Sony Z9F Review (XBR65Z9F, XBR75Z9F)
Sony Z9F is the Mater Series of Sony’s 2018 4K HDR LED TV lineup, the successor of Z9D that released in 2016. Like the predecessor, it is a TV with outstanding peak brightness. Sony might have launched two premium models including A8F and A9F which have outstanding picture quality, but both of them come with OLED panel. We all know the outstanding picture quality produced by OLED TV due their perfect black level and infinite contrast but not everyone has the same sense. If A8F and A9F with OLED panel offer excellent performance in producing black, Samsung Z9D has superiority in producing peak brightness with HDR. This certainly makes Z9F is as a good alternative for you who tend to watch TV in bright environment. In the market, Sony Z9F comes in 2 screen sizes only, 65 Inch (XBR65Z9F) and 75 Inch (XBR75Z9F). As a reference, for its 65 inch model, it is priced far more expensive than X900F, even almost doubled than the price of X900F, but still cheaper than A8F. So, what features are offered and how is its picture quality and performance produced?
Sony Z9F Key Specs
|Resolution||4K (2160 x 3840)|
|Panel Technology||LED- VA|
|Size Available||65 Inch (XBR65Z9F), 75 Inch (XBR75Z9F)|
|Local Dimming||Yes ( Full Array Local Dimming)|
|Image Processor||Picture Processor X1 Ultimate|
|Contrast Enhancement||X-Tended Dynamic Range Pro (12x), Dynamic Contrast Enhancer, Object- Based HDR Remaster|
|Clarity Enhancement||4K X-Reality Pro, Dual Database Processing, Object Based Super Resolution|
|Color Enhancement||TriLuminos Display, Precision Color Mapping, Live Color Technology, Super Bit Mapping 4K HDR|
|Viewing Angle Improvement||X-Wide Angle|
|Motion Control||X Motion Clarity|
|Native Refresh Rate||120 Hz|
|HDR||HDR 10, HLG, Dolby Vision|
|Platform||Android TV 8.0 Oreo|
|Key Apps||Google Home, Google Voice Assistant, Amazon Alexa, etc|
|Remote||Voice Remote Control|
|Speaker Type||Bass Reflex Speaker|
|Total Audio Output||10 watts x 2|
|Price||See the price on Amazon|
Features and Technologies of Sony Z9F
As the premium TVs, Sony Z9F comes with the number of Sony’s highest level technologies that allows you to enjoy high level HDR experience. One of new technology introduced by Sony Z9F is the X1 Ultimate HDR processor. Its performance in enhancing brightness, details and color is claimed two times as powerful as Sony’s current X1 Extreme, the main brain of middle to upper model of Sony’s 4K HDR TV lineup like A8F or X900F. Like the predecessor Z9D or other middle to upper model of Sony’s 2018 lineup, Z9F also already supports more than HDR formats including HDR10, HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) and Dolby Vision. But unlike premium model of LG TV that also supports Advanced HDR by Technicolor or Samsung TVs with its HDR10+, Sony Z9F doesn’t support both of these HDR format.
Meanwhile, on its panel, Z9F is also powered by the highest technologies they have. Use VA (Vertical Alignment) panel technology, it comes with direct LED backlight technology and Full Array Local Dimming with hundreds dimming zones, make it has high precision lighting for deeper black level and bright peak brightness. For improving contrast, black level and peak brightness produced, there are some technology behind it like X-Tended Dynamic Range Pro 12x that significantly improves peak brightness, Dynamic Contrast Enhancer that improves the contrast produced and Object Based HDR Remaster that maximizes color and brightness of objects in the images individually. Additionally, for maximizing its color reproductions so it has excellent color reproduction, there are also some technology like TriLuminos Display, Precision Color Mapping, Live Color Technology, and Super Bit mapping 4K HDR. For improving the clarity of images, there is a combination of 4K X-Reality Pro, Dual Database Processing, and Object Based Super Resolution. Combination of these technologies behind it makes Sony Z9F can produce picture with outstanding detail and accuracy, even when it is displaying no UHD content.
