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LG 32GK850G Gaming Monitor Review

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LG might not be known for its gaming monitors, but its oddly named 32GK850G (See it on Amazon) checks all the boxes on a gamer's wishlist. This huge 32" display sports Nvidia G-Sync, a 144Hz refresh rate, fast response times, and 2560 x 1440 resolution, so it is indeed built for gaming. Also, though the majority of gaming monitors made by LG use IPS panels, they’re headed into new territory with this monitor; VA panel territory. Don’t worry though, because this isn’t the VA you’ve heard about – or maybe blocked from your memory – of yesteryear. LG has put some work into it and that work seems to have paid off.

Design and Features

At first glance the 32GK850G looks a bit understated in comparison to other popular gaming monitors, with just a touch of red along the backs of the base's legs. The stand is a tad wobbly but not to a point where I feared for the monitor’s safety. The monitor can be adjusted by height up to 110mm, tilt 5 degrees forward or 15 degrees back, swivel 20 degrees left or right, and pivot up to a portrait orientation that you don’t see as often on displays over 27 inches. The bezels are ultra-thin and unobtrusive around the sides. It’s a basic no-frills design.

LG Display without bias

Once you power it up, some frills appear though. On the back is a circular bias lighting system with eight color settings – some solid colors like white, red, or green and a couple that slowly change color on their own. A scroll wheel, just off center to the right under the bottom bezel, can switch between each setting, adjust the brightness of each color, or turn the bias lighting feature off.

LG Bias lighting ring

But what exactly is bias lighting, you ask? Bias lighting is when light is projected off the wall behind your display. When done correctly, as it is with the 32GK850G, it’s indirect (meaning it bounces off a surface before reaching your eye) and doesn’t cause any reflections on the screen as a lamp on your desk likely would. The benefits of this feature are two-fold. When there’s a bright screen in a dark room, your eyes can get fatigued very quickly. The addition of ambient light from the bias lighting helps to ease the strain on your eyes. It also causes your eyes to perceive a better contrast ratio by making the blacks seem blacker. You’ll only see a real benefit when playing in a dark room as the bias lighting doesn’t get too bright and will only add a touch of ambient light in a lit room.

Just to the left of center under the bottom bezel is a four-way joystick used to navigate the OSD menu. It’s an interesting solution to the traditional multi-button layout that LG has been using on its displays and I found it incredibly easy to use. There was an adjustment period the first time I tried it out as I would instinctively reach towards the bottom right corner bezel in search of buttons, but have come to prefer the speed and ease the joystick provides.

LG Gamer Quickmenu

In a break from what we’re used to seeing, LG uses a Vertical Alignment (VA) panel. Most gaming monitors are either TN, with fast response times but mediocre color accuracy and viewing angles, or IPS, with slower response times but superior color accuracy and viewing angles. VA falls in between the two. Where it has always stood out is in its black levels and superior contrast ratio. Its color accuracy is usually decent and viewing angles aren’t quite as bad as TN, but VA panels historically have sluggish response times. To combat this, there are four response time adjustments in the menu ranging from Off to Faster, with it set to Fast out of the box.

...the refresh rate can be set up to 165Hz.

The 32GK850G is a high refresh rate monitor with Nvidia G-Sync. In its base setting the refresh rate can be set up to 144Hz, but switch on Overclock (which requires a DisplayPort connection and reboot of the monitor) and the refresh rate can be set up to 165Hz. And since the monitor resolution is 2560x1440, you don’t have anywhere near the same GPU strain that a 4K display would cause at that refresh rate with G-Sync. Sure, those monitors don’t exist yet, but they are coming soon.

On the back panel, in the center of the bias lighting circle are all the connections. There’s a HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2, power out to a brick, a headphone jack, and a two-port USB hub – something that I usually miss on gaming monitors. Both USB downstream ports can quick charge devices if you turn it on in the settings menu. Since they’re on the back panel and not a side bezel they are difficult to reach, but I love being able to plug my game controller in to use with some Steam games instead of the back of my PC. All connections protrude back out of the monitor instead of facing down, making them easier to access.

Using the headphone jack is your only sound option with the 32GK850G. There are no built-in speakers. And honestly, that’s the more humane way to treat gamers, or any computer users. No one should be subjected to monitor speakers if it can be avoided.

Testing

Taking a look at the Lagom tests there are some expected and some slightly surprising results. The LG 32GK850G is factory calibrated and that shows in its out-of-the-box color. It isn’t quite the accuracy level you’ll find with some top notch IPS panels, but the colors look very good although slightly undersaturated. Of the three gamma settings, Gamma 3 gets closest to the ideal setting of 2.2, although it is still slightly under the preferred value. The other two settings are below 2.0. Viewing angles are not that good, but for gaming it doesn’t cause much of an issue since you're sitting directly in front of it most of the time.

What is most surprising from the Lagom tests is the response rate. As mentioned earlier, VA response rates have been terrible in the past and were a major factor in discounting them as possible gaming displays. But with response time set to “Faster,” the LG easily competes with response times found on IPS panels. It still lags behind TN panels by a few milliseconds, however.

The black levels are amazing, especially coming from an IPS or TN panel. And with a light output north of 300 cd/m2 the 32GK850G has a contrast ratio of around 3000:1. Far better than any IPS panel you’ll find. And there’s no IPS glow to worry about.

Gaming

I ran games with G-Sync enabled at both 144Hz and with the Overclock turned on at 165Hz. With my GTX 1070 Ti GPU, I never experienced any stuttering or tearing at either refresh rate. Both Final Fantasy XV and PUBG were beautifully smooth. At 165Hz I could notice some smearing that is typical with VA panels, but it diminishes at 144Hz and is not very perceptible at 120Hz or below. Even at 165Hz it didn’t bother me at all, but if you’re sensitive to the smearing consider turning the refresh rate down.

...while playing FFXV I marveled at how good it looked, mainly due to the incredible contrast ratio.

At 32 inches and 2560x1440 resolution, the LG has 91.79 pixels per inch, which is the same as a 24-inch 1080p display. So you’re not getting quite the sharpness you would on a 27-inch monitor of the same resolution, but it’s still within the realm of what most gamers are used to seeing. If you’re coming from a 27-inch 1440p display – or especially any size 4K monitor – you’ll notice a difference in detail. But I didn’t find the image quality lacking during any of my gaming hours. On the contrary, while playing FFXV I marveled at how good it looked, mainly due to the incredible contrast ratio.

There is no perfect gaming monitor yet, so it comes down to what you find important. The LG 32GK850G is great for gaming in a dark room. The low black levels and lack of IPS glow cause the images to really pop which I find more engaging and immersive. The colors are on par with most IPS monitors available and vastly better than TN panels, although there’s a slight color shift that happens towards the edges of the screen. Not drastic but definitely perceptible, more so in darkness.

 

Purchasing Guide

The LG 32GK850G has a suggested retail price of $850, but the price has dropped recently at both Amazon and Walmart:

  • See it on Amazon
  • See it on Walmart (Free Shipping)

The Verdict

If you’ve been looking for a gaming monitor with great contrast ratio, very good color, and you don’t need (or want) 4k resolution, the LG 32GK850G is an great choice. It’s a little expensive, but it has some great features, and if you’re running a Nvidia card, G-Sync at 165Hz is pretty magical.

Great
Great contrast, good color, and a blistering refresh rate make this monitor a winner.
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