The top-end of the gaming monitor market expands in a few directions - size, speed, resolution, and so on - and the AOC Agon PD32M looks to grab as many of those threads as possible and smash them all together in a premium display that costs a pretty penny. Well, $1,799 to be exact.
It's premium, but this is a thing of beauty on the inside and outside, and offers a spec list to make the most expensive gaming TV blush. With looks to beautifully complement a minimalist gaming setup, the AOC Agon PD32M has the promise to be one of the best gaming monitors to enter the market in 2022, and perhaps for a good long while.
I've lived with the monitor for a while, using it for work and play - on PC and console - and let me tell you, this is possibly the brightest gaming monitor I have ever seen, and it throws in a bunch of premium features too. But does this automatically mean it's one of the best 4K monitors? The signs are promising but what's it like in reality?
While this is a big monitor, it is sleek and modern, and very cool in its aesthetic. Having reviewed the AOC PD27 a couple of years ago, the PD32M is instantly recognisable to me as being from the Porsche Design school. Matte black and steel finishes abound and it's a symphony in class. It's almost 'classier' than the PD27, really too.
The PD27 was a curved monitor with a sizeable stand evoking a car's roll cage, taking up some serious desk real estate and stopping it from being VESA mounted. The PD32M is a little more restrained in that sense, and is VESA compatible - though it is a bit on the heavy side, at 8.29kg without the stand. Despite being a flat monitor, the PD27 does take up a bunch of desk space: the legs span to a maximum distance of about 50cm, and the front to back measurement is a good 30cm or so.
The PD32M is a 4K, 32-inch monitor with an IPS panel, and Mini-LED backlighting, offering up to 144Hz refresh rates, and a GtG response time of 1ms. The specifications also state a Vesa Display HDR 1400 and a peak brightness rating of 1600 nits, which is just bonkers. 'Most' gaming monitors have somewhere in the 300-500 range of brightness, and the new Alienware QD-OLED AW3423DW has a rating of 1,000 nits so this is huge if true.
This is an unbelievable sheet of monitor specs, and if you were to write a tick list, this crosses off a bunch of them all in one hit. The only thing 'missing' is G-Sync, but you are well served by its FreeSync cousin.
To utilise all the gaming chops, you're well set with ports too: there's one DisplayPort 1.4, USB-C connectivity (for display and charging) a USB hub, and two HDMI 2.1s. Yes, two HDMI 2.1s. This factor means the PD32M can be pointed at those with new-gen consoles as well as PC gamers - or, indeed, those folks who have both.
The finishing touches are the healthy onboard menu with a bunch of settings to help you tweak and optimise - more on that later - and some funky RGB lighting, as well as some surprisingly decent speakers (which will take you by surprise on every boot-up of the monitor).
There's also the same triangular remote control that featured with the PD27, and, in a relentlessly boring but necessary take, I do feel the need to tell that the power brick is enormous. Obviously, that helps to supply the monitor and all its ports with enough juice, but, seriously, you could kill a man with that thing.
As soon as I turned the PD32M I was immediately hit by the brightness. Boy, is the brightness actually there - you can tell this has got beans and that HDR1400 rating isn't an exaggeration. But it wasn't a one-off in this regard: having lived with the monitor I can tell you it's the brightest gaming screen I have ever used.
But with that comes a few small challenges. And that is that it is sometimes too bright - to the point of oversaturation. I was spending a lot of time diving straight into the menus and increasing and decreasing levels and brightness, making HDR changes, and so on. Even if it didn't get to 1400 peak brightness and only got to 1000 or so, it would still be way brighter than most.
The out-of-the-box image is good, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't perfect and you will need to do some calibration to find your perfect setting or settings. The built-in presets for a range of games do offer good choices, but I did find it tricky to find the right balance and to find it quickly. This is especially difficult when it comes to finding the elusive, all-purpose, set-and-forget balance that we all want. (Nobody wants to be going into menus every time you change from work to play.)
