4K gaming monitors seem to be all the rage lately. After all, who doesn’t love some extra resolution. And recent improvements in DisplayPort’s compression and HDMI’s bandwidth have allowed that extra resolution to come alongside fast refresh rates and HDR. But, as great a visual experience as a ton of pixels switching extra fast can be, they still need to be backed by an exceptional panel to truly dazzle. The Corsair Xeneon 32UHD144 gaming monitor delivers on a few key aspects of the gaming monitor experience, but it’s held back by one giant eyesore that will makes it hard to recommend against the many other stunners out there for less than (or within arm’s reach of) its $1000 price.
Corsair Xeneon 32UHD144 – Photos
Corsair Xeneon 32UHD144 – Design and Features
The Corsair Xeneon 32UHD144 is a physical marvel and something other monitors should aspire to when considering their aesthetics. The stand is maybe the first I’ve tested in a long time that doesn’t have a quick latching mechanism for connecting to the back of the monitor panel. Instead, it relies on a pair of hooks to hold it in place and four screws to complete the attachment securely. But, at the same time, it feels like one of the most robust stands I’ve ever used. It barely wobbles even on my slightly wobbly desk, and it provides a lot of flexibility, although it lacks the option to rotate into a portrait orientation.
The monitor stand features a nifty cable routing system that uses a series of clipping brackets to guide cables along the stand and let them out at various heights. Since Corsair expects you might use the routing system for webcams or lights mounted on top of the monitor, the routing goes up further than you might find on other stands.
The aesthetics of the stand are unusual, but the opening at the front makes an interesting space for setting other gaming accessories, a Nintendo Switch dock, or perhaps a Stream Deck.
The build of the monitor is also gorgeous, with a thin panel and smooth edges. The plastic construction is a bit creaky when moving it around, though. The back juts out a little the middle to make space for all the connections the monitor supports, which is a boatload with two HDMI 2.1 ports, DisplayPort 1.4, a Type-C port that supports DP Alt-Mode, and a second USB-C connection to serve as the upstream port for the two USB 3.1 Type-A ports. There’s also a convenient joystick on the back for navigating the monitor’s settings.
Alas, you won’t find speakers on this monitor, which is a bit annoying given how much desk space it takes up. There are also no rear lights to serve as bias lighting – another thing that would be beneficial for such a large and bright display, and something that many monitors this expensive include.
Corsair Xeneon 32UHD144 – Testing
At its defaults, the Corsair Xeneon 32UHD144 covers 100% of sRGB, 100% of Adobe RGB, and 95% of DCI-P3 color spaces. I threw NTSC in there for good measure, and the monitor still knocked it out of the park with 98% coverage. Though the coverage is a hair short of complete, the actual color space covered goes well beyond 100%, meaning it can display colors outside of those color spaces even if it can’t display every color in them.
Color accuracy is also remarkably on point, hitting an average deltaE of 0.62 and not letting a single color exceed a deltaE of 1.44. Dialing up the brightness of the display to 100% doesn’t ruin this accuracy either, performing only slightly worse with an average deltaE of 0.92 and a max of 1.49. Creatives looking for a monitor they can reliably edit photos and videos on will have it here.
Unfortunately, contrast is severely lacking across the board whether the monitor is set to its highest brightness setting or left at its default of 30. The monitor struggles to exceed a 670:1 contrast ratio, which is bad for any display, let alone a $1000 one. Even budget IPS panels can achieve their basic 1,000:1 contrast ratio, and typical VA panels readily hit 3,000:1. At max brightness with local dimming activated, the monitor managed to bump up to 700:1, but that’s a meager improvement. At default, local dimming actually didn’t improve matters.
The local dimming feature of this display just uses a handful of edge-lit zones along the bottom of the display. This can create extra dark areas on the display, but only if a broad swathe of pixels above that area are also dark (picture a tall pillar of just black pixels). If any area needs to be lit up inside the zone, the backlight will bleed through all the dark areas in that zone. This creates some downright ugly vertical blooming like I saw on the AOC Agon Pro AG274QG.
HDR performance is underwhelming. It offered no improvements to contrast, shrunk the color gamut, and harmed color accuracy (though left it below that crucial deltaE of 3). The only bump it offered was a 428-nit peak brightness. That’s not to say it should be ignored, as it can, in some circumstances, hit higher levels of brightness, such as a quick flare on a dark background, which I recorded at up to 645 nits.
The monitor suffers from some noticeable, though not egregious, ghosting. The pixel response time of the panel isn’t as good as the host of esports-ready, 240Hz gaming monitors seeming to flood the market lately, even coming in at roughly half the price of this monitor. While the response time isn’t bad, besting anything VA panels have managed to deliver and at least coming out ahead of the Gigabyte M32U, it falls way short of what’s available in the $800-$1300 price range thanks to OLED and QD-OLED displays like the Gigabyte Aorus FO48U and Alienware AW3423DW.
Off-axis viewing is also something of an issue for a monitor this large, as the edges of the display are viewed at an angle when I’m positioned at the center of the screen. This sees colors shift slightly toward the outer edge, creating the perception of a lacking uniformity.
Corsair Xeneon 32UHD144 – Gaming
All the strong and weak points of the Corsair Xeneon 32UHD144’s visual performance carry over into the monitor’s gaming performance.
There are instances when the Corsair Xeneon 32UHD144 can be downright stunning, such as when it’s displaying a brilliant, colorful scene that can make the most of its monstrous color gamut and high peak brightness. Bright, colorful games like Overwatch or Valortant pop on this display, but both of those games make more sense on a lower-resolution, higher-refresh-rate display due to their twitchy, competitive nature.
Though this monitor can hit 144Hz, the slight ghosting behind visuals keeps it from being an ideal option for fast, competitive games where every millisecond counts. It will work, but spending less on a faster monitor is also an option, like the exceptional Gigabyte M27Q X.
With 4K and HDR, beautifully realized game worlds in story-focused games make more sense. But these types of visuals tend to leverage more dramatic lighting: read, more darkness. Playing through a couple dozen hours of Death Stranding on this monitor, there’s a lot that looks great – with HDR, performance is fairly stunning at an arm’s length viewing distance, with colors exploding in front of my eyes to the point of discomfort. But whenever it gets a bit dark, much of the detail is lost. Worse still, I’ve got to move my head around to see into certain dark areas, because if I’m looking at the screen at any sort of angle, the backlight bleeds through more noticeably and makes a milky haze where it should have been a deep, sultry black. Combine that with the sloppy local dimming, and the visuals only seem to get worse.
It’s not so bad that it deters me from playing games, but if you’re willing to spend $1000 on a monitor, you can pretty much take your pick of anything on the market and find something better in most regards. And don’t worry if you find an OLED display that’s only 120Hz – it’ll still appear faster because it won’t have the sluggish pixel response time of this monitor.
Corsair killed it with the stand, but working around to the front of the monitor, it’s unclear what the priorities were with the Xeneon 32UHD144. It’s sharp and fast and deliciously colorful, but it’s seriously lacking in contrast and has awful local dimming. At $1,000, everything needs to be either good or great, and this monitor has too much bad in the balance.