At first glance, you'd think that the Onkyo TX-NR727 is just another home theatre receiver. But it has two quite surprising features. The first is that it actually has Wi-Fi built in. While it seems that Wi-Fi is a standard inclusion in all but the cheapest TVs, home theatre receiver makers have been relatively reluctant to embrace it. Obviously, that's a great advantage if you don't happen to have an Ethernet cable near your home entertainment system.
The other unusual feature is the inclusion of Bluetooth. Not as a dongle, it's actually built in. That's very useful indeed because, relatively rarely for a quality home theatre receiver maker, this unit does not support Apple Airplay. With Bluetooth, you can still stream music readily from your iDevice or, of course, from most Android devices. If you're not a fan of Bluetooth, you can use DLNA for streaming.
But we'll come back to that stuff because the principal job of a home theatre receiver is to handle your regular movies and music. For that, it provides seven channels of power, each rated at 110 watts. There are seven HDMI inputs and two HDMI outputs (useful if you want to use both a home theatre projector and, in between movie nights, a regular TV). Older connection standards (aside from S-Video) are adequately supported. There's Ethernet at the back in case you do have a cable handy (it's best, where possible, to leave the airwaves free for use by other devices) and a USB port at the front.
This receiver can support two zones and power one of them with a pair of its built-in amps if you're not using them for other purposes.
A wizard fires up the first time you switch on the receiver, and it guides you through setting it up. Among other things, it will even help you set up the universal remote control so that it works with your other devices. The automatic calibration is performed using the Audyssey MultEQ system. This gives you the opportunity for the quick (two minute) set-up or the full thing. It's a good idea to go for the full thing. The former just sets the speaker sizes, distances and levels. The latter also measures the frequency balance of the sound in your room and corrects it with some digital EQ. Many speaker systems and rooms benefit from this.
At the end, you're given the opportunity to switch on two Audyssey processors called Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume. These adjust the character sound at levels Audyssey considers less than optimal (ie, thunderously loud). In my judgement, they're better switched off for a more natural result. Many disagree. Just be aware and see which you like. Likewise, check THX Audio Setup under Speaker Setup and make sure Loudness Plus is switched off. It does something similar to Dynamic EQ.
You can set a lot of things individually for each input, which is a very useful feature. You may prefer different audio settings — for example, of picture processing options — for your PVR to that for your Blu-ray player.
Sound and picture performance
I used very high quality loudspeakers with this receiver, so the EQ was relatively modest. With or without, the system sounded great in both stereo and surround. Don't worry too much about the headline power rating. It had the chops to drive the entire system extremely loud without any audible stress at all.
If you want quality sound, then the Onkyo TX-NR727 will deliver it.
The receiver can overlay messages on the screen but hides the underlying video when displaying its main menu. Nonetheless, even then it uses the same resolution as that of the underlying video, which avoids the wasted time in switching signal standards (my projector can take up to 10 seconds re-syncing itself when a signal standard changes). One mild complaint: if you mute the receiver, it leaves Mute printed in a translucent bar across the bottom of the screen. If you still have a plasma TV, this could provoke burn-in if left too long.
The receiver can convert and scale all incoming video, including any analog stuff, all the way up to 4K if you wish. At 1080p scaling, it did a first-class job with both 1080i50 and 576i50 signals, correctly detecting the mode and almost never mistaking a mistake. This receiver will make your digital TV and DVDs look about as good as they can.
But if you like, you can switch it all off.
There are control apps for the unit available for both iOS and Android — or sort of, in the case of Apple. The app simply would not appear at the Apple Store when accessed via an iPad mini, although it worked on both an iPod Touch and a first-gen iPad. It's basically a phone app scaled up to screen size. Likewise, for the Android one.
With both platforms, it was quite effective if, initially, looking at touch basic. It doesn't add a lot to most functions, but with new media, like streaming from DLNA servers, it was excellent, showing the content lists and album art and allowing for fast scrolling.
There were lots of online streaming resources provided by this receiver. TuneIn provides internet radio. Spotify works with paid subscriptions to deliver pretty much any music you like. Also provided (some don't work in Australia) are Simfy, Last.fm, AUPEO! and MP3tunes.
Although more related to general operation than networking, the InstaPrevue feature is useful. That allows you to display up to four HDMI inputs in windows while watching a fifth. You can pick what to switch to according to what it's showing.
The Onkyo TX-NR727 is a highly competent home theatre receiver, offering all the important basics, a strong suite of network features and the unusual combination of both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity..