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Review: Sony KD-65AF9 (AF9 series) Master Series OLED TV

Sony KD-65AF9
The Sony KD-65AF9 is the successor of the A1. It is equipped with the latest OLED panel, the new X1 Ultimate image processor, and an improved version of Acoustic Surface.
4.5 - 21 reviews

In the ‘Master’ series of Sony we not only find the ZF9 but of course also a new OLED model. The Sony KD-65AF9 is the successor of the A1. It is equipped with the latest OLED panel, the new X1 Ultimate image processor, and an improved version of Acoustic Surface. In short, a very complete package for whom image and sound quality is of paramount importance.

Sony KD-65AF9 – specifications

  • What: Ultra HD OLED TV
  • Screen size: 65 inch (139 cm), flat
  • Connections: 4x HDMI (1x eARC 4x v2.0a), 1x composite video, 1x stereo minijack, 1x optical digital out, 3x USB (1x 3.0), 1x headphones, 3x antenna, Bluetooth 4.2
  • Extras: HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision, WiFi (802.11ac) built-in, Android TV (8.0 Oreo), USB / DLNA media player, DVB-T2 / C / S2, CI + lock, voice control, X1 Ultimate 4K HDR processor, Acoustic Surface Audio+
  • Dimensions: 1,449 x 832 x 320 mm (including foot)
  • Weight: 35.6 kg (including foot)
  • Consumption: 190 / 0.5 watt (Energy label B)
  • List price: 4,200 euro

A complete overview of all the models that Sony launched in 2018 can be found in the 2018 Sony TV line-up. Here you can also find the complete specifications per model.

Sony KD-65AF9 – design

The AF9 connects with its looks to the A1 the device with which Sony entered the OLED market last year. The emphasis is on the image, without any distractions. As with the A1, the large 65 inch screen with no visible foot on your TV cabinet. It leans slightly (5 °) backwards against the support behind the screen.

That design will know the opponents and opponents just like the A1. It looks from the front so minimal that it seems to be a pure image, a rather unique look, but not everyone is a fan of the backward-leaning screen. Personally, we did not find it disturbing.

The screen has a black glossy metal frame that is a millimeter wide at the front. The rear support is a heavyweight, not only because it has to provide stability, but also because it has a good audio solution. Sony has considerably facilitated the assembly compared to the A1. You still have to assemble one part at the bottom of the support, but due to its simple construction and two supplied rubber feet on which the screen is standing temporarily, it is quickly cleared.

The back can be covered after installation with two supplied fabric panels for a perfect fit. finish. There is also space and the necessary clips for neatly routing the cables.

Connections

The device is equipped with four HDMI connections, all equipped with HDCP 2.3, and all ready for Ultra HD HDR. If you connect an Ultra HD HDR source, activate the ‘Enhanced settings’ in the menus (settings, External inputs, HDMI signal format) for the best picture quality. The TV does support eARC extended Audio Return Channel, but that is the only feature from the HDMI2.1 set that is on board. These are still HDMI 2.0 connections.

You also get three USB connections, a headphone output and composite video input. The digital optical output, network connections and antenna connections complete the offer. All connections are oriented downwards or sideways, which facilitates wall mounting. If you want to use a wireless headset, you can do so thanks to Bluetooth.

A striking extra is the speaker connections, which make it possible to use the AF9 as a center speaker for those who use an AV receiver.

Keep in mind that the connections are placed behind the device because they are on the foot, not on the screen. They are also at the bottom, and that means, especially on this 65 inch screen, that they are not easily accessible once the device has been set up. This certainly applies to the headphone connection. Sony placed an HDMI connection on the left side of the foot and a USB connection on the right. Fortunately, they are fairly easy to reach. Of course, those who regularly use these connections can leave an extension cable.

Sony KD-65AF9 – ease of use

Like the ZF9, the AF9 is equipped with Android 8 (Oreo).

Remote control

The AF9 was given the same remote as the AF8 (and the ZF9). Instead of the typical plastic keys on the regular remote, this version is equipped with a rubber top and keys with a very low profile. He is comfortable in the hand, and the keys are easy to press, even if the keystroke was slightly lighter in our opinion. Just because the profile of all keys is so low, your finger sometimes threatens to roam the wrong key. The remote is certainly not inconvenient, but does not provide any real added value by its special implementation.

The layout of the Sony remote is good, only the playback keys below may be slightly larger. There is a direct key for Netflix and Google Play, and the Apps key diagonally to the right above the d-pad brings you in this version of Android to the list of all Android apps. In previous Android versions that key did not have a useful function. The remote also has a built-in microphone.

Sony KD-65AF9 – features

Smart TV platform

The AF9, like the ZF9, is equipped with the new Mediatek MT5893, with a quad-core ARM Cortex-A73, Mali-G71 GPU, 4GB RAM and 16GB internal storage. Benchmark tests give this platform a considerable advantage compared to the previous MT5891. That in any case provides a much smoother interface, good media player performance, and will also make many games more accessible. Although the performance of an Nvidia Shield is still a long way off, the improvement is noticeable and extremely welcome.

