Test Report: Sony STR-DA4600ES A/V Receiver Page 3

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ERGONOMICS
Sony was among the first to the fair with a high-def onscreen receiver interface, and the DA4600ES’s GUI uses an evolution of that initial effort, itself derived from the XrossMediaBar interface of Sony’s videogame consoles.

This is a powerful system that makes virtually every function and setup option available through a connected series of menu branches, although these can be frustratingly deep and slow to reach — especially since every click of the remote’s directional cursor takes nearly a second to register an onscreen response. Say you decide you need a couple more decibels of center-channel level for dialogue enhancement while watching a movie. There is no option but to call up the GUI, click your way to Setup at the very bottom of the list (there’s no top/bottom “wrap,” alas), then move laterally to Speakers, Manual Setup, Center, and then on to the level up/down control, all of which cannot be done in much less than 30 seconds via a grand total of 22 moves.

There are some advantages to the system, however, and one is something Sony calls Quick Click, an onscreen remote controller that you can set up to operate occasional components or commands via a supplied infrared “blaster” cable. (I could not get this to work on any of my gear. Perhaps the blaster was defective, but I’m equally ready to assign the blame to some inherent imbecility on my part.)

Back on the upside, Sony has joined the growing list of manufacturers offering free apps to operate their networksavvy creations via your home network. I downloaded the DA4600ES’s own app to my iPhone and found it an excellent adjunct to the supplied remote controller. In some ways it was better in that it delivers more direct access to command sets, and even o. ers perks such as a direct-access grouping of touch keys to select among the major surround modes, which the hardware remote does not. The app also includes full Zone controls, so as long as your home’s Wi-Fi coverage holds up, you needn’t fuss with IR-repeater accessories — score! (Even on the app, though, there’s still no direct route to channellevel trims or several other important functions that I normally like to see on A/V receiver remotes.)

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