4K, all day.
The ViewSonic XG3220 is a 32-inch gaming monitor that prioritizes pixel count over speed. It serves up 4K resolution to deliver an ultra-sharp picture, but the refresh rate tops out at 60Hz and the response time is only 5ms. eSports athletes and fast-twitch gamers will gladly trade a few pixels for a faster panel, but if you want to run AAA titles at a 4K resolution at 60 frames per second or lower, then the ViewSonic XG3220 (See it on Amazon) / (See it on Amazon UK) offers a beautiful picture for just around $500. It sports a number of premium features in addition to its 4K resolution too, including a semblance of HDR support, AMD FreeSync, and a host of customization options. If you’ve already laid out a significant amount of cash for a GPU powerful enough to achieve steady framerates approaching 60fps at a 4K resolution 4K, then you likely have room in your budget to add a $500 monitor to your setup. Let’s take a look at how it looks, what it offers, and how it performs.
ViewSonic XG3220 – Design and Features
At first blush, the ViewSonic XG3220 looks more like a professional monitor than one intended for gaming. Only a small strip of RGB lighting on the base gives away its gaming intentions. The rest of the monitor comes draped in basic matte black with a few glossy black accents. A silver ViewSonic logo is centered on the bottom bezel, and two red XG badges are on the back. There are also muted, red labels on the right bezel for the OSD buttons behind on the back.
The monitor is more flexible than most gaming monitors. In addition to the usual tilt adjustment, you also get height and swivel as well as the ability to pivot the display into portrait mode. The wide, rectangular base creates a sturdy base that prevents screen wobble.
The screen bezels are neither awkwardly wide nor razor thin. They are in the middle of the road at 0.5 inches wide on the top and sides and a hair wider at 0.6 inches along the bottom. On a small display, the bezels might look fatter, but on a huge, 32-inch panel, they look appropriately proportioned. Ports are aplenty. On the back, you’ll find a DisplayPort 1.2 port and a pair of HDMI 2.0 ports. There are four USB 3.0 Type A ports in all – two in the back and two on the right side – and a UBS Type B port that you’ll need to connect to your PC in order to power the monitor’s USB 3.0 ports. There’s also a headphone jack, which is unfortunately located on the back where it’s much harder to access than if it were located on the side.
The display itself is a VA panel with a 4K (3840×2160) resolution. It’s billed as offering HDR10, but it uses software to get there. For true HDR10, a panel needs 10-bit color depth, and the XG3220 has 8-bit and uses dithering for the appearance of 10-bit. This subtle difference is more important to creative pros than gamers, but it is still something worth mentioning. It is also worth noting that a monitor with 10-bit color would certainly set you back more than $500.
The XG3220 features 5-watt stereo speakers, which do a passable job for audio when you don’t feel like wearing headphones. Gamers will still want to keep a pair of headphones handy. And on the back at the top of the display’s support arm is a hook on which you can conveniently keep your headphones nearby and out of the way.
The OSD is packed full of settings to help you tweak the picture to your liking, but it’s difficult to navigate with the six buttons on the side. It would be so much easier to move around the OSD with a small joystick on the back of the display than it is to use the buttons. And with the power button in the mix (it’s the bottom button), I frequently turned off the display when trying to move up a menu level. The buttons are also located in a bad spot — when I grabbed the side of the display to swivel it a bit, I accidentally turned the monitor off or turned on the OSD – each on more than one occasion.
Though difficult to navigate, the OSD has many settings you’ll want to take advantage of. There are the usual preset modes for FPS, RTS, and MOBA games along with three customizable modes. There’s also ViewSonic’s own ColorX preset, which is a speedy mode meant for FPS games that ups the refresh rate and response time but is very similar to the actual FPS setting. (Compared to the FPS setting, ColorX ups the contrast and brightness each a notch but lowers the response rate from the fastest setting to the second fastest.) In practice, I could not tell the difference between the two. What made a larger difference in creating greater details in dark scenes was the black stabilization setting in the OSD. Some monitors give you a handful of black levels to tweak the image, but the XG3220 provides a whopping 22 levels, which allows you to fine tune the black level to your exact specification. It was a much more useful tool in creating the best possible picture than the monitor’s HDR setting.
If you connect the monitor via HDMI, you can enable the display’s HDR setting (it is not supported by DisplayPort 1.2). I found HDR10’s effects to be between subtle and non-existent. I saw no change in Windows 10, and only the slightest of details in shadows and bright areas in games.
ViewSonic XG3220 – Performance
I used Lagom LCD monitor test pages to measure performance including gamma, black and white levels, color gradient, and response time.
On the black level test, 20 grays squares should be visible against the black background. At the monitor’s default setting, I was able to see only 15 squares — the entire top row was not visible. When I moved the black stabilization from its default setting of 8 to 18 (out of 22), I was able to see all 20 boxes. On the white saturation test, I was able to see 11 of the 12 light-gray checkerboard patterns against a white background at its default settings (the black stabilization feature had no effect on this test, nor did enabling HDR). Still, 11 out of 12 is a positive result on this test.
It was one of the best performers on the response time test that I’ve seen.
On the gradient test, I saw no banding as the gradient pattern transitioned smoothly from black to white and vice versa, whether I had HDR enabled or not. On the response time test, I witnessed only the faintest flicker on the test image. It was one of the best performers on the response time test that I’ve seen, a surprise given that its refresh rate is only 60Hz and its response time is 5ms and other displays have imposing specs like 144Hz or even 240Hz refresh rates and 1ms response times.
I fired up CS:GO and Overwatch and ran both games at 4K. I saw details in the games that were not evident at 1080p or 1440p resolutions. Textures in the games looked more detailed and lifelike, from leaves, stone paths, and brick walls in the background to my character’s weapon in the foreground. Colors looked vivid yet realistic, and black levels were outstanding. I kept the black stabilization setting at or near its default level and experienced deep blacks with great detail. Playing CS:GO at 4K on the XG3220 was an outstanding experience; the game surrounded me with a highly detailed, textured environment and moved smoothly with little blurring. Overwatch, however, shows the limitations of the panel; in some of its more furious, action-packed scenes, I saw obvious blurring and ghosting as I moved and panned wildly to avoid being killed.
The ViewSonic XG3220 has an MSRP of $549 but it’s been quite a bit less expensive at Amazon recently.