SONY Z9D REVIEW: Is a $9,000 4K HDR TV Worth It?

sony z9d review

If you thought LCD TVs were dead in the water as far as picture quality and top-of-the line features go, then you haven't seen the Sony Z9D. Now you'll rarely ever hear me utter the phrase game-changer, but that's exactly what Sony did here with this Z-series television. So as you can see I've got the Sony Z9D here in the studio and specifically this is the 75-inch Sony XBR 75Z9D. This is the 75-inch model of the Z9D series which retails for about $9000. And yes, that is fairly expensive. But Sony does also make a 65-inch version of the same model and that one retails for about 5500, shaving off about 10 inches of screen size and saving you $3500 in the process. 
But the question quickly becomes what makes the Sony Z9D series worth that kind of cash and should you spend your money on one if you're looking to upgrade your home theater? So let's jump into my thoughts starting with design. Looking at the Z9D from the side you'll quickly realize that it isn't one of those crazy thin TVs you've probably been hearing about. And typically those thin TVs are either super high-end OLEDs or they're super thin LCD TVs that aren't worth a second look if you're trying to go high-end since those are typically edge-LEDs. The Z9D on the other hand weighs just a hair over 91 pounds when attached with stand or 71 pounds if you get the 65-inch version. And it's thick because it needs the room for its intricate and complex backlighting system. And that's actually the magic behind this TV. 
Sony did do a great job with the rear of the Z9D giving multiple places to connect and route your wires and cables along with panels that keep them out of view. After you get everything connected and covered up you get a nice clean, consistent look around back. And since I don't like wall mounting my TVs, I use the stand for set-up, which I personally think looks great. The Z9D uses a single stand centered under the display, which I prefer over other TVs that use a pair of feet that go on either side of the display which pretty much limits the type of stand you can use. But obviously it's not the physical look of the Z9D that matters, it's the display and picture that comes out of it and in a word, it's incredible. 

sony z9d review

So what is it about the Z9D that makes it, in my opinion, the best looking LED LCD TV on the market today? It goes back to that backlighting system that I mentioned earlier. The Z9D has 630 individual zones of LED backlights. And we've seen this kind of architecture before on other TVs, other backlighting systems, but typically they have 12 zones, or 32 zones, 36 zones. I think one of them got crazy and had 64 different backlighting zones but 630 zones on a Z9D just blows everything else away. Basically every LED here is its own zone and that means that the processor in the TV can control the brightness and darkness on the display at an extremely precise level. And the result is incredible contrast with blacks that are better than any other LCD HDTV out there. And it even rivals the best OLEDs. 
And where it outshines every other TV is in peak brightness. This TV can go up to 1600 nits of brightness. When playing HDR content you get a jaw-dropping image thanks to the increased dynamic range and high color gamut. The high peak brightness even works great when you're watching non-HDR content giving it an almost HDR-like feel. And in all honesty, I was actually a little concerned that the TV would be too bright, especially for use in a dark room but it's really well managed and those 630 zones make it so that only what needs to be super bright can be super bright while the rest of the image on the display can remain dark. So for example if you have a sunset, just the sun will be super bright but everything else will look naturally lit. It's really impressive. Pair this TV up with an ultra-HD Blu-Ray with a great master like Planet Earth 2 and it becomes hard to take your eyes away from the screen. Now if I had to ding this TV for anything, it would actually be for the Smart TV interface. 
And I can't really fault Sony for this because they decided to go with Android TV from Google. So Android TV is what powers the Smart TV features here on this display but what it is mostly is inconsistent. Sometimes it's super slow, sometimes it's fast, sometimes it's just okay, sometimes it starts out fast then it slows to a crawl then it like catches up again. I've often found it easier and faster to just use one of my connected set-top boxes like an Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Apple TV, TiVo BOLT Plus, and just use the built-in apps there rather than relying on the apps built into the TV. 
So right now that's a shame but hopefully, I mean Android TVs should be getting regular updates. Hopefully a future update means that this TV will be able to be used on its own without set-top boxes without you having to schedule time in your calendar in order to go through all the menus. So the question becomes who is the Z9D for? Again, obviously we know it's a fairly expensive television. This is definitely one of the highest-end TVs on the market right now and so therefore it's obviously targeting the high-end buyer. Someone who's looking for a really impressive TV to be the centerpiece of their home theater viewing experience. It sits right up there with the latest LG OLED models in terms of picture quality and price tag. And ultimately 
I think the buyer of the Sony is the person who cares more about brightness, including peak brightness, whether watching standard or HDR content. And those who prefer absolutely perfect blacks and want that individual pixel-mapping will be more inclined to buy an OLED TV instead. And hey, Sony's actually about to jump into the OLED market as well looking to corner the market at both ends of the game. But now I want to hear from you guys. What do you think of the Sony Z9D? Is it something you'd ever entertain buying? Do you not really care about high-end displays or are you a videophile? Let me know in the comments down below. I'll meet you down there for further discussion. 
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