XBR-75Z9D Initial Impressions
As I mentioned previously, I took delivery of the 75" Z9D yesterday. I'll now share my initial thoughts. But first, I guess I should share my TV history, so you know where I'm coming from. It's not an impressive lineup, so my impressions may not be helpful to people looking to replace a recent flagship. This TV is replacing a 6-year-old 65" Panasonic plasma (TC-P65VT25). Before that, I had a 65" cheap off-brand LCD, which I hated. And before that, my first HDTV was a Philips 34" CRT. And for the past few weeks, I've been using a small, borrowed Samsung LCD, because my plasma died (it's in the shop now and will be going to my parents). I've been looking at getting a new TV since CES when the OLEDs got such glowing reviews. I wanted to go bigger, so I initially thought I would get the 77" model, but then I found out the price. So I considered the 65" OLED for a while, but I really wanted something bigger and was also turned off by the panel lottery that seemed to be happening for the early adopters. I also thought about the Sony 940D for a while, but I ultimately decided it wasn't good enough, especially after hearing about the Backlight Master Drive demo. But I thought it would be at least a year or two before either that came out or the OLEDs became affordable/good enough, so I thought I was done looking at TVs for a while. But when the Z9D was announced, I was back to contemplating a major purchase again. Then a few days later, my plasma died, so I took that as a sign that I should go for it. And that brings me to my initial impressions.
Holy crap, it's big. This reaction may have been amplified by the fact that I had gotten used to the little borrowed TV, but I think I would have reacted similarly anyways. There's a bigger difference between 65" and 75" than I anticipated; it's hard to tell in the store how big a TV will look in the home. I'm very pleased with the size. I'd been so conditioned to 65" from my two previous TVs that it no longer felt big. It's nice to have that feeling again. But if this TV ever starts to feel small, I'll need to move to a bigger house, because this thing barely fits on my wall.
First thing I checked out was some HDR content. I watched some Mad Dogs on Amazon, a bunch of HDR demos I downloaded, and some of the Rio opening ceremony. I'd seen a few demos in the store on the 940D and the LG OLEDs, and I thought it was impressive. I also saw Zootopia in Dolby Vision in the theater. But this TV? It's in a different league. In particular, the LG demos are mindbogglingly good. To my eyes, the Z9D equals the OLEDs in terms of that inky dimensional look that I never thought the LCDs could do: deep blacks with no haloing that I've been able to see, except when viewed from extreme angles, even with small points of bright light, and with colors so saturated that they seem to go beyond reality. And then there's the brightness. It's so much brighter than anything I've ever seen before and so much brighter than I thought it was going to be. But thankfully, I don't find it to be too bright, unless the majority of the screen is bright white. When used smartly for specular highlights, the brightness really brings the picture to another level. It's like something I was missing my whole life that I didn't know I wanted. In a word, WOW.
Initially, this was a huge disappointment after watching HDR. Part of that was just the unfair comparison, and part of it was the default Sony settings combined with the fact that I had Darbee enabled on my Oppo. I would not recommend that combination; they seem to fight each other and turn everything into a mess. Once I turned off Darbee and turned down some of the Sony "enhancements," it's much better. Each time I switch back to something HDR, it makes SDR underwhelming again, but after a while, the eyes adjust, and it becomes quite nice. But I think there's room for improvement as I figure out settings that work best for me. Maybe I can turn Darbee back on with the Sony stuff turned off, because I previously enjoyed the Darbee processing on my plasma. But even if this is as good as it gets, it's still a nice improvement over what I'm used to. While a bit subdued compared to HDR, the colors are still quite a sight to behold an a nice improvement over my old plasma.
At the top, I mentioned that I hated my old LCD, and the main reason for that was motion. It was a particularly bad one when it comes to motion blurring and smearing, but I think I'm a bit sensitive to this even with a good LCD, at least with VA panels (IPS panels on my various Apple devices are quite good). Aside from the lack of Dolby Vision, this was my biggest concern with the Z9D. Unfortunately, it's definitely a downgrade from plasma. On some content, it's quite good, but sometimes it's not, especially lower-quality DirecTV stuff. It's better with the motion enhancement settings all turned off, but I still see occasional smearing. It's subtle enough that I think most people won't notice it, and it's something I can live with, but I do wish it was better. Maybe it will get a bit better as the LCD pixels "loosen up." Otherwise, I'll try not to focus on it.
I did a quick demo of a couple 3D movies. Surprisingly, it seems to be a bit better than my plasma and better than most theaters. Certainly, it's brighter. But I also see a bit less flicker and ghosting. That being said, it can't compete with the OLED passive 3D. I don't watch 3D movies very often, but I do have a nice collection of them, so it was important to me that my next TV still have 3D capability. I would have preferred passive, but I'm content with this, as it is a noticeably better than what I was used to.
It's not as bad as some folks here have experienced with older Sonys, but it ain't great either. It hasn't crashed or rebooted on me, but it does get sluggish sometimes. And I had to reboot it earlier to get it to see my NAS. I also find the GUI to be clunky and unintuitive. Luckily, this is the easiest problem to fix. I'm sure a new Roku is in my future. Even better would be a 4K HDR Apple TV, which is my preferred streaming box.
I quickly sampled a bit of Uncharted 4, which looked even more gorgeous than before. Once I switched to game mode, lag was imperceptible to me, at least in that game. There is a notable visual downgrade in game mode, though. But I think it's mostly a calibration issue. I also played a bit of Wind Waker HD. This turned out to be a good stress test, because its cell-shaded style exposed a bit of DSE at one point. It's not bad at all, and I haven't seen it anywhere else, but worth noting for anyone that may be put off by that.
Aside from the few negatives mentioned, I'm very happy. This TV has exceeded my expectations in almost every way. It's not perfect, and I can certainly see how some people will prefer another TV (especially an OLED), but I think right now, this is the best TV available for my needs and taste. Now the world just needs more HDR content.
I'm gonna get back to enjoying my new toy now. At some point, I'm sure I'll have the patience to sit down and actually enjoy something for more than a few minutes, but right now, I keep hopping around from one thing to another. I'll also try taking some photos later and will hopefully post something decent.