To me another major consideration of the pre '05 Panasonics is they didn't have full D1 resolution for LP, only SP and XP for preset speeds. I've been told they switched to 1/2 D1 using FR somewhere between SP and LP but since I've never owned one I can't say for sure exactly what setting of FR caused the switch. Since I really like the option to get 4hrs/DVD (or 3hrs at a minimum) a pre '05 probably isn't for me. (If someone knows the magic FR setting please let me know and I'll update my Panasonic features thread).
I've already got a great SP only machine(Toshiba XS-35) that I rarely use because 2hrs 19 min. (Using MN3.2 I believe) just doesn't cut it for me. I must admit though the Toshiba is even slightly better than my Panasonics when in full D1.