Sony Z9F TV Review

Updated Sep 26, 2018 at 08:52 am
Sony Z9F Picture
Usage Ratings - Version 1.3
8.5
Mixed Usage
Value for price beaten by
: Samsung Q90/Q90R QLED
8.3
Movies
8.5
TV Shows
8.4
Sports
8.7
Video Games
8.2
HDR Movies
8.5
HDR Gaming
8.7
PC Monitor
Type LED
Sub-Type
VA
Resolution 4k

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.

Our Verdict

8.5 Mixed Usage

The Sony Z9F is a great TV for most uses. It is especially well suited for playing video games, and it is a good choice for use as a PC monitor. Movies look great, but dark room performance isn't as great due to the contrast ratio. The TV is extremely bright, making it a good choice for use in a bright room, as it can easily overcome glare.

See our Mixed Usage recommendations
8.3 Movies

The Sony Z9F is great for watching movies in a dark room. Unfortunately, the native contrast ratio isn't great, but the great local dimming feature somewhat compensates for this. Unfortunately, there is a lot of blooming that is especially noticeable around subtitles. The TV has an excellent fast response time, great for action films, and can also remove judder from any 24p source.

See our Movies recommendations
8.5 TV Shows

The Z9F is a great TV for watching TV shows during the day. It is extremely bright, great for overcoming glare in a bright room, and it has excellent reflection handling. The viewing angles aren't as wide as most IPS or OLED TVs, but still good if you like to move around while watching TV. The motion interpolation feature is great if you enjoy the soap opera effect.

See our TV Shows recommendations
8.4 Sports

The Z9F is great for sports fans. It has good gray uniformity; there is some dirty screen effect but it isn't too noticeable. It has an excellent fast response time, with very little motion blur. The TV is extremely bright, and although the viewing angles aren't perfect it still looks good watching the big game with a group of friends.

See our Sports recommendations
8.7 Video Games

The Sony Z9F is an excellent TV for playing video games. It has an excellent fast response time, and excellent low input lag. Unfortunately, it doesn't support VRR or auto low latency mode. Playing games late at night isn't perfect, as the contrast ratio is low and blacks appear gray in a dark room.

See our Video Games recommendations
8.2 HDR Movies

Great TV for watching movies in HDR. The TV has a great wide color gamut and is extremely bright, able to deliver picture closer to what the content creator intended. Unfortunately, the contrast ratio isn't very good and blacks can appear gray in a dark room. Watching with subtitles on can also be extremely distracting as there is a lot of blooming around the subtitles.

See our HDR Movies recommendations
8.5 HDR Gaming

Excellent TV for gaming in HDR. It has excellent low input lag, and an extremely fast response time, so motion is fluid and responds quickly to every button press. It has a wide color gamut, and HDR content is extremely bright, making highlights really pop. Unfortunately, late night gaming in a dark room isn't perfect, as blacks tend to appear gray.

See our HDR Gaming recommendations
8.7 PC Monitor

Excellent TV for use as a PC monitor. It has an extremely fast response time and excellent low input lag, so it feels responsive. It supports all of the common resolutions without any issues, and chroma 4:4:4 / RGB are displayed perfectly, as long as either the 'Game' or 'Graphics' Picture Mode is used.

See our PC Monitor recommendations
  • 8.5 Mixed Usage
  • 8.3 Movies
  • 8.5 TV Shows
  • 8.4 Sports
  • 8.7 Video Games
  • 8.2 HDR Movies
  • 8.5 HDR Gaming
  • 8.7 PC Monitor
Pros
  • Extraordinarily bright in SDR and HDR
  • Excellent low input lag
  • Great local dimming feature
Cons
  • Disappointing contrast ratio
  1. Update 2/28/2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3. Learn more about our versioned test bench system here.

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Video

Test Results

Design
Design
Stand

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".

Design
Back
Wall Mount VESA 300x300

The back is similar to the Z9D. The inputs are all on the back, with some facing downwards and some facing towards the side. There are panels that cover all of the inputs. The top section of paneling on the back is loose. The back has a really clean look thanks to excellent cable management.

Design
Borders
Borders 0.47" (1.2 cm)

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.

Design
Thickness
Max Thickness 2.80" (7.1 cm)

The Sony XBR65Z9F is slightly thinner than the Z9D, and it has a more uniform thickness that looks great when wall mounted.

Design
Temperature
Maximum Temperature
95 °F (35 °C)
Average Temperature
90 °F (32 °C)

The overall temperature is very uniform and runs quite cool. There should be no issues.

