From: Olympia, WA
It can be hard to see advantages in one tank over another simply by looking at stats. As a former US Army tanker, I can tell you this: thermal sighting has significant advantages even in daytime. I used to use the thermal sights all the time, broad daylight or night. That's because thermals pick up heat, and a tank generates a lot of heat, not just from the engine, but also from the tracks on the move (metal causes lots of friction). People also tend to be hotter (96.8 degrees) than most environments, so unless it's a hot summer day, they stand out like sore thumbs too, UNLESS the vehicles and people are screened by something that blocks your view, like hills, buildings, or vegetation. Even in vegetation, it is easy to see a glimpse of a "hot" item peeking through unless the vehicle or person is completely covered, in which case they probably can't see you either. Smoke does not, for the most part, block thermal sights.
So the Challys on a hill overlooking a valley, etc. can see and target the T-80s from a long way off, and because they are stable, motionless platforms, have a MUCH better chance of hitting their target than a T-80 on the move. As we were always taught, on the modern battlefield, what you can see, you can hit, and what you can hit, you can usually kill. That's the advantage most NATO armor has over Pact armor. When you review the stats, keep that in mind, and use it to your advantage, or find a way to work around it if you're playing as the Soviets. It doesn't matter if you have more of something if you can't see what is shooting at you, and I can tell you that even with modern weapons systems and stabilization, it is VERY hard to see vehicles and men that are shooting at you from inside a moving tank when you are looking through your sights and the tank is bouncing around over uneven terrain at even relatively low speeds. Confusion and chaos rules on the modern battlefield.
"The greatest and noblest pleasure which men can have in this world is to discover new truths; and the next is to shake off old prejudices." Frederick the Great