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With so many incredible, premium TVs crowding store shelves and online listings, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that we’re living in a golden age of impressive, budget-friendly TVs, too. Of this class of TVs, two have recently stood out to us: the Vizio M-Series and the Samsung AU8000.
Despite their affordability, these TVs offer an impressive amount of upside for folks on a budget and shoppers who don’t necessarily need a host of features to keep them happy. But given their similarities, it takes a keen eye to sort through their differences—and that’s where we come in. We’ve tested both of these TVs extensively in order to help you make the right decision. Below we break down each model by price, design, features, and performance.
Before we take a look at their respective prices, note that these are the original price points of these TVs and not necessarily the prices you’ll encounter while shopping today. At the time of publication, both of these TVs are almost a year old, making them ideal candidates for deep discounts.
For clarity’s sake, we’ll be comparing the original MSRP of each model. First, let’s take a look at the M-Series.
Vizio M-Series (MQ6):
Similar to the previous year’s M-Series, whose Q7 and Q8 variants featured different hardware specs, the newest M-Series is also available in two variants: the MQ7 and the MQ6. Despite differences in hardware, both variants fall under the M-Series namesake for the purposes of Vizio’s 2021/2022 lineup. We’ll be focusing on the MQ6 version of the M-Series.
There are six size options available for the MQ6 variant, with the smallest being 43 inches and the largest being 75 inches. At the time of writing, none of these sizes exceeds $1,000—not even the jumbo-sized 75-inch model.
- 43-inch (M43Q6-J), MSRP $399.99
- 50-inch (M50Q6-J), MSRP $529.99
- 55-inch (M55Q6-J), MSRP $579.99
- 65-inch (M65Q6-J), MSRP $679.99
- 70-inch (M70Q6-J), MSRP $849.99
- 75-inch (M75Q6-J), MSRP $999.99
Next, let’s take a look at how the Samsung AU8000 compares.
Like the M-Series, the AU8000 is available in six sizes. But while the M-Series’ two largest sizes are 70 and 75 inches, the AU8000’s two biggest sizes are 75 and 85 inches.
- 43-inch (Samsung UN43AU8000FXZA), MSRP $449.99
- 50-inch (Samsung UN50AU8000FXZA), MSRP $529.99
- 55-inch (Samsung UN55AU8000FXZA), MSRP $599.99
- 65-inch (Samsung UN65AU8000FXZA), MSRP $699.99
- 75-inch (Samsung UN75AU8000FXZA), MSRP $1,099.99
- 85-inch (Samsung UN85AU8000FXZA), MSRP $1,799.99
The AU8000’s larger-than-life, 85-inch option is sure to be appreciated by bargain hunters on the prowl for a big screen TV, but the M-Series’ friendlier price points across the board are enough to put it over the top.
Our pick: Vizio M-Series
The M-Series will look familiar to anyone who’s been keeping up with TV design trends in recent years: a charcoal-colored panel fixed atop wide-set, boomerang-shaped feet. The panel itself is rather chunky for modern TVs, with most of its bulk contained to the bottom half of the chassis.
The AU8000 is similar in its design approach: a charcoal-colored panel propped up by two wide-set feet. However, the AU8000’s feet are short and flat, keeping the TV quite close to whatever surface it rests upon. It’s an attractive setup, if only because the feet are flat—not angular.
At first blush, the AU8000 might appear to provide an inadequate amount of vertical real estate for a soundbar. Fortunately, the TV’s feet can be set to a secondary position that raises the panel even further.
The thinness of the AU8000 is worth calling out, too, as it gives this model an air of sophistication. Between its multiple stand positions and its svelte appearance, we’re giving this category to the AU8000.
Our pick: Samsung AU8000
Features and smart platform
Before we get into their differences, let’s take a look at the specs and features shared by both of these mid-range smart TVs:
- Resolution: 4K (3,840 x 2,160)
- HDR support: HDR10, HDR10+, HLG
- Dolby Atmos: Yes (via HDMI eARC/ARC, no onboard decoding)
- eARC support: Yes
- Native refresh rate: 60Hz
- Color: DCI-P3 color space/10-bit chroma resolution
- Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM): Yes
- Other features: Google Assistant, Alexa, Apple AirPlay 2
Despite their similar set of features, there are two areas where the M-Series has an edge over its rival: HDR support and gaming.
While both of these TVs are HDR TVs, only the M-Series supports Dolby Vision, which is considered by most to be the strictest HDR benchmark. I’ll get into why this might not matter as much as you think in the performance section, but it’s nevertheless a nice feature to have in tow.
