The Optix MAG161V, MSI’s first portable gaming monitor, lacks the signature gaming features of the company’s desktop monitors: a high peak refresh rate, adaptive-sync support, RGB lighting, and a mini-joystick-style menu controller, to name a few. But its inclusion of both USB Type-C and mini-HDMI ports lets you connect it with most any gaming console and many smartphones, in addition to computers. That means you can use it as a good primary gaming screen, or as a second panel for enhancing your productivity, whether at home or on the road. It’s also one of the few portable monitors with built-in stereo speakers. Otherwise, its native resolution, screen size, refresh rate, color quality, and brightness are typical of today’s crop of portable panels: which is to say, all of a piece. It’s solid, but it doesn’t stand out.
A Thin Screen, But an Awkward Stand
The MAG161V measures 8.9 by 14.1 by 0.43 inches (HWD), and it weighs right about two pounds. The maximum thickness of the panel itself is 11mm, which is the bottom section, where the ports reside. This part extends about two inches up the panel, and the rest of the screen above that is an amazingly thin 0.2 inch (about 5mm) thick. The bottom bezel is an inch high, while the top and side bezels are just 0.2 inch.
ThinkVision M14, which has a 14-inch screen that is also just 0.2 inch thick. The main difference: The M14’s frame is hinged so that the bottom portion, which houses the ports, folds behind the screen and acts as a sturdy and adjustable stand.
Lepow 15.6-inch USB-C Portable Monitor. (The Lepow has a similarly floppy stand.)
On the left side of the MAG161V are a power switch, an audio-out jack, and a wheel for controlling the onscreen display (OSD) to adjust basic settings such as brightness, color mode, contrast, and volume. The control wheel, which you rotate to switch settings and then press to enter, isn’t all that intuitive to use. It took some practice to learn.
Testing the MAG161V: A Typical Portable Panel
We measured the luminance of the MAG161V’s panel at 192.2 nits (candelas per meter squared), a little brighter than MSI’s own 180-nit rating and within the narrow brightness range in which most portable monitors fall. Two notable exceptions are both Editors’ Choice models: the Lenovo ThinkVision M14 mentioned earlier, which produced a brilliant 280 nits in our testing, and the Asus ZenScreen Touch, which tested at 240 nits.
We tested the MAG161V’s contrast ratio at 1,066:1, also better than its 700:1 rating. (See how we test monitors.) In our color-coverage testing, the MAG161V covered a mere 64.4 percent of the sRGB spectrum (see the chart below). This is the color space used for the web and many applications.
AOC I1601FWUX USB-C Portable Monitor, just 61.4 percent of sRGB. The one exception is, again, the Lenovo ThinkVision M14, which turned in 97 percent sRGB coverage in our testing.
AMD Ryzen 9 3950X processor, an MSI X570 motherboard, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super GPU—with the MAG161V to play some Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Unsurprisingly, with its 60Hz refresh rate, gameplay was pedestrian if you’re used to play on a “true” high-refresh gaming monitor. It would be a better fit for casual gamers, or mobile Nintendo Switch players who also have access to the hookups for powering the panel while they play.
The highly portable MSI Optix MAG161V lacks the wealth of gaming features found in MSI’s desktop monitors, but it gets high marks for connectivity, letting you use it (in some cases with the aid of an adapter cable) with a wide range of mobile devices, gaming consoles, and computers. Its built-in speakers, though modest, are rare on portable monitors and can provide sound when needed.
These features, similar to those found on the Lepow 15.6-inch portable monitor, make it a good choice at least for casual gamers, not serious shooter hounds or esports types. For a general-purpose business and personal auxiliary monitor, we still recommend the Lenovo ThinkVision M14 (despite its smaller 14-inch screen). It’s bright, with great image and color quality, and it packs a highly adjustable, user-friendly stand.
|Panel Size (Corner-to-Corner)||15.6 inches|
|Native Resolution||1920 by 1080|
|Rated Screen Luminance||180 cd/m^2|
|Rated Contrast Ratio||700:1|
|Pixel Refresh Rate||60 Hz|
|Video Inputs||HDMI, USB-C|
|USB Ports (Excluding Upstream)||1|
|VESA DisplayHDR Level||NA|
|Dimensions (HWD)||8.9 by 14.1 by 0.4 inches|
|Warranty (Parts/Labor)||2 years|