Most of us just need a TV that can look good next to a bright window, whether for watching sports, movies, shows, or playing video games. It doesn’t need to be a cinematic behemoth that costs $2,000 or more.
The Samsung Q80T sits in this tier. It’s a semi-premium QLED TV with local dimming. It’s bright enough for well-lit rooms and fast enough to work well with modern game systems. There’s even a center pedestal mount so you don’t have to buy an extra-long TV stand.
In the vacuum of Samsung’s dizzying TV lineup, it’s the best TV for anyone who doesn’t drive an import or own Tesla stock. Unfortunately, most people should shop elsewhere. You can get the same tech from competitors like Vizio and TCL for hundreds less.
The New Q
Let’s get one quick thing out of the way. The Q80T made its way to reviewers and store shelves very late last year, and it is technically a 2020 model. It’s currently the newest and cheapest Samsung TV you can get with local dimming, a backlighting feature that allows the screen to dynamically dim parts of the screen while keeping other areas bright, offering richer contrast. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a requirement for any modern TV.
All of our favorite non-OLED displays feature some form of local dimming, from our perennial favorite TCL 6-series on up. That’s why the Q80T is the most basic Samsung model anyone should really consider in 2021.
In the Lineup
It’s not surprising that the bottom end of Samsung’s local dimming line (the Q80T) is more expensive than similar models from TCL and Vizio. Samsung is a high-end TV manufacturer these days. It makes astonishing 8K models, TVs that look like iconic paintings when they’re not in use, and even a weird easel-like TV that rotates so you can watch TikTok videos vertically.
Paying up does net you some perks, like smarter design. The two most immediately noticeable improvements I love are the center pedestal mount for easy placement anywhere and the excellent cable routing in the ribbed area on the back.
The included remote is sleek and simple too, easily allowing you to navigate Samsung’s built-in interface. Speaking of the interface, it has all the apps and features you’ll want, but I find it a touch clunkier than Roku on TCL TVs or Vizio’s SmartCast. It’s no deal-breaker, and the TV does integrate well if you own a Samsung phone or tablet—it’s dead simple to share media between devices.
I’m happy to say you can finally change the voice assistant from the (useless) Bixby to Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant. The TV also works with Apple’s AirPlay, for streaming from iOS devices.
The Q80T’s 55-inch screen has everything I’d look for in a modern display. Local dimming means blacker blacks, and the layer of quantum crystals (QLED) really does enhance color accuracy; the bright red Netflix logo looks amazing, as does any content with punchy colors.
HDMI 2.1 support allows it to output a 120-Hz refresh rate at 4K resolution, making it a great choice for smooth gaming with an Xbox Series X or Playstation 5. The Q80T is even compatible with both AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync, catering to PC gamers that want to hook up to a TV instead of a traditional monitor.
When watching bright 4K content like WandaVision or Our Planet, the screen isn’t washed out at odd angles and retains its bright HDR quality. One odd thing is it supports HDR10 and HDR10+ but lacks Dolby Vision. I wish that standard was included as many Netflix shows use it.
Toggling through the settings, I found it performs best in Filmmaker Mode for everything except games and sports. This mode automatically disables motion smoothing (and the dreaded “soap opera effect”), and puts the TV in a pre-calibrated color mode that meshes better with films and shows.
In Game Mode—which also works great for sports—the TV is a lot bluer and smoother to watch. I didn’t test the Q80T with a next-gen console like the PS5, but it gave me no trouble with my Nintendo Switch. Link’s colorful outfits in Breath of the Wild look fantastic on this screen.
And finally, all modern TV speakers sound terrible (which is why you should get a soundbar). But the Q80T has an interesting array of drivers that fire up, down, and to the sides for a more cinematic audio experience out of the box. They sound better than most TVs but at the end of the day, they’re still built-in TV speakers. You should upgrade down the road.
As a jack-of-all-screens, the Q80T is easily as good as competitors like the TCL 6 Series and Vizio P Series Quantum, except the latter TVs are generally a few hundred dollars less.
The slight physical differences that make it more elegant—great cable routing and a pedestal mount—are probably not enough to make you want to pay the difference.
If you find it on sale or it’s the only mid-tier model around, it’s a great TV and easily nice enough to comfortably last you several years. But if you’ve got time to shop around, go with one of our cheaper favorites and get an Apple TV+ subscription to bask in the relaxing glow of Ted Lasso.