while i can't say i have Winston's expertise (although i don't know him), i can give you my two cents on the blu-ray. I own the Oppo BDP-80 ($289). It's Oppo's stripped down version of their flagship BDP-83, which many reviewers called the best blu-ray player on the market. Oppo has been well-known for making 'budget' DVD players for several years, that many consider among the best on the market. If you do a Google search, you can find plenty of reviews on the BDP-80, and many listings of the best players, where it is rated near the top. It has among the fastest loading times for blu-ray.
Steve and James,
thanks so much for your detailed replies. I went down to Sears tonight (Saturday) and checked out the 42-inch Samsung C450 and the LG PJ350. I played around with the menu for a while, to see how i could tweak them. When i got them about as close as i could to looking correct, i couldn't really decide on picture quality. They each had slight differences, but too subtle for me to really tell which one was more visually pleasing. Besides, with the poor store lighting and cramped aisles, i'm sure i couldn't make either one look as good as it will in my home.
In any case, after making that determination on picture quality, i decided i would make my decision based on other factors...
1.) The cabinet. The LG's cabinet is smaller in all 3 dimensions. The wall i want to put the TV up against has a doorway on either side. The Samsung would go past the door frame on each side by about an inch. The LG would give me an extra inch on each side before the door frame.
2.) The stand. The LG stand swivels, and the Samsung doesn't.
3.) The color. I think that Touch-Of-Red, and the little clear plastic thing that hangs down below the Samsung is just...ugly. And stupid. I don't like busy. I like very simple and streamlined. The cleaner look of the LG was much nicer. (I know, supposedly the C430 has a black streamlined casing, more like the LG, but the only place i can find to buy it is Amazon. There are no stores i can find that sell it. And if i can't see it, i don't want to guess that i'm going to be happy with the picture, or the look of the unit itself.)
4.) The price. When the salesman at Sears asked me if i wanted help, i asked him about the sale that goes through today (Saturday), which includes 5-10% off, plus free shipping. He told me that was only available online, and not in the stores. I told him i would think about it, and probably buy it online because the price was better. After staring him down for about 5 seconds, he went to his computer, and asked whether i would buy it today, if he could beat that price. I shrugged my shoulders and raised my eyebrows. He came back at me with an offer for $470, including tax and delivery. I think it would have been silly to pass up that deal, so i bought it.
The delivery guys will even come up to my apartment, and cart my 200+ lb Sony 34-inch CRT away for free. I LOOOOOOOVE that Sony, but it's got a small, but somewhat deep scratch on the screen, and it recently had a problem powering on. If i turn it off, it can take hours or days until it will decide to power on again. So for the last 2 months, i haven't turned off my TV at all. I'm lucky i live in an apartment with utilities included! Oh, and 42 is bigger than 34.
Anyway, that was probably waaaaay more info than you wanted to read, but....whatever.
My new LG will be delivered on the 22nd, two days after i return from a trip to Chicago. I'll be sure to post on here what i think of it, once i get it all set up, and spend some time watching a bunch of different content on it.
Thanks again everyone. Your advice was definitely helpful.