In this Meg 342c QD-OLED review, we’ll delve into its performance and see how it stacks up against the well-established contenders in this space, such as offerings from Alienware.
Specs and Price
MSI MEG 342C QD OLED, 34″ Curved Gaming Monitor, 3440 x 1440 (UWQHD), OLED
The MSI 342C might have a surprisingly short name for an MSI monitor, but its specifications hold no surprises. The display features the same Samsung QDO LED panel found in the Alienware w3423dw and DWF, as well as the Samsung G8 OLED, which we hope to explore soon. The 342C boasts a 34-inch screen with a 3440 by 1440 resolution, a 21×9 aspect ratio, and a maximum refresh rate of 175 Hz. Impressive performance claims include a 0.1 millisecond gray-to-gray response time, a peak brightness of 1,000 nits, 99.3% DCI-P3 coverage, and, of course, adaptive sync support for modern GPUs. We’ll soon test these metrics to provide you with an accurate assessment.
MSI has also set a competitive price of $1,100 for the 342C, aligning it with the AW3423 DWF’s pricing. While there are some minor spec differences between these models, our testing will reveal which one deserves a spot at Best Buy. It’s reassuring that, at least in the early stages of this review, we’re not witnessing a new QDO LED monitor with an unjustifiably high price tag; $1,100 appears to be the going rate for monitors of this caliber.
Design and Build Quality
When it comes to the design of the 342C, MSI’s attempt to tone down the gamer aesthetic, especially on the rear, is appreciated. However, I found myself less than impressed with the monitor’s overall design and build quality. The majority of its exterior surfaces are constructed from a rather cheap-feeling plastic, reminiscent of what you’d find on budget and mid-range monitors, rather than a product with a price tag exceeding a thousand dollars in the U.S. At this price point, one would typically expect a more premium build. Take, for instance, the gold highlights; while they may not look terrible at first glance, they’re actually made of plain colored plastic rather than a metallic finish. In comparison, Alienware’s equivalents also feature plastic elements, but they present a more refined and substantial feel when you see them in person.
The build quality of the MSI 342C leaves much to be desired, particularly from a construction standpoint. One notable issue I encountered was a noticeable gap between the glossy display panel and the outer housing, particularly in the top right corner. There are several other evident seams like this throughout the monitor, contributing to an overall lack of a premium finish. This is further accentuated by the thick chin bezel on the front, which, compared to Alienware monitors, is noticeably thicker, making it less visually appealing. It’s a bit disappointing for a product in this price range; one would expect a more refined design.
Additionally, the stand is relatively basic, offering only height and tilt adjustments with no support for rotation. While not a critical omission, it does limit the monitor’s ergonomic adjustability compared to other products.
As for the RGB LED strip on the front, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen MSI and other brands try something similar, but I can’t quite grasp its purpose. During gaming, it tends to be more distracting than beneficial and doesn’t offer any obvious advantages. There’s a setting to have the RGB LEDs mimic the on-screen colors, which is a nice touch, but it doesn’t seem practical on the front since you’re already looking at the content. It would have made more sense for an adaptive RGB ambient light like this to be placed on the rear, creating an ambient light effect against the wall. This could have been more appealing to gamers, especially given the popularity of third-party lighting solutions.
What I find intriguing is the inclusion of a comprehensive feature set within the OSD settings, notably the presence of a KVM switch—a feature missing from Alienware monitors. The monitor also offers features like customizable crosshairs, although users should exercise caution regarding potential burn-in issues when using these on an OLED screen, particularly with smart scopes that zoom in the center. Additionally, there are features like automatic brightness control, a low blue light mode for reduced eye strain, and shadow boosting. All in all, it’s an impressively feature-rich monitor.
MSI MEG 342C QD-OLED Ports
The MSI 342C boasts a genuinely useful feature with its support for 65 watts of charging through the USB-C port. In terms of connectivity, MSI holds an advantage over its competitors by including two HDMI 2.1 ports alongside DisplayPort 1.4 and USB-C with DP alt mode. In contrast, Alienware monitors only offer HDMI 2.0, limiting the maximum refresh rate over HDMI to 100 Hertz. However, MSI’s implementation is a bit peculiar. While the display supports 4K at 120 Hz downscaling over HDMI 2.1 by default in the console HDMI 2.1 setting, accessing 3440×1440 at 175 Hertz over HDMI requires switching it to PC mode. The reason for these two modes remains somewhat unclear; it’s a quirk of this product.
