Low-cost 32-inch gaming, with some caveats.
Philips may not be the first name that comes to mind when you think “gaming monitor,” but the company has been making TVs and PC monitors for years. Its new 326E8FJSB display—or 326E for short—is a budget-focused gaming monitor with a monstrous 32-inch size, 1440p resolution, and 75Hz FreeSync-ready refresh rate, at a rather low price of $279 (See it at Amazon). Let’s take a closer look.
Philips 326E Gaming Monitor – Design and Features
Every time I unpack a 32-inch monitor, I’m impressed by the size. This Philips was no exception, with a rather thin profile and a sleek curved stand that attaches with a simple thumb screw. Plugging everything in was dead simple thanks to the I/O on the back, which is perpendicular to the monitor’s surface rather than parallel, like most monitors. I can’t express how much easier this makes the setup process. You’ll find one HDMI 1.4 port, one DisplayPort 1.2 port, as well as DVI and VGA for older GPUs. It also has built-in speakers and a 3.5mm audio out jack, if you want to run your audio through the display. Sadly, the monitor is not very adjustable, with only the standard forward and backward tilt you’d expect on a monitor this price.
The 326E uses a VA panel with “10 bit” color depth (it’s really 8-bit with FRC, but frankly, that’s not bad for a monitor at this price). It has a resolution of 2560×1440, which is a bit low for a monitor this size, but not noticeably bad, especially when gaming. Its refresh rate is only 75Hz, but again, that’s not bad for the price—and with FreeSync on board, you can take advantage of it without screen tearing.
It also comes with a number of extras in its on-screen display, though most are fairly gimmicky. Philips’ “SmartImage” feature comes with presets for different game types like FPS, Racing, and RTS, but most of them degrade image quality substantially, and alter the color far too heavily. SmartContrast alters the monitor’s brightness based on the darkness of the scene, which is nice in theory but I found it too distracting. And SmartResponse didn’t seem to improve response time in any noticeable amount (more on that in a moment).
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the price is the real banner feature here. Most similar monitors are $100 more expensive (and up), so this is a model for people who want the biggest screen they can get for their smallish budget. But that cost cutting has to go somewhere.
Philips 326E Gaming Monitor – Testing
As with every monitor we review at IGN, I used Lagom’s test patterns to see how contrast, gamma, and response time fared. But I started noticing issues before even firing up Lagom’s home page. This monitor exhibits a significant amount of ghosting with any movement on screen, and it’s especially apparent when moving windows around the desktop, scrolling through a document, or doing anything, really. This is likely due to its slow response time, which Philips measures at 5ms grey-to-grey. The response time test produces an animated GIF that rapidly switches a few fields of pixels between two shades—ideally, this would happen instantly, and you would see no visible flickering. The more pronounced the flickering, the more likely you are to see artifacts like ghosting in games and movies.
the response time on this display is not particularly good
In the case of the Philips 326E, the test confirmed my suspicions: half the squares flickered heavily, showing that the response time on this display is not particularly good. Tweaking Philips SmartResponse feature on the OSD didn’t seem to help—in fact, setting it to “Fastest” just made the ghosting worse, so I left the feature off.
In other tests the Philips fared decently. Gamma was right at the ideal 2.2, and blacks were decently dark for an LCD display. There was some slight glow in the corners, but certainly not the worst I’ve seen on a display. In Lagom’s Black Level test pattern, I could discern a clear difference between each shade of black, as long as I was looking at them from a perfectly straight viewing angle. Unfortunately, this monitor doesn’t offer super wide viewing angles, which is typical for a VA panel—but at this size, it means the same color will look different in the middle of the monitor than it would off to the side. So some portion of the monitor will always be off-axis, leading to sub-par image and color quality.
Finally, the panel itself seems to have some weird idiosyncrasies—it has an anti-glare coating, for example, that cuts glare somewhat but still allows significant reflections, and gives the monitor a weird “shimmery” look that’s hard to describe. Again, this is most noticeable when reading text or doing desktop work, but it’s still distracting, and something I haven’t noticed on many other displays I’ve used.
Philips 326E Gaming Monitor – Gaming
Gaming is typically more forgiving than desktop work and test patterns. The monitor’s weird shimmery effect wasn’t as noticeable in games, and the panel’s large size provided a pretty immersive experience. If you haven’t had a chance to game on a 32-inch monitor, it’s really something, and I can understand why someone would give up other specs and picture quality to go this route. The opening vista in Metro: Exodus is breathtaking at this size, and I can see why people would be tempted by 32 inches for so little money.
Unfortunately, the ghosting was still pretty awful in games, especially in darker environments. Any sort of movement, whether characters running across the screen or turning your own character around, produced large, noticeable trails of blur, and in many situations it’s bad enough to be extremely distracting. And, as I mentioned above, Philips’ so-called SmartResponse does nothing to make it better, so you’re just stuck with it.
FreeSync, as usual, is a welcome addition, though it can be problematic if your framerate exceeds the refresh rate of the monitor, causing tearing and jitteriness. I mention this primarily because you’ll notice it more regularly on lower refresh rate displays like this one, since 75 frames per second is easier to push than 144hz, and screen tearing is more noticeable at lower refresh rates. So you’ll definitely want to enable V-sync alongside FreeSync, or use a frame limiter to keep your framerate under 75 frames per second. (This isn’t really the 326E’s fault, since it’s inherent to the way FreeSync works, but it bears mentioning since this monitor’s refresh rate is on the lower side.) Once you flip that frame limiter on, everything should run smoothly.
There’s some potential in this monitor, but the ghosting and other panel quirks really hinder the experience. If I only had $300 to spend, I’d rather buy a smaller monitor with better performance. But if you absolutely must have the biggest monitor you can buy, for as low a price as possible—and you play slower games where ghosting isn’t likely to bother you—this Philips will fit the bill.
The Philips 326E gaming monitor has an MSRP of $279 and it’s the same price online usually.