Hardware Reviews

BenQ EX3203R review: is this 32in curved monitor the ideal console companion?

BenQ EX3203R
BenQ EX3203R curved monitor review

Product Name: BenQ EX3203R

Product Description: 32in curved monitor that's best suited to console gaming

Price: £469

Availability: InStock

  • Image quality
  • Features & design
  • Value for money

Verdict

A good-quality 32in curved monitor that’s best suited to console gaming

Overall
4.3

Pros

HDR support for a great price

144Hz at 1440p

Great for gaming

Cons

Low pixels per inch

Inflexible stand

Not so great for Windows

Manufacturers love to give us reasons to upgrade our monitors and TVs: as we approach 2019, the alluring terms “4K Ultra HD” and “HDR” are hotter than Vesuvius. With the BenQ EX3203R including both technologies, AND a curved screen, AND costing less than £500, could this be the monitor you’ve been waiting for?

BTQ: Brief Tech Questions

What does HDR stand for?High dynamic range – it makes images look super-vivid
Does HDR work on Windows 10?Yes, and after a recent update this now works much better. But really HDR comes into its own for games
Can I stick this monitor onto a wall?You’ll need a VESA transfer kit for this – that’s one of the disadvantages of a curved design
How big is it?31.5 inches from diagonal to diagonal
Is Vesuvius really hot?Not so much anymore. The magma, Wikipedia tells me, is now more than 10km away from the surface, which has been turned into a national park

BenQ EX3203R review: the positives

There are so many great things about this monitor. First, its price. For £469 from Amazon, you’re buying two luxurious ticks in the box:

  • HDR support
  • 144Hz max refresh rate with FreeSync 2 support

While FreeSync 2 is only a boon to AMD graphics card owners, the 144Hz refresh rate means you can enjoy slick frame rates at the monitor’s maximum resolution.

BenQ EX3203R review: console vs PC

Now we need to talk resolution. On a 31.5in screen, a 2,560 x 1,440 resolution is great for games and videos, but not so amazing if you’re going to be looking at spreadsheets or browsing the internet all day.

The reason is that text can look jagged. It doesn’t help that I was switching from my usual 32in monitor with a 4K resolution, but even if you’re moving up from an older, smaller monitor then you may find that its ppi (pixels per inch) is higher than the EX3203R’s.

In practice, this means I wouldn’t recommend this screen for a Windows system used for everyday tasks. Instead, it would be better for a primary gaming system – preferably one using an AMD card – or a console.

Why a console? Simply because of its 1440p resolution and large size, which becomes ideal for gamers. While it’s true that a 4ms response time isn’t the fastest, I never saw any smearing or ghosting in use.

BenQ EX3203R review: how curved is curved?

The technical answer is 1800R, but the best way to answer is through a photo:

BenQ EX3203R review

If you’re switching from a flat monitor to a curved design, the first couple of hours can be odd. Again, this is most obvious in Windows rather than in games – you become much more conscious of the fact that you’re looking at the left side of the screen, for example, because your brain goes, “hey, something ain’t right!”

When playing games, this becomes much less of an issue because you’re distracted by the on-screen excitement. Does this curvature make you a better gamer? I’m not convinced, but it’s true that your eyes are a little closer to the action.

Incidentally, the 1800 of the 1800R refers to the maximum distance you’re meant to view the panel (1.8m). Here’s a handy image, courtesy of ViewSonic, that explains the different standards you might see.

BenQ EX3203R review

BenQ EX3203R review: how good is the panel?

I was surprised by the quality of the panel, but in a good way. It doesn’t have luxuries such as a 10-bit lookup table, to help produce smooth graduations in colour that professional photographers and designers would love, but it floated through our quality tests in fine style.

For instance, it covers 88% of the DCI-P3 gamut favoured by Netflix, and scored even higher – 95% – in the more standard if boring sRGB colour space. Mix in a low Delta E of 1.55 (Delta E is a measure of accuracy, with 0 being the unreachable ideal) and what these figures tell us that this is an accurate panel that can display almost every colour you need. 

It’s bright, too. I measured it at 453 candela, which is far more than most people need – I typically use my monitors at around 250 candela.

BenQ EX3203R review: switching inputs

BenQ EX3203R review

BenQ errs on the side of generosity with the collection of ports. For now, the two HDMI 2.0 inputs are most likely to be used, but there’s also DisplayPort 1.4 and a forward-looking USB-C input. BenQ even includes cables for all three standards in the box.

I’m not such a fan of the on-screen display requiring four different button presses to switch between inputs, but at least it’s clever enough to realise that the console, say, was in HDR mode when last connected while your Windows system uses the standard mode.

Note that there are no speakers, though, so you may want to take advantage of that awkwardly placed 3.5mm jack.

BenQ EX3203R review: key specifications

Screen size31.5in
Resolution2,560 x 1,440 (aka 1440p)
Refresh rate144Hz at 1440p
Response time4ms (grey to grey)
Max brightness453 candela (tested)
Max contrast4ms
Viewing angles178/178 
Pixels per inch93
Tilt-5 down, 20 up
Height adjustment60mm
Pivot supportNo

BenQ EX3203R review: verdict

I like this monitor a lot – but as I hope is clear, I wouldn’t recommend it as a primary screen for a Windows setup. If you’re buying for a den or child’s bedroom, though, where the screen will spend 80% of its time hooked up to a console, then it’s a great buy. Especially at this price.

Read this next: What does 4K mean?

About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email tim@bigtechquestion.com

3 Comments

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  • Hello, I’ve been using this monitor for few weeks now and like you said its great, except for the ppi in windows when browsing, using excel and so on. It isn’t bad but definitely not the sharpest. I’ve been using a TV for gaming(console) and computing forever so I’m no expert on monitors or PCs. I read and watched a couple of reviews before this BenQ monitor, other monitors I considered buying were the Acer XF270HUAbmiidprzx, Asus XG32VQ, Samsung LC27HG70QQUXEN or LC32HG70QQUXEN and the MSI Optix MPG27CQ. To avoid ppi issues, I tried searching for the a 27″ BenQ monitor with the same features but couldn’t find one.

    Do you know if a future Windows Update can fix the ppi issue and make texts appear sharper? In my mind it seems like a software issue not hardware. Good review. Thank you.

    • Hi David – thanks for this (and for the other comment about the resolution in positives… not quite sure how that slipped through!).

      I don’t think a Windows Update will help. We’ve had font smoothing in Windows for some time, and it’s applied automatically these days (although you can switch it off). I may be proved wrong, but I think the only answer is to replace the screen… or put up with the jagged edges!

      Tim

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