Similar to other QD-OLED monitors, the 342C is actively cooled, featuring a low-RPM fan that operates most of the time to maintain panel and component temperatures. Fortunately, the fan is nearly silent and goes unnoticed from a normal viewing distance. However, there were instances of peculiar fan behavior where it briefly ramped up to a more audible level before quickly quieting down. This happened even when the monitor wasn’t performing demanding tasks and was set at a low brightness level. Although these occurrences were infrequent, they can be bothersome. It’s possible that a firmware update could address this issue, given that this monitor supports such updates.
As the MSI 342C shares the same panel as the AW3423DW, those familiar with that review will recognize some of the concerns regarding the coating and subpixel structure of the QD-OLED panel. Unfortunately, if you were hoping that the MSI variant would handle reflections better or reduce ambient light reflectivity, this isn’t the case; it appears virtually identical to the Alienware model. For those not acquainted with the coating, here’s a brief overview: The panel’s coating is glossy and lacks a polarizer, making it susceptible to reflecting ambient light under certain conditions. In typical indoor settings with artificial or natural lighting, blacks can appear more like grays or appear elevated due to light reflecting off the panel.
This is in contrast to glossy LG OLEDs, which tend to maintain much deeper black levels even with ambient light present. The level of ambient reflectivity becomes more pronounced when there’s additional light in front of the panel. However, it’s less problematic when the lighting is behind the display, and it’s a non-issue in dimly lit or dark rooms, preserving the rich OLED experience under specific viewing conditions. OLEDs are renowned for their exceptional black levels, but with the 342C, achieving those deep blacks necessitates an optimized setup. Whether this issue is problematic or not can vary from case to case. Personally, I find it a bit bothersome and one of the notable challenges with these first-generation QD-OLED panels. However, if you predominantly game in low-light or dark environments, it’s less of a concern. At the very least, it’s something worth keeping in mind.
Subpixel Layout and Burn In
Regarding the subpixel structure, it’s worth noting that the MSI 342C might not be ideal for desktop productivity. The QD-OLED panel employs a triangle RGB layout instead of the traditional RGB stripe, which can result in fringing on certain high-contrast edges, particularly with text. This issue isn’t easily resolved through software adjustments. Some individuals might not notice this problem, but others, including myself, find it rather conspicuous, especially when compared to a standard LCD. This can diminish the sharpness and clarity of text in specific situations, though it’s a non-issue for content consumption activities like gaming or video watching.
In general, OLED monitors aren’t typically recommended for desktop usage, productivity apps, and web browsing due to their susceptibility to permanent burn-in. Therefore, the subpixel structure might not be a significant concern if you intend to use this monitor as intended, primarily for content consumption. However, if you plan on using it for productivity work, you’ll need to consider not only the risk of burn-in but also the suboptimal subpixel layout, along with the burn-in warranty.
MSI is offering a three-year warranty that includes burn-in coverage, as confirmed by an MSI representative when I inquired. Although this information isn’t currently on their website, it’s essential to have it documented somewhere in concrete terms for confirmation. I was informed that the website will reflect this coverage soon. This warranty aspect is significant as it aligns with the warranty coverage offered by Alienware models, which provide similar protection.
Response Time Performance
When it comes to response time performance, it’s no surprise that this QD-OLED panel delivers lightning-fast speeds, consistent with our experience with other QD-OLEDs. At its maximum 175 Hertz refresh rate, we’re witnessing an impressive 0.3 millisecond average response time. This rapid response translates into exceptionally clear motion, even at this high refresh rate, with no noticeable inverse ghosting. The 342C’s motion clarity matches that of the AW3423DW and outperforms any LCD at the same refresh rate. Notably, the cumulative deviation is astonishingly low, measuring just 45.
One of the standout features of OLEDs is that their performance remains virtually identical across all refresh rates. Whether we’re testing at 175 or 60 Hertz, the response time stays at around 0.3 milliseconds. This is in contrast to average LCDs, which tend to become slower as the refresh rate decreases. With the 342C, you get a consistent overdrive mode experience without the need for additional overdrive settings, as OLEDs don’t require them.
In terms of performance, it’s important to note that there’s virtually no difference between this OLED panel and others, such as those found in Alienware monitors or the new LG 27GR95QE. All of them deliver similar response times. The primary distinction lies in the maximum refresh rate, where a higher rate results in clearer motion. For instance, the LG monitor boasts a 240 Hertz refresh rate compared to the 175 Hertz of the 342C. Despite this difference, 175 Hertz still provides excellent motion clarity, and in my opinion, it’s on par with a 240Hz LCD and similar to other QD-OLEDs operating at the same refresh rate.
