I finally got myself over to Abt in north suburban Chicago yesterday afternoon to see the Pioneer 5080 and Panasonic 50PZ750 for myself. (Yes, it really was a 50PZ750.
That's one reason I thought some people would be interested in hearing about it. They had a 700 as well, but I've been most interested in the 750.)
First off, they are both very fine TV's. I could be very happy with either. Both had impressive overall PQ, and either held its own with anything else on the floor, including Fujitsu and Elite 1140, which had been my previous favorite. (Possible exception, the B&Os, but they're in a whole different price league.)
However, for black freaks, the 5080 is, as hyped, the hands down winner.
I'm not a black fanatic and I don't worship at the altar of CRT's. I'm not fixated on 1080p either. The only thing I don't like about my three year old Panasonic (aside from wanting a bigger set) is it's black crush. The only time I am at all troubled by any grayness in its black is when I watch some (not all) letter-boxed movies. So this is important to me only in how it affects the overall PQ, including color saturation, not as an end in itself. In this regard, I may have different priorities than some others.
Both sets seemed to still have more black crush than I would like (shadow detail on the B&O was astonishing, but it probably had been calibrated). No doubt both the Pioneer and Panasonic could be significantly improved in this regard by proper calibration though. The salesman dug up the remote and let me change the settings on the Pioneer. I tried various settings including Optimum (which dims the picture as the ambient light drops, and seems similar to the C.A.T.S. mode I currently use on my Panasonic), but I did not fool with the individual adjustments within. Out of torch mode, the 5080 had a great picture, nice color balance with very good skin tones, and, if the blacks on letter-boxed material didn't vanish into the frame, they came close and might even do so in a darkened home setting.
The lighting in the store was not bright, but was not subdued either. Much like my living room on a cloudy day, I'd say. They were using an ordinary HD feed, probably DirecTV, in daytime, which means some was unconverted SD. So conditions were not optimal, but also not unlike those that might be typically encountered in a real world home. The 5080 and 750 were not side by side, but I could see them both at once.
As I had expected, the 750's 1080p didn't impress me as much as it's general PQ, which, other than the blacks, matched the 5080 as far as I took the comparison (I didn't have time yesterday to try different settings on the 750). The 750 was displayed on a wall, directly below an Elite 1140 and above a Samsung xxx68 (don't recall the whole model number, but it tops their new line, and looked better than any Samsung I can recall), and I gave the 750 a slight PQ edge over the 1140, much to my surprise.
I had read all the talk about the 700 "dimness," too, but frankly didn't notice it especially, although the 700 was located some distance from the others. However, the 750 did not appear conspicuously dimmer than the Samsung and Elite 1140, nor compared to the 5080 that was simultaneously visible albeit a few feet away. It might have been slightly less bright, but not enough that it called attention to itself. I'd chalk that up as another overblown concern. Just my opinion, of course.
In fact, on most scenes, the 750 and 5080 pictures seemed quite comparable. However, I was very impressed with the 5080 blacks on letterboxes, which were distinctly darker than the 750 (or anything else in the store, for that matter).
As I mentioned, both would benefit from calibration, and greater calibration flexibility would seem to give the 750 a potential edge, being more comparable to the yet to be released Elite 1150 in that regard, if not quite it's equal). Countering that, though, is Pioneer's traditionally excellent signal processing, especially with poor quality sources.
In the end it will probably come down to 1080p vs ultra blacks for many buyers, both a little over-hyped IMO, but each vital to some. Of course, those for whom money is no object could invest another $1500 in a 5010FD (or even go all the way to a PRO-110FD) and get both.
If I had purchased a set on the spot, it probably would have been the 5080 partly because of the blacks, partly for the video processing. While I doubt most people would be as concerned about the difference in blacks if not viewing the two sets next to each other, to me it would be more significant in a 50 inch set than 1080p. However, I'd want to view the 750's other modes before finally deciding.
If I already owned a 750, though, I wouldn't have second thoughts. It came off as a very competitive offering, at least for those not fixated on black.