ZD9 series TVs are equipped with the latest features and functions, an innovative backlight system and a striking but beautiful design. In this review we look at the 65-inch model from the Sony ZD9 series; the Sony KD-65ZD9.
Sony ZD9 series – specifications
The Sony ZD9 series LCD LED TVs have everything you would expect from a premium TV today, including the high Ultra HD resolution , HDR support, the latest HDMI standards, a wide range of colors, the powerful X1 Extreme 4K HDR Processor, 3D view, X-tended Dynamic Range PRO and of course the Android TV platform.
The uniqueness of these models, however, is the Backlight Master Drive technology, with (according to Sony) 1,000 zones and a brightness of no less than 4,000 nits. This should provide deeper black tones and a perfect brightness of colors. The technology combines a Discrete LED structure with an accurate exposure algorithm and an optical design. In the past, local dimming was controlled via zones with multiple LEDs. Now the LED operation of Backlight Master Drive, in combination with the lighting algorithm, can dim or enhance each LED individually, which should result in a higher contrast and deeper black.
Through the combination of three new technologies – Object-Based HDR Remaster, Dual Database Processing and Super Bit Mapping 4K HDR – 4K HDR content should provide a new experience. By analyzing the images in each scene and individually correcting the color and contrast of each object, Object-Based HDR Remaster has to show every detail life-like. This technology also upgrades Standard Dynamic Range HD content to near-4K HDR quality. The SDR content is therefore converted to HDR by means of software .
On top of the existing database for upscaling, the 4K HDR Processor X1 Extreme has an additional Sony database for noise reduction. By searching thousands of image patterns, Dual Database Processing removes unwanted noise. Super Bit Mapping 4K HDR should, according to Sony, provide a more natural image. Thanks to the 14-bit signal processing, the fixed color strips of 8-bit (FHD) and 10-bit (4K) sources are broken up and converted to 14-bit equivalent shades with 64 times more color levels.
In this review we look at the 65-inch Sony KD-65ZD9. This model has been given a suggested retail price of 4,999 euros. In addition, we find the 75-inch KD-75ZD9 with a suggested retail price of 7,999 euros in this series.
For this review use the Panasonic DMP-UB900 Ultra HD Blu-ray player , the Denon AVR-X6300H receiver, a PlayStation 3 game console and Bowers & Wilkins CM S2 series loudspeakers. The LG E6V series OLED TV serves as a reference model. We also used Netflix for testing 4K and HDR material.
Sony ZD9 series – design
The first thing you notice is the design of the ZD9 models. Sony has paid a lot of attention to the design and we see that everywhere. The TV is equipped with a combination of black and brushed aluminum and around the screen we see a list with a gold finish. Although this may come across as something ‘over-the-top’, it quickly and even looks chic and premium. Around the screen we also see a bezel of about 2 centimeters back and that is looking at the competition rather hefty. However, we are the last ones who really value this.
The back is made of plastic, with a kind of honeycomb structure. Although you will not often see the back, much attention has been paid to this. Everything can be neatly concealed by plastic covers, cables are led away behind the foot thanks to a cable management system and it just looks just finished. The foot is similar to that of the XD93 models. The metal stand is set in a corner and is finished with black brushed metal and a golden color for the sides. What is striking is that the TV is higher than many other models; you have about 10 centimeters of space under the TV.
All in all, the Sony KD-65ZD9 offers a very high-quality and beautiful design. The combination of metal, the gold finish and the deep black gives that premium feeling that you expect from a premium TV. The finish is of a high level, just like the build quality. You immediately have the idea that every element of the design is well thought through, and that promises much good for the rest.
The Sony ZD9 models have enough connections to store all your devices. On the back we see three removable panels behind which the connections are located. From these sections the cables can be led away behind the foot so that you do not have them in sight. We see, among other things, four HDMI inputs (of which two with HDMI 2.0a), three USB ports, an Ethernet port, a CI + module and a SCART socket (one of the few). WiFi and bluetooth are available for wireless communication. All connections are easily accessible and placed far enough inwards so that you do not see any cables or connectors.
