Sony Bravia XR Master Series Z9J review

To get straight to the point: the Sony Bravia XR Master Series Z9J is an impressive piece of television technology. An 8K LED LCD screen with full array local dimming, 4 HDMI ports, three of which are HDMI 2.1, a refresh rate up to 120hz, VRR support, HDR10, Dolby Vision, a response speed of 6ms… Gamers who deepening in playing their games optimally have just enthusiastically checked their checklist in terms of features.

However, the Bravia XR Z9J has more to offer than just a fully checked checklist. The television is equipped with Sony’s XR Cognitive Processor. Without getting lost in a maze of technical and marketing terms, the chip should use artificial intelligence post-processing to take the resolution, sound, contrast and fluidity of the images to a higher level. It makes the Z9J an interesting TV. In many ways it is the perfect television, literally the best you can buy right now. However, that gold medal has a major downside: TV is way ahead of its time. As a result, you’re pocketing deep pockets for a television that may not fulfill its true potential for a few years.

The Bravia XR Master Series Z9J is an 8K television in a world without 8K content. Admittedly, you can find several demo videos on YouTube full of beautiful nature and city images in that resolution. However, it will be a long time before 8K content really becomes mainstream. That’s where the XR Cognitive Processor springs into action. The chip effortlessly scales content from 4K to 8K, and the result is beautiful. Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+ and of course UHD Blu-ray content retain their sharpness, and that – thanks to the four times the pixels – also on a much larger surface. For example, Peaky Blinders also looks razor-sharp on the huge 75″ or 85″ screen. A feast for the eyes, especially in combination with the high color range and the color accuracy of HDR10 and Dolby Vision.

Even 4K is not yet de facto the standard. Television broadcasts, Blu-ray discs, Netflix subscriptions outside the most expensive ‘tier’, most programs and films on the Dutch Videoland, all content on the Belgian Streamz … It is still all in 1080p. To show that on an 8K screen, the image is enlarged no less than 16 times. The XR Cognitive Processor shows here that it is a strong piece of technology and makes the image somewhat enjoyable. But miracles do not exist, and due to the huge jump, the result is significantly less sharp than on a modern 4K screen. It is at such times that an 8K television feels like a step too far, ‘overkill’ in a world where the transition to 4K is still underway.

The 8K resolution is also not a foregone conclusion for video games. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are perfect companions for the Bravia Z9J. Thanks to the HDMI 2.1 ports, the television has the option to play games in 4K at 120 frames per second, with Variable Refresh Rate (VRR). As a result, the ‘frame output’ of the consoles (PS5 will support that feature soon) is synchronized with the display on the screen. The result is virtually no more ‘screen tearing’ and gameplay that suffers less from an unstable frame rate.

The consoles also play games at high resolution. Native 4K gaming remains a good target for the consoles, but in practice the internal upscaling ensures a 4K output that is difficult to distinguish from native 4K. Then the XR Cognitive Processor takes over the algorithmic baton until the Z9J beams it to your eyeballs in beautifully upscaled 8K. Razor-sharp gaming at a high frame rate with HDR10 on a television larger than your dining table; it is an experience that will make your jaw drop.

However, the earlier pattern resurfaces when you don’t have a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X. Little brother Xbox Series S still supports an output of 4K but renders graphics at a lower resolution than the Series X. So the XR Processor has to do a lot of the heavy work there. And that only gets worse on previous generation consoles. The Nintendo Switch is taking the hardest hit: Pokémon Legends Arceus runs docked at a resolution of 900p, which is already a creditable resolution for the Switch. That means that the Z9J has to enlarge the image no less than 23 times. As said before: the XR Processor is impressive, but it cannot do magic. The result is a blurry mess that inevitably feels like a downgrade.

However, it is not fair to judge the Sony Bravia Z9J on this. Content follows a long chain before it reaches you and the weakest link inevitably has an impact. With the Z9J, Sony delivers a television that is futureproof, with all the bells and whistles that perfect your gaming experience. Provided that you have the most modern equipment to be able to use it effectively. Is the promise of 8K worth the exuberant price tag? That’s something between you and your wallet.

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