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Monday, May 20, 2024

RedMagic 4K Gaming Monitor Review

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2023 is an excellent year for gamers looking to buy a top-tier gaming monitor. A buffet of OLED and Mini-LED options have arrived with prices at or below $1,000 – so many, in fact, that it's often difficult for new entries to stand out. Surprisingly, RedMagic’s 4K Gaming Monitor swaggers into this crowded arena with confidence and delivers a knockout blow to its competition.

RedMagic 4K Gaming Monitor – Photos

RedMagic 4K Gaming Monitor – Design

The RedMagic 4K Gaming Monitor couldn't have a more boring name and its design is equally mundane. Thin bezels on three sides and a slim chin with a Red Magic logo strike an unassuming pose from the front. An RGB LED lighting element with a triangular geometric design adds a bit of flair to the rear.

Build quality is acceptable. The plastic chassis feels reasonably sturdy but material quality is not impressive. There’s a distinct lack of texture to help break up the look and feel of the rear panel and monitor stand. It holds up well enough on its own but when compared to the best monitor designs, such as those from Alienware, ASUS, and Samsung, it seems a bit cheap.

The stand adjusts for height, tilt, swivel, and pivot, and feels smooth while doing so. However, the mechanism used to attach the stand to the display panel is a weak point. The quick-release mechanism used to attach the stand felt flimsy and was difficult to properly engage, though it did take after a few tries. The monitor supports third-party monitor arms and stands, although it uses a 75 x 75 millimeter bolt pattern instead of the popular 100 x 100mm standard.

RedMagic 4K Gaming Monitor – Connectivity & Features

Video connectivity spans two HDMI 2.1 ports, one DisplayPort 1.4, and one USB-C. The USB-C port includes DisplayPort alternate mode for a total of four video inputs – a healthy but common sum for a high-end gaming monitor. The DisplayPort inputs can handle the monitor’s maximum refresh rate of 160Hz, while the HDMI 2.1 ports max out at 120Hz.

The USB-C port can deliver up to 90 watts of USB Power Delivery for charging a connected device. That's not enough to properly handle a typical gaming laptop but it's handy if you have a work laptop or tablet that you want to occasionally connect to the monitor. The USB-C port also drives two USB-A ports for use with wired peripherals. A 3.5mm headphone jack rounds out the options.

RedMagic's on-screen menu is controlled through a joystick on the right flank of the monitor. Pressing the joystick turns the monitor on or off – a frustrating choice, as most monitors use this function to open the menu system. I frequently turned the monitor off by mistake. The menus are instead opened by moving the joystick towards the right. Pressing the joystick in other directions will access quick menus, such as the ability to toggle a crosshair in the center of the screen or to change the active display mode. All of the quick menu options take a moment to appear, which becomes tedious.

Most menu options are easy to understand but some work contrary to how I expected. The brightness adjustment menu is oriented horizontally from left to right, but to change the brightness I had to move the joystick up or down. This, of course, is not intuitive and causes many unintended inputs.

The monitor's gaming-centric features include an on-screen crosshair that offers a variety of different designs, as well as a timer, frame rate counter, and a black equalizer feature, which can boost detail in shadows to reveal opponents in multiplayer games. The monitor also has a refresh rate graph which seems meant to show how the refresh rate is changing over time depending on the game's frame rate, but it didn't work well in practice.

Audio is not a factor, as the monitor lacks speakers. Though disappointing, this is typical even for a high-end gaming monitor.

RedMagic 4K Gaming Monitor – Gaming Image Quality

The RedMagic 4K Gaming Monitor's build quality and on-screen menu are so-so, but its excellent image quality makes those flaws easy to forgive. RedMagic delivers the sharp, vibrant experience I’d expect from a 27-inch 4K (3,840 x 2,160) Mini-LED gaming monitor.

Local dimming is turned off by default. However, image quality remains attractive in bright and colorful games when the feature is off. The monitor's maximum sustained SDR brightness of 542 nits is extremely bright, making the monitor comfortable to use even in a room lit by large, sunlit windows.

The monitor's color gamut is extremely impressive, as well, spanning 100% of sRGB and DCI-P3, as well as 99% of AdobeRGB. Color accuracy is excellent, which means content should look as intended. It's a punchy, impactful experience that immediately left me impressed.

The SDR contrast ratio is a meager 1,110:1 with local dimming off. That’s essentially identical to an edge-lit IPS gaming monitor like the Asus ROG Swift PG27AQN. The familiar IPS glow, which ruins the depth of dark scenes, is evident. Flip local dimming on, however, and the contrast ratio increases to 11,510:1. It’s a drastic improvement that lends a superior sense of depth and detail to dark, shadowy scenes.

This is a 4K monitor and delivers an incredibly sharp, detailed experience. The improvement in sharpness over 1440p competitors won’t stand out in every game but, at times, is obvious. Final Fantasy XIV is a good example, as the game's anti-aliasing leaves much to be desired. The game can suffer shimmering in small details and fine textures at 1440p resolution, but upping the resolution to 4K mostly solves the problem.

