The Samsung Q80T is the most affordable 2020 QLED TV to offer a full-array backlight, for more precise HDR and greater contrast.
It's a justifiable middle ground for buyers looking to bag a high-spec Samsung QLED 4K TV. Available in screen sizes ranging from 49 to 85 inches (we checked out the 65-inch QE65Q80T), the Q80T also boasts the majority of the brand’s most sought-after features like Object Sound Tracking 3D audio, the latest iteration of the Tizen connected TV platform and advanced gaming tech that's ready for new features in the PlayStation 5 and Xbox One X.
Samsung heard the cries for a cheaper option than the mainstream OLED TVs, and the Q80T was their answer. If you’re shortlisting a premium performer for both home cinema and next-gen gaming, the Q80T will be a very tempting option.
Samsung Q80T review: Price and features
The Q80T comes in 49-, 55-, 65-, 75- and 85-inch screen sizes. You’ll find the 65-inch model we tested for around £2,299/$1,800. It’s effectively a replacement for last year's Q70R, albeit with upgraded sound, image processing and game handling.
Smart connectivity is via Samsung’s familiar Tizen smart platform, which is well-stocked for streaming services. Ambient Mode, which turns the TV into a photo gallery or news ticker when the set’s not in use, also makes a return.
New this year is Mobile Multi View mode, with Casting. With this you can beam your mobile screen to the TV, and watch both side-by-side. One scenario would be to mix social chit chat and viewing. A better use might be gamers who want to sync their play with someone streaming on Twitch.
One feature missing from the Q80T is Samsung’s Ultra Wide Angle technology, which is assigned to the step-up Q90T model (Samsung's highest-end 4K model of 2020). The Q80T also lacks that model’s contrast enhancing anti-reflective screen. Neither are probably deal breakers, but they'd be nice to have in the average living room, where you might be viewing in sunlight, or sitting at an odd angle.
Samsung Q80T review: Picture performance
Lights, colours, action! The Q80T offers all the familiar attributes of Samsung’s QLED models. It’s natively bright and wondrously colour rich. The Q80T also produces a convincing black level performance, thanks to that aforementioned full array backlight, with local dimming.
Image processing comes courtesy of Samsung’s 4K Quantum upscaler, which now uses AI techniques developed for 8K sets originally to improve image interpolation and texture creation.
If the Q80T has one talent that sets its apart from the competition, it’s the ability to believably upscale low-res sources. Indeed, it probably offers the best upscaling of any 4K screen we’ve seen to date.
Whether you watch low res streams, or spin your favourite Blu-rays (or even DVDs), it effortlessly reduces jagged edges, smoothes gradations, and makes things just look silky. It’s impact on streaming services is profound. You’ll quickly take for granted the ace job the silicon is doing, until you try and watch the same stuff on another set, and realise how mucky it is.
The Q80T doesn’t require a great deal of coaxing to produce impressive images. The two main image presets – Natural and Standard – cover most content you’ll want to watch. Natural gives the more contrasty image, at the expense of shadow detail. This trait isn’t noticeable in rooms with appreciable levels of ambient light.
Black level and HDR handling all benefit from the Q80T’s local dimming provision. Samsung won’t officially confirm how many zones there are on this set, but we strongly suspect there’s around 50, comparable to last year’s Q70R.
This isn’t enough to completely control backlight blooming, and we noticed some splodges of light from bright objects on black backgrounds. The effect is most obvious on letterbox movies, where an explosion or light source can momentarily pollute the black bar above or below.
The set’s Movie preset, which makes the least use of the Q80T’s natural talents, is at least useful here as it reduces the blooming effect.
Last year's Q80R model performed more strongly in this area – given the price of this set, it's a shame that the backlight dimming performance isn't a bit stronger. Of course, it's still one of the best in the business, but with the older Q80R model currently selling for around £1,000 less than this new version, yet outperforming it in dimming and overall brightness, it makes the price of this model feel little steep).
The Q80T’s HDR performance is extremely good. We measured peak brightness at just under 900 nits, which is high enough to negate the need to tone map a great deal of HDR source material. This is stronger than most OLED TVs can manage, though it's as good as Samsung gets with its higher end TVs (and, again, last year's Q80R model was better).
There’s still no compatibility with Dolby Vision (Samsung refuses to play ball), but we do get support for rival dynamic metadata format HDR10+, as favoured by Amazon Prime, as well as regular HDR10 and broadcast HLG.
While the Q80T isn’t short of tweakable picture parameters, we would generally advise against experimentation. Still, gamers might want to use the Dynamic Black Equaliser to inject brightness into darker scenes. The resulting image is less accurate, and looks quite ugly, but it does reveal assailants hiding in the gloom. All’s fair in love and Warzone…
Gamers can maximise image performance, but keep lag down by using Game Motion Plus. Even with this cocktail switched on, image lag is an entirely respectable 19.7ms (1080/60). Switched off, for maximum game, image lag plummets to just 8.7ms, which is blisteringly fast for a telly.
