When you watch a 4K TV, more often than not you're not actually watching 4K content — broadcast TV, the vast majority of YouTube and Netflix, even Blu-ray video is a long way off the top quality able to be displayed on a high-end 4K HDR display. The secret sauce in Sony's new Z9D 4K HDR Android TV — that's a mouthful — is a new imaging processor that is 40 per cent more powerful than the previous generation, enabling some software tweaks that intelligently detect objects in video and adjust colour and contrast appropriately.
Available in Australia from "early spring" this year, the Z9D — $US7000 in the US — will be available in both 65- and 100-inch screen sizes; the massive 100-inch model will come with a floor stand as well as a tabletop stand, while 65-inch buyers will have to make do with a tabletop stand alone. The new screen will be the flagship in Sony's 4K HDR TV series, which already includes the X85D and X934D, but the 'Z' moniker at the start is the distinction of another level of video quality again.
Inside the Sony Z9D is the 4K Processor X1 Extreme, 40 per cent more powerful than the 4K X1 in the existing X-Series 4K TVs. Its extra power means that Sony has switched on three new pieces of technology in the Z9D — including what it calls "objects-based HDR remaster". That tech scans each frame in a scene to pick out specific objects, then corrects "the colour and contrast of each object individually" according to a Sony-exclusive database, the same one that the company uses for noise reduction during 4K upscaling. On top of that, 14-bit "Super Bit Mapping 4K HDR" upconverting of all content apparently adds further levels of gradation to otherwise lower-quality Full HD or 4K video.
The Z9D is Sony's first TV with Backlight Master Drive, which Sony showed off in prototype form earlier this year at CES. It's essentially LED local dimming on steroids, using even brighter and more efficient LEDs — where previous local dimming tech adjusted the backlight brightness of zones covered by multiple LEDs simultaneously, Backlight Master Drive works on individual LEDs, with calibrated channels at the rear of the TV channeling light to the correct location accurately. Sony says the tech allows for "unprecedented dynamic range", allowing much higher peak brightness and significantly lower minimum brightness for an LED-backlit LCD TV.
And, of course, like previous Sony TVs the Z9D uses Google's excellent Android TV interface — it's like Chromecast on steroids, with direct access to YouTube and Google Play Music and Google Play Movies & TV, as well as direct device streaming from your Sony smartphone or other Android device. We don't expect this particular screen to be cheap in Australia, but you can rest assured that it'll be one of the best LCD TVs you can buy when it launches. [Sony]