It’s a shame the Sony KD-75ZH8 doesn’t make a bit more of its 8K resolution and doesn’t support variable refresh rates for gaming. It makes up for these shortcomings in irresistible style, though, with the all-round best pictures you’ll find on an LCD TV this year.
- Spectacularly bright, colourful pictures
- Excellent built-in sound system
- Comprehensive smart system
- Limited 8K input support
- No VRR support for gaming
- Minor backlight blooming
- Review Price: £4999
- 75-inch TV with direct lighting and local dimming
- Native 8K resolution
- X1 Ultimate processing
- HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision HDR support
- Acoustic Multi-Audio sound system, with frame tweeters
The Sony ZH8 (KD-75ZH8) is the 75-inch model from the Japanese brand’s second range of 8K TVs. It appears alongside Sony’s ZG9 debut 8K sets rather than replacing them, however, as at £4,999 it’s designed to offer a more affordable alternative.
Despite having to down-spec a bit to hit that price, it’s still arguably the best LCD TV of the year.
Related: Best TV
Sony ZH8 design – A sturdy and well-built TV
To some extent, the Sony ZH8 prioritises performance over aesthetics by being seriously chunky round the back – something Sony has deemed necessary in order to accommodate an uncompromising backlighting system. More on this later.
While this rear bulk isn’t ideal if you’re thinking of wall-hanging the KD-75ZH8, you don’t see it when you’re sat in front of the screen. From here, in fact, the set looks really quite elegant. The bezel around the screen is slender and set off handsomely by an outer trim of aluminium – and the way those gleaming, startlingly slim metal feet blend into that trim is a stroke of genius.
Assuming, that is, you’ve mounted the feet under the screen’s extreme bottom corners. You can choose to position the feet closer together if you want to place it on a narrow bit of furniture, but this approach doesn’t look nearly as elegant as the corner-mounting option.
While the rear panel is bulky, it does at least try to style it out with a unique checker-board pattern and a bunch of detachable panels that you can use to hide away all your cabling. The KD-75ZH8’s build quality is heavy and sturdy, hinting at the quality inside.
Sony KD-75ZH8 features – Surprisingly limited when it comes to 8K inputs
The Sony KD-75ZH8’s star attraction on paper, at least, is its 8K resolution – especially since it’s offered at a much lower price than Sony’s previous 8K range.
The set’s 8K appeal is rather dinted by both the general shortage of native 8K content, and a surprisingly limited supply of 8K input options. It can’t play 8K streams, for instance, even though these may be the most likely source of 8K video content in the near to mid-future. Nor can it play 8K files from USB drives. And while it can play 8K over HDMI, a marginally soft look to the resulting 8K pictures makes it feel as if the set may be crimping something slightly somewhere in the delivery chain.
However, making sure the set’s 8K resolution isn’t wasted is the 8K-enhanced version of Sony’s X1 Ultimate video processor. This employs a dual database system that draws on a vast library of image comparisons and analysis to deliver improved upscaling of non-8K sources.
That’s not all X1 Ultimate does. It also delivers improved colour mapping, and can smooth away the colour banding that sometimes appears in HDR images. It can convert standard dynamic range pictures to high dynamic range, too, even breaking the image down into multiple objects to achieve more accurate results.
Related: Best 8K TV
Its X-Tended Dynamic Range Pro system, meanwhile, handles the power management of the backlight system to deliver greater contrast, while X-Motion Clarity introduces black-frame insertion technology to make motion look more cinematic without dimming the picture as much as such technology usually does.
As you’d hope of a high-end LCD TV these days, the KD-75ZH8’s backlight system uses a rear-mounted LED array with local dimming that extends, rather impressively, across 320 separately controllable zones. This isn’t quite as many as you get with Samsung’s premium 2020 8K TVs, but the X1 Ultimate processor usually handles local dimming better than most rivals.
Smart features are provided by Android TV, supported by YouView to deliver all the UK’s terrestrial catch-up services. Android’s interface is still a bit cumbersome, but it runs reasonably smoothly on the KD-75ZH8, and offers built-in Chromecast and Google Assistant support.
A recent update to Sony’s premium TVs for 2020 added support for the Apple TV app, too, meaning that the KD-75ZH8 now covers every important streaming service I can think of.
Related: What is Dolby Vision HDR?
However, it turns out that the Sony KD-75ZH8’s connection limitations don’t only concern restricted 8K support. For while its HDMIs do support two next-gen gaming features, 4K at 120Hz and automatic low latency mode (for switching screens into their Game presets when a game source is detected), they don’t support variable refresh rates.
While this is unfortunate from the same brand that makes the PlayStation 5, you may decide that this isn’t a deal breaker given how good its pictures look. Its gaming appeal is further helped by the fact that the KD-75ZH8’s Game mode limits input lag to a pretty respectable 21ms.
Related: Should you buy an 8K TV?
When it comes to HDR support, the Sony ZH8 can handle the basic HDR10 format, the HLG format predominantly used for live HDR broadcast streams, and the Dolby Vision format, which adds extra scene-by-scene data to help compatible TVs produce better pictures. There’s no support for the Dolby Vision-rivalling HDR10+ system, though.
The KD-75ZH8’s cutting-edge features aren’t limited to its pictures. A grand-sounding Acoustic Multi-Audio feature promises to partner the TV’s king-sized 8K pictures with an equally substantial sound. It combines tweeters that vibrate the TV’s frame to create sound with newly designed bass and mid-range drivers, in a bid to deliver more power and directness while also placing sound effects in the right place on the screen.
