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Sony Bravia AF9 (KD-65AF9) review: One OLED to rule them all

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £3999
inc VAT

Stupendous image quality, fantastic sound and one-of-a-kind design – the AF9 gets frighteningly close to OLED perfection


  • Outstanding sound quality for a TV
  • Class-leading upscaling, motion and gradation
  • Excellent HDR10 presentation due to dynamic tone-mapping


  • Dolby Vision looks too dark
  • Tilt-back design divides opinion
  • Youtube app doesn't support HDR

First announced in July, Sony’s AF9 is a fashionably late entry into the 2018 TV market. As part of Sony’s family of Master Series TVs, though, this is one TV that it’s definitely been worth waiting for.

The reason for that is simple: Sony has tweaked its top-end OLED to come closer than ever to matching the image output of its £30,000 BVM-X300 mastering monitor. If you want to see movies as the director intended them to be seen, and without first selling all your worldly possessions, then this is arguably as close as you’re ever going to get.

Sony Bravia AF9: What you need to know

It’s no surprise to find that the AF9 is using the latest 2018 WRGB OLED panel from LG Display, but here it finds itself partnered with Sony’s new top-end X1 Ultimate video processor and Pixel Contrast Booster technology for retaining colour saturation at higher brightness levels.

You also get HDR support for the HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision formats, a Netflix Calibrated mode, a slicker Android Smart TV platform running on Android Oreo 8.0, and Sony’s ingenious Acoustic Surface Audio Plus technology, which turns the entire screen into a giant speaker.

Two screen sizes are available: the 55in Sony KD-55AF9, which retails at £3,000, and the 65in KD-65AF9 (reviewed here), which is a bit pricer at £4,000.

Sony Bravia AF9: Price and competition

At the time of writing, the Sony KD-65AF9 is comfortably the most expensive 65in OLED TV on the market. This is partly because competing models such as the Panasonic TX-65FZ952B (£3,000) and LG OLED65E8 (£3,800) have undergone substantial price cuts since launch in early 2018.

If you are willing to compromise a little on sound and picture quality, however, the 65in Panasonic FZ802 (£2,800), LG C8 (£2,800) and Sony’s own AF8 (£3,000) are more affordable OLED options.

Buy the Sony Bravia AF9 from John Lewis

Sony Bravia AF9: Design and connections

Sony hasn’t tweaked the design since last year’s A1 OLED. The AF9 tilts back by around 5 degrees, supported by a sturdy stand that houses all the electronic components, connections, actuators and subwoofers.

Let’s be honest, though: this leanback design won’t be to everyone’s taste. Still, Sony must have shifted enough Bravia A1s to make them think that this design will continue to sell. And, just for the record, we love the design: it’s different, minimalistic and looks just like a piece of art from the front, with no stand or speakers to distract you from the picture. In fact, once we sat down and watched the TV straight-on for 30 seconds, we didn’t even notice that it was tilted backwards at all.

Peer closer and you’ll discover a minuscule Sony logo at the bottom left corner and a central LED light that, thankfully, can be switched off from the user menu if you find it too distracting in a dark room.

The connections are all located on the rear kickstand, including four full-bandwidth HDMI 2.0b ports with HDCP 2.3 compliance. Most of the sockets face downwards, although there’s a USB port and one HDMI input that face sideways for easier access.

A new feature on the AF9 is a pair of speaker terminals that allow you to use the TV’s integrated Acoustic Surface speakers as the centre channel in your surround-sound setup. Unlike the A1 and AF8, though, the AF9 no longer gives the option of using the headphone jack as a dedicated subwoofer output.

If you’re wondering why you’d ever want to use a TV speaker as part of your home cinema setup, then it’s worth demoing the AF9 before making any assumptions. Even on its own, the AF9’s sound quality is superb for a flatscreen television, with outstanding dialogue clarity and bass response.

The supplied remote control is starting to look a bit plasticky and cheap for such a high-end TV, but it works fine. We’re also very pleased to find that Sony has upgraded the TV’s processor, so navigating the Android TV interface is much speedier than before. The usual video streaming apps such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are on board, but the internal Youtube app didn’t support HDR at the time of writing – we’ll just have to hope for a firmware update in the coming months.

Sony Bravia AF9: Picture quality

As you’d expect with one of LG’s 2018 WRGB OLED panels at the helm, the Sony doesn’t just deliver great screen uniformity – it also serves up the reliably true blacks, vibrant colours and wide viewing angles that we’ve come to expect from OLED.

Motion processing is top-notch, too. We’re used to Sony’s motion interpolation technology exhibiting fewer soap opera effects and interpolation artefacts than other TV brands – the Japanese brand has earned a reputation for being the class-leader in motion performance. The Bravia AF9 also offers black frame insertion, but for 24Hz and 50Hz content the resulting flicker is too tiring to put up with over prolonged periods, so we doubt many owners will want to use it.

Video processing is another area where Sony excels. Upscaling quality is the best we’ve seen from a consumer television: it retrieves sharp detail from lower resolution content without excessive ringing or fizziness in an almost magical manner. Rendering of subtle colour transitions is of extremely high quality, especially with the help of Smooth Gradation technology, which provides far better results than TVs from LG, Panasonic and Samsung. Better than any rival brand, in fact.  

Sony Bravia AF9: HDR performance

OLED TVs simply can’t create the same brightness levels as rival LCD-based sets, but the AF9 does a fantastic job of hiding its limitations. After calibration to a D65 white point, we measured a peak brightness of only 610cd/m² on a 10% window, which is half the brightness of some LCD-based rivals, but you’d never think that the AF9 appears too dim. This is because Sony has carefully implemented highly effective dynamic tone-mapping and relaxed the Automatic Brightness Limiter (ABL) algorithm: the result is that the AF9 is able to generate an HDR image that’s sufficiently bright, yet retains all the HDR highlight detail you could ask for.

We’re less enamoured with the Dolby Vision presentation on the Sony KD-65AF9, though. The most accurate Dolby Vision Dark picture mode looked too dim and certain programmes on Netflix in Dolby Vision exhibited noticeable posterisation in darker regions. These flaws weren’t evident when playing the same Netflix shows in HDR10 from an external source such as PS4 Pro.

Gaming performance has taken a leap forward as Sony has managed to lower input lag on the AF9 to 27ms in both 1080p SDR and 4K HDR [Game] modes. While this figure is still behind the 21ms delivered by LG’s and Panasonic’s OLEDs, a gap of just six milliseconds means that hardcore gamers should no longer be put off buying Sony OLEDs.

Sony should also be praised for improving the quality of the images in its Game mode. In addition to displaying the most accurate colour temperature, the AF9 one-ups its predecessors by enabling only minimal edge enhancement by default. We can only hope that other TV brands follow suit.

Buy the Sony Bravia AF9 from John Lewis

Sony Bravia AF9: Verdict

The Sony AF9 is a very worthwhile upgrade over the AF8. Offering four full-bandwidth HDMI 2.0b ports, lower input lag, a more responsive Android TV interface and some dramatic picture quality improvements, the AF9 shows just how far OLED technology has come. It’s by no means cheap, but if you’re looking for the best TV you can buy in 2018, the AF9 might just be it.

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