Browsing the prices of Onkyo receivers can give you the familiar “too good to be true” feeling. Take the Onkyo TX-NR616. At its street price of $ 410 it’s about $ 100 cheaper than comparable models from other manufacturers and offers eight incredible HDMI inputs, tons of streaming audio options, and an affordable Wi-Fi dongle. It doesn’t have AirPlay built in, but with the money you save you can get a $ 100 Apple TV, which offers a lot more features besides AirPlay.
So what’s the catch? Reliability, it seems. Fair or not, Onkyo receivers have a reputation for being a little wobbly, both in enthusiast forums and in user comments. But those reviews shouldn’t completely scare you off the TX-NR616, as the reported issues don’t seem to affect all units. Our test sample (with the latest firmware update) did not suffer from many of the issues mentioned in the negative reviews, and many other buyers seem satisfied.
If you’re put off by Onkyo’s reliability issues, the next best value for most buyers is the Sony STR-DN1030, which includes built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and AirPlay for $ 500. But if you’re okay with the remote possibility of get a lemon, the TX-NR616 is easily your best value AV receiver. Indeed, in terms of value, the stiffest competition from the TX-NR616 may be its step-down models, the TX-NR414 ($ 280) and TX-NR515 ($ 350), which offer enough functionality for the buyer. average even for less.
Onkyo has never made great efforts to beautify its AV receivers. The basic design hasn’t changed much over the years, with a boxy shape and a rough overall look. The large volume knob is nice, however, and thankfully the light ring around the outside can be dimmed in the setup menu. But if aesthetics are at the top of your list for an AV receiver, check out Denon or Marantz instead.
Onkyo’s included remote is decent, though not as good as the Marantz and Denon offerings. The input buttons are bright white, but they are small and don’t glow in the dark. Overall, the remote isn’t as bulky as Sony’s or Pioneer’s, but there are still plenty of unnecessary buttons like the number pad at the bottom. At least with the money you saved by going with Onkyo, you can get a nice universal remote.
The Onkyo Remote 2 app is far from well-reviewed, although the version we tested wasn’t as bad as the reviews would indicate. It’s especially nice if you’ll be using Onkyo’s built-in streaming services, as the app often replicates what’s on the TV screen on your phone, so you don’t have to keep looking back and forth. (This is a frequent complaint we have about remote smartphone apps.) It’s also much more convenient to search for services like Spotify or Rhapsody using a phone or tablet keyboard. The downside is that it can get a little buggy, although it usually performed well in our tests.
Pressing the Home buttons displays a row of icons overlaid on the video you are watching. You can go directly to, for example, audio streaming services or adjust settings.
Onkyo’s interface for music streaming services isn’t pretty, but it does the job. It’s definitely better than the STR-DN1030’s cramped interface, and thanks to the smartphone app, you probably won’t need to use it that often. Information about the artist and album art is displayed whenever you are streaming audio, from the Internet or from your own music.
Eight HDMI inputs: The TX-NR616 outperforms all with eight HDMI inputs, including a front panel input that supports state-of-the-art MHL devices. Eight HDMI inputs will almost certainly be more than needed, but leave plenty of room for the upgrade, especially with new game consoles on the horizon.
The only problem is that you can’t access all of them from the remote. HDMI inputs 1 through 6 have corresponding buttons directly on the remote, but inputs 7 and 8 are by default only accessible via the Quick Setup menu. You can actually assign Input 7 to the TV / CD button, but Input 8 currently remains inaccessible via a single button on the remote and our Harmony remote was missing a discreet code to access it. It’s an annoying flaw and takes away the value of that eighth input.
The rest of Onkyo’s connectivity is solid too, including four digital audio inputs. (Check CNET’s 2012 AV Receiver spreadsheet for a more detailed comparison of AV receiver connectivity.)
Integrated network: The Ethernet port of the TX-NR616 allows for all types of network functionality, including firmware updates, smartphone control, and media streaming via DLNA, Spotify, Pandora, Rhapsody, Slacker, Last.fm and Internet radio. I still don’t think network is an essential feature of the AV receiver (especially because), but Onkyo does a better job than most, with its extensive support for streaming audio services and a decent smartphone app.
The TX-NR616 doesn’t have built-in Wi-Fi, like the Sony STR-DN1030 competitor, but it does offer a $ 25 USB Wi-Fi dongle that you can plug in on the back panel. (And there’s a USB port on the front panel, so you’re not sacrificing USB connectivity.) It’s a much better solution than I’ve seen from other manufacturers, offering only expensive Wi-Fi accessories or none. (There is always the option offor your home theater.)
No integrated AirPlay: Most receivers in this price range offer built-in AirPlay, which allows you to wirelessly stream audio directly from an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. It’s a significant missing feature from the TX-NR616, but it’s not essential as you can always add AirPlay later with a $ 100 Apple TV, which adds a lot more features. And the TX-NR616’s very low street price makes it easier to justify buying a second box. If you’re not sure whether you should choose a receiver with built-in AirPlay, check out our roundup ofcompared to buying a separate Apple TV box.
Two-year warranty: The TX-NR616’s two-year warranty is standard and better than the one-year warranty offered on competing Pioneer receivers. If you’re really looking for peace of mind, the Marantz NR1403 and Marantz NR1603 come with a three-year warranty.