Sony ZH8 performance – Gorgeous HDR images and a big, bold audio performance
The Sony KD-75ZH8’s pictures sure aren’t shy. Right from the off they deliver a dazzling assault on the senses with 4K HDR sources, filling your eyeballs with just about everything a fan of next-gen AV could possibly want to see.
Brightness, for instance, is extreme. The set’s Vivid preset pumps out a massive 2500 nits on a white HDR square filling 10% of an otherwise black screen. This isn’t as high as the near 4000 nits you get with Sony’s ZG9 8K flagship TVs, but it’s enough to both dazzle you (in a good way) and unlock the full potential of all but the most extreme HDR content out there.
Sony has always gleefully embraced LCD’s potential for expressing the bright part of the HDR story, and the intensity the Sony ZH8 brings both to full-screen bright images, such as the Mad Max: Fury Road 4K Blu-ray’s daytime desert sequences, and small bright highlights (reflections on metal, shots of the sun, fireworks, fairy lights and so on) leaves you blissfully aware that you’re in the presence of the next generation of video.
The KD-75ZH8’s immense brightness also means that it suffers much less with the clipping issues of some other Sony HDR TVs, where subtle details can go missing in the brightest HDR picture areas.
The brightness feeds into a beautifully rich, vivid colour performance. The abundance of light unlocks a greater range of colour, as you’d want it to, rather than causing any tones to start looking thin or flared out. And Sony’s X1 Ultimate processor is on hand to ensure that even the most subtle tonal differences and changes are all presented with precision, giving HDR pictures a realism and three-dimensionality that consistently takes your breath away.
The Sony KD-75ZH8’s 8K resolution plays its part here, too. The X1 Ultimate’s upscaling of 4K sources is clever enough to emphasise rather than detract from the screen’s deft colour touch, making images look even more full of texture, depth and clarity than they do in their native 4K state. And both the lowest setting of Sony’s MotionFlow processing and its new BFI-based X-Motion Clarity modes keep this sense of detail intact, no matter how motion-packed a picture might be.
All this is achieved even though, oddly, 8K test signals reveal a native 8K performance that isn’t quite as crisp as the best 8K competition. The KD-75ZH8’s ability to make 4K look a little better is pretty important given that 8K sources are as rare as hen’s teeth. Although, arguably and importantly, resolution actually isn’t the main contributor to the set’s spectacular picture quality.
Despite its intense brightness, the KD-75ZH8’s combination of plenty of separate dimming zones and Sony’s impressive control over those zones enables it to deliver dark scenes impressively well. Black areas of the image actually look black rather than grey, yet also consistently retain excellent amounts of subtle colour and shadow detail.
However, you can’t get the sort of joyous brightness from an LCD TV that the KD-75ZH8 gleefully delivers without some sort of dark scene compromise. This duly appears in the form of limited clouding around very bright objects, if they’re appearing against a dark background.
While this bloom becomes more noticeable from wide viewing angles, it’s far less intrusive and likely to distract than it is on Sony’s mid-range XH9005 and high-end XH9505 4K TVs. The 8K model’s many extra dimming zones are clearly earning their corn.
The Sony ZH8 wraps up a really gorgeous picture performance with the best SDR to HDR converter in the TV world. Sony is so confident about this, in fact, that it kicks in automatically with most of the TV’s picture presets – and it works so convincingly that I can’t imagine many people wanting to be without it.
Related: What is Dolby Atmos?
Big, bold but also refined pictures such as those delivered by the Sony ZH8 deserve to be partnered by equally big, bold and refined sound. Happily, the Acoustic Multi-Audio system is up to the job.
For starters, it drives the sound out into your room, immersing you in a surprisingly convincing three-dimensional audio recreation of the “space” you’re watching on the screen. Every detail is picked out and presented with at times startling accuracy in the audio space, too, thanks to a combination of the innovative frame tweeters and one of the better Dolby Atmos decoding performances we’ve heard from the TV world this year.
Voices always sound clear and locked to the screen, and while bass needs a bit of coaxing, once it turns up, it delivers decent amounts of clean, well-timed and decently deep rumble.
Related: Best Dolby Atmos soundbar
Should you buy the Sony KD-75ZH8?
The Sony ZH8 serves up the all-round most spectacular but also refined pictures I’ve seen from an LCD TV in 2020, backed up by sound good enough to save you from having to fork out for a separate audio system.
Its limited native 8K source support and slightly underwhelming native 8K pictures maybe make its price look a little steep. As in, perhaps a 4K TV with the same backlight and processing spec might have given us nearly as impressive a TV for a grand or two less. But no such option exists in Sony’s range, so if you want arguably the finest LCD TV of the year, then £4999 is just what you’re going to have to pay. And the 8K resolution does at least contribute a little to the quality of the set’s 4K performance.
Samsung’s 75Q900T is the closest direct rival to the KD-75ZH8. This costs only £4499 and also delivers a ferociously bright, colourful, contrast-rich picture – as well as getting more out of its native 8K resolution. The Sony’s pictures feel more consistent and thus immersive, however.
LG’s 77-inch OLED77CX is another strong (4K) alternative. Typically costing £4499, it delivers that stunning local contrast for which OLED is renowned. It also supports all the latest next-gen gaming features with all four of its HDMI ports. However, it can’t run nearly as bright during light HDR scenes as the KD-75ZH8.
Score in detail
Image Quality 10
Sound Quality 9
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