What is the Sony ZD9?
Connections & Control
The ZD9 boasts a full set of connections which includes four HDMI inputs although only inputs 2 and 3 are HDMI 2.0a, which means they can accept 4K/60p, HDR and HDCP 2.2. The other two HDMI inputs are listed to 4K/30p, so bear that in mind when connecting up 4K/50p sources like Sky Q. In addition there are three USB ports, twin terrestrial and satellite tuners and various legacy connections, including a SCART socket which is something of a rarity these days. The ZD9 also includes both wired and wireless connections for accessing all your favourite Smart TV content.
Features & Specs
The improved noise reduction and detail enhancement is achieved thanks to dual database processing, so the X1 Extreme not only has the existing Detail Database but a new Noise Reduction Database. The result is more precise processing of all resolution content, regardless of the quality of the source. The X1 Extreme Processor also includes Object-based HDR Remaster which is designed to take an SDR source and upscale it to near HDR quality. This works by analysing the image for wood, fabrics, stone etc. and then upscaling the image based on this analysis. Finally the X1 Extreme Processor also adds Super Bit Mapping to 4K HDR content for the first time. Although the ZD9 doesn't have Ultra HD Premium Certification, Sony confirmed that the ZD9 it could easily hit the minimum requirements used by the Ultra HD Alliance.
Sony KD-65ZD9 Recommended Picture Settings
Picture Settings – Out-of-the-Box
Picture Settings – Calibrated
Picture Settings – High Dynamic Range
Black Levels and Contrast RatiosThanks to its VA panel the ZD9 delivered an excellent black level performance and measured 0.03nits on a 0IRE window, although that dropped to 0.000nits when the local dimming was engaged, even in the Low mode. Using our target nighttime viewing brightness of 120nits, that resulted in an on/off contrast ratio of 4,000:1 and an ANSI contrast ratio of 3,231:1. The contrast numbers for the XD94 were actually slightly better, which is surprising considering the increased number of local dimming zones on the ZD9.
Screen UniformityThe screen uniformity was excellent, with no obvious clouding, tinting or dirty screen effect. The ZD9 certainly performed better in this area than the XD94 and there were no darker edges on a full screen white pattern for example, although the screen is obviously a lot smaller in comparison. If there was one area where the ZD9 really impressed, it was in the lack of any apparent banding, which is something that has affected just about every other TV that uses a full array LED backlight to some degree or another. Clearly the increased number of zones, along with the discrete control and calibrated beam LED design were proving effective in this area.
Local Dimming and Viewing AnglesWe counted the number of individual dimming zones at 646 (34 x 19) which whilst not 1,000, is more than the Panasonic DX902 which has 512. The results were certainly impressive and the combination of excellent black levels and screen uniformity, along with Sony’s superb local dimming implementation resulted in a great contrast performance with both standard and high dynamic range content. The ZD9 delivered deep blacks that didn’t unduly crush shadow detail and bright whites that gave images a real depth and impact. The increased number of zones and new local dimming features were effective at minimising any haloing or brightness fluctuations in the image, even with challenging material such as a single bright source against a black background.
There are four settings for the Auto Local Dimming in the menu – Off, Low, Medium and High. Whilst the High setting could result in some haloing, the Low and Medium settings enhanced the dynamic range of the image without adversely affecting it. In general we found that the local dimming delivered excellent results and managed to remain free of unwanted halos even with HDR content. However this was only true if you were sat central to the screen, as with any VA panel, once you began to move off axis the haloing became more apparent. The ZD9 had one of the narrowest optimal viewing angles of any TV we have reviewed this year and it was its only real weakness because once you move out of a fairly narrow 30 degree viewing angle the performance drops off.
Motion HandlingThe motion handling on Sony TVs are generally very good for LCD panels and we measured the ZD9’s motion resolution at around 400 lines, which is better than average for an LCD TV and obviously this increases to the full 1080 if you engage the Motionflow frame interpolation. This can introduce a certain degree of smoothing, although that won’t necessarily be an issue with sports content, but when it comes to film-based content we prefer using the True Cinema mode which increases the frame rate without introducing interpolation, thus retaining a film-like quality to motion. If motion is a big issue for you then there is always the option to experiment with the Clear and Custom controls to find a setting that you prefer but the Clear mode uses black frame insertion which will make the picture slightly darker, so you might need to increase the brightness of the image and some people may experience flicker.
