MSI G281UV Review: Budget 4K 60Hz Monitor

The MSI G281UV is a 28" 4K 60Hz IPS monitor with a wide color gamut, VRR support and an affordable price!

Bottom Line

If you don’t mind the low 60Hz refresh rate, the MSI G281UV is an excellent budget 4K IPS monitor.

Design:
(3.5)
Display:
(4.6)
Performance:
(4.5)
Price/Value:
(4.0)
4.2

The MSI G281UV is an affordable 28″ 4K 60Hz IPS monitor ideal for those after a high-fidelity image for content consumption and creation, but who don’t mind a low refresh rate.

Image Quality

The 4K UHD resolution provides you with a high pixel density of 157.91 PPI (pixels per inch) on the 27.9″ viewable screen of the MSI G281UV. As a result, you get incredibly crisp text, sharp details and plenty of screen real estate.

At such a high pixel density, you will need to use some scaling to make small text readable. This will decrease the available screen space, but the image will still be crystal-clear.

1080p monitor vs 4K (Scaling)

Some applications might not handle scaling very well, leaving you with either too big or too small UI elements, but most of the newer apps won’t have any issues. Still, if you’re using older software for work, be sure to check out how it handles scaling before considering a monitor with a high pixel density.

Additionally, note that gaming at 4K is quite demanding on the GPU, therefore, ensure that your PC or gaming console will be able to provide you with a desirable frame rate.

If you prefer smoother gameplay, we recommend getting a 1440p high refresh rate display instead, such as the Acer XV271U M3 with an IPS panel, wide color gamut and 180Hz, which can also be found in this range.

The MSI G281UV will naturally have a sharper image, but the difference won’t be that noticeable in games and videos yet the difference between 60Hz and 120Hz+ is drastic, especially in fast-paced games.

Moving on, the MSI G281UV monitor uses an IPS panel with 178° wide viewing angles, meaning that the image will remain consistent regardless of the angle you’re looking at this screen, which makes it viable for color-critical work too!

Moreover, it has a wide 95% DCI-P3 gamut coverage for more saturated and vibrant colors. This is equivalent to around 125% sRGB color gamut volume, so regular SDR content will be over-saturated, but most users will prefer the extra vibrancy.

In case you want a more accurate SDR color output, there’s an sRGB emulation mode available in the OSD (On-Screen Display) menu that will clamp the gamut down to ~100% sRGB. To enable it, go to the OSD menu, and select the sRGB Pro Mode under the Professional tab.

Related:What Is sRGB Emulation Mode And Why Is It Important?

Next, the MSI G281UV has a decent peak brightness of 300-nits, meaning that it can get more than bright enough under normal lighting conditions.

As expected from an IPS panel, the static contrast ratio amounts to 1,000:1, so blacks won’t be as deep as that of VA and OLED panels or as that of displays with full-array local dimming (FALD) solutions. However, these displays have other drawbacks.

Another downside of IPS technology is IPS glow, which is characterized as visible glowing around the corners of the screen. The intensity varies from unit to unit and depends on the angle you’re looking at the screen. It’s mostly noticeable when playing dark content in a dark room with a high brightness setting, so it is manageable.

Finally, the MSI G281UV supports HDR (High Dynamic Range), but due to its low contrast ratio and lack of FALD, you won’t be getting the true HDR viewing experience.

HDR content will still benefit from the wide color gamut and get a small boost in peak brightness up to 400-nits. You’ll get smoother gradients thanks to dithered 10-bit color depth support, but all of this is barely a glimpse of what HDR is supposed to do.

For proper HDR support, you’ll need to invest at least $50 more in the AOC Q27G3XMN with a 1440p 180Hz VA panel, 336-zone mini LED FALD backlight and a high 1,200-nit peak brightness.

Performance

amd freesync logo

The MSI G281UV has a maximum refresh rate of 60Hz, so it won’t appeal to most gamers. However, thanks to its decent 4ms GtG response time speed and (~10ms) low input lag, it’s good enough for casual gaming.

It even supports AMD FreeSync, which synchronizes the monitor’s refresh rate to your GPU’s frame rate between 40Hz and 60Hz. So, as long as your FPS is within the range, there will be no screen tearing or stuttering.

While it’s not certified as G-SYNC Compatible by NVIDIA, the variable refresh rate (VRR) also works with select GeForce GPUs (10-series or newer) over DisplayPort. For AMD GPUs, VRR is supported over both HDMI and DisplayPort.

There are three response time overdrive modes: Normal, Fast and Fastest.

We recommend using the Fast mode as Fastest can introduce inverse ghosting. Thanks to the fast pixel response time speed, there’s no ghosting behind fast-moving objects, but the motion will feel a bit choppy due to the low refresh rate.

Features

MSI G281UV OSD menu

At the rear of the monitor, there’s a directional joystick for quick and easy navigation through the OSD (On-Screen Display) menu.

Besides the standard image adjustments (brightness, contrast, color temperature, etc.), you’ll also find a few advanced settings, such as sharpness, Image Enhancement (improves low-resolution images), display scaling (auto, 4:3, 16:9) and automatic input detection. However, there are no gamma or color saturation options.

You’ll also find plenty of useful gaming features, including Night Vision (improves visibility in dark scenes by altering the gamma curvature), on-screen timers, a refresh rate tracker and crosshair overlays.

The monitor’s backlight is flicker-free and there’s an integrated low-blue light filter.

Design & Connectivity

MSI G281UV Design

The stand of the monitor is fairly sturdy, but it’s tilt-only (-5°/20°). Luckily, the stand is detachable and easily mountable to a third-party stand via the 100x100mm VESA pattern.

Next, the screen has a light matte anti-glare coating that prevents reflections without adding too much graininess to the image.

Connectivity options include DisplayPort 1.2, two HDMI 2.0 ports and a headphone jack. All display inputs support 4K 60Hz.

Price & Similar Monitors

The MSI G281UV price ranges from $200 to $220, which makes it the most affordable 4K 60Hz monitor available.

The Sceptre U275W-UPT is another $200 budget option with a 27″ 4K 70Hz IPS panel and integrated speakers, but it doesn’t have a wide color gamut or AMD FreeSync.

To learn more about monitors and ensure you’re getting the model most suited for your personal preference, visit our comprehensive and always up-to-date best gaming monitor buyer’s guide.

Conclusion

All in all, the MSI G281UV is an excellent monitor for the price if you don’t mind the low 60Hz refresh rate. If you’re mainly looking for a gaming display though, we recommend going with 1440p 144Hz in this price range instead.

Specifications

Screen Size27.9-inch
Resolution3840×2160 (Ultra HD)
Panel TypeIPS
Aspect Ratio16:9 (Widescreen)
Refresh Rate60Hz
Response Time4ms (GtG)
Adaptive-SyncFreeSync (40-60Hz)
PortsDisplayPort 1.2, 2x HDMI 2.0
Other PortsHeadphone Jack
Brightness300 cd/m²
Brightness (HDR)400 cd/m²
Contrast Ratio1000:1 (static)
Colors1.07 billion (8-bit + FRC)
95% DCI-P3
HDRVESA DisplayHDR 400
VESAYes (100x100mm)

The Pros:

  • Wide color gamut (with sRGB mode)
  • Wide viewing angles
  • Quick response time, low input lag
  • Plenty of features, including VRR up to 60Hz

The Cons:

  • IPS glow and mediocre contrast ratio (as expected from this panel technology)
  • Tilt-only stand

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Rob Shafer

Rob is a software engineer with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver. He now works full-time managing DisplayNinja while coding his own projects on the side.