8.5
Design
Build Quality

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.

Picture Quality
7.2
Picture Quality
Contrast
Native Contrast
1730 : 1
Contrast with local dimming
3379 : 1

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.

8.0
Picture Quality
Local Dimming
Local Dimming
Yes
Backlight
Full-Array

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.

9.1
Picture Quality
SDR Peak Brightness
SDR Real Scene Peak Brightness
808 cd/m²
SDR Peak 2% Window
1519 cd/m²
SDR Peak 10% Window
1672 cd/m²
SDR Peak 25% Window
1225 cd/m²
SDR Peak 50% Window
837 cd/m²
SDR Peak 100% Window
690 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 2% Window
1492 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 10% Window
1545 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 25% Window
1216 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 50% Window
833 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 100% Window
685 cd/m²
SDR ABL
0.046

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.

9.2
Picture Quality
HDR Peak Brightness
HDR Real Scene Peak Brightness
1640 cd/m²
HDR Peak 2% Window
1354 cd/m²
HDR Peak 10% Window
1671 cd/m²
HDR Peak 25% Window
1236 cd/m²
HDR Peak 50% Window
838 cd/m²
HDR Peak 100% Window
663 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 2% Window
1335 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 10% Window
1636 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 25% Window
1231 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 50% Window
830 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 100% Window
656 cd/m²
HDR ABL
0.048

Excellent HDR brightness, similar to the X930E, Z9D, and Vizio P Series Quantum. Large, bright scenes are brighter on the PQ65, Z9D, and X930E, but the Z9F is brighter in our real scenes test.

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.

7.8
Picture Quality
Gray Uniformity
50% Std. Dev.
3.097 %
50% DSE
0.176 %
5% Std. Dev.
0.515 %
5% DSE
0.074 %

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.

6.6
Picture Quality
Viewing Angle
Color Washout
38 °
Color Shift
49 °
Brightness Loss
48 °
Black Level Raise
35 °
Gamma Shift
16 °

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.

7.6
Picture Quality
Black Uniformity
Native Std. Dev.
0.935 %
Std. Dev. w/ L.D.
1.266 %

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.

8.9
Picture Quality
Reflections
Screen Finish
Glossy
Total Reflections
2.3 %
Indirect Reflections
0.6 %

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.

8.8
Picture Quality
Pre Calibration
White Balance dE
1.80
Color dE
1.68
Gamma
2.27
Color Temperature
6537 K
Picture Mode
Custom
Color Temp Setting
Expert 1
Gamma Setting
0

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.

9.7
Picture Quality
Post Calibration
White Balance dE
0.16
Color dE
0.65
Gamma
2.20
Color Temperature
6497 K
White Balance Calibration
10 point
Color Calibration
Yes
Auto-Calibration Function
Yes

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.

8.0
Picture Quality
480p Input

Older, 480p digital content looks good, with no obvious upscaling artifacts or oversharpening.

8.0
Picture Quality
720p Input

720p content looks good and displayed without any obvious issues.

9.0
Picture Quality
1080p Input

1080p content from Blu-rays or older game consoles looks great, almost as good as native 4k content.

10
Picture Quality
4k Input

Native 4k content looks great and is displayed perfectly

8.2
Picture Quality
Color Gamut
Wide Color Gamut
Yes
DCI P3 xy
90.50 %
DCI P3 uv
94.81 %
Rec 2020 xy
66.86 %
Rec 2020 uv
73.86 %

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.

7.6
Picture Quality
Color Volume
Normalized DCI P3 Coverage ITP
85.4 %
10,000 cd/m² DCI P3 Coverage ITP
53.6 %
Normalized Rec 2020 Coverage ITP
66.0 %
10,000 cd/m² Rec 2020 Coverage ITP
40.9 %

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.

9.2
Picture Quality
Gradient
Color Depth
10 Bit
Red (Std. Dev.)
0.072 dE
Green (Std. Dev.)
0.086 dE
Blue (Std. Dev.)
0.061 dE
Gray (Std. Dev.)
0.077 dE

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.

10
Picture Quality
Temporary Image Retention
IR after 0 min recovery
0.00 %
IR after 2 min recovery
0.00 %
IR after 4 min recovery
0.00 %
IR after 6 min recovery
0.00 %
IR after 8 min recovery
0.00 %
IR after 10 min recovery
0.00 %

There is no temporary image retention on the Sony Z9F.

10
Picture Quality
Permanent Burn-In Risk
Permanent Burn-In Risk
No

We don't expect VA panels to experience permanent image retention, as the VA panel in our long-term test appears immune.

