When we built our Ryzen system a couple of weeks ago, we knew we had to find a display that would “make” the system. A monitor is a centerpiece, an eye catcher, and even the most amazing PC will disappoint with a poor display. More important than looks, however, is function and performance; the display is the window through which you experience everything your computer has to offer and it needs to be up to the task of immersing you into the experience you’re seeking. When looking for a display that would fit the bill, the first place I looked for inspiration was Massdrop. That’s where we found the Viotek GN32Q and the beginning of the story of how I replaced my barely out of the box 4K monitor. The GN32Q is simply one of the best monitors I’ve ever used and is clearly one of the best values out there, especially if you buy through Massdrop.
[Ed. Note: Massdrop sent us this monitor to help us complete our Ryzen build last month. We're really shouting them out in this video because they went above and beyond to make sure we had what we needed to finish that video for you. Our usual reviews aren't quite as direct, but here we felt it was warranted to honor how they stepped up for our community. In the future, the post-intro will be back to our usual MMORPG lead in.]
I’m a huge fan of Massdrop. I was before we started working with them, and I will be afterward. What they do is just plain cool. If you’re unfamiliar with the site, they’re a commerce platform broken into different communities of enthusiasts. Massdrop curates products that their community votes on and offers them at discount that increases when more people commit to buy. It’s a great place to see what the most dedicated members of those communities think is the best and hottest at any given moment and probably cheaper than anywhere else if its got even a small rally behind it (and it should since most have people vote it in). It’s also a great way to find items you may not see on the front page of massive storefronts.
Which is exactly why I went there in search of a display. Before doing this review, I’d only heard the name Viotek in passing. I had never seen one of their displays in person and, because monitors usually last for years and years, never one I’d considered buying for myself. This is the image that caught my eye:
Big, beautiful, and gold. Virtually no bezel to speak of, making that huge 32” panel look all the more clean and expansive. Digging in and seeing the specifics pushed me over the edge. Here’s what’s happening under the hood:
- Model: GN32Q
- Panel Type: Samsung VA panel
- Screen size: 32 in widescreen
- Resolution: 2560 x 1440p
- Refresh rate: 144Hz
- Display colors: 16.7 million
- Contrast ratio: 20,000,000:1
- Aspect ratio: 16:9
- Frame Sync: FreeSync (AMD Adaptive Sync Technology)
- Connectivity: DUAL LINK DVI, HDMI, Display Port
- Vesa Mount: 100 x 100
- Dimensions: 8.1 x 28 x 16.6 in
- Weight: 18.6 lbs
Let’s dig into that, because that spec list tells a whole lot of the tale on what makes this monitor special.
First off, it’s running a VA panel. To understand what that means, you also have to know about the other two panel types found in most monitors. TN-type displays are what are most commonly found in gaming monitors. They’re fast (that’s where you find those 1ms response times) but don’t have the best color reproduction of viewing angles. On the other end of the spectrum you have IPS panels, which are slow but feature excellent color reproduction and viewing angles, making them a good fit for content creators but not so hot for gaming. VA falls in between those two, offering decent speed with better than average color and angles.
Compared to both of the other TN panels I have on hand, an ASUS PB278Q 4K display and an ACER Predator XB2, the Viotek tops them both in color reproduction. We don’t have a color tester yet, but compared side by side, the GN32Q offers richer colors and blacker blacks (helped by a nice dynamic contrast option on top of a respectable 20,000,000:1 ratio out of the box) while suffering no noticeable negative impact from being slower.
The response time on the monitor is pegged at 4ms. While that might seem high compared to the common 1ms (or less in some cases) found on some TN displays, when I built my last computer in 2012, gaming panels were being sold on the rapidness of their 5ms response times. 4ms is respectable and demands some perspective on what you will actually see and feel as a gamer.
The most common concern here is ghosting, which occurs as the pixels struggle to keep pace with the changing frames of gameplay. That didn’t happen at all to me, whether I was playing first person shooters, RPGs, or MMOs. The monitor features an overdrive mode to help prevent this, but I didn’t enable it for a week and never experience ghosting even without. Likewise, I didn’t notice any input lag either, which is something I’m sensitive too after spending some time playing on a much slower IPS panel. Side by side with a “gaming” TN, the GN32Q suffers nothing.
Two points concerned me before laying hands on it myself. One, with it being 32” inches, my mind turned to my last 30” 1080p panel which suffered greatly from screen door effect of having such large pixels. Second, I was concerned that the curved display wouldn’t offer more than a bullet point on a feature list. Curved TVs never did it for me. Would a curved PC monitor really be that different?
It turns out I didn’t need to be concerned on either front. With a 1440p resolution, pixels are only visible if you lean forward to within inches of the screen. Screen door effect is virtually non-existent at this resolution and screen size. And boy, was I wrong about the curved display.
I love it. I’m convinced now that curved televisions never resonated with me because I was simply sitting too far away to see the benefit. Between the large screen size and the curved panel, the display consumes more of your field of vision, adding to the immersive quality of any kind of content, from movies to games to browsing the web. Like the product shots indicated, the bezels are incredibly thin, really allowing the display to feel expansive and clean. There is a thin black border on the edge of the panel itself, however, so it’s not quite as borderless as the pictures would indicate, but it’s close, and all of that makes using the computer that much more fun.
A lot of this has to do with its fast refresh rate, also. Gaming at 144Hz is a night and day improvement from 60Hz. Everything is just so smooth, and that applies outside of games also. It’s immediately noticeable when you enable it (it does not default to 144Hz out of the box) as your mouse virtually slides across your desktop. Before my 4K monitor, I had used a 120Hz monitor for years and it was noticeably smoother than that. You’ll need the graphics card to support it, remember, but if you can, it’s a huge upgrade. AMD users will also be happy to hear that the monitor has FreeSync to keep things buttery smooth even under 144 FPS.
The only thing I don’t like is that the stand seems to be the point of sacrifice to accommodate this low price point. It’s a rigid stand, attached by screw, and only allows for a slight tilt adjustment. On my main desk, we have a shelving unit that mounts to the top and the GN32Q sits just slightly too high to fit. Finding a replacement stand that matches the rose gold finish is almost impossible, but if you’re comfortable with black or silver, the VESA mounting holes make for many compatible options.
So back to that part about replacing an almost brand new 4K monitor. It’s true. After using the Viotek GN32Q with its huge curved panel, better color reproduction, and faster refresh rate, going back to A 60Hz 4K feels like a step down. I didn’t expect that to be the case. 4K is great, but the performance trade-off when gaming at that level is huge. Trading some resolution for all of the benefits the Viotek offers is an easy choice but absolutely not one I expected to make. I may not have known Viotek well before now but they’ve certainly made a fan out of me.
The drop for the Viotek GN32Q has now ended but you can request they bring it back here!