Motion handling is above average, making this set a good option for sports fans. There’s a choice of Auto or Custom modes, the latter offering adjustable blur and judder reduction. For movies, we still advocate that it’s turned off though.
Samsung Q80T review: Sound quality
There’s more to the Q80T’s audio system than first meets the ear.
Samsung describes the set’s speaker configuration as 2.2.2, because in addition to downward firing stereo drivers and woofers, the set features additional speakers on the top left and right rear; these are all but invisible save for two small vents.
The additional drivers allow the TV to create a soundstage with exaggerated sonic height. This expanded speaker array works with OTS (Object Tracking Sound) technology, which cleverly steers sounds around to match movements. It’s not 3D audio, because as you listen the sound is still very much anchored to one central point, but the sonic result is bigger and more involving sound than the usual down-firing television noise.
The system reveals extra sonic detail. Explosions throw their weight wider; dialogue seems more fully formed, no longer muffled beneath the screen. This isn't high-fidelity, and it's not comparable to what we've heard Bowers & Wilkins execute on some Philips OLED TVs, but it is a step up from the norm. Samsung rates the total audio output at 60W, more than enough welly to startle the cat.
Of course, there are limits though to what those onboard drivers can achieve. There’s no bass output below 100Hz.
If you want cinematic Dolby Atmos you can always bitstream out from the set over HDMI to a waiting soundbar or home cinema system.
Samsung Q80T review: Design and usability
The Q80T may pack in a lot of features, but that extra girth used for the full-array backlight means it’s not the sexiest Samsung screen you’ll seen. It lacks the superb design aesthetic of the top-of-the line 8K model, the Samsung Q950TS, and it’s not as immediately eye-catching as the edge-lit Q70T (which doesn't need to be as thick).
On the plus side, when viewed front on, the set looks absolutely fine. The bezel is very slim, and the single central pedestal stand will work with any type of AV furniture (if you’re not wall mounting).
The Q80T doesn’t come with a One Connect Box, Samsung’s ambitious outboard input and tuner gadget. Instead, there’s conventional connectivity provided on the rear.
Four HDMIs offer a number of features often associated with the HDMI 2.1 spec. There’s eARC for lossless audio passthrough to an external soundbar or receiver, and it supports 4K video at 120fps, VRR (Variable Refresh rate) and ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) game modes, plus FreeSync support for PC AMD gamers.
The set comes with two remote controls, one a traditional multi-button wand, the other a simplified pointer.
While there’s no Freeview Play tuner for UK users, Samsung has gathered together all the mainstream UK catch-up channels, plus Netflix, Prime Video, Apple TV, Rakuten TV, Disney+, BT TV and YouTube, amongst others.
It also throws a bunch of channels, delivered over IP, into the mix under the Samsung Plus TV channel umbrella. Navigating all this is fast and relatively straightforward.
Samsung Q80T review: Verdict
The Q80T is a formidable 4K performer that warrants a premium price tag overall.
While it lacks Dolby Vision support, it’s an intrinsically bright HDR performer that’s absolutely perfect for daylight viewing, or in rooms with generally high levels of ambient light. And its OTS sound system is genuinely impressive.
Our issue with giving it an even stronger recommendation is the wider context in which it's releasing. We mentioned that its screen tech is actually slightly behind last year's Samsung Q80R model, and the 65-inch version of that set is now around £1,399 while the 55-inch version is down under £1,000. It's had huge price cuts recently, in anticipation of this model releasing, but right now it's still available, and for people who are focused on watching movies and TV that's more our recommendation.
Again, for people focused on image quality for a movie experience, last year's LG OLED TVs are a really good option too – the LG C9 is not far off the Q80T for brightness, but gives the fantastic contrast performance of OLED, which is noticeably more precise in dark areas than the Q80T can manage. The 65-inch LG C9 is around £200 less than the Samsung Q80T – and it actually includes most of the same gaming-friendly features, though isn't quite as good for low latency.
For gamers looking for a TV bright enough to play during the day with sunlight spilling in, and future-proofed with features that make the most of next-gen consoles, the Q80T also offers a simply fantastic gaming experience. Image lag is jaw-droppingly low, making it a serious proposition for esports and competitive tourneys. QLED is guaranteed screen burn free, which will be an additional comfort if you’re planning heavy console usage.
UPDATE: Our LG CX review is in, and LG's 2020 OLED range shows itself to be a truly powerful gaming machine. It has even more gaming features than the Q80T (such as Nvidia G-Sync), best-in-class performance in dark areas, and a low latency in its gaming mode than matches the speediness of the Q80T. However, depending on the size you're looking it, can be around £500/$700 more than the Q80T (it is for the 65-inch version – for the Europe-only 48-inch CX, it's actually just £100 more for the LG than the 49-inch Q80T).
The CX is the superior TV overall, but the saving is enough to buy yourself one of the next-gen consoles, and the Q80T is still excellent. The Q80T also offers a little more brightness and no chance image burn-in (even if that's a very low likelihood on OLEDs in practice anyway).