Sony provides one remote with the Sony KD-65ZD9, and it is a fairly normal remote control without bells and whistles. The back is equipped with a brushed metal finish so the remote control is comfortable in the hand. The top, however, is provided with one piece of rubber, with built-in keys that have a very small travel. We can get used to the travel but the rubber material ensures that the accessory quickly gets dirty and dusty. Everything sticks to it, but on the other hand, the remote control is easier to clean if a glass of beer is passed over it. All buttons are present (also Netflix and Google Play) and the layout ensures fast and pleasant operation. Although the remote is a bit large, you can easily use it with one hand.
Incidentally, Sony also has the TV SideView Remote app in the Play Store and App Store. Install this app and you can control the TV with your smartphone or tablet. In addition, you can use the app to use a cursor and enter texts, which is particularly useful in the browser and apps. These apps can also be started from the SideView Remote app. You can also view content from DLNA devices and your smartphone or tablet on TV, you can view a TV guide and schedule recordings when a hard drive is connected.
Sony ZD9 series – ease of use
Sony uses the Android TV platform but the Sony interface itself can be found over it. This interface is fairly simple and simplistic but works properly. No bells and whistles, but a structured representation of all options, settings and functions. In terms of appearance, the menus of Sony differ from those of Google and that looks a bit messy, especially since Google has its own settings menu.
Android TV itself looks sleek and attractive, but is somewhat busier than the smart TV platforms from other manufacturers. It is just finding your way but once found you quickly get where you need to be; whether that is recommended content or your favorite apps. However, Android TV still causes a problem; the system is unstable. We have had a hang-over more than once and even the plug had to go out once. That simply can not happen. On the other hand is that the operation is a lot smoother and finer than with previous versions. The software responds quickly to input and navigation through the interface is smooth.
When you switch on the TV for the first time you will be guided through a set-up. This set-up ensures that the basic settings are immediately correct. For example, you can select the language, search for channels, log in with your Google account and have the TV connected to the WiFi network. This basic installation is fast and everything works immediately.
Sony ZD9 series – features
Smart TV platform (Android TV)
Android TV is now a well-known platform for smart TVs, but the platform has had quite a few problems since its introduction. Users (including us) often complain about the slow work, the many bugs and also the lesser user-friendliness. With the arrival of Android 6.0, this should finally change. The ZD9 models run on Android 6.0 and are indeed a lot faster and therefore nicer to work with. But, as indicated above, stability still leaves much to be desired.
Android TV offers a home screen / launcher with so-called ‘shelves’ that provide quick access to content. There are shelves for video tips, a section with recommendations, apps, games and settings. The entire interface of the TV is designed in the style of Android, from fonts to icons. Of course, the well-known Android TV functions like Google Voice and Cast are also present so that you can search for content by means of speech and can stream (stream) media from your tablet or smartphone to your TV. The apps in which these media are located must provide support for this. The style of the interface is typically Android and offers a clear view of interesting content, frequently used apps and useful applications. Unfortunately, the display of this content is completely determined by Google, Sony and your own use of the TV. So you can not swap shelves or push apps further forward. An app that is used more often is more prominent.
Android TV is all in all a great platform that many people already know and besides, the Play Store is filled with a large amount of apps so there is something for everyone. All known and important apps are already installed for you, including YouTube, Netflix and NPO Missed. The TV has 8GB of internal storage, of which 7GB is available for apps and media.
A TV is now no longer used only for watching TV channels or movies on a disc. The Sony KD-65ZD9 is therefore equipped with a built-in media player that allows content to be displayed from your home network or from a USB device. With WiFi and DLNA you can easily and quickly communicate with devices in the home network and the TV comes with a broad support for file formats so that almost all popular video and audio files can be displayed. Since it is an Ultra HD TV, there is of course support for 4K content with the hevc codec. The media player also works quite intuitively and quickly, in line with the other software. However, many more media players can be found in the Google Play Store, so you have plenty of choice.
