The Panasonic TH-65PX600U, that is...
I went to the local Magnolia to compare the Pioneer Elite 50" FHD-1. Unfortunately, once I saw the Panny -- and glanced at the Pioneer -- it was pretty obvious that size matters. If my viewing distance were closer the Pioneer might work, but at the viewing distance we have (12-13 feet) ANY money spent on a 1080P 50-inch set is wasted, IMHO.
The Qualia has clearly ruined me for anything of lesser quality. It's funny how I didn't even gawk at the Panny -- as in, "WOW -- a Sixty-Five-Inch Plasma!!!". It seems like 65" is probably my minimum tolerable monitor size at this point. How quickly we become used to improving standards; it wasn't all that long ago that I was thrilled by my 32" Sony XBR CRT set...
How good is the Panny? Pretty good, it turns out. When I first looked at it -- playing "The Fifth Element" on the Panny BluRay player -- I thought it looked terrible. Here again is yet another example of how poorly most retailers set up their display units. When set to VIVID this set just looks dreadful.
Switched to STANDARD things get dramatically better. A few observations:
The people who loved trashing the Qualia 006 over screen reflections will have a friggin' field day with this display. The screen reflections are far, FAR worse than on the Q006; control of room lighting will be essential with this set.
This picture will doubtlessly have a big performance jump once someone like Jeff/UMR lays his hands upon the television set and HEE-UHLS it's imaging capabilities. Though I commandeered the remote controls, I did NOT have time to tweak the set.
The money on this set seems to go into the picture. Though it looks nice enough it does not have the fancier quality exterior design that some sets now have. It is simple and clean, though, which works for me.
At $1,299 MSRP for the pedestal stand, we have a new record for cost vs. engineering dollars and production expense. Absolutely unbelievable, and if you want to mount this unit on a stand you are screwed, as most manufacturers (Chief, for one) do NOT offer stands for anything this big.
BluRay is nice, but the performance jump is smaller than you might think. I believe some of this may be due to limitations or shortcuts in mastering. With "Element" I compared my SuperLimitedEdition DVD to the BluRay, with both discs using the Panny BluRay transport. It is a clear but incremental improvement. My thinking is that a Denon 5910Ci ought to take standard DVDs to somewhere very close to BluRay. However, with proper D4 masters or with digitally sourced material, I would expect the BluRay advantage to grow. I could write more about this, but it looks to me like "The Fifth Element" was rushed onto BluRay. There seemed to be quite a few issues related to conversion from film to digital. Maybe they used the same master from the DVD and BluRay is showing off flaws you can't easily detect on DVD.
My final verdict? I ordered one TH-65PX600U with the pedestal stand, the matching speakers, and the Panny BluRay player. I know, I know -- the stand and speakers are probably money that's wasted in the long-term. However, we are doing some remodeling and I HAVE to have the ability for the set to be free-standing at this point, both as regards mounting and its' audio capability.
After viewing a good hour of BluRay content, I found the PQ on this set to be very good. Not state-of-the-art good, but I think it's one of the best plasma sets I've yet seen. The size is part of this, the blacks are good, and the shadow detail is decent. I think we have the building blocks for someone like Jeff/UMR to create a beautiful picture.
The only potential fly in the ointment will be to see how this set performs with SD material. I am hopelessly addicted to the Speed channel, and during the Formula One season a lot of my TV viewing is this less than pristine (hah!) source. I am very interested to see how well this set plays with others, in this case my TiVo S3. I would prefer not to buy a scaler, but we shall see.
Out of time; more details to follow...