It's been a while since I've used a monitor with an arm versus its own desk stand, and I have to say it's growing on me.
This is what I kept saying the first week I was using Gigabyte's M32U-AE 4K 144hz Arm Edition monitor, which brings the best in Gigabyte's gaming tech before we get into their high end Aorus gaming brand with its simplistic, yet still stylish, design. The M32U-AE is a high-end gaming monitor in its own right, despite not carrying that Aorus badge, with the monitor capable of 144hz refresh rate at 4K, 1 millisecond response, as well as sporting FreeSync Premium Pro for variable refresh rates. But is it worth the price?
- Screen size: 31.5" viewable
- Glare: Non-glare
- LED Backlight: Edge type
- Panel: SS IPS
- Display type: UHD
- Adaptive Sync Technology: FreeSync Premium Pro
- Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K)
- Viewing Angle: 178° (H) / 178° (V)
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Brightness: 350 cd/mm2
- Contrast Ration: 1000:1
- Response Time: 1ms MPRT
- Color Gamut: 90% DCI-P3/123% sRGB
- Display Colors: 1.07 Billion
- Pixel Pitch: 0.181mm
- Refresh Rate: 144hz; 120hz for consoles
- VESA Certified DisplayHDR: DisplayHDR 400
- I/O: 2 x HDMI 2.1; 1 x DisplayPort 1.4; 1 x USB Type-C (Alternate mode; Upstream Port; Power Delivery up to 18W); 3 x USB 3.0 Gen 1; 1 x 3.5mm Earphone Jack
- Price: $799.99 (Currently $549.99 on NewEgg Black Friday Deals)
The Gigabyte M32U-AE 144hz 4K Monitor is in that sweet spot I think for monitor sizes. 32" is not too large that you're having to strain your neck to see the corners of your screen like you might on a 43" monitor or above, but it's not so small that the 4K display feels crunched and unimpressive. I've used 32" monitors for years now, with my old daily driver being a Acer Predator 4K 32" IPS panel, but it's starting to show its age.
The Gigabyte M32U-AE is different than your normal monitor in that there is no stand to just plop it on your desk. Instead, this version of the M-series monitor comes with a mounting arm, which threw me for a loop at first. I've used mounting arms before, but I could never keep them exactly where I wanted the monitor because either the monitor was just too heavy for the arm, or the arm was cheap. So I was a bit hesitant in that I wondered whether or not I'd spend more time adjusting the M32U-AE than actually gaming on the thing.
However, my fears were assuaged when I got the monitor set up. And honestly, it was so much faster than a normal stand monitor I felt. The box opens up easily, giving you free access to the back of the monitor to attach the arm even before you get the main event out of the box. This made moving it from box to its final destination on my desk a rather simple affair, which is good since I'm always afraid I'm going to drop these things on my cold, hard concrete floor.
Once I had it on my desk though, I was shocked at just how much more room I had on my desktop. I know that arms obviously mean that you don't have a massive stand sitting on the desktop, but it was probably more of a shock to me just how much my desk was being taken up by a monitor stand. Moving the Gigabyte M32U to where I wanted it was relatively easy as well, moving smoothly back and forth and side to side to get the perfect viewing angle for my setup.
If you're someone looking for that "gamer aesthetic," you're not really going to get that here. Gone are the RGB accents and flashy logos of other gaming monitors, instead the chassis that holds the screen is more nondescript. That doesn't mean it's plain or bad, though. Far from it. The back of the monitor features the Gigabyte logo and the monitor model number badge, as well as both a rocker to adjust the built-in OSD, as well as a button to take advantage of the KVM switch feature.
I do wish monitors would make it easier to access the underside I/O, though, and the M32U is no different in that regard. However, you're greeted with a bevy of options, from dual HDMI 2.1 ports, a Display 1.4a port, a Type-C port for the KVM feature (as well as power delivery up to 18W), and 3 USB 3.0 ports. There is also a connection for so you can hook your monitor up to your PC's USB to take advantage of the power delivery on the monitor, freeing up USBs on your rig for other items.
Gaming On The Gigabyte M32U-AE 32" 144hz Display
So how is it in practice? For about two weeks I used the M32U-AE as my daily driver, using it for both work applications as well as gaming (and even a GPU review). Throughout that time, I'm not sure there was a moment where I felt let down or disappointed by the performance of the monitor itself.
Being able to adjust the distance was a huge piece of the puzzle for me here. For work and watching videos on YouTube, having the monitor sit a little further back was key, while for gaming I wanted it to take up my whole field of view, while not feeling as though my nose was directly on the screen. Being able to adjust that easily every single time without having to back up my chair, adjust how I was sitting and more was a real boon to both my back and my gaming experience.
Being able to title the monitor where it needs to be, adjust the height easily, and even if I so desired, pivot the monitor 90 degrees for a vertical format was nice, and not normally something you see for a monitor this size. This is thanks to the monitor arm not being restricted like a standard monitor stand would be.
Throwing titles like A Plague Tale: Requiem made the monitor shine, especially after settling on the right picture mode. The M32U's sRGB mode is good, but it locks down so many of the other settings in the OSD that it's almost better to just tweak things to your personal preference rather than use it, and while I appreciated the brightness of the FPS mode, I found myself preferring the RTS/RPG for its color gamut and brightness in the games I was playing.
The world of A Plague Tale popped on the screen, details looking sharp thanks to the sweet spot of both resolution and monitor size. Seeing the stitching on Amicia's hauberk without really needing to zoom in for detail stood out to me as a triumph for both the art direction of the game itself, as well as the clarity of the screen the M32U-AE uses.
