Today we're looking at a monitor from a brand we’ve never used before, but one that gets heavily requested: Viotek. They’re popular on Amazon and make some of the cheapest gaming monitors you can get, so we’re interested to see how they stack up and whether it’s worth buying this sort of monitor over a better known brand option.
The monitor we have to review today is the Viotek GN32LD. This FreeSync display is 31.5-inches in size, and packs a curved 1440p VA LCD that tops out at a 144 Hz refresh rate. It’s priced at $470 through Amazon, which is around the mark of some other budget brands like Pixio and MSI that have monitors based on the same panel, but it’s a lot cheaper than the Asus ROG Strix XG32VQ or Samsung C32HG70 for example.
When testing out budget-oriented monitors we're always wary of a few things: is the build quality any good, and is the display defective in any way? To address that second point first, our retail monitor shipped with no issues whatsoever, so no dead pixels, and Viotek offers a full replacement if your monitor arrives with a dead pixel so it’s not something to be overly concerned about.
As for build quality, the GN32LD is fine. It’s not particularly amazing, and I certainly wouldn’t class it as a high-end construction, but it’s fine for a gaming monitor. The base of the three-pronged stand is metal, but otherwise the stand’s pillar and the rest of the monitor use grey-ish plastic with a few red highlights. The plastic used on the pillar feels particularly cheap as it uses a really basic finish, though it’s a bit better on the rear of the display itself.
Overall, Viotek is using a gamer design which I tend not to prefer, there’s a lot of strange angles and vents that it probably could have done without. There’s also two RGB LED strips on the rear which add nothing to the design, I mean you’re not even able to see them during standard operation and their RGB support is basic. Plus the RGB clashes with the red highlights so overall it’s a bit of a strange choice.
The stand is sturdy and does support both height and tilt adjustment, although its height adjust is quite limited. There’s no swivel supportn – not that swivelling is that important – and there’s also no cable management hole, which again is a bit of a nit pick.
My biggest issue with the design is the OSD controls. Viotek have gone with four buttons along the bottom edge of the panel, which makes navigating through the OSD a pain compared to a directional toggle. All monitors should use directional toggles with menus of this complexity, no exceptions.
However the OSD itself includes a lot of features you’d also find on monitors from other brands, so you’re not missing out on much going with the cheaper Viotek option. The OSD includes things like a low blue light mode, crosshairs for cheating, a super resolution feature, and even picture in picture, along with the usual image quality controls.
The array of inputs on the GN32LD is basic: DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort, plus an audio output jack. The monitor supports FreeSync with low framerate compensation, so you get the adaptive sync across the entire refresh range up to 144 Hz. And I still think the combination of resolution and refresh rate the GN32LD provides – it’s a 2560 x 1440 monitor after all – is perfect for most gamers with reasonably high-end hardware, it gives a great mix of smoothness and clarity.
The Samsung VA panel used features a 1800R curvature, I’m more a flat panel kind of guy with 16:9 monitors but at 32-inches in size the curve isn’t that bad. Plus right now there aren’t many options for monitors of this size and specs that aren’t curved, so you’re pretty much stuck with it anyway.
Let’s talk a bit more about the panel and see how our test data matches up to Viotek’s claims. For brightness, they list 280 nits of typical brightness and I measured a peak of 365 nits, which is going to be too bright for most desktop users. The contrast ratio falls a little short of Viotek’s claims though, at a touch under 2500:1 compared to its rated “3000:1” value, although as this is a VA panel we’re still getting that nice high contrast ratio. It’s also good to see this contrast ratio held throughout the brightness range.
New to our test suite is response time testing, one of the most heavily requested metrics. We’ve bought some of the fastest tools available to test response time and gone about testing some of the monitors we had on hand, and over time as we do more monitor reviews we’ll get a larger set of data for some sweet comparisons. But the good news is we can now provide this key metric that tells us a lot about smearing, ghosting and how suitable this monitor is for gaming.
So, Viotek claims a 3ms grey-to-grey response time using overdrive, but in my testing using the “high” response time setting – the highest setting available and the optimal setting for this monitor – I recorded just an 8.2ms average grey-to-grey response, which is quite slow but within a normal range for VA panels. As we know, VA is one of the slower LCD technologies and that’s on show in this result.
It might also be useful to know that on average, rise times were significantly longer than fall times, almost double across our test points, and mid-grey transitions (for example, 20% white to 80% white) are particularly sluggish. I also recorded a 15.1ms black-white-black transition time, which shows you the time required to make the largest luminance transition, in case you were wondering.
The important thing to note here is that both the average grey-to-grey response and rise times in general actually took longer than the refresh window. This is a 144 Hz monitor, so the frame is updated every 6.94ms, except this panel only transitions in, on average, 8.2ms. This means that in some cases you might not be getting a true 144 Hz refresh because the crystals themselves simply can’t transition fast enough to show a completely new image at that rate. While you don’t get any noticeable overshoot, smearing and ghosting are concerns due to the long response time.
However this isn’t an issue with this Viotek monitor specifically, rather all monitors that use the same Samsung VA panel will have response times roughly equal to what I’ve shown here. So don’t think you’re getting a faster display if you buy the MSI or Asus monitors instead; they still use the same panel so they are also faced with the same inherent limitations of the VA technology. As for Viotek’s 3ms response time claim, not exactly accurate to say the least.
The good news is the GN32LD exhibits excellent input lag of just a few milliseconds, so while transitions aren’t especially fast, the monitor processes its inputs quickly and gets on with the job. And yes, we have the ability to test input lag now as well, which we’ve normalized for the tools we’re using to give an estimate of the display’s processing time. And unlike some lag testing tools out there, our custom solution works at the display’s native resolution and refresh rate.
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