Although both TVs support Auto Low Latency Mode, only the M-Series supports Variable Refresh Rate for smoother, artifact-free gaming up to 60Hz. If you own (or plan on buying) an Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5, the M-Series has a massive advantage over the AU8000 for its VRR support alone.
Of all of its features, the AU8000’s smart platform is its best asset. Most of the streaming apps you’re expecting to find—Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and Disney+, for example—are either pre-loaded out of the box or can be added via an app store. There are also a handful of extras to round out the experience, like a web browser and support for the Samsung Health software suite.
The M-Series, meanwhile, runs Vizio’s SmartCast platform, which can’t really compete with Samsung’s Tizen software. For most folks, SmartCast is good enough. Big-name streaming apps like Disney+, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video are accounted for. For added functionality, SmartCast also supports Chromecast, which lets users cast content to the screen from most mobile devices.
Unfortunately, SmartCast does not offer an app store, which means you’re locked into a selection of software chosen by Vizio. In addition, while the user interface is simple and easy to understand, navigation is sluggish–especially when compared to Samsung’s platform.
Despite our preference for Samsung’s smart platform, it simply cannot outclass the M-Series in the features department. The M-Series is better equipped for cinematic content given its Dolby Vision support, and it’s better equipped for gaming thanks to its VRR support.
If you’re not planning on pairing your new TV with an external streaming device and you don’t particularly care about enhanced gaming functionality, the AU8000 might be your own personal winner for this category. But otherwise, the M-Series offers the better toolbox.
Our pick: Vizio M-Series
The M-Series and AU8000 are far from the top of their respective manufacturers’ TV lineups, so their pictures aren’t exactly dressed to the nines. They’re nevertheless great options for the price, and if you know what you’re looking for, it’s easy to see where their strengths and weaknesses lie.
First, let’s talk about contrast. The M-Series uses a full-array, direct LED backlight for its display. There’s no local dimming here, save for some meager software dimming. Without much control over how its brightness is allocated, the M-Series struggles to deliver detail during dark scenes, to gradate shadows and to minimize light bloom.
For High Dynamic Range content (HDR), the M-Series hardly scratches 300 nits of peak brightness—it’s barely bright enough to deliver a meaningfully different experience in HDR vs SDR. So while it’s nice to have the M-Series’ Dolby Vision support in your back pocket, it’s not going to squeeze that much juice out of content mastered for the format.
It’s worth repeating that these shortcomings are to be expected for a TV of this caliber. The Samsung AU8000 wrestles with similar issues: its panel is edge-lit, rather than backlit, meaning it has an even harder time managing light bloom. Its peak brightness while receiving an HDR signal is slightly higher than the M-Series (the AU8000 can climb as high as 350 nits according to our data), but once again, this isn’t bright enough to deliver the kind of impactful HDR experience you’ll find on higher-end TVs.
So if both TVs struggle with similar issues in contrast and brightness, where do we go from here? One area of performance in which there’s a clean delineation between these two models is color production. The M-Series display is outfitted with quantum dots, tiny crystals that enhance color reproduction, allowing it to cover a higher percentage of both the SDR and HDR color spaces. The M-Series covers about 100% of the SDR color space (Rec.709) for standard video, and saturates about 95% of the expanded HDR color gamut (DCI-P3). The AU8000 covers about 93% of the SDR color space and a mere 83% of the HDR color space.
In practice, this means the M-series is simply available to reproduce more vibrant, richer colors—especially when playing back video content in HDR. These figures are visible to the naked eye, too—you don’t have to be a TV expert to tell the difference, were you to stand in front of both while they played the same content.
So while HDR performance, motion handling, and overall contrast are somewhat of a wash, the M-Series comes out on top, if only for its rich, quantum-dot color.
Our pick: Vizio M-Series
And the winner is…
The Vizio M-Series is the better choice for shoppers on a budget. It’s cheaper, it offers more upside for gamers, and while both TVs are strictly middle of the road when it comes to picture quality, the M-Series looks better in both SDR and HDR content thanks to its quantum dots.
There are a few reasons why you might want to consider the AU8000 instead, however. If you’re looking for a screen that’s bigger than 75 inches, the AU8000 will get you there. Alternatively, if you’re not so much as a casual gamer and you’re hoping to lean heavily on your next TV’s smart platform, the AU8000 is a better choice, if only for the added flexibility of its smart features.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.