Standard and High DefinitionThe ZD9 had quite a lot to live up to because the XD94 had already delivered an impressive performance when we reviewed it earlier in the year. Thankfully it didn’t disappoint with a wonderfully detailed picture that took full advantage of the increased number of zones, superior local dimming and excellent image accuracy. The ZD9 did a wonderful job of deinterlacing and scaling standard definition images, taking full advantage of the increased processing power and native 4K panel to get the most out of lower resolution content. There isn’t much even the most sophisticated processing can do with some of the highly compressed digital channels but with a good standard definition source like a DVD, the results can be very watchable.
Naturally as soon as we moved to high definition broadcasts the ZD9 had a chance to show what it was really capable of and the X1 Extreme Processor pulled every last pixel of detail from the 1080i images. The inherent dynamic range, the excellent local dimming and the image accuracy all came into play and produced some beautiful images, whilst the Reality Creation image processing engine could prove very effective as well. This ability to deliver high quality images was even more evident when it came to Blu-rays, with their superior 1080/24p pictures looking absolutely stunning on the Sony. We worked through a number of high quality new titles and the results could be breathtaking, with Captain America: Civil War and The Jungle Book both looking particularly impressive.
Sony have made a big deal about what they call Object-based HDR Remaster which is designed to take an SDR source and upscale it to near HDR quality. It would seem that almost all the manufacturers are developing their own version of this, with each of them trying to apply the increased capabilities of their new TVs to SDR sources. Sony’s works on an object-based approach, analysing the image for wood, fabrics, stone etc. and then upscaling the image based on this analysis. Whilst we understand why they would want to do this and we have to admit that at times it really does work, we ultimately feel that the best approach is to set your TV up to watch standard and high definition content according to the industry standards and save the effect of high dynamic range for actual HDR content.
3DThe 3D performance was something of a mixed bag, which didn’t surprise us given Sony’s patchy performance in this area with recent reviews. In fact when we first tested the active shutter 3D, the image was inverted (i.e. distant objects appeared close and close objects appeared distant) making the picture completely unwatchable. We weren’t sure what was causing this because we checked all the settings on the TV, glasses and player and nothing appeared to be set incorrectly. However when came back to test the 3D again later the image had corrected itself and now we had a fairly decent 3D performance.
It wasn’t perfect and there was certainly more crosstalk than we could have liked to see, especially with objects in extreme negative or positive parallax. However overall the 3D was very watchable and favourites like Hugo, Avatar and more recently The Jungle Book looked good, with plenty of depth and natural colours. Since Sony actually included two pairs of 3D glasses with the ZD9 for a change, we could directly compare their performance with our trusty Samsung glasses but the 3D was identical, with the same amount of crosstalk regardless of which glasses we used. Whilst the 3D wasn't perfect we should probably be glad that Sony supports the format at all these days but, if you’re a big fan, then LG’s OLED TVs with their passive 3D remain the best performers.
High Dynamic RangeThe ZD9 delivered a superb performance when it came to Ultra HD Blu-ray and High Dynamic Range, with lovely detailed images that were bursting with colour and bright highlights. The native 4K panel was able to perfectly reveal every tiny pixel in the source content, which was especially true with UHD Blu-rays that use a 4K DI like Lucy where you could make out every tiny pore and blemish on Scarlett Johansson’s face - yes, she isn’t perfect. However the colour accuracy was also excellent, with saturated images that looked both natural and more realistic. The ZD9’s superior local dimming revealed deep blacks that still retained shadow detail, whilst the overall image had plenty of brightness and the highlights popped. The lack of halos was particularly impressive, as long as you were sat central to the screen although they became more of an issue as you moved off axis.
Overall this was certainly one of the best HDR performances we have seen from a TV this year, it was better than the XD94 and at least as good, if not better, than the Panasonic DX902. The ZD9 could even give the Samsung KS9500 a run for its money, although Samsung remain the only manufacturer able to correctly tone map content that was graded at more than 1,000 nits. This is a conscious choice on the part of Sony and the other manufacturers, who have chosen to roll off the curve at a higher point, which means that the image is more accurate with 1,000 nits content but causes clipping with content graded at 4,000 nits. It isn’t a huge issue and HDR still looked superb but you can spot it with some content if you know where to look. However watching reference Ultra HD Blu-rays like Sicario, The Revenant and Deadpool the ZD9 proved a stellar performer with detailed, saturated and bright images that are sure to please.
