus the odd bits of moving debris.
The AOpen 32HC1QUR has an MSRP of $359.99 but it’s usually less expensive online.
This article was originally published by IGN.COM