Best is in the eye (and ear) of the beholder, not to mention it also depends on what speakers you are using. You're much better served with a lower quality AVR and better quality speakers than vice versa. First determine what features you want and then research to find which models offer those features. Get out to some hi fi shops or Big Box stores and demo some models as well. You can review post #2 in each of the Denon AVR-XX12 and XX13 Owner's threads to get an idea of features offered on the current Denon models.
I plan on buying a Klipsch RF-62 II seven speakers home theater with a Bic Acoustech PL-200 sub. My room is aproxymetly 10' X 14', and since I can't install surround back speakers (my couch is against the wall), I would have a 7.1 setup with front height instead of surround back. The HT will be be mainly used for movies (70%) and sometimes for music (30%). I'm not looking for a receiver with tons a features, i'm looking for one with excellent audio and video.
I am in a similar search. I ruled out onkio as I was probably was going to go refurb and I figured most of them probably where returned for the hdmi failures. I didn't want to take the chance.
Then I started looking at the refurb Denon until my boss told me his horror story, he is on his 3rd Returned Denon and it has failed. I'm sure it is not most people's experience.
Now I am looking at the Pioneer Elite SC-61 street price at the bottom of your range. The newly designed class D3 amps have got pretty good reviews. From what I have read here some don't care for the way it is logically organized.