MSI MAG281URF Review: 4K 144Hz 1ms FreeSync IPS Gaming Monitor

The MSI MAG281URF is a 28" 4K 144Hz IPS gaming monitor with HDMI 2.1, fast 1ms repsonse time, VRR + MBR, and 95% DCI-P3 wide color gamut.

Bottom Line

The MSI MAG281URF is an excellent 28″ 4K 144Hz 1ms IPS gaming monitor with a wide color gamut, VRR and MBR support. However, unless you find it on a huge sale, there are some better alternatives at this price range.

Design:
(5.0)
Display:
(4.7)
Performance:
(4.6)
Price/Value:
(3.5)
4.5

There are a lot of 28″ 4K 144Hz IPS gaming monitors currently available that share the same Innolux panel, the MSI Optix MAG281URF being one of them.

Here’s everything you need to know about it and how it stacks up against the alternatives!

Image Quality

MSI MAG281URF

Thanks to its IPS panel, the MSI MAG281URF monitor provides you with 178° wide viewing angles, ensuring that the image remains basically flawless regardless of the angle you’re looking at it.

In addition, it has a wide 95% DCI-P3 color gamut coverage (~125% sRGB gamut size) for vibrant and saturated colors. There’s also an sRGB emulation mode available should you need or prefer the more neutral 100% sRGB color output.

This makes the monitor suitable for entry-level color-critical work, but for anything more serious, you’ll need a colorimeter for proper calibration.

Moving on, the MSI MAG281URF has a decent peak brightness of 300-nits, so it can get more than bright enough under normal lighting conditions. The minimum brightness amounts to around 80-nits, which might be too bright for those who are used to dim displays in a dark room.

As expected from an IPS display, the static contrast ratio amounts to 1,000:1, so you won’t get as deep blacks as that of VA panels, which usually have a contrast ratio of around 3,000:1. Keep in mind that VA technology has its own disadvantages, such as narrower viewing angles in comparison to IPS.

There’s also some IPS glow visible, which is common for IPS displays. It can be characterized as visible glowing around the corners of the screen, but it’s mostly noticeable when watching dark content in a dark room at high brightness settings, so there are ways to minimize it.

Next, the 4K UHD resolution results in a high pixel density of 157 PPI (pixels per inch), which makes for plenty of screen real estate with sharp details and text. You will need to apply some scaling in order to make small text readable.

MSI MAG281URF Review

The MSI MAG281URF 4K 144Hz gaming monitor also supports HDR (High Dynamic Range), however, besides the wide color gamut and boost in peak brightness to 400-nits, there’s no local dimming that would provide you with noteworthy HDR image quality. Some HDR scenes might look better, but most content will look better with HDR disabled on this monitor.

Performance

There are three response time overdrive modes: Normal, Fast and Faster. Here’s how they perform using Blur Buster’s UFO ghosting test.

MSI MAG281URF 144Hz Overdrive
MSI MAG281URF 60Hz Overdrive

Both Fast and Faster modes introduce too much inverse ghosting, so we recommend avoiding them and sticking with the Normal option.

While the Normal mode works great at high refresh rates as it efficiently prevents ghosting behind fast-moving objects without adding overshoot, it’s a bit too strong for lower refresh rates.

So, if you’re gaming at a fixed 60Hz – or if you’re using a variable refresh rate (VRR) and your frame rate is around 60FPS – 90FPS, you might notice some inverse ghosting in fast-paced games, though it’s tolerable.

VRR is supported via AMD’s FreeSync, NVIDIA’s G-SYNC Compatible and HDMI 2.1 VRR for tear-free gameplay up to 144FPS.

The MSI MAG281URF also supports MBR (Motion Blur Reduction) called MPRT-Sync, which improves motion clarity at a cost of picture brightness. It can work at the same time as VRR!

MSI MAG281URF 144Hz Aim Stabilizer Sync
MPRT-Sync at 144Hz

As the monitor uses a backlight with slow red phosphor decay, some red visual artifacts can be observed when using backlight strobing. However, the motion clarity is still significantly improved, so some users might find this feature useful.