Sony ZD9 series – image quality
The Sony ZD9-series models are the best models on paper that Sony brings to the market this year and we should of course see that in the image quality. The TV comes with full array LED backlighting with Backlight Master Drive technology, a Triluminos display with a large color range, the high 4K Ultra HD resolution, support for HDR material with (on paper) a maximum brightness of 4000 nits, X-tended Dynamic Range PRO and 3D view.
Especially with a TV of this caliber you want to find the best settings for the image to enjoy your screen optimally. If you spend so much on a TV, we can only recommend one thing; have your TV professionally calibrated. For a price between 100 and 300 euros you can have this done by a professional and that way you get the most out of your TV. But, if you do not want that, you can use a few small adjustments to get a very good view from your screen. We keep this in our reviews so that everyone can work with the settings for optimum image quality.
|Picture menu||Advanced (Brightness)||Advanced (Color)|
|Picture mode: Cinema Pro
Automat. Picture mode: Off
Light sensor: Off
Black level: 50
Adjust black: Off
Adv. contrast opt .: Off
Auto local dimming: Middle
X-Tended Dynamic Range: Off
Color tone: 0
Color temperature: Expert 1 (B-Gain -3)
Live color: Off
|Advanced (Sharpness)||Advanced (Movement)||Advanced (Video options)|
|Image sharpness: 50
Reality Creation: Out
Reduce random noise: Off
Reduce digital noise: Off
Smooth gradation: Off
|Motionflow: True Cinema
Movie mode: Low
|Everything on ‘car’|
As indicated, many of the settings depend on personal preferences and the room in which the TV is located, but if you have a dark room and especially watch TV in the evening, these are the settings that you use to get a lot out of your screen. At a number of institutions, we explain why we have opted for this and what they do.
The Cinema Pro mode is the best mode from the box to start with. This mode offers a fairly well-calibrated screen for viewing in a dark environment, and with a few small adjustments you get a very good picture quality. For standard dynamic range content, we do not set the backlight too high, in order to prevent adverse effects in dark areas of the screen. Moreover, it also looks more comfortable when the screen does not give too much light. The noise reduction filters for removing noise, etc., we turn off, but you can always activate this for lower-quality content. Sony’s Auto local dimming function works pretty well and with a Middle setting you get a high contrast while deep black is also guaranteed. With HDR content this option can be fully open to get the maximum brightness from the panel. We also set the Motionflow option to ‘True Cinema’. This setting provides a smooth and smooth reproduction for film material without you having the feeling of watching a home video. However, you can play with these settings yourself to achieve the most smooth and smooth display for you. Reality Creation is also worth mentioning. This option looks at a database and thus makes images look sharper and more detailed. It works nicely here and there, but especially with static images. You can experiment with the option yourself, but for films in high quality we prefer to do it even though it works reasonably well. the reason for this is that the image sometimes looks a bit too edited. You can find more about the HDR settings later in the review.
First of all, we look at the general properties of the screen; the uniformity, the display of colors, striking errors and the black values. In this respect, the Sony KD-65ZD9 immediately leaves a very good impression. Moreover; we actually have nothing to complain about. This TV performs very well on every level.
The uniformity of the screen is good. We do not see any significant forms of clouding (light spots on black display, or dark spots on white display) which gives you a smooth, even view. We do not speak of banding, a problem that we encountered with several full array LED TVs. The technique that Sony uses for the backlight is doing its job very well, without visible lines or other problems. Only when the brightness and the local dimming setting are completely open, lighter objects on a dark background can create some clouding, even if it is minimal. What is important to mention is that the TV performs a lot less when you look at the screen outside an angle of 30/35 degrees. In such an angle, problems such as halo effects become immediately clearer and you can also see some clouding effects, causing the overall picture quality to quickly deteriorate.
The contrast and the black values also deliver impressive results. With the local dimming technique on medium deep black is retained and you have enough detail in dark parts of the screen. The settings ‘low’ and ‘middle’ provide the best combination of deep black and clear white. This is of course due to the backlight with a large number of zones. The black values are thus impressive deep and even in HDR mode, the TV knows how to hold it very well. The combination of a good local diming technique, a tight and uniform display and deep black values ensures a high contrast.
