Receivers used to be little more than an amplifier, then they became the central hub for video signals, and now they're getting network functionality too. Onkyo has announced three new AV receiver models, with the two higher-end models featuring an Ethernet port and the ability to add Wi-Fi (via a dongle) for $40. A lot has changed in Onkyo's AV receiver line for 2011, so let's run down the most important features.
Key features of the Onkyo TX-SR309:
- 5.1-channel AV receiver
- Three HDMI inputs
- Advanced HDMI features like 3D pass-through, standby pass-through and audio return channel (ARC)
- $300 list price; available in April
Key step-up features of the Onkyo TX-NR509:
- 5.1-channel AV receiver
- Four HDMI inputs
- Ethernet port
- Wi-Fi-ready (requires $40 UWF-1 USB adapter, sold separately)
- Networking functionality including Internet radio and DLNA compatibility
- Can be controlled by iPhone/iPod Touch using Onkyo's free Remote app
- Can directly connect iPod/iPhone via front-panel USB port
- $400 list price; available in April
Key step-up features of the Onkyo TX-NR609:
- 7.2-channel AV receiver
- Six HDMI inputs, including one front-panel HDMI input
- New graphical user interface
- Displays album art for connected iPods/iPhones
- THX Select2 Plus certified
- Marvell Qdeo processing with 4K resolution support
- Powered second zone functionality
- VGA-style PC input
- Audyssey DSX and Dolby Pro Logic IIz audio processing
- $600 list price; available in April
Networking is the big addition to Onkyo's midrange receivers, as it's a feature that generally was only included on higher-end models last year. (Pioneer's VSX-1020-K includes and Ethernet port, but is limited to firmware updates and internet radio.) Our only disappointment with the networking news is that the TX-NR609 does not include built-in AirPlay functionality. We're still hoping that AirPlay compatibility will be included on some midrange AV receivers this year, but we're a little less optimistic that that might happen now.
Short of AirPlay compatibility, the next best thing is the addition of iPod-compatible USB ports. This is a feature that was available on the Pioneer VSX-1020-K, Denon AVR-1911 and Marantz NR1601 last year and it's allowed for easy iPod/iPhone connectivity using a standard iPod USB cable--no need for a pricey proprietary iPod dock.
In addition to all the new features, we're happy to see that Onkyo has updated the exterior design of its receiver line. The company hadn't updated its styling in years and as we noted in our review of the HT-RC260, its big-box aesthetics were starting to look outdated. The new design still isn't quite as slick as design-conscious receivers such as the Harman AVR 2600 or Marantz NR1601, but it looks to be an upgrade over previous Onkyo models.