The RedMagic 4K gaming monitor has 1,152 local dimming zones, which is as many as you’ll find on any Mini-LED monitor currently available. However, eagle-eyed gamers will still notice “blooming,” a problem that can cause bright halos around small objects. This occurs because the dimming zones, though plentiful, remain larger than the smallest objects that may appear on the monitor.

Fortunately, the problem isn’t enough to cause serious issues in real-world gameplay, as games that frequently place very bright objects against dark backdrops are not common (Pong aficionados may be disappointed, though). The monitor's strengths in color gamut, color accuracy, brightness, and contrast come together for a lush, vivid picture that is equally excellent in vivid games, like Forza Horizon 5, or grimdark fantasies, like Diablo IV. The RedMagic 4K Gaming Monitor outperforms Mini-LED alternatives like the Cooler Master Tempest GP27U and doesn't suffer from the SDR brightness issues found in OLED monitors like the Corsair Xenon 27QHD240.

RedMagic 4K Gaming Monitor – HDR Image Quality

The monitor’s excellent SDR image quality further improves when HDR is turned on. It surpasses its VESA DisplayHDR 100 certification with a maximum fullscreen brightness of up to 1,200 nits. The contrast ratio also increases to a maximum of 15,100:1. Dark areas of the display aren’t as deep and inky as on an OLED monitor, but remain impressive, especially if the monitor is not viewed in a pitch-black gaming den.

Bright HDR games look stunning with excellent detail and lavish color. The swirling streaks of matter in the black hole scene from “Interstellar” appear razor sharp and show subtle gradients that are not apparent on dimmer displays. Explosions and rocket engines in HDR content pop with vibrant details as they streak through a night sky.

The blooming issue persists and is noticeable in scenes with small, bright details, such as a starry night sky. The Mini-LED lighting zones of the RedMagic 4K Gaming Monitor will produce halos around stars. OLED alternatives perform better in this scenario, as each pixel can be lit individually.

Still, gamers will be happy, with the RedMagic 4K Gaming Monitor preferable in most situations. HDR-compatible games tend to lean into the feature with vivid, flashy presentation that pops on the RedMagic’s bright, colorful, high-contrast panel. OLED monitors can look equally rich, thanks to their excellent contrast ratio, but can’t match the RedMagic’s HDR brilliance.

RedMagic 4K Gaming Monitor – Motion Performance

The RedMagic offers a refresh rate of up to 160Hz, which is excellent for a 4K gaming monitor. The monitor is officially compatible with Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync, too.

Motion clarity is solid at 160Hz, preserving significant detail while minimizing blur. However, character names and small details may be difficult to discern in fast-paced games like League of Legends and DOTA 2. Quick camera movements in first-person games, like Call of Duty, preserve enough detail to easily identify exposed foes, but I lost sight of details like a distant enemy’s profile in a poorly lit window.

While the RedMagic performs well in motion, competitors that reduce resolution to 1440p and increase the refresh rate to 240Hz provide noticeably superior motion clarity. That’s particularly true of OLED monitors like the Corsair Xenon 27QHD240, which benefit from OLED’s lightning-quick pixel response times.

RedMagic offers several pixel response time modes. The default “Fast” setting can exhibit noticeable overshoot, which appears as strangely luminant streaks behind fast-moving objects. Personally, I prefer using the “Normal” mode, which reduces the problem's visibility. I don’t recommend the “Ultra Fast” mode, as it significantly degrades image quality in motion.

RedMagic 4K Gaming Monitor – Day-to-Day Use

RedMagic continues to impress in day-to-day productivity. The monitor's sharp 4K resolution, high brightness, and wide color gamut ensure excellent image quality in a wide range of tasks.

Productivity applications like Microsoft Word or Google Docs are crisp and easy to read thanks to the sharp, high-contrast panel. RedMagic also avoids the swings in brightness that plague many OLED monitors as well as some less well-executed Mini-LED monitors.

Content creators will also be pleased. It’s possible to edit 4K content at its native resolution and the color gamut is among the highest found on any modern monitor. The monitor can handle numerous content creation tasks including photo editing, digital art, and video editing.

RedMagic 4K Gaming Monitor – The Competition

Gamers considering other Mini-LED monitors will find most alternatives either have a lower display resolution or fewer dimming zones. Price-competitive alternatives like the AOC Agon Pro AG274QZM and the Cooler Master Tempest GP27U are key examples. While good monitors in their own right, the RedMagic 4K Gaming Monitor exceeds them..

Those open to OLED alternatives like the Corsair Xenon 27QHD240 face a tougher choice, but RedMagic's brightness still shines through as a perk over the competition. The RedMagic is better for HDR content due to its brightness and it lacks the sharpness issues that hamper the current crop of affordable OLED panels.

Verdict

The RedMagic 4K Gaming Monitor is a hugely impressive Mini-LED display that delivers jaw-dropping results in both SDR and HDR games. It stumbles in build quality and design, but the monitor’s extremely competitive $869 MSRP easily forgives these minor flaws. It’s an incomparable value and new go-to recommendation for gamers who want a sharp, vivid 27-inch 4K gaming monitor.

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