Smart functions

For all the possibilities of Android 8 we refer to our review article.

To our surprise, it is still impossible to watch HDR movies via YouTube, which did work in Netflix and Amazon.

Sony still offers a separate ‘smart’ menu when your TV looks through the built-in TV tuners. Press the ‘TV’ button at the bottom of the d-pad, and you will see a small bar at the bottom of the screen that first shows TV functions (the TV guide, recordings, etc.), but also includes recommendations, and a list with favorite Android apps. You can not call that menu anymore if you do not watch TV (via the built-in tuners), we regret that.

It is possible to assign the TV button another function via the menus. (Settings, External Inputs, TV button adjustment). So you can use it to quickly switch to HDM1, and use the separate menu.

The media player is quite complete, but Divx refused files, and some of our H.264 mp4 videos . In any case, you should also install vlc, Kodi or Plex as an alternative media player. The music player knows no advice with ALAC, but with all standard music formats. And he also reads all the tags.

Sony KD-65AF9 – Image quality

The AF9 is equipped with a 2018 LG OLED panel.

Please note that OLED panels can become sensitive for burn-in. According to Sony, this would not be a problem with normal use. Never turn off the power completely, but leave the television in standby so that it can do the necessary work behind the scenes to counteract any visible effects.

Main settings

General Advanced / Brightness Color Sharpness / Motion
Image mode: User
Auto Image mode: Off
Brightness : Max
Color: 50
Light sensor: on *
Brightness: Max
Contrast: 90
Gamma: -2
Black level: 50
Black adjust: from
Adv. Contrast optimization: Off
Peak lighting: Center
Color: 50
Color tone: 0
Color Temperature: Expert 1
Live Color: From
Image sharpness: 30-50
Reality Creation: Auto *
Reduce random noise: Low
Reduce digital noise: Low
Smooth Gradation: Low Motion Fluid: Auto, or smoothness 2, brightness Low.
Movie Mode: Auto

Explanation of main settings;

The ‘User’ image mode provides the best calibrated start. The image is sufficiently clear, but not excessive, so you can switch off the light sensor.

  • Reality Creation: improves detailed display. The Auto mode is generally fine, those who prefer the pure approach turn it off, or switch to Manual 20. For more detail, you can go up to 40, but avoid higher settings.
  • Activate both noise cancels in the lowest setting. Otherwise you risk too much noise as a result of Reality Creation.
  • Motionflow: off for the purists, car for whom the easiest solution chooses. You can also tinker manually. Set flexibility to 2 and brightness to Low.
  • If you look at a lot of strong (day) light, try the Cinema setting, which is better suited for that.

 

General image processing

This Master Series model also got the latest image processor, the X1 Ultimate built-in. This processor delivers excellent deinterlacing results, and quickly and reliably detects all film and video frame rates, so that ‘jaggies’, the jagged edges of almost horizontal lines, are virtually excluded. One of the improvements of the X1 Ultimate is an even finer upscaling. We noticed that the image is sometimes too sharp. You can lower the image sharpness to counteract that (30 – 50). Reality Creation provides extra detail, but also tends to increase noise in the image. With Ultra HD 4K material you leave it best. Certainly in combination with the very sharp image, that can sometimes be too much of a good thing, although that also depends on your viewing distance. We advise to leave the two settings for noise reduction in the ‘Low’ mode, Reality Creation between 20 and 40 (or ‘car’) and, as mentioned, sharpen the angle between 30 and 50. Smooth gradation ‘is still a great asset for Sony. It ensures very beautiful, subtle color transitions without any trace of color bands. Leave that setting always activated (low or middle).

The motion sharpness of OLED TVs is fine, and the Sony KD-65AF9 performs perfectly in line with its competitors. To maximize visible detail in action scenes or sports, you can put MotionFlow in the car, although in some scenes you can see an image artefact. Who wants to avoid that switches to manual, and puts Suppleness on ‘2’. In both cases you naturally activate motion interpolation, which for some viewers takes away from the film experience. You can switch off MotionFlow, but personally we left it at least in Manual and Flexibility at ‘1’ for some extra detail in fast moving scenes. The ‘clarity’ setting is best left on ‘Low’. The ‘High’ position activates a ‘black frame insertion’ (BFI) technique, for even better detail, but it makes the image visibly flicker, and therefore we deem useless.

General picture properties

Enjoying the almost perfect OLED black is now a given, but we noticed that the Sony also has excellent shadow detail, without excessive noise or artefacts. Our test scene from Harry Potter and from The Revenant showed good results. Our test sample showed very bright vertical stripes on a full field of dark gray. That is an effect that can be visible on all OLED TVs, although it was clearly less common with this generation of panels. In practice you will never suffer from it.

