AV receivers are notoriously jam-packed with features, most of which you'll never use. Yamaha's RX-V573 ($500 street price) is notably lacking many of those niche capabilities common on other receivers, but it also falls short with the one feature that matters the most: HDMI connectivity. With just four HDMI inputs, the RX-V573 falls behind all of its major competitors, especially with the Onkyo TX-NR414 offering six HDMI inputs for $275. Hard connectivity numbers aside, the rest of the RX-V573's intangibles are lackluster as well, with a perplexing remote and archaic user interface.
The sole bright spot is the RX-V573's built-in AirPlay functionality (and other limited network features), but in most cases it's better to add AirPlay with a separate Apple TV box. Most buyers will be better off with competing receivers like the Onkyo TX-NR414 or Sony STR-DN1030 ($450 street), while most Yamaha fans will get a better value from the RX-V473, which is largely identical but is limited to five channels.
The Yamaha RX-V573 looks no different from other mainstream AV receivers. It's big and boxy, with a two-tone look of glossy black on the top and matte finish on the bottom. If you're looking for something more stylish, Denon's AVR-1913 has better looks, while the Marantz NR1603 is attractively compact.
The RX-V573's remote is as bad as it gets. It's covered in tiny buttons, most of which are unnecessary and many are poorly labeled. Even something as simple as a power button is confusing. There are two identical power buttons at the top, one to power off the receiver and one that can power off other devices if you program the remote to do so. Between those buttons is a white button with no label or obvious function; only after I looked it up in the manual did I learn it toggles the remote between controlling the receiver and other devices.
The smartphone remote app is better, although not that useful. You can access music stored on your phone within the app, which is a nice plus for Android users who can't take advantage of the receiver's built-in AirPlay functionality. It's also a faster option for navigating Internet radio stations, although there's no search functionality.
Nearly all AV receiver user interfaces are hopelessly archaic, and the RX-V573's setup menus are no better. The setup menus feature blocky white text that looks more like the display of a Commodore 64 than a modern high-definition display. More annoying is that every time you navigate the menu, the entire screen goes blank, before refreshing again, sort of like those early, clumsy e-ink displays. It's not a huge drawback since you'll rarely need to use the setup menus, but it remains shocking how backward AV receivers are compared with nearly every other home theater device.
The RX-V573 doesn't support many streaming-audio services, but it does have a basic user interface for AirPlay and Internet radio. Don't expect any eye candy here, not even album art, as all you get is basic artist, album, and song info.
Four HDMI inputs: The RX-V573 has four HDMI inputs, which is definitely on the skimpy side for this price range. If you want the most HDMI connectivity for your buck, however, go with Onkyo: the TX-NR616 ($430) and TX-NR515 ($400) both offer eight HDMI inputs. The Yamaha is well-appointed with the rest of its connectivity, including four digital audio inputs: two optical, two coaxial. (Check out CNET's 2012 AV receiver spreadsheet for a more detailed comparison of AV receivers' connectivity.)
Built-in networking: The RX-V573's Ethernet port allows for all kinds of networking functionality, including firmware updates, AirPlay, smartphone control, and media streaming via Internet radio. I still don't think networking is an absolutely essential AV receiver feature (largely because AV receivers shouldn't be media streamers), but it's a nice bonus. The RX-V573's set of streaming-audio apps is somewhat limited compared with competitors', so if you won't be using a separate media streamer or iOS device (with AirPlay), you'll get more options, like Spotify, from Onkyo's network receivers.
Built-in AirPlay: If you own an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, the RX-V573's built-in AirPlay is a nice bonus, although it's not essential since you can always add AirPlay later with a $100 Apple TV. If you're not sure whether you should pick a receiver with built-in AirPlay, check out our rundown of the advantages and disadvantages of built-in AirPlay versus buying a separate Apple TV box.