Picture Quality
Pixels

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.

Motion
9.4
Motion
Response Time
80% Response Time
4.2 ms
100% Response Time
8.9 ms

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.

9.5
Motion
Flicker-Free
Flicker-Free
No
PWM Dimming Frequency
720 Hz

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.

6.0
Motion
Black Frame Insertion (BFI)
Optional BFI
Yes
Min Flicker for 60 fps
120 Hz
60 Hz for 60 fps
No
120 Hz for 120 fps
Yes
Min Flicker for 60 fps in Game Mode
120 Hz

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.

10
Motion
Motion Interpolation
Motion Interpolation (30 fps)
Yes
Motion Interpolation (60 fps)
Yes

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.

6.5
Motion
Stutter
Frame Hold Time @ 24 fps
32.8 ms
Frame Hold Time @ 60 fps
7.8 ms

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.

10
Motion
24p Judder
Judder-Free 24p
Yes
Judder-Free 24p via 60p
Yes
Judder-Free 24p via 60i
Yes
Judder-Free 24p via Native Apps
Yes

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'.

0
Motion
Variable Refresh Rate
Native Refresh Rate
120 Hz
Variable Refresh Rate
No
G-SYNC Compatible
No
4k VRR Maximum
N/A
4k VRR Minimum
N/A
1080p VRR Maximum
N/A
1080p VRR Minimum
N/A
1440p VRR Maximum
N/A
1440p VRR Minimum
N/A
VRR Supported Connectors
N/A

The Sony Z9F has an excellent 120 Hz refresh rate but does not support any variable refresh rate technologies like FreeSync.

Inputs
9.1
Inputs
Input Lag
1080p @ 60 Hz
21.2 ms
1080p @ 60 Hz Outside Game Mode
104.5 ms
1440p @ 60 Hz
20.1 ms
4k @ 60 Hz
21.1 ms
4k @ 60 Hz + 10 bit HDR
21.1 ms
4k @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4
21.1 ms
4k @ 60 Hz Outside Game Mode
87.9 ms
4k @ 60 Hz With Interpolation
83.0 ms
8k @ 60 Hz
N/A
1080p @ 120 Hz
12.4 ms
1440p @ 120 Hz
12.4 ms
4k @ 120 Hz
N/A
1080p with Variable Refresh Rate
N/A
1440p with VRR
N/A
4k with VRR
N/A
8k with VRR
N/A
Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM)
No

The Sony Z9F has the lowest input lag of any of the high-end Sony TVs. The only Sonys that have similar low input lag are the X690E and X720E and especially with 1080p signals this is better than the X900F. Input lag outside of game mode is about average, but the 4k input lag is excellent.

9.6
Inputs
Supported Resolutions
1080p @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4
Yes
1080p @ 120 Hz
Yes (native support)
1440p @ 60 Hz
Yes (forced resolution required)
1440p @ 120 Hz
Yes (forced resolution required)
4k @ 60 Hz
Yes
4k @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4
Yes
4k @ 120 Hz
No
8k @ 30 Hz or 24 Hz
No
8k @ 60 Hz
No

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.

Inputs
Input Photos
Inputs
Total Inputs
HDMI 4
USB 3
Digital Optical Audio Out 1
Analog Audio Out 3.5mm 1
Analog Audio Out RCA 0
Component In 0
Composite In 1
Tuner (Cable/Ant) 1
Ethernet 1
DisplayPort 0
IR In 1
SD/SDHC 0
Inputs
Inputs Specifications
HDR10
Yes
HDR10+
No
Dolby Vision
Yes
HLG
Yes
3D
No
HDMI 2.0 Full Bandwidth
Yes (HDMI 1,2,3,4)
HDMI 2.1
No
CEC Yes
HDCP 2.2 Yes (HDMI 1,2,3,4)
USB 3.0
Yes (1)
Variable Analog Audio Out Yes
Wi-Fi Support Yes (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz)

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.

Inputs
Audio Passthrough
ARC
Yes (HDMI 3)
eARC support
Yes
Dolby Atmos via TrueHD via eARC
Yes
DTS:X via DTS-HD MA via eARC
Yes
5.1 Dolby Digital via ARC
Yes
5.1 DTS via ARC
No
5.1 Dolby Digital via Optical
Yes
5.1 DTS via Optical
No

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.

Sound Quality
6.5
Sound Quality
Frequency Response
Low-Frequency Extension
113.14 Hz
Std. Dev. @ 70
3.66 dB
Std. Dev. @ 80
4.15 dB
Std. Dev. @ Max