The AOC CQ32G2SE is proof that top specs don’t have to cost the Earth
- Manufacturer: AOC
- Model: CQ32G2SE
- Price when reviewed: £349 MSRP
- Supplied by: AOC
We’ve tested a lot of AOC monitors, ranging from the entry-level displays all the way up to the exceptional Agon premium lines. Their premium displays are excellent, but what is most impressive is the level of quality at the lower end of the price range. The CQ32G2SE we have for review costs under £350, yet this 31.5” monitor comes with a lot of desirable features: It has a 1500R curved 16:9 VA panel, 165Hz refresh rate, 1440p QHD resolution and Freesync Premium. AOC has had to make a few concessions to keep the price down, but the overall performance is brilliant for the price.
Design and Build
What’s in the box?
- Power brick and adapter
- 1.8m HDMI cable
- 1.8m DisplayPort cable
- Warranty information
- Quick-start guide
Gaming monitors can sometimes look a little OTT, but AOC has kept the flourishes subtle. There is a small amount of deep-red trim on the underside of the lower bezel, around the base of the stand, and on the rear of the display, which gives the display a touch of individuality. From the front, your main view is dominated by the large curved screen, flanked by pleasingly small side bezels and a slim lower panel featuring a small AOC logo.
The CQ32G2SE uses an external power brick, with a sufficient length of cable for you to keep the power brick on the floor under your desk. You can also feed all of your connected cables through the integrated cable management hole in the stand, keeping everything neat and tidy.
The angular stand looks great and is very stable, keeping the monitor relatively wobble-free, but lacks much in the way of ergonomic adjustment. It can be tilted -3.5°/+21.5° but cannot be swivelled or pivoted, and there is no height adjustment. This does limit your options for positioning and depending on your setup you may need to buy an additional monitor shelf to raise it up sufficiently, although it does have connections for a Vesa 100 mount if you prefer. On my desk, the large size of the display put the centre of the screen just below eye level, which was ideal.
Assembling the monitor takes just a minute or two. The stand comes in two pieces, with a quick-release D-ring screw holding it together and a simple but secure monitor attachment. Build quality is good; There is a minor amount of creaking if you apply pressure to the panels, but it’s unlikely to be noticeable in normal use and doesn’t affect its usage.
While many monitors use a small joystick to access the function menus, the CQ32G2SE has a set of five buttons on the bottom-right of the screen. The nicest thing I can say about them is that they work, but I found them to be too small and have too much resistance when pressing them. The markings embossed into the display, that identify what each button does, are also very hard to see. I miss-pressed these buttons often, even after I’d had enough time to properly familiarise myself with the monitor. It’s a very minor complaint, but worth drawing attention to.
The CQ32G2SE supports automatic source switching and power-on, so once I’d gone through the initial calibration process I rarely needed to use the buttons.
The AOC CQ32G2SE is a 32”, 1440p, 165 Hz monitor, with FreeSync Premium certification.
Brightness and colour
The CQ32G2SE recorded 119% sRGB coverage and 89% AdobeRGB, which is remarkable for this price range, and suitable for colour-critical applications. It is only an 8-bit panel, so it is not quite as impressive as some of AOC’s more expensive displays that can display a wider colour gamut, but it’s very good for the price.
The default colour accuracy is very good out of the box, requiring very little adjustment during calibration. Colour saturation is only average, but the gradients are still very smooth across the whole range. If you prefer a more deeply saturated image, the Game Colour setting does a good job of increasing saturation without overexposing the image and blowing out the colours. Setting Game Colour to 12, colours appear richer and deeper while retaining good balance. It is less natural, but it brings images to life.
Peak brightness is the weakest aspect of this display, measuring just 248 cd/m². If you usually use your monitor in the evening or in a room shielded from bright sunlight then it’s sufficiently bright. In a very brightly lit room, however, it can look a little dull.
This is a VA panel, which means you get very good native contrast, and the lower brightness actually plays into the CQ32G2SE’s favour. Playing games or watching movies with predominantly dark scenes is great, as the low black level helps avoid the grey glow we’ve observed on cheap displays. There is a small amount of black crush that flattens some detail, but unless you are actively looking for it or directly comparing it with a significantly more expensive display, it’s almost unnoticeable.
Viewing angles and uniformity
Viewing angles are average for a budget VA panel. The image is still clearly visible when viewed off-centre, however, saturation quickly washes out, and there is a minor amount of colour shift. There’s a relatively narrow ‘butter zone’ for optimal viewing, but stick to this range and you should be very satisfied with the image.
