The Sony MASTER Series Z9F is a very good 4k VA TV. It produces great picture quality, and it is the brightest TV we have reviewed so far. Sony's new X-Wide Angle system delivers wider viewing angles than typically found on VA panels, but unfortunately, they still aren't as good as most IPS TVs, and this comes at the expense of contrast. It has excellent low input lag, and all four HDMI ports support HDMI 2.0 full bandwidth. The Android 8.0 smart platform is also much faster than previous Sony TVs.
The Sony Z9F has a great design, with a few minor flaws. The overall design is somewhat simplistic, but it should look great in most rooms. It has a good stand that supports the TV well, but is quite large. Thankfully, the feet can be reversed so they take less space. Like the Z9D, there are covers on the back that hide the connections. These look good when the TV is placed on a stand, but they can be hard to remove if you need to access the connections when wall mounted. The TV is well built, but some of the panels on the back are loose and could cause some vibrations.
The stand is made of metal and is well built. It supports the TV well, but there is some wobble. The legs are very similar to the X900F, but somewhat bulkier. Like the X900F, they can be reversed. Like many 2018 Sony TVs, the back of the legs can be used to guide cables.
Footprint of the 65" TV stand: 12.3" x 47".
Footprint of the 65" TV stand, with legs reversed: 12.3" x 36".
The borders are thin, with a square design similar to the Z9D. The front half of the borders have a new texture finish similar to Sony cameras. The back half is metal and has a nice finish.
The Sony XBR65Z9F is slightly thinner than the Z9D, and it has a more uniform thickness that looks great when wall mounted.
The overall temperature is very uniform and runs quite cool. There should be no issues.
Most of the Z9F is made of plastic, but there are some metal parts, including most of the stand and some of the bezel. It is solid and seems well built, but some of the panels on the back are loose so they may vibrate with the volume up high.
The Sony Z9F produces great picture quality, with some interesting results. It delivers one of the widest viewing angles measured on a VA panel, but still short of most IPS panels, and this comes at the expense of worse than average contrast. It has a great local dimming feature that thankfully somewhat compensates for the contrast. The Sony XBR65Z9F is the brightest TV we have measured so far, and it has a great wide color gamut, although not as good as Samsung's QLED TVs or the Vizio P Series Quantum. It has outstanding gradient handling and is free of temporary image retention.
The Sony Z9F has an unexpectedly low contrast ratio. The native contrast ratio is extremely low for a VA panel but better than any IPS TV. With Local dimming set to 'High', and X-tended Dynamic Range set to 'High', the contrast ratio is more acceptable. Again, it is better than an IPS, but worse than any other VA panel.
We believe that the low contrast ratio is caused by the new X-Wide Angle optical panel. You can see more about this in the pixels section of the review.
The Sony Z9F has a good full array local dimming feature. In our side-by-side tests, it performed worse than the Z9D, with more noticeable blooming around bright objects. Zone changes are noticeable with bright objects in dark scenes, but it isn't as distracting as the Vizio P Series Quantum. Fans of subtitled movies will be disappointed, however, as there is significant blooming around subtitles, especially in HDR.
For our side-by-side comparison, Auto Local Dimming was set to 'High', and X-tended Dynamic Range was set to 'Medium'. We took some comparison shots to demonstrate the local dimming of the Z9F. In these shots, the Z9F is in the top left, Z9D top right, the Vizio P Series Quantum bottom left, and the Q9FN bottom right. In the first image, you can see that the local dimming is worse on the Z9F, resulting in brighter letterbox bars, and you can also see that the contrast is worse. In the second image, you can see that there is less dark crush on the Z9F than on the Q9FN.
Extraordinary peak brightness in SDR.
The Sony XBR65Z9F has the best real scene brightness that we have every measured, brighter than the Vizio P Series Quantum, the Sony X930E, and the Z9D. Smaller highlights in some scenes are brighter on the P Series Quantum, but the Z9F is brighter overall. There is significant variation in overall brightness depending on the scene, and this may bother some people, although it doesn't fluctuate as much as the P Series Quantum.
Update 02/27/2018: Retested the brightness using a PC as the source, so we can automate testing. Also corrected an error in the real scene brightness; the previous value of 1498 cd/m² was a mistake. All test scores have been updated.
If you find HDR content too dim, you can adjust the Contrast and Gamma to your liking. If it is still too dim, increase the Contrast Enhancer setting to your liking.
Good gray uniformity. The corners of the screen appear slightly darker than the rest, and there are a few darker spots throughout the screen, but it isn't very noticeable.
The viewing angles of the Z9F are better than most TVs with VA panels, but still worse than most IPS TVs so it performs somewhere in-between. This should be fine for those who have wide seating or view the TV from up close. Sony has added an extra 'X-Wide Angle' layer to improve this viewing angle, which can be see in the pixels photo of the TV here.
