It may be the baby of Sony’s 2016 flagship television range, but the 65in KD-65ZD9BU comes fully outfitted for a trip to home entertainment heaven.
We’re not just talking 4K Ultra HD pictures, but full HDR support - as well as a dazzling bevy of built-in streaming features.
So is that little lot worth the eye-watering £4,000 asking price?
It more than justifies the investment if you're looking for a drop dead gorgeous TV to act as your living room centrepiece.
Sure, it's not the skinniest screen we’ve seen, but even with the few centimetres of padding on the back it's no porker; the ZD9 looks svelte and every inch a premium TV.
That's partly down to the tiny sliver of bezel surrounding the screen, which focuses your attention on the picture. The other part is the subtle matt-gold accent around the TV’s edges and stand. It’s not OTT – more a peacockish flourish that points to the TV’s status at the top of Sony’s range.
The stand, on the other hand, is a sensible rectangle – not one of those daft long ones that span the length of the set so you can’t fit them on to your TV stand, and idiot-proof to assemble.
Even the remote control feels good in your hand. The flat, rubbery buttons are responsive and intuitive, and the metal back screams "high end".
The grid pattern on the back looks smart, and also camouflages the 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. You can also feed the cables through the stand to make cable management even neater. No more cord spaghetti.
Hidden underneath those panels are four HDMI inputs (all specified to 4K/HDCP 2.2 standards, with two supporting 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 for a more stable connection, there’s wired Ethernet to make sure you get the full buffer-free blast of a 4K stream over Netflix or Amazon Video.
Smart TV, done smartly
Android TV remains the backbone of Sony’s smart TV platform - this time version 6.0 Marshmallow.
It’s maybe 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 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 aforementioned Netflix and Amazon Video, this makes the 65ZD9 one of the best-stocked smart TVs where video’s concerned.
The layout is neat and speedy, and it doesn’t take long for apps to open or switch over. The programme guide is similarly unfussy, and browsing through daytime telly options is a breeze.
Playing a 4K Blu-ray of The Martian, the Sony KD-65ZD9BU’s picture dazzles. The red planet’s landscape looks suitably vast and brutal, detailed enough that you can discern every grain of sand, while aluminium foil and glass sparkle.
The grubbiness of Matt Damon’s spacesuit, and the lines on his face (sorry Matt, happens to the best of us) – the 65ZD9 handles detail well enough to convey these varying textures and more.
Blu-rays of Marvel films, meanwhile, simply pop with colour. The 65ZD9 has a very rich palette, but in an appealing way. It sits between the subtle, crisp Samsung UE65KS9000 and the glowing, lush hues of the LG OLED65E6V – but the overall balance is natural enough.
Streamed 4K video may not be as defined as a 4K disc, but the quality is still leaps and bounds better than 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 nail this punchy contrast.
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 4K and HDR parameters. Sony claims it goes way beyond the 1000 nits required for HDR’s peak brightness.
Even after we tweaked the picture using a THX Optimizer disc, there were plenty of options in the settings menus to make the ZD9’s picture even better.
Our tips? Turn black enhancer, advanced contrast enhancer and auto local dimming to “low” to achieve those deep, intense blacks. It might swallow up some fine detail, but the alternative is slightly grey blacks.
We also favour the “Standard” motion option to smooth over the judders that can blight the ZD9’s natural performance, especially during panning scenes.
The 65ZD9 is a fine 4K 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 just grand.
Sony hasn’t put in much effort on the sound front, presumably assuming that owners will want to pair their expensive TV with an appropriately capable soundbar. We agree: the TV’s weedy sonic heft will definitely need a boost from the likes of the excellent Dali Kubik One.
Sony KD-65ZD9BU verdict
It may sound like we’re being unfairly nitpicky over the finer subtleties of the Sony’s picture, but when you’re paying £4,000 for your gogglebox, you’d be forgiven for expecting perfection – or something very close to it.
And, really, there’s no escaping the fact that Samsung’s 65KS9000 offers a better picture at a much lower price.
There’s still plenty to adore about the Sony KD-65ZD9BU, though. It’s a lovely set, the world’s best video apps are at your disposal and the picture is still a knockout when you’re watching 4K films and shows.
Tested for Stuff by the team at What Hi-Fi?