Sony KD-65ZD9 Video Review
The built-in speakers use two drivers with 10W of amplification for each one and they proved more than adequate for normal TV watching. Sony include a number of audio features such as Clear Audio+ and S-Force Front Surround, both of which are intended to provide a more immersive experience. We found that these features tended to make the audio sound rather echoey and preferred the Music sound mode for a more neutral experience. There’s also the DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) and Clear Phase which are designed to get more from your streaming music sources. Overall the ZD9 proved a competent audio performer but, as always, we would expect anyone investing in decent TV to use some form of outboard audio solution.
Input Lag & Energy Consumption
In terms of the 65ZD9’s energy consumption it proved to be surprisingly efficient for such a large and bright TV. Using a full window 50% white pattern we measured the Standard picture mode at 144W and our calibrated Cinema Pro mode at 72W. Of course once we moved on to HDR the level of energy consumption increased, with the ZD9 drawing 187W with our optimal settings. However, what really impressed us was that Sony have not only managed to deliver a higher level of peak brightness without significantly increasing the energy consumption but that they have also achieved this without having to resort to fans.
How future-proof is this TV?
|4K Ultra HD Resolution|
|Colour Space (percentage of Rec.2020 - 100% best)||66%|
|HDMI 2.0a Inputs|
|HDCP 2.2 Support|
|4K Streaming Services|
|Smart TV Platform|
|Picture Accuracy Out-of-the-Box (score out of 10)||9|
|What do these mean?|
- Impressive local dimming
- Accurate greyscale and colour gamut
- Excellent performance with SDR and HDR
- Good motion handling
- Great set of features
- Surprisingly energy efficient
- Attractive design and good build quality
- Limited viewing angles
- Some crosstalk with 3D
- Input lag could be lower
- Expensive compared to competition
Sony BRAVIA ZD9 (KD-65ZD9) UHD 4K TV Review
Should I buy one?The Sony ZD9 is certainly a contender for one of the best TVs of the year, with more local dimming zones and a higher peak brightness than any other model. It has a minimalist but elegant design, with some nice stylish touches and a clever series of removable panels at the rear for tidier cable management. The build quality is excellent and the overall feeling is of a well engineered flagship model. The ZD9 comes with Sony's latest remote control and a pair of 3D glasses, whilst around the back there is a fairly comprehensive set of connections, although only two of the four HDMI inputs are the full HDMI 2.0a variety. There's Android TV of course and although it's an improvement over last year it remains prone to the occasional crash and the whole platform still feels fragmented. The ZD9 is surprisingly energy efficient when you consider its size and brightness and although the 42ms input lag isn't bad, it might be a bit high for serious gamers.
The big selling point of the ZD9 is the Backlight Master Drive with its 646 zones and over 1,800 nits of peak brightness. It might not be quite what Sony were demonstrating at CES but it's still impressive and the results speak for themselves. The local dimming is excellent and the ZD9 can deliver superb images with both standard and high dynamic range content. The out-of-the-box performance was reasonably good and the calibrated measurements were near-reference, whilst the HDR measurements were generally excellent. Like most HDR TVs the ZD9 doesn't tone map content graded over 1,000 nits without clipping but in all other respects it was a superb performer. The only real weaknesses were the limited viewing angles, which is to be expected with a VA panel and some crosstalk with 3D. However overall the Sony KD-65ZD9 delivers a marvellous all-round performance that certainly justifies its price and sets a new bar for peak brightness.
What are my alternatives?Well if you want very similar performance and a 75-inch screen size at the same price, then Sony's KD-75XD9405 has to be worth considering. It doesn't have anything like the peak brightness of the ZD9 but in many other respects it is as good, if not slightly better, than the newer model. If you're looking for a real bargain then Panasonic's TX-65DX902B is definitely worth considering at £2,899. It has almost as many dimming zones and is nearly as bright, whilst it also includes active shutter 3D and the Firefox Smart TV platform which we prefer to Android. The Sony has superior local dimming but the Panasonic has incredible colour accuracy and superb calibration controls. Finally the Samsung UE65KS9500 delivers superb HDR performance and whilst the curved screen and lack of 3D may not be for everyone, it's a fantastic all-round performer for £3,799. It doesn't have as many zones as the other two, nor is is quite as bright, but it does tone map content graded over 1,000 nits correctly.
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Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
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Picture Quality Calibrated
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