You cannot adjust the brightness, but it’s capped at a respectable ~140-nits and while there are no strobe controls, the crosstalk (image duplications) is mainly visible at the top of the screen.

DisplayNinja Monitor Motion Comparison

Input lag amounts to just ~4ms, making for imperceptible delay between your actions and the result on the screen.

The backlight of the monitor is flicker-free (unless MPRT is enabled) and there’s a built-in low-blue light filter (both hardware solution and dedicated picture modes).

Features

MSI MAG281URF Controls

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

Alternatively, you can use MSI’s Gaming OSD App 2.0 to make all your adjustments in a desktop application. The monitor even has a ‘macro key’ (front bezel, on the right side) that will start the application when pressed.

Noteworthy gaming features include various picture presets, Night Vision (improves visibility in dark scenes), Smart Crosshair (places a crosshair on the screen that changes colors depending on the content), Optix Scope (zooms in the area around your crosshair), a refresh rate tracker and an on-screen timer.

MSI MAG281URF OSD

You’ll also find the standard image adjustment tools (brightness, contrast, color temperature, aspect ratio, input source, etc.) and sharpness, but there are no gamma or hue/saturation settings.

The MSI MAG281URF also has a built-in KVM functionality, allowing you to control two PCs connected to the screen via one set of keyboard and mouse. Picture in Picture and Picture by Picture options are available as well.

Design & Connectivity

MSI MAG281URF Connectors

The stand of the monitor is sturdy and offers full ergonomic support, including up to 130mm height adjustment, -5°/20° tilt, +/- 45° swivel, +/- 90° pivot and 100x100mm VESA mount compatibility.

Further, the screen has a matte anti-glare coating that prevents reflections without making the image too grainy, while at the rear of the monitor, there’s an RGB LED strip.

Connectivity options include DisplayPort 1.4 with DSC, two HDMI 2.1 ports with full 48 Gbps, USB-C (DP Alt Mode, 15W PD), a dual-USB 3.0 hub and a headphone jack.

Price & Similar Monitors

MSI MAG281URF Back

The MSI MAG281URF goes for around $630.

Gigabyte’s model based on the same panel, the M28U, can be found for as low as $500 yet it offers similar image quality, performance and features (KVM included).

At the ~$630 price range, we recommend the Acer XB283K instead. It has better overdrive implementation and a USB-C port with a higher 65W PD.

LG’s 27GP950/27GP95R can also sometimes be found on sale for $600. It has excellent overdrive, a wider color gamut, a bit better HDR image quality and a 4-side ultra-thin design.

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

MSI MAG281URF Side

While the MSI MAG281URF is an excellent 4K 144Hz gaming monitor, there are better options available at this price range.

Specifications

Screen Size28-inch
Resolution3840×2160 (Ultra HD)
Panel TypeIPS
Aspect Ratio16:9 (Widescreen)
Refresh Rate144Hz
Response Time (GtG)1ms (GtG)
Response Time (MPRT-Sync)1ms (MPRT)
Adaptive-SyncFreeSync (48-144Hz)
G-SYNC Compatible (60-144Hz)
PortsDisplayPort 1.4, 2x HDMI 2.1 (48 Gbps),
USB-C (DP Alt Mode, 15W PD)
Other PortsHeadphone Jack, 2x USB 3.0
Brightness300 cd/m²
Brightness (HDR)400 cd/m²
Contrast Ratio1000:1 (static)
Colors1.07 billion (8-bit + FRC)
95% DCI-P3
HDRDisplayHDR 400
VESAYes (100x100mm)

The Pros:

  • Accurate and consistent colors
  • Wide color gamut, sRGB mode
  • Quick response time speed
  • Plenty of features, including VRR + MBR up to 144Hz
  • Ergonomic stand, rich connectivity options, KVM switch, HDMI 2.1

The Cons:

  • Some overshoot at low Hz/FPS
  • IPS glow and mediocre contrast ratio (as expected from this panel technology)

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Gigabyte G32QC Monitor Review
Gigabyte G32QCA Review: 1440p 165Hz FreeSync Curved Gaming Monitor
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.