When it comes to catching fast movements or fast moving objects, we are most impressed with the True Cinema option. This setting provides a smooth and clear view when watching movies, without giving the content a home video look. Here and there, a bit of detail can be lost in really fast movements, but in general, picking up fast movements is well organized. However, you can still play with the Motion settings yourself to adjust the display to your liking. The option ‘flexibility’ does not set you too high because this can cause an unnatural display. The option ‘brightness’ comes down to backlight scanning and this has less negative influence on the image. The higher you set this option, the darker the image becomes and the more striking the blinking of the image becomes.
The Sony KD-65ZD9 is equipped with a Triluminos panel that has to provide bright and dynamic colors that are reproduced faithfully. Where we found a few years ago that Sony the color reproduction went too far and the colors so exaggerated, is that today a lot less. The color rendering is very sleek and realistic, with a wide range of colors and a lot of subtle color details. The colors actually let content come to life without exaggerating.
SD and HD content
If you are still looking at content in standard definition, it is good to know that the ZD9 models have a powerful processor and good techniques on board to make something of it. It remains of course moderate quality, but the deinterlacing and scaling techniques ensure that you get a relatively tight picture with sufficient dynamics and detail. You simply do not get out of noise and artefacts, but the scaling technique gets the most out of it.
As soon as we turn on HD content, we come closer to the real qualities of the ZD9. The TV squeezes the last bit of detail from every pixel of a full HD signal and, thanks to the very good scaling techniques, provides a sharp, tight and detailed picture. If you look at a full HD Blu-ray disc then you would almost believe it is native 4K content. Especially the films Gravity and Super 8 left a very good impression on us. Of course also thanks to the combination of deep black, sleek colors, high contrast and an effective backlight. With Full HD content, the Reality Creation option mentioned above can come in handy. This option looks at a database and thus makes images look sharper and more detailed. The technique works well but can sometimes cause content to be ‘edited’.
4K Ultra HD display
4K Ultra HD content is, of course, the content that makes this TV feel most comfortable and can also achieve the most impressive results. We have watched several films in the full 4K resolution, including The Martian, The Fifth Wave and Everest. Especially with the latter film it becomes clear how tight the display is; with subtle details that appear in the white snow, the emotion that can be read through these details of faces and the very natural but vivid color reproduction. White is not white but white is thousands of shades of white.
The film actually comes to life; the high resolution, the natural color reproduction and the high contrast give an extra dimension to the content. With Ultra HD Blu-ray you experience all the details in the purest form and in our view you get the most sleek and clean view. The high contrast gives extra depth to the film and razor-sharp subtle details only pull you further.
HDR (High Dynamic Range) is a term that we see frequently this year and with which, combined with the higher resolution and the larger color range, we give an extra dimension to a film. Put simply, this means that the TV has a higher contrast with more color gradations, deeper black levels and more intense whites. HDR content is not widely available at the moment but Netflix already offers a number of films and series in HDR and most Ultra HD Blu-ray discs have HDR playback.
As you may have read earlier in our reviews, we are a big fan of HDR and we also hope that the offer will increase rapidly. The film Everest with its intense white snow, bright sun and clear reflections is the ultimate test film. The Sony KD-65ZD9 also knows how to make a beautiful picture in HDR. Dark parts of the screen remain dark / black, while the really bright parts (a sun, a moon, etc.) are particularly bright. There is hardly any question of clipping (loss of detail in clear parts) so that even bright parts of the screen are displayed with great detail. Halo effects become slightly clearer with higher brightness, especially with light texts that can be seen on a dark background. In this area, the OLED TVs (including the LG E6V series) are just a bit further. The peak brightness of these models is lower, but because each pixel can be individually switched off or dimmed, and therefore stays deep black, the contrast is higher. But, all in all, the Sony KD-65ZD9 offers a very impressive HDR experience, with high contrast, a good local dimming technique, high clarity and a lot of detail.
