Ah, Monoprice. Remember them? An early innovator in the world of cheap AV accessories, they quickly became the go-to wholesaler for all your electronic cable needs, bucking the trend of the overpriced HDMI cables peddled by scammers like Monster and Magnolia back in the day. They were heroes for those of us living on limited budgets.
Unfortunately, the transition from inexpensive cables to “everything else” hasn’t been a smooth one, and consumers didn’t seem to jump on board for their offerings of equally-inexpensive branded tablets, speakers, 3D printers and well, pretty much everything else. One segment they’ve been making progress in however, is with their decently priced featured displays. Specifically, with their line of PC monitors, nearly all of which promise the future of 4K and HDR compatibilities.
This brings us to their latest offering: the MP 28 inch 4K HDR Gaming Monitor, which also goes by the alternative (and unhelpful) name MP 28in 4K UHD Monitor. We’re sticking with the original name as it better represents the promise of offering gamers a cheap display capable of delivering the future of 4K/HDR on the thinnest of budgets. At the time of this review it costs less than 200 bucks, yet delivers a solid 4K/HDR experience that includes AMD FreeSync. No other current display out there promises so much for so little. The real question is: can Monoprice?
We’re talking about Monoprice, so it’s assumed they’ve done everything possible to keep the price low. Beginning with the exterior, it’s apparent that styling for the MP28 (as I’m calling it for much of this review) doesn’t seem to have been a huge priority: a standard brushed plastic bezel and non-adjustable legs are what you’ll get here. Also, those two legs look and feel like part of a Transformers kit, spreading obnoxiously wide and eating up valuable desk space. One big plus however, is that the MP28 is VESA-compatible, meaning it can be easily mounted to free up that precious workspace once again.
I didn’t want to mention it, but the MP28 feels incredibly cheap, with surface material rough and extremely hollow to the touch. I don’t know about you, but I normally don’t associate PC monitors with the type of Rhino Lining that’s sprayed in pickup trucks. It’s definitely not “Ford Tough” but seems like a mismatch on a gaming monitor.
Using the MP28 isn’t difficult thanks to a variety of buttons nestled on the rear, though you can’t help but notice the little notch housing the LED status/IR receive on the front, which handles the duties of the remote control.
Yes, you heard right: the MP28 comes with a remote control that allows you to turn the monitor on/off, switch inputs, change volume, and navigate OSD menus without having to reach around the back and fiddle with tiny buttons. There’s not much to say, except that it’s a thin, functional remote control that makes navigating all those options a lot faster and more enjoyable than most monitors. The remote control was the first indicator the MP28 may be less a true monitor than a repurposed TV display, which by itself isn’t a bad thing. There’s even a respectable pair of 5W speakers in case you need them. The only thing really missing is a TV tuner.
Aside from the DC IN and a 3.5mm audio out jack, video inputs are completely digital with two DisplayPort (1.2) and two HDMI (2.0) ports. They also incorporate the latest specs and therefore each can do HDR10 and produce a native 4K/3840x2160p resolution at 60Hz. All of this is great, but the ports themselves are awkwardly positioned downward, making it difficult to plug cables into them.
True 4K/HDR Display Performance
Sure, the MP28 isn’t the prettiest or most featured-packed monitor out there, but let’s not forget the box says “Gaming Monitor”, so there are certain expectations that need to be met. One if the screen itself, which is a TN (Twisted Nematic) display panel, meaning you won’t get colors that pop like a fancier IPS panel but still respectable and immediately compatible with anything that you’ll be running, especially plug-and-play entertainment (more on this later).
Viewing angles are acceptable at 170°/160° and the GTG response time of 5ms (milliseconds) lives up to the “gaming” namesake, though probably not competitively. Screen brightness is rated at 300cd/m2 and dynamic contrast ratio of 500,000:1, typical in most TVs with black levels and shadow details being distinguishable from one another. This aren’t the deepest I’ve ever seen, but the MP28 does a good job resisting ambient lighting.
We put the MP28 through a variety of tests, most of which we figured would appeal to the type of person who’d consider picking one up. For these we used a custom built PC with serious game power, an Xbox One X console and the latest-gen Apple TV 4K. We want to stress the obvious: if you’re the type of gamer that doesn’t blink an eye picking up the latest NVIDIA RTX graphics card, the MP28 probably isn’t for you.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a complete miss – we’ve yet to see another gaming monitor offer these bells and whistles, and certainly none anywhere near this price. Can a cheap 4K/HDR gaming monitor provide the necessary resolution kick you’re wanting?
