NZXT Canvas 32Q Curved Gaming Monitor Review

PC cases or even fully built PCs. This is what we know NZXT best for. But the monitors? Not really. Enter the new NZXT Canvas 32Q Curved. It’s a 32-inch, 1440p, 165Hz panel that begs an immediate question. When it comes to gaming monitors, is it better to have something from a screen specialist, eg LG, that has then been optimized for gaming? Or can a gaming specialist apply their know-how to screens? It’s time to find out.

In terms of main specifications, the NZXT Canvas 32Q Curved is nothing exceptional. It’s good, that’s for sure. But a 32-inch VA panel with 1440p resolution, 165Hz refresh, 1ms response, and 300nits brightness doesn’t set new standards. Instead, it joins the fray with competitive but not global specs.

Speaking of specs, NZXT’s own numbers rate this VA panel at a mere 1000:1 static contrast. You would normally expect at least 2000:1 if not 3000:1 from a modern VA panel. The 1ms response claim is also said to be through the gray-to-gray metric rather than MPRT. Only Samsung has previously run a VA monitor with 1ms GT rather than MPRT, before. Curious.

For the record, the NZXT Canvas 32Q Curved supports HDR10 signal processing. But with that 300 nit peak brightness and no local dimming, well, you know the drill. It’s not true HDR or even close to it. The panel isn’t extremely accurate when it comes to color either. NZXT rates the 32Q at 89% DCI-P3 gamut and 99% sRGB. Both numbers are a bit behind a decent IPS panel. But in a gaming context, that’s not a big deal.

What the Canvas 32Q is, however, is bent up to 1500R, which is quite a significant bend. Curved screens are subjective at best. But we think most people would agree that they make more sense with ultra-wide panels than a more conventional 16:9 monitor like this. Of course, that doesn’t take anything away from the experience. But the curvature doesn’t improve that unambiguous display either.

NZXT Canvas 32Q Curved Specifications

NZXT Canvas 32Q Curved on a desk

(Image credit: future)

Screen size: 32 inches
Panel type: Virginia
Resolution: 2560×1440
Brightness: 300nits
Contrast: 1000:1
Response time: 1ms
Refresh rate: 165Hz
Color cover: 89% DCI-P3
HDR support: HDR10
Adaptive synchronization: FreeSync Premium, G-Sync ready
Connectivity: DisplayPort 1.2 x1, HDMI 2.0 x2, USB Type-C
Price: $429 (opens in a new tab) | £469 (opens in a new tab)

Anyway, if the Canvas 32Q Curved looks pretty mainstream, where does the NZXT goodness come from? First, there is the design. It’s a fantastic display. And it’s beautifully built too. The main case is made of high quality white plastic while the metal stand is very well made.

The stand adjusts for swivel, tilt, and height, but not rotation in portrait mode. It is also, strictly speaking, an optional extra. In the US, the NZXT Canvas 32Q Curved costs $379 without the stand and $429 with it, while in the UK it’s £429 without and £469 with it, which is a bit on the pricey side. Either way, it’s an interesting twist, being able to choose the stand. Ditch it and the display offers 100mm by 100mm VESA mounting support and indeed NZXT will also sell you single and dual mount VESA arms for this purpose as an alternative to the factory mount.

Beyond that, the other obvious NZXT-specific feature is the CAM software. It’s basically a Windows application alternative to the monitor’s clunky OSD menus. Not that NZXT’s OSD is particularly clunky. It’s actually quite smooth, as OSDs do. But the CAM app is more powerful and configurable, allowing you to control different features and settings without needing to use the OSD, including creating settings profiles per app.

As for inputs, you get HDMI, DisplayPort, and USB Type-C with DisplayPort Alternate Mode. Just note that the latter does not support power supply. So you can’t have a single cable connection to a laptop and both drive the screen and charge the lappy. That said, 165Hz is available via USB, in case you were wondering.

(Image credit: future)

Anyway, what about the actual image quality? Obviously, you need to be comfortable with the fairly large pixels that come with a 32-inch panel and 1440p native resolution. A crisp 4K monitor, it’s not. This is much more of an issue on the Windows desktop than in-game. But it undermines the all-purpose, multi-purpose appeal.

Plus, it’s not a monitor that immediately reminds you of that. For a VA panel it’s not very high contrast, viewing angles are decent rather than great. Plus, as you’d expect from a peak brightness of 300 nits, it’s just not massively punchy in absolute terms. Dare we say it, it has a slightly dated feel and lacks the saturation and zing of today’s best panels.

As for pixel response, there are three levels of overdrive available and even the fastest setting is very usable, with little visible overshoot or reverse ghosting. Perhaps not entirely surprisingly, due to the relatively tight overdrive, the 32Q doesn’t look as crisp and fast as today’s best IPS panels. It’s just a little smoother with the fast motion.

Inevitably, HDR performance isn’t a strong point either. This panel lacks the necessary brightness and backlight modulation for this. It’s also worth noting that the gamma of SDR content is a little wonky with the panel running in HDR mode on Windows. So you absolutely wouldn’t want it in HDR mode unless you were specifically watching or playing HDR content.

Not that we’d bother with HDR mode in general. Compare an HDR-heavy title like Cyberpunk 2077 in SDR and HDR mode on this screen and you’d be hard pressed to tell which was which.

All of this probably sounds rather negative. But it’s not a bad monitor. For the most part, it performs about as one would expect given the specs. It’s a 300nit, 165Hz, 1440p (essentially) SDR gaming panel. It’s probably not as contrasty as you might expect from a VA monitor. The response is not as good as the best IPS screens. But it’s by no means a mess. It’s quite fast. And it looks great and is very well built.

So it’s not a bargain, the NZXT Canvas 32Q Curved. It’s not flawless or a world champion either. But it’s a solid option in this part of the market.

If we were buying 32-inch, 165Hz, 1440p SDR panels, it would be a matter of deciding whether we felt the styling and engineering advantages of this NZXT outweighed the slightly more dynamic image quality of some of the alternatives. So, yeah, there are definitely some things that NZXT does better than established monitor makers. But the company also has a bit more to learn before it has the full measure of the big brands.