Average Gra-to-Gray Performance
When we examine overall performance, we gain a clear understanding of how OLED stacks up against LCD. A typical OLED display will be approximately 10 times faster than even the best-performing LCD in its class. Moreover, OLEDs deliver this impressive speed with remarkable consistency across a range of refresh rates and with minimal overshoot. It’s challenging to find any comparison that would favor an LCD over an OLED; OLEDs simply outshine LCDs when it comes to speed and responsiveness.
The cumulative deviation is again a fantastic result for the 342c, showing performance in line with other OLED products and being faster than LCDs. This display is also a great choice for gaming at 120 and 60 hertz, though at these refresh rates there will be some blur attributable to the sample and hold nature of OLED technology.
Input latency has surprisingly become a point of contention with the initial wave of QDOLED monitors. Following the AW3423DW’s less-than-stellar latency results, it’s a relief to report that the MSI model performs much better in this regard. In fact, its input latency aligns with the results from the Alienware DWF variant, both boasting latency levels of less than 0.5 milliseconds. This holds true for both SDR and HDR modes when gaming with adaptive sync enabled, making it a commendable achievement for MSI.
Power consumption tends to be on the higher side, a common trait among QD-OLEDs. Interestingly, despite not utilizing a G-Sync module, the 342C’s power consumption is roughly on par with that of the AW3423DW, with the DWF variant being slightly more power-efficient. These panels do indeed consume a significant amount of power, especially in worst-case scenarios like displaying full white, but it’s not anything extraordinary. Under typical usage conditions, power consumption falls into the sub-60 watt range, which is consistent with the behavior of other OLED displays.
In terms of color performance, the 342C is a wide-gamut monitor with impressive color space coverage. It delivers precisely what MSI advertises, with 99.3% coverage of DCI-P3 and a commendable 97.4% coverage of Adobe RGB. While this monitor may not be the go-to choice for color-critical productivity tasks, it still offers a substantial 80.5% coverage of Rec 2020, which is among the widest gamuts I’ve encountered, though it’s in line with other QD-OLED displays. This broad color range enhances the visual experience, especially when gaming in HDR or working with SDR content.
However, it’s worth noting that the factory calibration falls into the average to below-average range, particularly in the default mode. Grayscale performance is acceptable but not outstanding. The primary issue is the absence of a gamut clamp enabled by default, given the monitor’s wide color gamut. This results in oversaturation of SDR content, such as YouTube videos, and can lead to skin tones appearing redder than usual. Consequently, this configuration results in relatively high Delta E values.
When we compare the 342C to other monitors, it becomes apparent what I meant by average grayscale performance landing it in the mid-table and not quite as strong as the Alienware counterparts. The color checker performance, too, falls below the average mark. It’s worth noting that the DWF from Alienware doesn’t exhibit significantly better performance in this regard, so none of the QD-OLED monitors released so far are particularly impressive out of the box.
However, the 342C does have a notable strength in that MSI ships it with multiple color modes, covering sRGB, P3, and Adobe RGB. Many other brands tend to include only an sRGB mode or, if you’re fortunate, a P3 mode. It’s a welcome move by MSI to offer this variety. That said, even in the sRGB mode, the performance is only average when compared to other gaming monitors. While improvements have been made, the gamut clamp does work reasonably well to reduce oversaturation, but there are still a few lingering issues with grayscale, resulting in middling Delta E values for the color checker. These results don’t quite qualify the monitor as factory calibrated for strict sRGB usage, although the included P3 mode does show a slight improvement.
MSI advertises a Delta E2000 average of less than two, and this benchmark was indeed achieved in the saturation test. However, I found myself not particularly impressed by this mode, and by my usual standards, it still fell somewhat short of what I typically expect from a calibrated mode. Comparatively, the Alienware DWF model also features sRGB and P3 modes, and in both configurations, the Alienware model outperforms the MSI 342C in terms of color accuracy with a color checker.
That being said, the MSI 342C can be fully calibrated to deliver improved performance with the help of calibration tools like CalMan and a software profile installation. In this regard, the MSI model aligns closely with the performance of other OLED displays I’ve tested. It’s also worth noting that the MSI 342C provides a very consistent experience across various conditions. Performance remains relatively consistent regardless of the Average Picture Level (APL) of the content being displayed, which is a noteworthy improvement compared to some LG OLEDs I’ve reviewed in the past.
Brightness, Contrast, Uniformity
Max brightness is often a significant point of discussion in OLED monitor reviews, but unfortunately, there’s not much exciting to report here. If you were hoping for a brighter experience with this MSI model, you might be disappointed, as the 342C yields nearly identical results to the two Alienware monitors I reviewed previously. In the world of OLED, 240 nits is typically deemed sufficient for most use cases, although brighter would certainly be welcomed. It’s worth noting that there’s a substantial gap between these OLED monitors and LG-based alternatives, as the latter struggle to sustain 200 nits in their SDR configuration.