Because it's an IPS panel, blacks do suffer, though not as much as they do on my older Acer Predator monitor where they can look just downright silly. Also, while the various picture modes are really good out of the box, they might require some tweaking as, especially at higher refresh rates, there was some visible ghosting on the screen, which was all but absent on the BenQ Mobiuz 32" 4K IPS monitor I reviewed earlier this year (though, in fairness, that monitor is more money).
Titles like The Lord of the Rings Online and EVE Online really shine here as well, giving me incredibly responsive gameplay for these older titles thanks to my RTX 4090 powering the monitor. EVE Online is one of those games that would really benefit from HDR, so the extra brightness from the M32U-AE helped a lot of those finer details come through compared to my other monitors, such as Gigabyte's G34WQC monitor I own as well.
That said, while this is rated as a DisplayHDR 400 monitor, it pales in comparison to brighter HDR displays. My Acer Predator CG7 43" display shows this thoroughly as it's rated at HDR 1000, and gets just as bright as it advertises, making HDR content pop. While you can theoretically drive HDR content on the M32U-AE, it's not the best experience in my opinion.
Text in games, especially older titles that rely on text over voice acting, didn't suffer as well, making it easy to ready as opposed to needing to squint (or God forbid put on my glasses) whether I was in-game or editing something for the website.
The Gigabyte M32U-AE also sports an overdrive setting, letting you, in essence, overclock your monitor, but it does come with some drawbacks. The balanced mode gives you the best of both the Quality and Speed settings, though it really is up to your own personal preference. Personally, I used the Smart OD mode during most of my testing and it performed admirably.
This is also a gaming monitor, so it has features such as Black Equalizer, Aim Assist, a Super Resolution mode, as well as the previously mentioned AMD FreeSync Premium Pro. As someone who used both an AMD and Nvidia card on this monitor during my review, both cards used the adaptive sync settings with ease, though with Nvidia you'll need to apply the monitor settings in Control Panel.
At first I thought I was going to make use of the KVM feature a lot more as well. As someone who works on a Mac Mini but games on PC, having a single monitor drive both was somewhat exciting. I do, however, have two standing desks in my office, so having a dedicated work area and dedicated game area helps with some mental fatigue during the day, so while the KVM switch worked just fine, I'm probably not the target audience for it long term.
That said, if you're someone who doesn't have a lot of space and only works at a single desk, being able to utilize KVM saves both money and what space you might have. Instead of going and grabbing two desks or two entirely different setups, being able to drive your Mac or Laptop and use the same monitor and keyboard/mouse setup to just pick back up work after a quick gaming session can be huge. It's a great feature and I'm happy that it's there, even if, at the end of the day, I personally might not get as much use out of it as I once thought.
Gigabyte M32U-AE Monitor Verdict
At the end of the day, the Gigabyte M32U-AE is a phenomenal piece of kit. It's that sweet spot for 4K displays in terms of its size, and using an IPS panel versus a TN or VA panel makes the colors look more accurate, even if blacks suffer overall.
Despite the fact that this is a gaming monitor, it eschews most of what would consider a "gamer aesthetic," instead going for a simpler-looking design. As a result, the gaming features are purely under the hood, not flashing RGB on the wall behind the screen. However, it lacks in some of the features that set its competitors apart, such as simulated HDR modes like what we see on the BenQ Mobiuz monitors.
Given the retail price of $799.99, this isn't a cheap monitor. Given how expensive 4K panels can be, especially if you're looking to drive high refresh rates, $800 isn't an outrageous asking price. When compared to Gigabyte's own Aorus branded monitors, you're getting a great deal by comparison, albeit for a slightly underperforming monitor compared to even the next step up Aorus FI32U or the 1000-nit FV43U by Aorus.
With the M32U-AE packing forward-facing I/O such as HDMI 2.1 to drive high refresh rates on PC and console, it helps to set up the monitor for the future. Though PS5 users should note that since Sony's console doesn't support Display Stream Compression, visual quality might suffer a smidge on the console when using HDMI 2.1.
You'll need a powerful computer to drive the bandwidth this monitor can handle, though, but if you're already spending $800 on a monitor, chances are you're driving a powerful rig already. Though even lower-end cards can start to make up some ground thanks to Nvidia's Deep Learning Super Sampling and AMD's FidelityFX Super Resolution technologies.
Couple in the extra desk real estate you claim back by using the monitor arm provided (or your own VESA mounting solution) and the M32U-AE is a solid choice if you're looking for a high refresh rate 4K display without spending a grand. 4K gaming at high refresh rates is here thanks to Nvidia's 40-series GPUs (and, in theory, AMD's upcoming RDN3 offerings), so having a driver that can push both visuals and performance is clutch. Since it offers HDMI 2.1 as well, it's a great monitor if you're looking for high-refresh gaming on the Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5, which can also take advantage of the M32U-AE's VRR support as well.
The Gigabyte M32U-AE 4K 32" Monitor is an outstanding offering by Gigabyte. While it lacks the features gamers might be looking for with RGB accents and more, it makes up for it with stellar gaming performance, which at the end of the day is all that really matters here. It's sharp, responsive and truly a joy to use every day, and despite it's high price tag, it doesn't feel overpriced for the market. The M32U-AE is worth a look if you're in the market for a new 4K monitor.
Full Disclosure: The product discussed here was provided by PR for the purposes of this review.