If you sit too close to the screen there is a visible reduction in brightness towards the outer corners of the display, but at arm’s length or further, the picture is far more consistent. As this is quite a large 32” monitor, the 1500R curve definitely helps. Having the edges of the screen angled towards you improves the uniformity of colour and brightness stability.
The curved display definitely helps reduce any inconsistencies in brightness, but it also pays dividends when it comes to heightening immersion in games and movies. The perception of depth is amplified, and the screen feels wider than it actually is.
There is a small amount of glow around the corners of the display, but it doesn’t encroach too far into the screen and is faint enough to be easily dismissed. It’s certainly better than other panels in this price range.
Frame rate and response
Max resolution and refresh rate:
DisplayPort 1.2: 1440p @ 165 Hz
HDMI 2.0: 1440p @ 144 Hz
If you have a PC capable of maxing out the display, you’ll be very happy with the CQ32G2SE. I played several games set to ultra at 165 fps and it’s a fantastic experience.
Unfortunately, G-Sync is not compatible with this monitor, however, if you use an AMD GPU or games console the FreeSync activation window is very wide, keeping the action stable from 48Hz all the way up to 165Hz.
There is a fair amount of ghosting evident on very fast-moving images, which is most apparent with a bright object against a dark background. Cranking the overdrive up to strong managed to reduce this ghosting significantly without introducing overshoot. In actual use, it’s barely noticeable, and as we’ve found throughout most aspects of our testing, the CQ32G2SE’s performance is above what you’d expect at this price point.
I’m pretty average at competitive shooters, so naturally, I take every advantage I can get. It’s hard to quantify, as sometimes I just have a good day, but I was consistently finding myself making hits and occasionally nailing head-shots on CS:GO. I found the gaming responsiveness felt just as good as many premium gaming monitors I have tried.
The CQ32G2SE is not an HDR display, though it does have an HDR Mode within the settings. It produces a rough approximation of HDR, but at the expense of completely crushing bright colours and turning subtle gradations of colour into a monochromatic block, so I wouldn’t recommend using it.
Using AOC’s Picture Boost setting can significantly improve the overall image quality. Colour saturation and brightness is enhanced without crushing the brighter colours, whites are crisper and more natural, but it also keeps the darker colours intact. This also helps improve the contrast and makes for a much more appealing image. Combining Picture Boost with Game Colour dramatically improves the overall picture quality.
There’s nothing groundbreaking on offer here, but it’s a solid lineup of connectivity options. Two HDMI 2.0 inputs are joined by a single DisplayPort 1.2 input for connecting multiple consoles, PCs or laptops. A 3.5mm audio line-out is also included for connecting to speakers or headphones, which is useful if you have several devices connected to the display. There is no USB passthrough, but this is to be expected in entry-level monitors.
Pricing and availability
The AOC CQ32G2SE is crammed full of cutting edge display technology but at a price far lower than you would normally pay for this functionality. At under £350, it’s competitively priced and hard to beat..
Availability is good, with the monitor available to purchase right now. If you shop around, there are some great deals online; it can currently be purchased from Amazon for just £329.99, though it has recently been on offer at various stores for as little as £299.99. Even at MSRP, though, it still represents great value.
Who is it best suited for:
If you are into competitive gaming but don’t have a huge budget, the CQ32G2SE is an ideal starting point for aspiring pros. A similarly specced display from rivals can cost upwards of £700. That AOC has managed to pack so many desirable features into a monitor costing under £350 is remarkable. If you are in the market for a 32” QHD display that can run at good frame rates, there aren’t many options that come close to the affordability of the AOC CQ32G2SE, and even fewer that are any good.
The addition of Freesync Premium and low latency mode makes this display well suited to the new generation of consoles, too. Many games with performance mode options tend to run at reduced resolutions, so this 1440p display makes a lot of sense. You can play games at 120 Hz without having to pay a significant premium for an HDMI 2.1 display (when they eventually release, that is).
The AOC CQ32G2SE is an affordable gaming powerhouse. It’s hard to find a display of this quality, packing in so many desirable features, for anywhere near this price. The low peak brightness is the only real negative, but when you weigh that up against the excellent colour accuracy and great contrast levels it’s a very satisfactory compromise, especially if you mostly game in the evening.
The excellent performance is accompanied by stylish design, good connectivity options and solid image adjustment settings. For anyone in the market for an affordable large screen QHD display, the CQ32G2SE is a solid option that should certainly make your shortlist.