Sony Z9G Master Series 85” LED 8K Smart TV Review
Z9G Master Series 8K 85” LED TV
Adelaide’s picturesque beaches may be a popular destination over the Christmas break but aren’t where I imagined I’d find myself calibrating Sony’s brand new $26,999 flagship television. Nonetheless there I was – calibration gear in hand – attention torn between the screen that towered before me and the dazzling beach views…
Although I was actually at the beach, I was hardly standing barefoot in sandy dunes. Instead, I had been asked by Adelaide’s VAF Research to calibrate Sony’s new Z9G at a swish beachside residence in Adelaide. Yes, the views were glorious – but so were the images coming from this huge TV. At 85” the Z9G is smaller than your typical home theatre projector, yet is still a monster in its own right. And with nearly 4,000 nits peak luminances, it trounces projectors – and for that matter most TVs – in terms of light output. That means the Z9G is capable of producing very watchable images in environments with high ambient light.
With its epic price tag, you’d hope the Z9G packs some of the best technology money can buy – and so it does. There’s a native resolution of 7,680 x 4,320 (8K), and it’s compatible with HDR and Dolby Vision. If you haven’t guessed already, given the light output, it’s an LCD/LED television with local dimming. It sits at the top of Sony’s MASTER Series televisions, which incorporate both LED/LCD and OLED models including the more wallet-friendly 75” 4K Z9F.
All TVs in this series have displays equipped with Sony’s X1 Extreme HDR processor, capable of providing dual database processing of images, and can reduce noise and sharpen images. The processor also performs “object-based HDR remaster” more commonly known as tone mapping – although, given the light-output, one has to question the need for this. Sony’s proprietary Backlight Master Drive is said to provide discrete control of the LEDs, with each calibrated to provide a more focused beam of light. In addition to helping the Z9G achieve its high-brightness, Sony also says it reduces ‘flare-effect’ or blooming, which can plague some designs.
The Z9G rounds out its feature set with IMAX Enhanced Certification, Sony’s Propriety Motion Flow XR and Dynamic Range PRO. The Android operating system gives the Z9G a range of smarts, including Google Cast, voice recognition and a host of apps such as Netflix and YouTube. On the connectivity front, there are four HDMI inputs, three USB inputs, an Ethernet connection, as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
Sony claims that its MASTER Series has been created to convey the creator’s intent on-screen faithfully. To this end, the Z9G has a suite of calibration controls and the ability to interface directly via a network to Calman software for Direct Display Control (DDC). There’s also a dedicated Netflix Calibrated Mode, claimed to reproduce the picture quality of the studio master.
The Z9G was connected to a Murideo 6G pattern generator via HDMI, with measurements taken by a Spectracal C6 meter profiled against an x-rite i1pro2. Calman Professional was used for calibration and control of the Z9G. In this mode, there are two new picture modes called Professional 1 and Professional 2. Using this method, various gamma targets can be targeted, in addition to 20pt. greyscale Calibration and 1D LUT Colour Calibration.
As with most things, there’s always room for improvement, with the Z9G also benefiting from some fine-tuning with actual content. Having calibrated a few Z9s since they were introduced, these panels never fail to surprise. In a world which is rapidly being dominated by OLED, the Z9 firmly stands its ground.
Post calibration black levels were outstanding, with inky blacks that don’t leave you wanting. These combine beautifully with accurate post-calibration gamma tracking to deliver an exceptional sense of dimensionality. This was aided by the extra resolution of the Z9G. While content upscaled to 8K appeared somewhat more detailed, the big drawcard of 8K is its ability to give images a more three dimensional, lifelike quality. Granted, you’re going to need to feed the Z9G quality 8K content to reveal this properly, but there are still benefits even with upscaled 4K content.
Post calibration colour performance was also outstanding, the Z9G revealing a wealth of colour with wonderfully naturally skin-tones and excellent ‘pop’ when called for. Of course, to demonstrate the Z9G’s full-colour capabilities, you’re going to need either HDR or Dolby Vision content. Feed it this, and you may well find yourself listing your Blu-ray collection on Gumtree. Glorious black levels, combined with high brightness and of course extra resolution and the wider colour capabilities of the Z9G, resulted in some of the most breathtaking HDR images I’ve ever seen.
OLED may be the buzzword at the moment, but it’s not the only game in town. Watching high dynamic range content on a high brightness display such as Sony’s new Z9G is quite spectacular. If you’ve got the coin to entertain the idea, I’d strongly encourage you to arrange a demonstration.
For more information, visit Sony.
As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.