Among the new features is Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL), which allows you to watch 1080p video with 7.1 sound from mobile devices and smartphones via the front HDMI port. Once connected you can control playback using the Onkyo remote and it even charges the device while in use.
The TX-NR515’s network functionality is another stand-out feature, bringing a wealth of extra music to your living room. Premium Spotify and AUPEO! subscribers can stream music through the dedicated portals, while Last.fm and vTuner offer internet radio access. You’ll also see German streaming service Simfy listed but it’s not yet available in the UK. Finally you can also use MP3tunes, a ‘cloud-locker’ music service.
The Onkyo is also DLNA certified and can stream music from your own network servers (PCs and NAS drives for example). The list of supported formats is excellent – MP3, WMA, WMA Lossless, FLAC, WAV, Ogg Vorbis, AAC and LPCM – but if you prefer they can also be played from USB storage devices.
On the audio side Onkyo claims a power rating of 7 x 130W, and there’s a wide range of audio processing modes to play with. Dolby Pro Logic IIz is the most sophisticated of these, offering you extra front height channels if you can be bothered to rig up an extra pair of speakers at the front of the room – but that’s at the expense of surround back channels.
This is joined by a wide range of Onkyo’s own sound modes courtesy of the 32-bit DSP chip, including Theater-Dimensional Virtual Surround, four modes for gaming (rock, sports, action and RPG) and Advanced Music Optimiser for compressed audio files. Direct and Pure Audio modes shut down video circuitry in a bid to ensure the cleanest possible music playback.
The on-board Marvell QDEO technology upscales incoming video sources all the way up to 4096 x 2160 resolution, as well as cleaning up artefacts.
There are some other nifty features that boost the TX-NR515’s ease-of-use factor. InstaPrevue shows you a live video thumbnail of each source connected to the HDMI inputs, making it easier to find the right one. Onkyo’s free remote apps for Apple and Android offer a slicker, more intuitive way of controlling the receiver, while Audyssey’s 2EQ system makes sound calibration a cinch, measuring the acoustic properties of your room using the supplied microphone and tweaking its levels accordingly. It maintains these optimum settings automatically using Dynamic EQ, while Dynamic Volume keeps the output at an even level.
Operating the TX-NR515 is a generally pleasant experience. Its user-friendliness is aided greatly by the good-looking onscreen menus, which use colourful icons and funky fonts. The setup menu and other displays use logical lists and respond quickly to remote commands. The only gripe is that it’s not particularly easy to find specific tracks on a DLNA server or USB device if you boast a huge library of songs.
Everything can be accessed from the main Home menu’s a row of cute icons, including the full setup menu, which offers a very detailed set of sound tweaks. But for faster access to key features you can bring up the Quick menu, which is laid over whatever you’re watching.
The remote seems a little cluttered at first glance but you soon realise that all the often-used stuff is perfectly placed, like the direction pad in the middle and the playback keys below it. Input selection is easy too – simply select what you want from the cluster towards the top, and each one is clearly labelled. There’s also a row of three macro-style ‘Activities’ buttons (My Movie, My TV, My Music), which switch on the receiver and flip to the relevant input.