FOR Great 4K picture; colour balance; design; easy to use AGAINST Rivals have better black depth; motion instability
We thought we’d seen the last of Sony’s TVS for 2016, but then the company launched a premium ZD9 series of 4K sets. The Sony KD-65ZD9BU is the baby of the range at £4000, but it boasts an Ultra HD 4K resolution and HDR (high dynamic range), with all the streaming features you could want. It has improved technology that promises better detail, contrast and colour, especially for Ultra HD 4K and HDR video.
It has an X1 Extreme image processor that offers 40 per cent more processing power than that in the XD93/XD94 range, too. It delivers more accurate detail enhancement, better contrast and smoother colour gradation.
Backlight Master Drive gives the TV full control over each individual LED in the panel’s full-array backlight, and the 65ZD9 also employs ‘object-based HDR remaster’, which intelligently upscales content to 4K HDR based on how it should look, rather than just boosting the picture’s contrast and colour.
While Sony refuses to join the UHD Alliance and apply the UHD Premium logo that Samsung, Panasonic and LG are happy to show, it is content to adhere to its own high standards when it comes to 4K and HDR parameters. It claims it goes way beyond the 1000 nits required for HDR’S peak brightness.
Looks good, front and back
If it’s a good-looking TV you want, then the Sony KD-65ZD9BU more than justifies its £4000 price tag. It isn’t the slimmest screen we’ve seen but it looks svelte and every inch a premium TV.
Part of it is down to the sliver of bezel surrounding the screen, part the subtle matt-gold accent to the edges of the TV and its stand. It’s not flashy but it does give an attractive flourish that points to the 65ZD9’S premium status at the top of Sony’s TV range.
The stand is also a sensible rectangle – not the long ones that span the length of the TV so you can’t fit them on to your TV stand – and is easy to assemble.
Even the remote control is nice to hold. The flat, rubber-feel buttons are responsive and intuitive, and the metal back is a nice effect.
The grid pattern on the back of the TV looks smart, but it also hides the joints of panels that snap off to reveal all of the 65ZD9’S connections. While other TVS are equally uncluttered and seamless, the 65ZD9’S grid design really makes the panels invisible. It looks cool. You can also feed the cables through the stand to make cable management even neater.
Marshmallow – and more
Hidden underneath those panels are four HDMI inputs (all four specified to 4K/ HDCP 2.2 standards, two allowing HDR – so you can play 4K Blu-rays), an optical output, three USB ports, composite and scart connections, and Freeview HD and satellite tuners. You can connect to your home network using wi-fi, but we prefer using wired ethernet to make sure the connection is stable and that you get the full blast of a 4K stream over Netflix or Amazon Video.
Android TV 6.0 (or M for Marshmallow) returns as the backbone of Sony’s Smart TV platform. However, the system’s updated interface looks virtually unchanged.
Depending on your point of view it’s perhaps not as colourful and fun as Panasonic’s Firefox or LG’S WEBOS but it’s easy to navigate through the orderly list of catch-up TV services, on-demand video apps, Google Play apps and more.
“Uniquely, Sony provides all of the catch-up TV services – BBCI Player, ITV Player, All 4 and Demand 5 – without the need for Freeview Play”
First for video content
Uniquely in our experience, Sony provides all the UK’S catch-up TV services – BBC iplayer, ITV Player, All 4 and Demand 5 – without the need for Freeview Play. There’s even Youview, wuaki.tv and Youtube. Along with the all-important Netflix and Amazon Video, this makes the 65ZD9 one of, if not the most well stocked Smart TVS for video.
The layout is neat and speedy, and it doesn’t take long for apps to open or switch over. The programme guide is similarly uncomplicated, and browsing through telly options is quick and easy.
Marvel at the contrasts
Play The Martian and the Sony KD65ZD9BU dazzles with its 4K Blu-ray picture. The ‘Martian’ landscape looks vast and brutal. You can discern every grain of sand, while aluminium foil and glass sparkle. The grubbiness of Matt Damon’s space-suit, the lines on his face – the Sony is detailed enough to convey these varying textures, and more.
Blu-rays of Marvel films pop with colour. The 65ZD9 has a slightly rich palette, but in an appealing way. It sits between the subtle, crisp Samsung UE65KS9000 and the lush hues of the LG OLED65E6V, but the overall balance looks natural enough.
Streaming in 4K may not be as defined as a 4K disc, but the quality is a step up from Full HD. The Man In The High Castle has a gloomy, grey-filtered palette and the 65ZD9 is talented enough to distinguish edges of objects and characters in the shadowy corners. The opening titles are enough to show how well the Sony can display sharp, bright whites alongside deep blacks, although it takes some adjusting in the picture settings to get this strong contrast.
Devil’s in the detail
Sony’s closest LCD rival is the Samsung UE65KS9000, which offers a slightly different colour balance. Its skin tones are a touch reddish, while the Sony’s veers towards pale yellow. However, it’s their black depth and shadow detail that set the two apart.
While the Samsung doesn’t go as pitch black as the LG OLED65E6V, it still manages to convey intensity and layers of depth. The Sony, as dark as it goes, doesn’t quite suggest that same impression of depth and detail. Space scenes are best at showing this: you can see the wispy gas clouds surrounding the Milky Way on the Samsung, but not so much on the Sony. You can see more stars shining on the Samsung, too.
Even if you brighten the image, the 65ZD9 isn’t quite capable of revealing the subtle details in shadows or edges of objects. Dark hair looks uniformly black on the 65ZD9, but the Samsung can pick out strands of brown when a light shines on characters. Faces look more three dimensional on the Samsung with the extra nuance around the edges, too.
Thin sound needs a boost
The 65ZD9 is a fine upscaler, though, with standard- and high-definition Freeview channels comfortable to watch. There are the inevitable fuzzy edges and drop in detail, but bump up the noise reduction settings to smooth over those old Macgyver episodes and it looks fine.
Sony hasn’t done anything exciting on the sound front, assuming correctly that owners will want to pair their expensive TV with an appropriately capable soundbar. We agree: the TV’S thin sound will definitely need a boost from the likes of the excellent Dali Kubik One (£800) soundbar.
It may sound as though we’re nitpicking over the finer subtleties of the Sony’s picture, but when you’re paying £4000 for the best TV, you’ll be aiming for perfection. There’s no escaping the fact the Samsung 65KS9000 offers a better picture at a lower price.
Still, there’s plenty to like about the Sony KD-65ZD9BU. It’s a lovely set, the world’s best video apps are at your disposable and the picture is still a knockout when you’re watching 4K films and shows.
It looks a little old-school, but the Sony’s remote control is responsive and intuitive
The subtle, matt-gold accent on the bezel and stand add to this TV’S sense of class
The 65ZD9 defies its position as the baby in Sony’s premium range