Sony also has an HDR Remaster option built in. This allows you to convert SDR content to HDR. Here, however, we are less impressed. The effect is fun, but it does not make up for real HDR content and the image (in terms of color and clarity) deviates so much from how it is intended by the creators that we prefer to keep HDR with HDR content.
As mentioned above, we use a few other image settings for high dynamic range content in order to get the maximum brightness with the maximum dynamic contrast out of the screen. The TV recognizes HDR content and indicates this in a notification. The TV then ensures that a number of settings are adjusted, including the brightness that is set to maximum. We also set the gamut at least to achieve the right color reproduction, and the X-tended dynamic range option must be at ‘high’. We leave the other settings as indicated above. When you then adjust the settings for the image, they are remembered for specific HDR content. All in all, Sony’s innovative backlight technology combined with HDR offers an exceptional display of detail, color and range. Compared with standard Blu-ray you get more detail in clear parts, a higher brightness of these parts, deep black with convincing shades of gray and colors splashing from your screen.
Sony supplies two 3D glasses with the ZD9 models and still uses the active 3D technology. The glasses are not heavy and sit comfortably on your nose, even if you wear glasses yourself. They also close the ambient light outside to comfortably view 3D content. Since Sony uses the active 3D technique, the glasses dim the image, but this is well compensated by the high brightness of the screen.
The 3D experience is fine. Here and there there is slight crosstalk but not to the extent that it negatively affects the viewing experience. Images are displayed tightly and smoothly and the active 3D technique provides a convincing sense of depth and dynamics. Much progress has not been made in recent years in the field of 3D but for those who still have some 3D movies, it is good to know that Sony will let you do it again and that also in good quality.
If you buy a TV of this caliber then you obviously want to play decent games. If you are a fanatic gamer, the input lag is of great importance. This measurement tells you how much delay there is between performing an action on your controller and performing the action on the image. As far as the input lag is concerned, the Sony KD-65ZD9 does not perform particularly well. The input lag is 43ms (with local dimming disabled) and that is just a bit slower than the top models of Samsung and LG.
Reflections and viewing angles
As mentioned above, the Sony KD-65ZD9 is not a high flyer when it comes to viewing angles. Within an angle of about 35 degrees you get an impressive picture presented, but if you go further out of the middle then the brightness decreases considerably, clouding and halo effects can stand out faster and colors become less saturated. In the area of reflections, the TV performs on average. If the TV is next to a window, the reflection is clearly visible, but a dim light in the back of the room or sunlight from a window on the other side of the room does not stand out (if the picture is on).
Sony ZD9 series – audio quality
As far as the audio reproduction is concerned, it is actually no longer of this time to have no external audio system with a premium TV, but if you still want to listen through the speakers of the TV then it is good to know that the ZD9-series scores above average . The TVs use drivers that point downwards, but this does not cause a disguised effect. The audio field is quite spacious and wide, and also offers sufficient dynamics and volume without overdriving. Dialogs are clear and warm, highs remain pretty tight and there is even a fair bit low. No, impressive and it is not but above average it is and for a simple TV program or a series the audio system of the ZD9 models is fine to use. However, the real film fan can not do without a home theater system.
Sony ZD9 series – conclusion
If we add everything together, we can only reach one conclusion; the Sony KD-65ZD9 is one of the best premium TVs you can buy. This TV is not perfect, however, because the viewing angles are a bit disappointing, the input lag is on the high side and the Android software still does not provide a stable experience. In contrast, impressive image quality – whether you watch HD content or Ultra HD content with HDR -, above-average audio quality, access to a wide range of apps and smart functions, and a very sleek and sleek design. However, the Sony KD-65ZD9 is in a difficult situation because of the high price of 4.999 euros. For this amount you also get an OLED TV that raises the eyes in the field of image quality. Samsung’s top model, the UE65KS9500, is for something less in stores. Pure on image quality Sony would win it from the Samsung but the software is also very important nowadays. In short, the price must go down to really rise above the competition.