Here are some comparison stills of the Z9D on top and Z9F below, with the reference image for each TV at the 0 degree angle shown on the left.
Note: The use of an absolute threshold for calculating the score of the viewing angle test results in a harsher score for the Z9F. Although the inaccuracy crosses our threshold relatively early, it degrades slowly beyond this point (so is more accurate than some other TVs at wider angles). We will improve this test in the next test bench update.
Update 02/27/2019: Retested viewing angle with our new test; the score is now much better, and matches our subjective impression. Our conclusion remains the same: the Z9F has a better viewing angle than most VA TVs, but not as good as most IPS TVs.
Good black uniformity. With local dimming disabled, there is some clouding across the entire screen. With local dimming enabled, most of the screen is pure black, but there is clouding around the test cross.
Excellent reflection handling, but slightly worse than the Z9D. There should be no issues using this TV in a very bright room. Interestingly, reflections are smeared horizontally on this screen more than any other TV we've tested. This may be a result of the new optical layer, which you can see in the pixels photo here. Even bright lights which are far off the the side of the TV can be seen smeared horizontally when the TV is off.
The Sony Z9F has decent accuracy out of the box. Color and white balance are high, and enthusiasts will probably notice the inaccuracies. The color temperature is a bit warm. Like most Sony TVs, the most accurate Picture Mode is 'Custom'. Sony's 'MASTER' TVs appear to have a different gamma target to the 2.2 standard as we measured the same high gamma on the A9F. This is strange, because previous models followed our target of 2.2 accurately in the 'Custom' picture mode.
Update 02/27/2019: Retested with the 'Gamma' setting set to '0', rather than '2' as it is by default, so the TV better tracks the 2.2 target gamma; as a result the score has increased significantly. The White Balance dE and the Color dE are quite low, so only a few enthusiasts might notice those inaccuracies. Also, the color temperature is almost spot on the 6500K target. All test scores and pictures have been updated.
Outstanding accuracy after calibration. White balance and color dE are nearly perfect, and any remaining imperfections are completely imperceptible. Gamma is perfectly flat at 2.2, and the color temperature is almost spot on our target of 6500 K. Like pretty much every Sony TV, the most accurate Picture Mode is 'Custom', but most of them are similar.
You can see our recommended settings here.
Older, 480p digital content looks good, with no obvious upscaling artifacts or oversharpening.
1080p content from Blu-rays or older game consoles looks great, almost as good as native 4k content.
Very good, wide color gamut, similar to the Q6FN. The EOTF follows the input stimulus perfectly, but rolls off suddenly at the TV's peak brightness, which may cause some clipping in bright scenes. The PC and Game EOTFs also follow the curve perfectly, which is great.
If you find HDR content too dim, setting the Contrast and Gamma to their maximum values, and setting Contrast enhancer to 'High' will boost the brightness across all scenes, as shown here.
The picture modes behave differently to the previous 2018 and 2017 Sony TVs that we have reviewed. All picture modes hard clip at the peak brightness of the Z9F, whereas some of the picture modes on older models would roll off more smoother.
You can see our recommended settings for HDR here.
Good color volume. P3 coverage is excellent; the Z9F is able to produce deep, dark colors well, but it can't fill out the entire gamut well. Like many LCD TVs, it can't produce very bright blues.
Outstanding gradient performance, the best we have ever seen on a 4k TV.
If you see any banding, the clarity tab has a few options that can help. Note that these options will result in a loss of some fine details.
There is no temporary image retention on the Sony Z9F.
We don't expect VA panels to experience permanent image retention, as the VA panel in our long-term test appears immune.
If we focus in-front of the pixels, we can see the X-Wide Angle layer as shown here. This is not noticeable under normal circumstances. This may explain the strange performance of the TV which is somewhere in-between VA and IPS type panels. We can see what appears to be the effect of this layer in the contrast, viewing angle, and reflections.
The Sony Z9F has excellent motion handling. It has an excellent fast response time, with very little overshoot, so motion looks clear with very little blur trail. Although the backlight isn't free of PWM flicker, the flicker frequency is very high by default, and shouldn't bother most people. It can reduce the flicker frequency to help further reduce motion blur. It can interpolate up to 120 Hz, and the motion interpolation feature can also be adjusted to remove 24p judder from any source.
The Sony Z9F has an excellent, fast response time. There is very little variation between transitions, which is great and results in clear motion without much blur. Only the 0-20% transition takes longer to transition. There is no significant overshoot in most transitions.
The Sony Z9F uses PWM to dim the backlight, but at a very high frequency that shouldn't be noticeable to most people. This is similar to the Z9D.