The other new technology offered by Sony Z9F is X-Wide Angle. This makes Z9F has better side viewing angle coverage than most TVs with VA panel while it still has strong native contrast ratio and deep black. But even so, its viewing angle coverage is still worse than TVs with IPS panel or OLED panel. Additionally, for maximizing its performance when playing fast moving images, Sony Z9F is powered by X Motion Clarity technology based on native 120 Hz refresh rate technology. To make motion looks clearer, it inserts a black frame based on the object individually, not based on throughout the scene, so the picture displayed will looks more precision. The algorithm that used by this technology is different to the technologies of other TVs where they usually insert a black frame based on the scene.
And for allowing you to enjoy attractive Smart TV experience, Sony Z9F is featuring Google Android TV as its smart TV platform. That makes it is more attractive, now it has been integrated with Google Home and Amazon Alexa. It is not juts act as a smart TV, but also can be used to control and monitor your other Google Home and Amazon Alexa Compatible devices like Air Conditioner, Refrigerator, Washing machine, and others. And that is not less interesting, it has been also integrated with Google Voice Assistant, makes its voice navigations is far better, allow you to do many more thing with your voice command. But a bit unfortunate, as premium TVs with a lot of advanced technologies and features, it is only equipped with 2.0 channel speaker system with 20 watts of sound output and not equipped with built-in woofer. This certainly makes its sound performance is less impressive than the competitors like Samsung Q9FN or others. So, to enjoy excellent HDR performance offered by Z9F with impressive sound quality, you should buy an additional external sound bar.
Performance of Sony Z9F
Contrast and Black Level
Although Sony Z9F uses VA panel, its native contrast ratio is not so strong, extremely low for as typical of VA panel. But even so, it is still better than what reached by IPS TV. Fortunately, it has excellent local dimming that improves its native contrast ratio. So, although not as strong as other VA TVs, it still can produce deep black. This means, when used in a dark room, its performance particularly in producing darks scene may not be as good as the competitors like Samsung Q9FN or even the series below it like X900F, but what produced by Z9F is still acceptable. The result dark scene of images or even shadow details of HDR images displayed on its screen still looks fairly good and is still better than IPS TV. What you expect from HDR technology to be able to enjoy more details images in dark scene can still be met by Z9F. For those who like watch movies with a lot of dark scene like Thriller or Horror in a dark room, its performance is not too disappointed and it can still be a good choice, but of course it is not the best since most TVS with VA panel can do better job. The unusual contrast ratio of Z9F as a VA TVs may be caused by the new X-Wide Viewing Angle technology that influences its pixel structure.
While contrast ratio of Sony Z9F is not too excellent, peak brightness produced by Sony Z9F is including the brightest in 2018. With real SDR content, it can reach more than 700 nits of peak brightness that means it is bright enough to make the picture displayed on its screen looks very bright, even when set in a very bright room. Even when showing small bright object in dark scene, its local dimming is very effective to make them looks amazingly bright, more than 1000 nits. Meanwhile, with real HDR content, peak brightness of Z9F is even far brighter that is more than 1300 nits. Just like with SDR content, its local dimming is also very effective to show small bright object in dark scene looks extremely bright, that is more than 1500 nits. The result, highlights of HDR images looks amazing on its screen. When showing the whole scene is bright, its brightness may drop to below 1000 nits, but what offered by Z9F is still brighter than what offered by most TVs. With what reached by Sony Z9F in producing peak brightness, this certainly makes it is able to show highlights if bright scene of HDR images brighter than 1000 nits like the intended. The other excellence offered, its local dimming is also very effective to reduce blooming. With hundreds dimming zones, Z9F has high precision lighting, make an unwanted adjacent light around small bright or called “blooming” when it is displaying dark scene can be minimized. The result, blooming is less visible than most LED TVs.
