As home theater technologies continue to become increasingly complex with new digital audio and video formats, it becomes more and more difficult to centralize everything in a way that can be intuitively utilized. The RX-V1800 receiver takes a big step in consolidating all these new items.
One of the key features of the RX-V1800 is its ability to upconvert any video signal to its HDMI output. This means you can plug everything you have into the receiver (HDMI, component, s-video, etc) and then just make a single connection to your TV. This greatly helps reduce the remote control shuffle. Also, with 4 HDMI inputs, the receiver is ready to take on all your new HD components (DirecTV, PS3, and even a PC using DVI-HDMI).
Of course, the real reason to get a receiver is for its ability to drive audio to speakers.. and this one does that very well. This model is able to decode all the latest audio codecs including DTS-HD Master and Dolby Digital TrueHD. Formats so new, that the BluRay players that can handle those formats are just starting to come out. The receiver has plenty of power and can support several different speaker configurations including 7.1 surround sound -- or you could configure a 5.1 system in one room, and then configure stereo speakers in two different rooms, each playing their own source (perfect for watching the game inside while playing music outside on the patio). Also, Yamaha includes their best "Digital Sound Processors" for changing the sound signature which can greatly enhance the feel of a movie or mp3 audio files.
A cool gimmicky feature is Yamaha's YPAO sound calibration system. By placing a microphone in the "ideal listening spot" the receiver will measure sound levels from each speaker and auto adjust the levels to create the perfect listening environment. While this worked great to level out the speakers, I did feel that it turned down the sub-woofer more than I would like -- but that's easy to manually override.
I do have two complaints with the receiver --
1) The "on-screen display" which shows receiver information on your television only works in Standard Def or 480p resolution. Meaning, you can't see the volume change on-screen while watching a high-def source. It seems that for a receiver that's built for High Def, this should have been better handled. Although, some purists may actually prefer not having a "volume bar" interrupt their movie experience. I just think this would have been an easy issue to address.
2) For a receiver of this caliber and with its ability to power speakers in different rooms, the inclusion of a remote control that works through walls would be a huge benefit. There are inputs for running some sort of "infra-red receiver cable" into the receiver, but I have no idea where to find one, and it would still require running one to every room you intend to use the remote from. The more likely solution is buying a more robust remote control...
Overall, the receiver does what it is supposed to do very well. In addition to the features mentioned, the receiver is expandable for even more expansions such as an XM satellite or iPod dock.. but those are extras. You would be hard pressed to find another receiver with the same feature set and build quality for a similar price.