Playing a 4K Blu-ray of The Martian, the Sony ZD9’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 ZD9 handles detail well enough to convey these varying textures and more.
Blu-rays of Marvel films, meanwhile, simply pop with colour. The ZD9 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 ZD9 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 ZD9 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 BRAVIA Z9D 4K HDR TV
It may sound like we’re being unfairly nitpicky over the finer subtleties of the Sony’s picture, but when you’re paying S$8999 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 BRAVIA Z9D 4K HDR TV, 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?