Although not as wide as what produced the competitor like Samsung Q9FN or Q8FN, Sony Z9F can also produce excellent color gamut, similar to Samsung Q6FN. Its color gamut can cover more than 90% of DCI P3 color space that means it is good for HDR content particularly that mastered in DCI P3 like HDR10 content. Additionally, its color coverage in Rec.2010 also can be said well that is more than 70% and of course this is good for HDR content that mastered in Rec.2020 like Dolby Vision. The result, although some certain colors like deep green or other can be shown as saturated as others colors, but overall, most colors of HDR images displayed on its screen look very accurate. In addition to wide color gamut, Sony Z9F also has good color volume. Dark colors can be shown fairly good, as well as bright colors, it also can show them fairly well. Some certainly colors like very bright blues may not be shown as good as other colors, but overall, it can well-show its wide color gamut at its entire brightness room. Combination of wide color gamut and good color volume makes it can produce HDR images with vivid color. Still about color performance, Sony Z9F also has outstanding color gradient, thanks to Object Based Resolution and Super Bit Mapping 4K HDR technology behind it. When displaying HDR contents, color of HDR images displayed on its screen looks very smooth with virtually no major color banding. Its color gradient can be even said the best in 2018.
Side Viewing Angle
Unlike other TVs with VA panel that has poor side viewing angle, Sony Z9F is an exception. Its side viewing angle coverage may not as better as OLED TVs or even TVs with IPS panel, however, it is still better than most TVs with VA panels, particularly in maintaining brightness and black level. This is due Z9F has a new layer technology called “X-Viewing Angle”. If on standard VA panel, black level usually degrades started at less than 15 degrees off center and front, on the screen of Z9F, black level will just look degraded at more than 30 degrees. Performance of Z9F in maintain black level may be better than most VA TVs, but still not as good as IPS TVs or OLED TVs which able to maintain their black level up to extremely wide angle. As well as the brightness, Z9F can also maintain its peak brightness up to more than 50 degrees. While the point where the color start to shift is not far different to other VA TV or IPS TV, even OLED TVs. But even so, at wider angle, the color shift is not as significant as on the standard VA panel. The result, as long as you don’t watch TV from extremely side angle, the quality of the picture displayed on its screen is not degraded significantly.
Motion Handling and 24p Playback
Samsung Z9F has great performance when handling motion blur, particularly that caused by pixel response time. Its pixel response time may not be as low as OLED TVs, but for LED TVs, the pixel response time of Z9F is extremely low. The result, when playing fast moving images like sports, video games, or fast movies, there is only a very short ghosting trail following fast moving object where most people may not notice thus much. Blur that may be visible is more caused by the persistence than the pixel response time. Meanwhile, since it has local dimming, to dim its backlight, by default, it uses PWM Dimming system with 720 HZ of Dimming Frequency. This might cause backlight flicker, but since it uses very high frequency, flickers produced should not be noticeable for most people. But on the other hand, this will cause persistence blur. For overcoming this issue, Sony Z9F actually has an optional BFI (Black Frame Insertion” mode that allow it flickers its backlight at lower frequency. But unlike the competitors like Samsung Q9FN where its lowest possible frequency of flickering pattern is 60 Hz, the lowest possible frequency of Z9F is 120 Hz. By activating this mode, this will make motion blur that caused by persistence, particularly when playing 60 fps content like sports or video games can be minimized, but of course not as clear as with 60 Hz flickering pattern. But on the other hand, since it uses lower dimming frequency, this will make backlight flicker is more noticeable. For you who feel more comfortable with flicker, enable this mode is better. Otherwise, for you who feel more comfortable with blur, you can disable this mode.
Additionally, Sony Z9F also can do excellent job when playing 24p movies. No matter the frame rate of 24p movies, the picture produced will look smooth without visible judder. This means, no matter it is playing native 24p videos like Blu-ray or DVD’s movies, movies from streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Videos, or others, 24p videos via 60i signal like movies from satellite TV, or even 24p movies via 60p signal like movies from streaming devices such as Apple TV, Fire TV, and others, all of them will be shown clearly and smoothly with judder-free on the screen of Z9F.
Like most other TVs which available in the market, Samsung Z9F is also equipped with 4 HDMI ports as its major connectivity. All of its HDMI ports already support CEC, HDCP 2.2, HDCP 2.3, and also HDMI 2.0 full bandwidth. It also has 1 port that supports ARC (Audio Return Channel) that is on HDMI 3. Additionally, it also equipped with 3 USB ports where 2 ports are USB 2.0 (USB 1 and USB 2), while 1 port is USB 3.0 (USB 3). In addition to HDMI and USB ports, there is also 1 RF In (Antenna In), 1 Composite In (AV In), 1 Digital Audio Out (Optical), 1 Analog Audio Out (Min Jack), 1 Ethernet port, and 1 IR In for its IR Blaster. As its wireless connectivity, Sony Z9F is equipped with built-in Bluetooth 4.2 version and built-in Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac that works at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.