The minimum brightness level is also quite satisfactory at 29 nits. When it comes to contrast graphs, they can seem somewhat pointless with OLED monitors since their zero-level blacks result in effectively infinite contrast ratios. Nevertheless, it’s useful to compare the black point to an LCD to highlight the significant difference. If black levels are a concern and a critical factor for your display choice, then there’s no better option than an OLED.
Moving on to viewing angles, they are truly outstanding with QD-OLED panels, ensuring that you won’t encounter any issues related to color shifting or tint when viewing the screen from off angles. The primary consideration here would be the monitor’s curve, which may somewhat reduce the visibility of the entire screen. However, at an 1800R curvature, it aligns well with gaming at this size and aspect ratio, delivering an immersive experience.
In terms of uniformity, my unit displayed performance well above the average, delivering truly excellent results. It outperformed the LG OLED 27GR95QE I examined a few weeks ago, albeit only slightly better than the Alienware counterparts I reviewed. It’s important to note that uniformity can vary somewhat between individual units.
One of the standout selling points of opting for an OLED display is its exceptional HDR performance, which leaps ahead of the majority of LCD monitors boasting HDR functionality. Unlike those LCDs, OLEDs possess genuine HDR hardware capabilities, resulting in a significant difference in real-world HDR image quality. To put it bluntly, the disparity between an OLED and an HDR400 LCD monitor for HDR content is so vast that the latter may seem utterly defective in comparison.
The primary advantage OLEDs enjoy lies in their self-lit nature, enabling each pixel to independently illuminate itself, thereby achieving impeccable HDR image quality. In contrast, LCDs rely on a backlight for operation, with many high-end LCDs employing dimming zones to attain the high levels of contrast demanded by HDR. Even the finest full-array locally dimmed LCDs, boasting over 2000 zones, cannot match the stunning performance delivered by the effective 5 million zones found in this MSI display.
The impact of this advantage on image quality may vary depending on the content, but OLEDs simply do not suffer from issues like blooming or haloing around bright objects, common on mini LED LCDs, especially when the zone count is inadequate.
While some excellent HDR LCDs exist, even the best of them struggle with intricate HDR details such as star fields or Christmas lights, while the worst panels with only a few dimming zones can appear downright terrible. In contrast, OLED panels like the one in the 342C excel in all conditions and deliver brilliant HDR performance. OLEDs also hold a significant advantage over LCDs in terms of black levels and overall contrast, particularly in challenging scenarios.
While top-notch LCDs may achieve a contrast ratio of around twenty thousand to one, which is certainly commendable, OLEDs have an undeniable edge with effectively infinite contrast ratios and genuine zero-level blacks. The true strength of OLED shines through in darker scenes with intricate shadow detail, where OLEDs can achieve astonishingly deep blacks when viewed in a dimly lit room. However, it’s important to note that OLEDs, including the 342C, do have a trade-off and weakness in terms of brightness. While they excel at shadow detail, they can struggle with bright highlights. LCD-based HDR, on the other hand, often thrives in this aspect.
When assessing the brightest peak 1000-nit mode, the 342C delivers around 256 nits across the entire screen, a result identical to other QD-OLEDs. This holds true for various testing scenarios, including a 10-window size, where this display exhibits relatively modest performance, aligning with its competitors. In fact, there’s virtually no difference in brightness behavior when comparing this MSI model to the Alienware counterparts; they all provide a similar experience, so there’s no distinct advantage here for MSI. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that the 342C can achieve slightly over 1000 nits of peak brightness for small on-screen elements, surpassing W-OLED-based panels from LG.
When it comes to testing real-world scene brightness, the 342C performs reasonably well. It emerged as the brightest among the tested QD-OLED displays in our YouTube HDR video sample but fell notably short of the best LCDs in our movie HDR video sample. In our gaming test, the 342C delivered decent results, surpassing the AW3423DWF by a considerable margin but slightly trailing the DW variant. It’s worth noting that all three QD-OLEDs performed admirably and delivered the expected 1000 nits in our assessments.