TV Substitute: Worth It
We chose the Xbox One X because Microsoft’s 4K-powered console doesn’t always play nice with 4K monitors. I’m happy to report this wasn’t the case here as the Monoprice monitor easily passed every requirement, meaning those gamers with the latest Xbox hardware will have their games displayed in the updated resolution and improved with HDR color enhancements. This alone is a big deal, and yet another sign it’s more a TV than monitor.
Traditional games looked great playing on this monitor, even if they didn’t take full advantage of all the fancy new features. Games sporting more traditional 1080p resolutions rendered just about perfectly, as pixelated 8-bit gems like Mega Man Legacy Collection were clean and vivid. The Xbox One has tons of similar games, and everything we played looked great, with no discernible blurring or ghosting that often plagues lower-priced monitors.
This is a 4K HDR display of course, meaning heavy-hitters like Halo 5: Guardians and Forza Horizon 4 took full advantage of the hardware’s features to show off the visual upgrades and added clarity these future formats provide. Twitch gamers will appreciate how this monitor can keep up with the action in Gears of War 4 or render the dreary, depressing landscapes in Red Dead Redemption 2 without a hitch.
Again, we don’t usually see a 4K screen, let alone one with HDR, on a display at this size, and definitely not at this price. Those craving a monitor-sized display to bring out the best in their updated game consoles like the Xbox One X or even Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro, should be more than happy with its performance here, especially if available space is a concern. Those cramped in dorm rooms or overpriced urban apartments should take a serious look at the MP28.
Hit-or-Miss PC Monitor
Remember how I said the MP28 performed better as an TV than as a monitor? As many of you reading this already know, gaming on PC can often feel like an exercise in patience – and it’s not unusual to see many issues like framerates, screen tearing or refresh rates “resolved” with a good gaming monitor. The same goes for HDR, a fantastic development for those who love colors but can be a nightmare of compatibility in the world of PC gaming.
Again, the MP28 is marketed as a gaming monitor, so that’s where we put it through its paces. A marathon of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey was a great start, and the monitor was able to display the game’s lush 4K environments in surprisingly decent HDR colors – provided your PC is equipped to render them. True, 60hz might not be the bleeding-edge refresh rate gamers crave these days, but it’s minimum for playing any modern game and the MP28 holds up nicely.
Everything was running smoothly until we attempted to add a second display, which drove the MP28 into endless handshake loops when attempting to establish a signal. We paired the monitor with similar displays (60hz with both HDMI and DisplayPort cables), even going so far to lower that marquee 4K resolution to keep pace. Sadly, nothing we did could save the experience from blinking black screen hell.
Can the MP28 be used as a standard desktop monitor? Yes, but only if you accept its limitations and it’s in a very controlled space. In such undemanding environments where office documents, photo editing and normal computer tasking was needed the MP28 performed admirably. Desktop apps like Office and web browsing rendered crystal-clear and sharp, with accurate colors and image accuracy in Photoshop, Illustrator and similar programs. The added resolution was also, of course, a godsend to those editors with vision issues – just make sure you’ve got everything scaled correctly!
Not surprisingly, HDR compatibility was hit-or-miss, mostly miss. Honestly, how many of these problems have to do with native Windows compatibility issues with 4K/HDR or poor processing inside the monitor is difficult to tell for certain, but we’ve yet to experience such an inconsistent experience when testing other 4K displays.
For those needing a current 4K/HDR monitor at the absolute cheapest price available, Monoprice has you covered with their MP 28in 4K HDR Gaming Monitor, though results will vary. Those craving the best and brightest should stay far, far away from this display: it’s not premium, doesn’t feel premium, and thinking otherwise will only lead to disappointment and frustration. This display doesn’t play nice with other displays, meaning only those with solo 4K desktop needs should even consider adding one to their workstations. For these purposes, it’s a fine solo display.
Those who game on single-display PCs, or who prefer gaming on 4K powered consoles like the Xbox One X or PS4 Pro (or watching 4K content on the latest Apple TV or Fire TV) should really take a closer look at what’s offered here. While it may not be advertised as such, as a competent 4K HDR TV replacement the MP28 is more than capable, especially as you simply won’t find a comparable screen size offering these features at this price right now.