Originally Posted by highcap
The RS46U has always been available for under $2,800, but not from authorised retailers. Whether or not this matters for the warranty (I have an email from JVC saying that legally it cannot), and whether it matters to you is your decision.
My personal opinion is that the AVS Forum store has some of the best prices on these sorts of products, combined with excellent advice and customer service. It was the sales tax that killed it for me, or I'd have bought from them myself.
I was in a similar situation to you in that I couldn't stretch to more than the price of an RS46/X35, though I was coming from nothing having never owned a projector before.
My viewing environment is similar to yours, in that I view 95% movies, in absolute darkness, with some measures to control reflected light getting back onto the screen. My screen is 2.35:1 115" diagonal, and I have black velvet masking panels for viewing 16:9 content.
I'm not using an Oppo Player, but I do have a Darbee in series, so there are similarities here too.
I cannot comment on the difference between your old Panasonic unit and the RS46U, or the improvements of the newer units. What I can say however, is that for the price, there is almost nothing to compare to the entry level JVC projectors, and it's a shame that they're not being updated.
I went DIY for my screen, and used Black Out Cloth as the base because I found it easier to work with than trying to transport a large sheet of something else. I tested several different screen paints including about 10 different mixes of Silver Fire, and a few different blends of Black Widow. You can probably find the results of my testing by searching for posts by me, but to summarise...
Black Widow - Looked to be a good option whereby the overall colour of the screen was a totally neutral grey, but the embedded fine aluminium particles boosted the gain enough to counteract the loss of light, effectively improving contrast slightly.
I found that the new Aluminium paint formula didn't provide the gains that the older one had done, and the result was no different to just using the base grey without it. In other words, it was just a plain neutral grey screen.
Silver Fire - Promised impressive screen gain, which would allow it to be used in a room with ambient light. Darker versions promised to act like a darker grey screen but with gain to compensate; similar to Black Widow, but more effective.
I wasn't that interested in viewing with ambient light, but I tested lighter and darker Silver Fire mixes. I found a very slight blue colour shift, but nothing that couldn't be calibrated out on the projector, and to be honest, some fairly impressive gain for a paint solution.
My issue with Silver Fire was that I could see a sparkly structure in the paint at my viewing distance (90" / 7 1/2' / 2 Screen Heights), and I found this objectionable. For the right viewing environment however, I think it's an acceptable compromise.
After all of my testing, I ended up coming to the same conclusion that most experts do... The best screen is one which is neutral, and is either totally white, or very slightly grey. Then all you need to do is to make sure that your viewing environment is the best it can be with walls, ceiling and floor covered and / or painted with finishes that do not reflect light back onto the screen.
If you cannot have an optimal viewing environment, there are screens that can help improve the situation, but they compromise elsewhere.
I therefore improved my viewing environment, and stuck with plain old Black Out Cloth, which is neutral, and has a gain of about 0.9.
I hope this helps!