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Sony STR-DN850 review: Complete receiver package a great value

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The Good The Sony STR-DN850 receiver offers a very good selection of features for the price, including built-in Wi-Fi, AirPlay, Spotify, and Bluetooth. It delivers excellent sound quality for both surround sound and music. Sony's user interface and remote control are attractive and easy to use.

The Bad Lacks the extended connectivity of the DN1050 including component inputs, MHL HDMI and Zone 2 amplification.

The Bottom Line The Sony STR-DN850 has it all: bountiful Wi-Fi networking features, the brawn to provide maximum home theater fun, and the refinement to bring a string quartet recording to life.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.3 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Sound 8
  • Value 9

Review Sections

Last year, the Sony STR-DN840 was our favorite receiver of the year due to its mix of affordability and performance. The company has returned with the DN850 which improves in some areas -- namely adding a slick user interface and 4K throughput -- and takes away in others: fewer HDMI inputs.

Give and take notwithstanding it's still an excellent performer which shines with both movies and surround soundtracks. It offers a ton of wireless connectivity and is actually fun to use -- rare praise indeed for an AV receiver.

But is the DN850 as recommendable as last year's? Well, not quite, but only because of a threat from ts very own stablemate. The price differential between this receiver and the step-up STR-DN1050 is now just $70. That extra outlay gets you some nice features, namely Zone 2 capability and legacy inputs. Both receivers are great values, and it just depends on the features you are looking for.

Design

Sarah Tew/CNET

While it would be hard to pinpoint which would be the prettiest piece of equipment in a home theater setup--probably the speakers -- it's easier to say which are the ugliest: the AV receiver. The Sony STR-DN850 receiver is still relatively sleek for the breed, with a minimum of bamboozling controls, but it's still basically a huge black box. It features a source selection knob in addition to a volume control on the front panel, as well as a slick blue LED readout.

Sarah Tew/CNET

After years of flogging the XrossMediaBar, Sony overhauled its user interface last year. Newly added to the DN850 this is an attractive selection of screens that have colorful icons and readable text. While the makeover is only one layer deep, the home screen and settings page are nonetheless much less intimidating than competitor's.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The receiver ships with the same remote as the STR-DN1050 and is a no-frills clicker which is refreshingly easy to navigate.

Features

Sony has pushed the Hi-Res Audio thing pretty hard in 2014, and of course the DN850 takes advantage of this with 24-bit/192kHz decoding of most disk based and digital formats. Just don't expect it to be much chop at streaming content via the antiquated menus -- it's much better when using features such as Spotify Connect.

The DN850 is very similar in specifications to the slightly more expensive DN1050 so its easier to note what it doesn't have in comparison. The 850 lacks the 1050's DSD decoding over USB/network, a Zone 2 option and a 4K upscaler. While DSD over a network might, just might, be of interest to you, 4K upscaling is a non-issue: 4K TVs do this automatically, and likely much better than a receiver. Furthermore both receivers can pass-through native 4K signals anyway.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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