BenQ EX3203R review: A 32-inch curved monitor with HDR and FreeSync

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BenQ EX3203R monitor

The BenQ EX3203R offers great features for gaming like FreeSync2, HDR, and 144Hz refresh rates.

9.3/10 rating

There’s no question we review a lot of stuff here at Techaeris. Besides laptops and phones, monitors are probably the next biggest thing we review. I previously had the opportunity to review the BenQ EX3501R UWQHD curved monitor which earned a Top Pick of 2018 Award. I ended up purchasing one for work after I had to send it back – it was that good and I’ve enjoyed using it on a daily basis. Monitors are getting bigger and wider, but not everyone has the desk space for some of the newer models.

The BenQ EX3203R is a 31.5-inch curved monitor that tries to hit the sweet spot for gaming and entertainment with FreeSync 2 support, HDR support, and 144Hz refresh rate. Our BenQ EX3203R review takes a look at the slightly smaller 32” QHD curved monitor and while mostly similar in specifications, it does vary in a couple of key ways. Read on to see how it compares to its “bigger brother.”

Specifications

The BenQ EX3203R 32-inch curved monitor has the following features and specifications:

  • Screen Size: 31.5-inches
  • Resolution (max.): 2560×1440
  • Panel Type: VA
  • Backlight Technology: LED backlight
  • Brightness: 400
  • Curvature: 1800R
  • Native Contrast (typical): 3000:1
  • Viewing Angle (L/R;U/D) (CR>=10): 178/178
  • Response Time: 4ms (GtG)
  • Refresh Rate: 144Hz
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9
  • Display Colors: 16.7 million colors
  • Color Gamut: 90% DCI-P3
  • Display Area (mm): 27.45×15.44
  • Curvature: 1800R
  • PPI: 93
  • DCR (Dynamic Contrast Ratio) (typical): 20,000,000 : 1
  • Color Bit: 8 bit
  • Audio: Headphone Jack
  • Monitor Color: Gray
  • Color Temperature: Reddish/Normal/Bluish/User mode
  • K Locker: Yes
  • HDCP: 2.2
  • VESA Wall Mount: via VESA wall mount transfer kit
  • AMA (Advanced Motion Accelerator): Yes
  • Eye CareFlicker-free Technology: Yes
  • Low Blue Light: Yes
  • Brightness Intelligence Plus (B.I.+): Yes
  • Super Resolution: Yes
  • FreeSync2: Yes
  • HDMI: HDMI (v2.0) x2
  • DisplayPort: Yes
  • USB Type-C: Yes (PD10W, DP Alt mode, Data)
  • Tilt (down/up): -5˚ – 20˚
  • Height Adjustment (mm): 60mm
  • OSD Language: 18 languages (English / Francais / Deutsch / Italiano / Español / Polish / Czech / Hungarian / Serbo-croatian / Romanian / Netherlands / Russian / Swedish / Portuguese Arab / Japanese / Korean/ Chinese / S-Chinese)
  • Voltage Rating: 100 – 240V
  • Power Supply: Adapter
  • Dimensions (HxWxD): 21.10 x 28.06 x 8.81 inches
  • Net Weight (kg): 8.1 kg

What’s in the box

  • BenQ EX3203R
  • Power adapter
  • HDMI cable
  • Mini-DP to DisplayPort cable
  • USB Type-C cable
  • Installation Guide
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Driver CD

Design

Like other BenQ monitors, the BenQ EX3203R has a pretty slick design. With a greyish silver colored back, the panel is framed with a thin bezel on the sides and top and a thicker 3/4-inch bezel on the bottom. The BenQ logo is centered in silver on the bottom bezel with the brightness sensor unit underneath it.

The BenQ EX3203R monitor
The BenQ EX3203R monitor.

Seven buttons are located on the underside of the right edge of the monitor and include (from left to right) power, source, and five additional ones for menu options. Pressing any of these five buttons brings up the menu options allowing you to adjust Picture Mode (Standard, HDR, Cinema HDR, sRGB, Photo, Gamer1, Gamer2, Gamer3, Custom1, Custome2, and M-book), adjust the Contrast and Brightness, enable PIP (picture-in-picture) or PBP (picture-by-picture) modes, adjust Low Blue Light, Color Vibrance, Super Resolution, Dynamic Contrast, Freesync, USB-C configuration, enable and adjust Brightness Intelligence+, audio volume, and various system settings. You can also assign shortcuts to three of these buttons for faster access to settings you access regularly.

The monitor itself is about 1/2-inch thick on the top and sides and about 1 1/2-inches thick on the bottom. On the back of the monitor, like the EX3501R, the words “BenQ Curved Monitor” are printed about two inches from the top of the monitor in a dark grey. The bottom portion of the back of the monitor is black, starting about four inches on the far edges and curving down to about two-and-a-half inches in the middle.

Back view of the BenQ EX3203R monitor
Back view of the BenQ EX3203R monitor.

In the middle of the back is a removable panel under which the various ports reside. From left to right (when facing the back of the monitor) these are the power, 3.5mm headphone jack, 2x HDMI, DisplayPort, 2x USB-A, and USB Type-C ports. The cover snaps on and covers the cables for a nice clean look.

Like its wider sibling, the monitor is connected to the monitor stand just above the middle of the monitor. The hinge where the stand is attached to the monitor allows the monitor to slide up and down just over an extra two-and-a-quarter inches, as well as tilt forward and back for optimal viewing. The monitor stand has the BenQ logo centered near the top. Just under three-and-a-half inches in width, the stand extends vertically about eight inches before bending outwards away from the monitor slightly for another six inches. About three-and-a-half inches from the bottom is a circle two inches in diameter for cord management.

