Well count me in as another new member of the PZ850 club. Yesterday I bought a new 46PZ850. Actually, I drove 2-1/2 hrs to the 'Windy City' to audition this set at a BB Magnolia store (we only have a couple 'reg' BBs in my area ... strange for a community of neary 400k). Anyhow, I was actually fully prepared to pick up a new Pioneer Elite 111 (they had an incredible price on it for 'Magnolia days'). But after spending a couple hours of careful auditioning between the two sets, I opted for the 850. I've spent quite a bit of time previously auditioning the 111 in various viewing environments and to be completely honest, I have to agree with all the professional reviews to date, that the Elite is overall the best display on the market today, and I was positive this was the display I was going to by. However, I have to also agree with many of the professional reviews that the Panasonics are truely deserving of the great accolades they are also garnering. IMHO they simply ARE the 'value leader' right now!
Taking the time to carefully set up each display (the 111 according to D-Nices references settings and the 850 according to slightly modified C-Net settings) and having both displays side by side in a fairly dark environment (enough to get a fairly good feel for black levels,anyhow) we fed both displays with the new Panasonic 55 Blu-ray player to ensure a good source. A quick note here ... while I'd also auditioned the 850 before, this was the best comparative environment I've had the oportunity to see it in, and it made a big difference! After a lot of comparative viewing of my reference Blu-ray movies I'd brought along, there was a consensus from everyone involved, that while the Pio did in fact prevail in it's areas of strength, the Panasonic yielded such a big slice of the pie that it was truely impressive to say the least.
Not to make a snap decision, my wife and I took a break and left to go grab a sandwich at Portillo's (a MUST whenever visiting the Windy), and thought things through carefully. While we both agreed the reviews are correct and the 111 is 'the best', we simply came to the conclusion that the Panny was so close in many aspects that (for us), it was just not worth the premium. For those that own the Pioneers I can easily see why they are thrilled with them and why they are worth every penny to them. But for me, for some strange reason
, I've always been one of those guys that enjoys finding those special products out there that can offer the consumer (nearly) as good as 'the best' reference performance for a bargain price and I feel the 850 is just one of those products
An extra plus for us was the fact that a 46" size display works perfectly for or situation, so into the truck it went and 2-1/2 hrs later we were hauling it into the HT room. Unfortunately, that's as far as it's gotten so far as today we had to play a couple lumberjacks and cut down some trees that we've been wanting to tackle before winter sets in. I'm anxious, however, to get this bad boy fired up to see just how good this display will look mated to my new Pioneer Elite 05 Blu-ray player (which incidentally has popped an incredible pic on my current older generation Panny plasma). One of the perks of buying through BB (and being a Silver Rewards member) is that I've got a 45 day return policy, so I've got plenty of time to test this set out thoroughly and what they heck, if I have a problem and have to exchange it, it's just another road trip and another shot at Portillos