AOC Agon AG322QC4 Curved FreeSync 2 Gaming Monitor Review: HDR Accuracy On a Budget

Now that HDR monitors are becoming more common, we’re seeing a number of different standards. At the premium end are panels that can hit 1,000 nits brightness and have full-array zone-dimming backlights (like the Asus ROG Swift PG27U and Acer Predator X27). But at nearly $2,000 (£1,600), those monitors are out of reach for many. If you can accept an edge-array backlight and 400 nits max brightness, AOC has a monitor for you that’s just $545 (£398.58), the Agon AG322QC4, a 32-inch curved VA panel with QHD resolution (2560x1440), FreeSync 2, a 144Hz refresh rate and almost 85 percent coverage of the DCI-P3 wide color gamut.

After reviewing both the Predator X27 and ROG Swift PG27U, we know that monitors with full-array,1,000-nit backlights are the reference standard in HDR displays. It’s also clear that having the best means laying out a princely sum. For the rest of us, good HDR can be found in monitors with edge backlights that produce lower peak white levels. VESA (The Video Electronics Standards Association) recognizes this and has published standards that consider more value-oriented products. The AG322QC4 is one such panel and is certified to produce at least 400 nits in HDR mode, hence the VESA DisplayHDR 400 certification.

To increase contrast, the monitor has a well-engineered dynamic contrast feature that operates whenever HDR10 content is detected. It topped 10,000:1 contrast in our HDR tests. Overall, this monitor’s a good deal for HDR viewers.

Specifications

Panel Type & BacklightVA / W-LED, edge array
DisplayHDR 400
Screen Size & Aspect Ratio32 inches / 16:9
Curve Radius: 1800mm
Max Resolution & Refresh2560x1440 @ 144Hz
FreeSync 2: 48-144Hz
Native Color Depth & Gamut8-bit / DCI-P3
Response Time (GTG)4ms
Brightness400 nits
Contrast2,000:1
Speakers2x 5w
Video Inputs2x DisplayPort 1.2
2x HDMI 2.0
1x VGA
Audio2x 3.5mm in
2x 3.5mm out
USB3.0: 1x up, 2x down
Power Consumption31.6w, brightness @ 200 nits
Panel Dimensions
(WxHxD with base)
28.1 x 20.6-24.9 x 10.9 inches / 714 x 523-623 x 277mm
Panel Thickness3.8 inches / 97mm
Bezel WidthTop/sides: 0.4 inch / 9mm
Bottom: 0.9 inch / 24mm
Weight14.6 pounds / 6.6kg
WarrantyThree years

Unpacking & Accessories

You’ll need a Phillips-head screwdriver to attach the panel to the upright. After, you attach the base with a captive bolt.

The accessory bundle includes cables for DisplayPort and HDMI (you’ll need to use the latter for HDR). You also get USB 3.0 and analog audio cables. A large brick serves as the external power supply. The on-screen display (OSD) controller is much like ones we’ve seen from AOC in the past and plugs into its own port underneath. AOC includes a printed quick-start guide and has more detailed documentation available online.

Product 360

Style-wise, the AG322QC4 follows in the footsteps of other Agon monitors. The bezel is thin around the top and sides and sits flush behind the anti-glare layer. A wider-trim strip goes across the bottom and has thin LED lights that can change color according to settings in the OSD. The effect extends around back to four more strips surrounded by a silver accent piece. The base and upright are solid aluminum finished in a satin texture. Quality is evident both in appearance and feel, and materials seem more premium than the price would suggest. A handle caps the upright, and you also get a headphone hook that folds out from the upper right.

The stand offers full ergonomic adjustments, including 30-degree swivel in each direction, 29-degree back tilt and 5-degree forward tilt, along with 4.3 inches of height range. Movements are firm and without play. Two 5W speakers provide decent volume in the upper-mid frequency range. Two 3.5mm inputs and two 3.5mm outputs support external audio.

Video connections consist of two DisplayPorts, two HDMI 2.0 inputs and a VGA connector. You can enjoy FreeSync 2 and a 144Hz refresh rate over DisplayPort or HDMI, but, as noted above, HDR only works with the latter. USB ports are version 3.0 and include one upstream and two downstream jacks.

OSD Features

Menu control comes in two forms, a small joystick mounted underneath the center of the panel and a plug-in puck controller that adds three buttons for the various game modes. We tried both and found the joystick to be more efficient and intuitive. It doubles as the power toggle when you press it for three seconds.

The OSD has a new graphical style we haven’t seen from AOC before. It’s divided into six sub-menus. Game Setting provides things like shadow control, overdrive, a frame rate counter and an aiming point. Image settings are found in the Luminance menu, which has three gamma presets, as well as Color Setup, which has color temp options. You get multiple white points, plus a user mode, which provides a precise calibration. Also here is sRGB mode, but we found that it did not reduce the color gamut to that standard. Regardless of settings, you’ll see DCI-P3 for all content.

When the monitor detects HDR signals, it locks all picture controls except for the four HDR modes: HDR, Movie, Game and Picture. The most accurate one is HDR. The others change the luminance curve and, while they may be preferred by some users, are less accurate. For VGA port users, the Image Setup menu has controls for position, clock and phase.

Setup and Calibration

The first thing we noticed in the OSD is the Low Blue Light option is on by default. This makes the white point more red than it should be. We turned Low Blue Light off before running any tests or calibrating.

We then tried to force the AG322QC4 into an sRGB-compatible color mode without success. DCI-P3 is the one and only gamut choice. This won’t be a problem for most, as the extra saturation gives games an added punch. But those needing an accurate sRGB or Rec.709 monitor are out of luck.

Default gamma is a bit off the mark as well, but that’s easily fixed by selecting Gamma 2 instead of Gamma 1. A few tweaks of the RGB sliders, which start center-range, provide excellent grayscale tracking and good color accuracy in the DCI space. Calibration isn’t possible for HDR signals, but it turns out none is needed (those test results are on page four).

Here are our suggested settings for SDR content:

AOC Agon AG322QC4 Calibration Settings
Eco ModeStandard
Brightness 200 nits52
Brightness 120 nits24
Brightness 100 nits17
Brightness 80 nits11
Brightness 50 nits0
Contrast48
Gamma2
Color Temp UserRed 52, Green 49, Blue 48

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