The feet at the bottom of the stand are finished in a bright silver polished plastic — as is the inside of the cord management cutout — and extend out at about 45º for eleven inches or so. The feet themselves are pretty narrow and sleek looking but provide plenty of support and balance for the monitor.

Display

So here’s the thing. I use the BenQ EX3501R for about 7 hours a day, five days a week and I love it. Given that the BenQ EX3203R is fairly similar, I expected the display, albeit a different resolution to be as crisp and clear, to be as good as the EX3501R, if not slightly better. The EX3203R has a few improvements including a 400 nits brightness (as opposed to 300), 3000:1 native contrast (versus 2500:1), and covers 90% DCI-P3 as opposed to 100% sRGB. Aside from 144Hz max refresh rate, the EX3501R only has 100Hz, they both use the same VA panel, are LED backlit, and have BenQ’s Brightness Intelligence Plus technology.

he BenQ EX3203R monitor is a VA LED backlit panel with 144Hz max refresh rate and 90% DCI-P3 colour gamut
The BenQ EX3203R monitor is a VA LED backlit panel with 144Hz max refresh rate and 90% DCI-P3 colour gamut.

However, even though both have a 1440p QHD vertical resolution, the EX3203R is actually 3 1/2-inches taller in height (including bezels). This translates into a PPI of 93 for this monitor while the larger and wider EX3501R has a PPI of 103. One would think that wouldn’t make that much of a difference but when I first unpacked and starting using this monitor, I couldn’t help but feel the text and screen wasn’t quite as crisp as my daily monitor. After comparing dimensions and PPI, it does make sense.

That being said, the EX3203R is still fairly crisp and if you aren’t directly comparing it to the EX3501R. Colours are decent as well, even though it has a different colour gamut coverage, and the display worked well for basic tasks, photo editing, gaming, and video consumption.

As mentioned in our previous review, the monitor has a curvature of 1800R, which translates into 1800mm (or 1.8m) of curvature would make a full circle. Given that the curvature of the human eye is 1000R, we’re getting pretty close with this monitor.

Performance

While the EX3501R does support HDR, the EX3203R is DisplayHDR 400 certified. A newer certification which hinges largely on brightness, this is the lower end of the certification spectrum. As with previous monitors with HDR support, for the most part, this one was used in Standard mode with BenQ’s BI+ enabled. Even though Windows 10 supports HDR, daily tasks just aren’t suited for it.

Games and supported video content, on the other hand, are a different story. Forza Horizon 7 looked fantastic with HDR and the BI+ modes enabled. The same went with Netflix content that supports HDR as well.

One feature that BenQ includes time and time again with some of their monitors is the Brightness Intelligence+ mode with Eye-care technology. Again, I’ll just quote what I said before in our EX3501R and EW3270U for simplicity sake:

One feature that I found I like way more than I thought I would is the BI+ mode. I know I’ve mentioned it a few times but haven’t really explained it yet. BenQ’s Brightness Intelligence Plus Technology detects ambient brightness and colour temperature to not only adjust brightness automatically but also adjust the color temperature to match your current environment. By automatically adjusting the brightness and color tone, BI+ also helps reduce eye strain. I was a bit skeptical at first but after the first day using BI+, it became a no brainer to keep it enabled full time.

BenQ’s Brightness Intelligence Plus Technology is one of my favourite features on the BenQ monitors.
BenQ’s Brightness Intelligence Plus Technology (sensor shown above) is one of my favourite features on the BenQ monitors.

FreeSync is mostly offered with AMD Radeon video cards, although some FreeSync monitors are now GSync compatible as well. At any rate, FreeSynce allows for smoother gameplay and higher refresh rates.

FreeSync™ 2 technology offers supremely smooth gaming experiences with the enhanced support of HDR content. Gamers can fully enjoy the sharpened details and clarity of the HDR games and fluid gaming enjoyment without image tearing, broken frames, and choppy gameplay.

BenQ website

Used primarily with a DisplayPort connection, the monitor functions just as well with HDMI and USB Type-C connections as well, for supported computers and laptops. The computers I tested this monitor with have NVIDIA cards, however, I did hook it up to my Xbox One X to test the FreeSync option. It worked well with gameplay smooth and stutter free.

The BenQ EX3203R has HDMI, DisplayPort, and USB-C video ports
The BenQ EX3203R has HDMI, DisplayPort, and USB-C video ports.

Price/Value

With an MSRP of US$699.99, the BenQ EX3203R is currently on sale at Amazon for $599.99. Personally, if I was purchasing a new curved monitor, I’d stick with the larger EX3501R for a couple of hundred dollars more. Not only does it offer more real estate, but the display also seems to be better suited for both gaming and all around productivity use.

However, if you don’t have the desk space or money, the EX3203R offers decent value, especially at the current sale price and if you intend on using it primarily for gaming with HDR support.

Wrap-up

The BenQ EX3203R offers great features for gaming like FreeSync2, HDR, and 144Hz refresh rates. While a decent enough monitor, and great for gaming, unfortunately it falls a bit short for general productivity use.

*We were sent a review unit of the BenQ EX3203R 32-inch curved monitor for the purposes of this review. In some of our articles and especially in our reviews, you will find Amazon or other affiliate links. Running a website does take money, along with time. Any purchases you make through these links often result in a small amount being earned for the site and/or our writers.

BenQ EX3203R

US$699.99
9.3

Design

9.5/10

Display

9.0/10

Performance

9.5/10

Price/Value

9.0/10

Nailed it

  • Decent picture, especially for gaming at higher refresh rates
  • Adjustable tilt
  • Adjustable height
  • DisplayPort, HDMI, and USB Type-C connections
  • Includes DP, HDMI, and USB-C cables

Needs work

  • HDR in general is still hit and miss
  • Picture doesn't seem as crisp as some other BenQ monitors for daily tasks

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