In terms of HDR accuracy, the 342C may rank slightly below average for a premium OLED. When using the True Black 400 mode with a 10-window size, the top two-thirds of the EOTF curve demonstrate good performance with a reasonable brightness roll-off. However, the bottom third tends to be too bright. This means that for any content below approximately 25 nits, it appears brighter than it should, impacting shadow detail. The performance in this regard remains relatively consistent across different settings or conditions. For instance, the HDR Peak 1000 mode exhibits similar behavior with somewhat worse roll-off at higher brightness levels. Despite this, the issue with raised shadow brightness persists. In essence, there’s little reason to use the True Black 400 mode since it caps out at below 500 nits. It’s more practical to utilize the 1000 nit mode for a brighter HDR experience with no significant loss in accuracy.
When compared to other HDR monitors, the 342C displays a mix of strengths and weaknesses in HDR accuracy. For instance, the Alienware DWF model also elevates shadows to some extent but becomes unusable in certain content when in the 1000 nit mode. As such, the MSI model is the better-calibrated choice for HDR. While it may not be as accurate as the DW model in its 1000 nit mode, it does perform better at high Average Picture Level (APL), resulting in a somewhat mixed assessment. However, it’s essential to note that none of these HDR monitors achieve the level of calibration seen in the LG C2, which is considered elite in this regard.
HUB Essentials Checklist
The final section, the Hub Essentials checklist, scrutinizes whether MSI accurately represents its monitor and meets basic minimum performance standards. MSI earns commendation in the first two sections of the checklist. However, there are minor concerns related to a few questionable marketing images and a borderline result regarding factory calibration. Notably, the Adobe RGB mode stands out as the best in this regard, as illustrated here.
The motion performance yielded reasonable results, though it’s worth noting that 0.1 millisecond response times can be somewhat unrealistic in practical scenarios, especially without backlight strobing black frame insertion support. On the other hand, HDR performance is undeniably excellent, as the 342C offers genuine HDR capabilities with impressive brightness levels and deep blacks. However, there are some deductions in the issues section, primarily attributed to its triangle RGB subpixel layout, the potential risk of permanent burn-in, and certain peculiarities associated with the fan.
The MSI Meg 342C QD-OLED monitor is yet another stellar addition to the HDR gaming monitor category, seamlessly combining the best features of QD OLED technology. Sharing the same panel as other QD OLED ultrawides, it excels in various crucial aspects. The standout feature here is undoubtedly its HDR capabilities. The 342C shines as an exceptional HDR monitor, thanks to its per-pixel local dimming, deep black levels, vibrant highlights, real-world performance, and wide color gamut.
If you’re seeking an HDR upgrade and crave an authentic HDR experience at the top tier, it’s challenging to find a better option than this charming OLED panel. It truly excels for HDR gaming and content consumption. Additionally, the monitor offers excellent motion performance, a natural advantage of OLED technology. With response times around 0.3 milliseconds, consistent performance across all refresh rates, and remarkable motion clarity at 175Hz, it may not be in the elite realm of 240Hz OLEDs, but it still delivers an outstanding refresh rate, akin to the motion clarity of 240Hz LCDs. Moreover, it boasts minimal input latency, ensuring a responsive user experience.
SDR performance also holds up well, courtesy of its acceptable SDR brightness, superb viewing angles, uniformity, and a variety of included color modes. However, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this display for productivity or desktop work due to the risk of permanent burn-in and the unconventional subpixel layout. This is a content consumption-oriented monitor, ideally suited for such use cases, as the panel itself handles most of the heavy lifting. MSI doesn’t introduce many distinctive elements compared to other Alien ultrawides.
Nonetheless, there are a few noteworthy advantages that may benefit you, particularly if you require them. In contrast to its primary competitors, the Alienware models, the 342C boasts HDMI 2.1 support, a KVM switch, and 65 watts of power delivery via USB-C. Additionally, it offers superior HDR accuracy compared to the AW3423DWF, although it isn’t flawless. While it shares brightness levels similar to other QD-OLEDs, you won’t experience any significant differences in that regard.
Priced at $1,100 in the US, this display directly competes with the AW3423DWF while being more affordable than the DW model at $1,300 and the yet-to-be-reviewed Samsung G8 OLED, priced at $1,500. Unless the J8 OLED offers some extraordinary features, the primary battle currently lies between this MSI monitor and the DWF. One noticeable downside of the 342C is its design and build quality, which I find unattractive. It employs mediocre materials and lacks the premium finish of the DWF. However, the MSI model compensates with advantages like HDMI 2.1 support, improved HDR accuracy, and similar overall performance.
Personally, I’m torn when determining the superior monitor between the two. There’s no definitive answer, as they closely match in many aspects. When choosing a Kodiolin ultrawide, your decision may come down to minor details and regional pricing. Hopefully, this competition will lead to more competitive pricing in this monitor category. It’s heartening to see that MSI’s version is a strong contender and can hold its ground against the competition.