The Sony Z9F can reduce the flicker frequency of the backlight as low as 120 Hz, to help reduce motion blur. This is done by setting Motionflow to 'custom', and adjusting the Clearness slider to your liking.
The Sony Z9F can interpolate lower frame rate content as high as 120 Hz, although this introduces the Soap Opera Effect that may bother some people. In scenes with heavy motion, there may be more visible artifacts, and if there is too much motion the TV will sometimes stop interpolating.
Due to the sample-and-hold system used by the Z9F, slow panning shots in 24p movies can appear to stutter, and this may bother some people. Due to the fast response time, there is a bit more stutter than average.
The Sony Z9F can remove judder from all 24p sources, even when a 24p movie is embedded in a 60p signal from a cable box. When playing a 24p movie from a 24p source, like a Blu-ray player, the TV automatically removes judder, there is no need for any additional settings. To remove judder from embedded sources like a cable box, or from the native apps, set Motionflow to 'custom', with Smoothness set to 'min' and CineMotion set to 'auto'.
The Sony Z9F has an excellent 120 Hz refresh rate but does not support any variable refresh rate technologies like FreeSync.
The Sony Z9F has excellent low input lag across most modes, and it is better than any recent Sony TV. It supports all common resolutions and refresh rates without issue. Unlike the previous Sony TVs, 1080p @ 120 Hz is natively supported, great for Xbox One S/X owners.
Unlike most Sony TVs, the Z9F supports HDMI 2.0 full bandwidth on all 4 HDMI ports. All common resolutions and refresh rates are supported. 1080p @ 120 Hz is now supported natively, and no longer requires a forced resolution. Chroma 4:4:4 is only properly supported with the 'Game' and 'Graphics' picture modes.
Update 09/27/2018: 1080p @ 120 Hz was erroneously listed as required a forced resolution. It is supported natively.
The Sony Z9F supports Dolby Vision, but due to the way it was implemented, external devices must be updated to support it. In our test, we were able to get it to work on an Apple TV 4k, but not on a Chromecast 4k. New for Sony on the Z9F is HDMI 2.0 full bandwidth on all 4 HDMI ports. Unlike the Z9D, the Z9F does not support 3D.
DTS passthrough is not currently working, which is unexpected for a Sony TV. It is possible that this will be fixed in a future firmware update, but for the time being it is recommended to connect external playback devices directly to your surround sound receiver if you want DTS.
Bravia Sync control must be enabled for ARC to work. We also had to set Dolby Digital Plus output to 'Dolby Digital' (and not 'Dolby Digital Plus') to make Dolby Digital work consistently with our old receiver:
Settings > Sound > Sound adjustments > Advanced settings > Common > Dolby Digital Plus output > 'Dolby Digital'
The Z9F supports the new eARC standard, but we currently have no way to test it. We will buy an eARC capable receiver in early 2019, and we will test the Z9F's eARC at that time.
Update 02/27/2019: eARC has now been tested, and is properly supported. DTS passthrough still doesn't work over ARC, but strangely it does work over eARC; this however requires an eARC compatible receiver.
The sound is average-at-best. This TV gets decently loud, but may not be loud enough for large and crowded environments. It also produces clear and intelligible dialog, however, it doesn't produce any sub-bass and therefore lacks thump and punch to its bass. For a better sound, dedicated speakers or soundbars are recommended.
The frequency response is average. The LFE (low-frequency extension) of 113Hz indicates a bass that produces no thump, rumble, or punch, which is important for bass-heavy film scores and video game sound effects. However, the bump around 200Hz compensates for this lack a little and makes the sound a bit fuller. The response above 200Hz is decent, which is important for producing clear and intelligible dialog, but there is a lack above 6KHz. Also, this TV gets decently loud, without producing too much compression and pumping artifacts.
The distortion performance is sub-par. The overall amount of THD produced at 80dB SPL is within decent limits, except for the 7KHz area. Also, like most other Sony TVs, there is a big jump in THD under maximum load. However, this won't be very noticeable in real-life situations.
The Z9F has great smart features. The interface has been updated to Android Oreo 8.0, and it is a welcome upgrade. The main page has been adjusted, and content is much easier to find. The main interface is faster than before, and it still has access to the excellent Google Play Store. Unfortunately the remote hasn't been upgraded, and it is larger and more complex than most competing brands' remotes.
The Android 8.0 interface is well organized and easy to use, and is a significant improvement over previous Sony TVs. Many of the options that used to be at the bottom of the page have been moved to the top. It still isn't as easy to use as LG or Samsung's interface.
Despite the Android Oreo update, the settings menus haven't changed. Some settings can be difficult to find.