However, this does really reveal how bright the AOC AGON PD32M actually is, and how well it does colours and contrasts. and that is to say: very well indeed. It passes all the usual tests with flying colours - those UFOs looked smooth and bright as heck - and this type of performance is backed up in my day-to-day, real-world testing. Once you do hit that right color balance, you will find a monitor that gives you the most glorious of gaming experiences no matter what you play.
Naturally, you'll need something at the very top end of the best gaming PC and best graphics card lists to enjoy this thing in all its 4K glory with high framerates. But if you can, then you are in for a treat. Gaming in 4K at 144Hz is tremendous and I'm not sure my eyes can go back to anything else now. Control is even more cinematic than I remember, the simplest of shapes and colours in Red Alert Remastered pop beautifully, and Apex Legends is a different game running in such quality and at such speeds. As a cherry on the top, I was also deeply impressed by the PD32M's performance as a PS5 monitor. The HDMI 2.1 ports make this seamless, the games look superb on it, and you're keeping that door to 120Hz on console games open too.
As for the extras? I felt the RGB lighting was a little unnecessary and, along with the extending headset hangers on either side, could easily be sacrificed - particularly if it would shave even a bit off the price tag. Even against a wall, the RGB lighting was just fine - nothing more. It's the on-screen performance that does the talking and does more than enough to immerse you.
If you have an itch for a premium panel to fit a setup that has, say, a new-gen console as well as a mid-level PC then this could be perfect. Chef's kiss levels of perfect. Provided you have the machine to power it, it'll pump out quality pictures and games no matter what. 4K, 144Hz, super bright and colorful, dark and murky, whatever, it does it beautifully with clarity, depth, and detail.
Overall - should you buy the AOC AGON PD32M?
On performance alone, the PD32M is a brilliant monitor. It's a truly premium experience, and to get all that offered in one screen is something spectacular. If you're looking to invest in a display that ticks all the boxes, then the PD32M will not let you down and you will not regret it.
I can imagine the PD32M being particularly at home in a PC-and-console gaming desk setup - even one with work factored in too. If you don't need ultrawide or curves, then this could be the one gaming monitor to rule them all.
However, the $1,799 price tag will put people off - and do so quickly. At first, that cost does seem just enormous, and insurmountable. However, when you start adding it all up, it's not too bad. Factoring in all the qualities - the Mini-LED backlighting, 4K resolution, 144Hz, and so on, the nearest rival might be something like the ASUS PG32UQX which is basically twice the price of the PD32M.
However, as I said in my Herman Miller X Logitech Emobdy gaming chair review, spending this much will be a personal matter in 2022 - but it's a decision that could well be right for some folks if the proposition and setup are right. If you're someone who likes to make big investments to get things right, rather than spending more on cheap gaming monitors over the long term, then this could absolutely be it - as long as you've got the kit to make the most of it.
The AOC AGON PD32M monitor is due out on June 15, 2022.
How we tested the AOC AGON PD32M
The PD32M became my main monitor for PC play and office work and stayed like that for a good long while. Even while on a standing desk with annoying shelves above, the big monitor was my main screen - either pushed back when the desk was down or brought forward when it was up to avoid the shelves (note: this is definitely too close.)
This meant I could test the monitor from everyday work tasks to late-night gaming sessions. The former put the monitor through the rigours of incredible amounts of Chrome tabs, spreadsheets, and other file and image management tasks, while the latter saw me test the screen with games of all genres from Strategy games like Total War: Troy, to action games like Control, and from fast shooters like Apex Legends to those with incredible environments like Prey and Red Dead Redemption 2.
We're also rounding up all the best monitors for Xbox Series X and the best G-Sync monitors if you're after more inspiration. Of course, for on-the-go gaming, we'd also recommend taking a look at the best portable gaming monitors as well.
Reviewed with a Razer Blade 15 laptop supplied by Razer.