I have the R-972 and the end caps installed look very nice. Do not look at the side of my equipment very much, but if you do, it is an improvement over the machine grey finish.
Here are my thoughts on the unit and Trinnov: In the correct application this is the best-sounding processor i have ever heard in both 2-channel and surround sound. Trinnov is amazing and provides a large sweet spot with pinpoint imaging with stereo and with movies the speakers just disappear in enveloping sound (whether 7.1 or 5.1) and center channel dialogue is extremely strong and clear.
I have used many high-end processors over the years: Anthem D2, Arcam AV888, Denon AVP-HD1 and truly prefer the R-972 (with an outboard amp of course - although this thing is a beast and the amps appear beefier than my Denon AVR-4311ci). I have used XT32 with the 4311. Although nice, I have always felt that Audyssey makes too many compromises in order to give good sound in numerous positions and therefore sounds vague in the sweet spot (where I sit 90% of the time and my usual movie guest are not particular enough to notice any Audyssey improvements in off-angle seats).
I have 4 HDMI sources (3D Oppo, HD DVD, XBOX 360 and FIOS DVR) and tend to listen to most sources as mixed on the disc: 2-channel, 5.1 or 7.1, My speakers are ML Vantages with 4 Vistas as surrounds and a Stage center with 2 Descent i subs. My amp is a B&K 200.7. I also watch only HD video and like it passed through untouched. The R-972 works great with my needs.
That being said, here are the limtations that might affect some:
1) The REON processor is not well implemented and appears to produce artifacts at times - I would stick to video bypass.
2) There is a few second audio mute delay as it locks on to the codec. However, once locked on it stays locked - does not lose audio again when changing tracks or chapters.
3) Trinnov take a little patience to set-up properly (although not any more than Audyssey's 6-8 positions) and you do need to experiment with the bass boost files (0db, +3 or +6) to see which works best for your room - however, they load quickly and easily - and you just load a new one if you don't like the last.
4) The remote is not good - but I use a Harmony
5) The set-up menu is simple with no fancy GUI - but well-laid out and easy to understand without the manual if you are somewhat experienced in HT.
6) No PLIIz, DSX or Neo:X, but Trinnov allows for many variations in speaker placement and sound shaping goals.
If you can live with the above, it is an absolute steal at the current price!