Meanwhile, Sony Z9F also has excellent input lags in “PC” and “Game” mode, better than other models of Sony’s 2018 TV or Z9D the predecessor. If the inputs lags of other models of Sony’s 2018 lineup are too high in 1080p resolution, this issue has been overcome in Z9F. This means, no matter the inputs has 4K or 1080p resolution, its inputs lags in “PC” and “Game” mode is fairly low that is about 21 ms. This certainly makes Z9F is very comfortable and responsive when used to play games. No matter you are playing 1080p or 4K games, casual or fast paced games, with HDR or not, you will play them responsively without feel laggy. And combines to its excellent picture quality, good side viewing angle, excellent motion handling, and risk-free from permanent burn in, this makes Z9F is as a great TV for gamers.
Like other model of Sony’s 2018 TV lineup, Sony Z9F is also featuring Sony’s customized Android TV as its smart TV platform. But unlike most model of Sony’s 2018 lineup like A8F, X900F or others which come with 7.0 version, it already comes with 8.0 version Oreo. The “Home Screen” has been upgraded. Although its interface is still not easy as Tizen OS by Samsung or WebOS by LG, but its navigation is far easier than previous version. If on previous version, the many of the options that used are placed at the bottom of the screen, in this Oreo version, they are moved at the top of the screen. In addition to it has easier Home Interface, its performance is also faster and more responsive than previous version. Meanwhile, as we know, the excellence of Android TVs is about the apps and smart features that provided, particularly that provided by its apps store called “Google Play Store”. As its preinstalled apps, it provides a lot of apps like YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Videos, Web browser, Games, Miracast, ChromeCast built-in, and many more. And the most interesting is about the contents provided by Google Play Store. Since it is supported by thousands of developer, contents provided are very complete. There are thousands of free or paid apps, games, smart features, contents where you can download them directly from your TV. The other interesting that offered is about Google Home and Google Voice Assistant. As we know, started at 7.0 version, it already supports Google Home and Amazon Alexa, allow you to control and monitor your other compatible devices via your TV. Additionally, Google voice assistant also makes its voice navigation is far better, allow you to control a lot of more thing with your voice commands.
If there is an upgrade on its smart TV platform, there is no upgrade on its remote. Its remote is still large and has a lot of soft buttons. In addition to standard buttons like “Power Buttons”, “Volume Buttons”, “Number Button”, “Direction Button”, and others, it also some quick access button for most functions and two dedicated buttons for Netflix and Google Play Store. Meanwhile, on the top of the remote, there is a microphone button for voice navigation. As we have mentioned, since it has been integrated with Google Voice Assistant, its voice control can work far better and allow you to do a lot of more thing with your voice command like change channel, open apps, search within apps, ask some basic question, and many more. And works together with IR blaster, this remote also can act as universal remote, allow you to control some functions of other CEC compatible devices connected on your TV via HDMI ports.
Sony Z9F is an excellent TV for a variety of uses, whether it is for watching TV shows, movies, sports or playing games. Although its contrast ratio is not as strong as other TVs with VA panel, but in a dark room, performance is still fairly good. Besides that, there are not many people who watch TV in pitch dark environment, so this should not be a major problem for it. On the other hand, its performance in a bright room is superior since it has outstanding peak brightness, even is including the brightest TV in 2018. Additionally, it also has the advantages than other TVs with VA panel that is about its side viewing angle coverage that is better than other VA TVs. In addition to excellent picture quality and great HDR performance, it also has excellent motion handling and input lags. The new version of Android TV also allows you to feel more comfortable when enjoying smart TV experience. But a bit unfortunate, its excellent picture quality is not followed by impressive sound quality. It only has standard 2.0 channel speaker system, so if you care about sound quality, you must add external sound bar.
