The ubiquity of 4K in the TV market hasn’t quite reached gaming monitors in the same way. But there are more popping up each day, and the new HDMI 2.1 connections allow them to support more setups than before. The Gigabyte M32U is one of the latest offering an extra-sharp 4K resolution alongside the high refresh rates demanded for competitive gaming. At $800, you don’t get that pairing cheaply, so let’s take a closer look and make sure it’s doing more to earn your money than just shrinking pixels so it can fit more of them.
Gigabyte M32U – Design and Features
The Gigabyte M32U sits on a beefy stand that looks like a boomerang made by Batman – not a batarang, though. It’s much like you’ll find on other Gigabyte monitors, and it offers a modest range of tilt, swivel, and height adjustment. I didn’t struggle to get it to fit in with my deskspace despite the imposing size of the display and stand, and routing cables through a hole in the stand helps keep things tidy. The monitor does support VESA mounting with 100×100 adapters, so you can make it even more flexible, but the included stand is stable enough to stick with.
There’s not a lot of style to speak of from the Gigabyte M32U. There’s no RGB ornamentation. Gigabyte has offered a smart design with its joystick for on-screen display navigation, which makes it easy to change settings on the monitor. Gigabyte also included a pair of 3W speakers that are passable for getting a bit of audio in a pinch, but they’re majorly lacking on the low-end – no getting your groove on.
Ports abound on the back of the monitor. There’s a DisplayPort 1.4 connection geared up for PCs to take advantage of the 3,840 x 2,160 resolution at the monitor’s max 144Hz refresh rate with HDR, 10-bit color depth, and VRR a la FreeSync Premium Pro. A pair of HDMI 2.1 can also get the monitor up to speed, but will be limited to 4K/120Hz with 4:2:0 chroma-subsampling on Xbox Series X and PS5. That same limitation didn’t apply when I connected over HDMI to an Nvidia RTX 3070.
There’s also a USB-C port with DisplayPort capability for connecting to a laptop. The monitor can connect to your PC with a USB-A-to-B connector as well. Those two connections can both access a three-port USB hub on the rear of the monitor, and a KVM switch above the OSD control joystick makes it a one-button procedure to switch which host device is in control, although it takes a couple of seconds to complete the handoff.
At the price, the Gigabyte M32U predictably uses a SuperSpeed IPS panel. It’s boasting a wide color gamut alongside a 1ms response time to help justify its premium pricing. It’s also touting VESA DisplayHDR400, which doesn’t quite feel good enough for the price. That’s basically the ground floor of HDR, and it’s nowhere near as dazzling as you’ll get from much bigger TVs even at this same price, some of which even support 120Hz and VRR. There’s no advanced local dimming to help it at least offer an improved contrast ratio either, just the typical 1,000:1 ratio of IPS panels.
Gigabyte M32U – Testing
A lot of manufacturer claims can’t be measured by the human eye unless there’s something horribly wrong, so I’ve turned to trusty calibration hardware and software to put the Gigabyte M32U to the test. This is performed with a SpyderX Elite colorimeter and SpyderX’s corresponding software.
The monitor comes out of the box running at pretty much the best visual performance I could get out of it. With default settings which see the gamma set to 2.2 and brightness at a neat 65%, the monitor scores solid points. It fully covers the sRGB color space and manages 83% of Adobe’s and 88% of the DCI-P3 color spaces. That’s pretty good if you want vivid color from HDR content, though it’s a far cry from the $1100 Gigabyte FV43U and I’ve gotten better results from a $200 Monoprice gaming monitor. On the plus side, the colors displayed are largely accurate, with an average deltaE of 0.57, meaning the human eye shouldn’t be able to perceive inaccuracies in color. Even the maximum deltaE value was only 1.56, which is still well within the bounds of what’s considered good.
At the out-of-box settings, the display also offers a bright enough image at 348 nits (close to the 350-nit typical brightness Gigabyte suggests) while achieving a 1,020:1 contrast ratio.