Sony renamed the ‘Cinema Pro’ mode to the ‘User’ mode. Too bad, because the new naming we find less clear. Switch to the ‘User’ mode for the best calibration. The ‘Cinema’ mode is an alternative if you look at more ambient light. The image is sufficiently clear, without being overly intense, so whether or not you activate the light sensor is a personal choice. The calibration is excellent, with a neutral gray scale that is slightly cool (light blue overtone). Color range and color reproduction score very well, images have a very natural look.

For even better results, the AF9 can be calibrated fully automatically with the Calman software from Portrait Displays. And those who watch Netflix can activate a special ‘Netflix Calibrated’ mode via the menu, allowing you to fully enjoy the streamed content.

HDR

The Sony KD-65AF9 scores slightly lower than the competitors for peak brightness. On a standard 10% window we get just 600 nits and on a 2% window and the 746 nits. Panasonic and Philips are previously around 750 and 810 nits for the same test. Just like the other OLED screens, it keeps these maximums for a limited time, after 30 seconds the peak brightness decreases gradually. The color range is exactly what we expect: 96% DCI-P3 and 70% Rec.2020

The question is, of course, whether you notice that difference in clarity. Just like on the ZF9, we notice that the AF9 is capable of showing white detail up to over 5,000 nits, although it depended on the test pattern. Sony does not seem to take into account the metadata and clearly does an analysis of the image itself to adjust its tonemapping. We could not turn this off anywhere, but we did not find a reason for that either. After all, the result is very good. The screen saves very well the brightest white details, and that just adds to a good picture.

Sony supports HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG. The calibration in the User mode is very good, but (just like the ZF9) has to make the thumbs for the Panasonic FW950 for accuracy in color reproduction. The AF9 follows the required PQ curve perfectly to 400 nits, and then rolls off nicely to show all possible white detail.

Reflections and viewing angles

The viewing angle of the AF9 is excellent, a feature that it shares with all other OLED TVs. It is pretty good with reflections, but due to the slightly sloping screen, it is possible that ceiling lighting suddenly appears prominently, if it hangs fairly close to the screen. Keep that in mind, anyway you let that kind of lighting look better when watching TV. Opt for soft, indirect mood lighting behind the seats, or for soft lighting behind the screen.

Gaming

In ordinary picture modes we measure a layer of 101.9 ms, which is too much for decent gaming. In game mode, the lag down to 27.8 ms is an excellent result.

Sony KD-65AF9 – Audio quality

Of course this model also got an Acoustic Surface, which means that small actuators make the screen vibrate and thus produce sound. The screen therefore acts as a loudspeaker cone. The low frequencies are provided by the subwoofer built into the bracket. Because only the high frequencies come through the screen there is no visible impact on the image.

The Sony KD-65AF9 uses an improved version, namely Acoustic Surface Audio +. Instead of two pairs of actuators, three pairs are now provided (left, center and right), and the support now hides two subwoofers instead of one. The power has also been increased, previous models accounted for 50W. In total, the Sony AF9 delivers 98W audio power (6 × 13 + 2 × 10), and you absolutely hear that.

The sound is powerful, but very detailed, and has a good and tight bass line. Do not worry that you can not place a soundbar in front of the screen (that would hide part of the image). This Sony does not need that. Music, film, dialogues, we were pleasantly surprised by the result.

If you want to go for an even richer sound, or for real surround, and you use an AV receiver, you can Use AF9 as the center speaker of your setup. There are speaker connections for this. Dialogues then come directly from the screen, which benefits realism.

Review equipment

For the lag measurement we use a Leo Bodnar Display lag meter. For all other measurements we rely on a Spectracal C6 HDR2000 Colorimeter, Xrite i1 Pro spectrophotometer, a VideoForge Pro pattern generator, and the Spectracal Calman for Business software. To analyze any HDR problems we use an HDFury Vertex.

Sony KD-65AF9 – Conclusion

The KD-65AF9 is a nice upgrade compared to the A1. The new Android version with the new chipset makes the TV more responsive and brings Android more to the modern trends for ease of use. We can not point to many negative points. You can still not play YouTube HDR content for unknown reasons. And the price of this model is still significantly higher than that of direct competitors from Philips and Panasonic.

If you are looking for an excellent television that should be central to your home cinema, then this KD-65AF9 is a very good choice. It delivers beautiful OLED image quality, with excellent black detail, lifelike colors and good motion sharpness. The image processing ensures sharp detail, and the calibration is fine. You get not only excellent image quality but also good sound, in a sleek package. Those who have an AV receiver can even connect the AF9 series as center loudspeaker. In short, a very nice package of TV pleasure.

Cons

  • No HDR via YouTube
  • Price

Pros

  • Image processing
  • Good Sound
  • Excellent contrast and black detail
  • Good motion sharpness
  • Fine HDR result

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