Should I buy this TV? As we have discussed a lot above, in producing black, its performance may not be as good as OLED TV or other TV with VA panel, but the superiority offered by Z9F is outstanding peak brightness. So, if you are searching TV with great HDR performance, particularly that can show bright HDR images in a bright room, it may be a good choice for you. Its closest competitor is Samsung Q9FN that also has excellent peak brightness and not far different to watch offered by Z9F.
Compared to the Competitor
Sony Z9D vs Sony Z9F
Sony Z9D is the predecessor of Z9F that launched two years ago. It has stronger black level but its viewing angle is not as good as Z9F. Additionally, it also has excellent peak brightness, but still not as bright as Z9F. Sony Z9D also has excellent color gamut, but for this case, as a newer model, Z9F can provides wider color gamut than the predecessor. Overall, Sony Z9D also has excellent picture quality and great HDR performance, but Z9F is still better. Meanwhile, in term of motion handling, the pixel response time of Z9D is too high, makes motion trail following fast moving object is more noticeable than Z9F that has excellent pixel response time. But when minimizing motion blur that caused by persistence particularly when they are playing 60 fps content like sports or video games, Z9D can do better job since the lowest possible frequency of its flickering pattern is 60 HZ while Z9F is 120 HZ. The other disadvantages of Z9D its input lags in 1080p resolution is too high, makes it is not too comfortable for playing fast paced 1080p games. And since it is a 2016 model, its smart TV platform is still 6.0 version. Overall, Sony Z9F is better than the predecessor Z9D. But the advantage offered by Z9D, since it is old model, its price has dropped a lot and now, its price is cheaper than Z9F. To read complete review of Sony Z9D, please click here.
Samsung Q9FN vs Sony Z9F
Samsung Q9FN is the top model of Samsung’s 2018 QLED TV lineup. Like Z9F, it also comes in 2 screen sizes options, 65 inch and 75 inch. With the same screen (QN65Q9FN vs XBR65Z9F, QN75Q9FN vs XBR75Z9F), it is sold slightly cheaper than Z9F. The advantages offered by Q9FN, it has far stronger native contrast ratio that makes it can produce far deeper black level and makes better when used in a dark room. Additionally, it also has wider color gamut and better color volume even though its color gradient is not as good as Z9F. Additionally, although with HDR contents, overall, its peak brightness is not as bright as Z9F, but some small objects can be shown brighter. Samsung Q9FN also has an optional BFI mode at 60 Hz, makes it can do better job in minimizing persistence blur, particularly when playing 60 fps content like sports or fast movies. But even so, the dimming frequency of Q9FN is not as high as Z9F, makes flickers is more noticeable on its screen. Otherwise, the advantages offered by Sony Z9F, no matter with SDR or HDR content, overall, it has brighter peak brightness than Q9FN. Additionally, its pixel response time is also lower, makes it can do a better job when handling motion trail. Meanwhile, with X-Viewing Angle technology, Sony Z9F has better side viewing angle coverage than Q9FN. Overall, Q9FN is better than Z9F, but if you are searching that can produce brighter HDR images, Z9F is better. To read complete review of Samsung Q9FN, please click here
Sony A8F vs Z9F
As we have known, Sony A8F is a part of Sony OLED TV that launched in 2018. It also comes in 2 screen sizes, but unlike Z9F that comes in 65 Inch and 75 inch, A8F comes in 55 inch and 65 inch. With the same screen (XBR65Z9F vs XBR65A8F), Sony A8F is priced slightly more expensive than Z9F. Like other OLED TVs, the advantages offered by A8F, it has infinite contrast ratio and perfect black level that makes its performance in a dark room is outstanding. Additionally, A8F also has wider color gamut, but its color volume and gradient is not as good as Z9F. The other advantage is about its excellent viewing angle coverage and pixel response time. But like most models of Sony’s 2018 lineup, its input lags are not as lower as Z9F. Even its input lag in 1080p resolution is too high. A8F also has good peak brightness, but is still far from what offered by Z9F. Which one is a better choice between them is certainly depending on your own preferences. In a dark room, A8F is a better while in a bright room, Sony Z9F is a better. But overall, they equally have outstanding picture quality. To read complete review of Sony A8F, please click here.
- Outstanding Peak Brightness
- Great Local Dimming Performance
- Excellent Input Lags
- As a TV with VA panel, its contrast ratio is too weak