Pretty much every other setting I tweaked saw the monitor perform worse. Dialing up the brightness to 100% harmed accuracy. Turning on HDR with local dimming shrunk the color gamut, dropped max brightness to just 187 nits and tanked the contrast ratio to 410:1. It also saw the max deltaE value hit 4.71, which would be perceptible. Trying to use the built-in tools to tweak the HDR by adjusting the Light Enhance, Color Enhance, and Dark Enhance slightly improved brightness and contrast ratio, but it offered unacceptable color accuracy and presented color fringing on text.
I also used Blur Busters’ UFO Test to catch any poor behavior as relates to pixel response time. Given the good but unimpressive results in the other metrics, this was a chance for the Gigabyte M32U to regain some ground. But, it’s a little hit and miss. The monitor provides a number of Overdrive settings, and the fastest Speed setting sees considerable ghosting and coronas around moving elements on the screen – not so distracting on a test pattern, but it can drive you mad in games, especially the bright inverse-ghosting of coronas. The Picture Quality and Balance modes didn’t have as noticeable ghosting or coronas but may not be hitting that same 1ms metric.
Despite being a FreeSync Premium Pro display with no noted G-Sync compatibility, the monitor performs well connected to an Nvidia graphics card. Enabling G-Sync in Nvidia’s Pendulum Demo saw it effectively eliminate tearing and stuttering.
Gigabyte M32U – Gaming
The Gigabyte M32U can keep up well enough if you can drive it. 4K isn’t nearly as easy for a system to drive as 1440p or 1080p even with the mightier RTX 30-Series graphics cards. When the monitor is cruising at its full 144Hz, it is largely a fluid and crisp experience.
I took it for a few rounds of Apex Legends which let me keep up a regular 110+fps throughout play at 4K. The visuals pop and the details on the characters and scenery are clear. The screen’s ample space also puts a lot in front of me, letting me get a better look at small details in the distance. At 32 inches, the Gigabyte M32U is about the size where increasing resolution may start to make sense.
Playing Call of Duty: Vanguard’s open beta, performance was more varied. I predictably saw my frame rates jump around a bit more, but thankfully the G-Sync capabilities of the monitor kept that from becoming distracting. I didn’t notice any stutter or tearing in gameplay. What I did notice was the awful pixel overshoot rearing its head. The overdrive settings produced even more pronounced coronas at lower refresh rates. Though the coronas of Speed mode were still visible and distracting even while running at high refresh rates.
Sticking to the display’s Picture Quality overdrive mode kept ghosting and corona concerns to a minimum. But, at $800, this feels like a bit more fiddling and fuss than a high-performance gaming monitor should present. Gigabyte’s own G34WQC offers similar performance in a lot of respects while dropping the resolution in favor of a 34-inch ultrawide experience, and it costs half as much. And then there are monitors like the $830 Alienware AW2721D, which stays with 1440p but cranks it up to 240Hz with little response-time issue and DisplayHDR600 to boot. It raises the question of whether 4K as a feature is worth it, particularly when missing out on better response time. To the M32U’s credit, it is on the more affordable end for a 4K monitor offering a high refresh rate. Many alternatives cost over $1,000, though the Eve Spectrum and Acer Predator XB273K are two exceptions that fall in a similar ballpark to the M32U with similar performance capabilities.
The Gigabyte M32U’s flexibility to serve as a display for PC gaming and console gaming (as well as a work display for a laptop using its USB-C port) may earn it some points. And it’s certainly a sharp display that’s more than bright enough in everyday use (almost too bright without some bias lighting in play). But, it’s not standing out from the crowd quite enough. And, if your system isn’t going to consistently hit 144fps at 4K, the artifacts that crop up from rendering at a lower resolution and then upscaling will become your worst enemy as they’re all too easy to see with this display’s clarity.