Well I did more investigating... I figure I've easily spent about 150+ hours researching over the last month for my first HDTV. I was all set for the 50" A10, then went into the stores again and again, my eyes always gravitated towards the plasmas... so I started to research plasmas.
First impression was that they were WAY out of my budget. I was prepared to spend $3200 on a 50" Sony A10. Then the stand @ around $400. But if u get this model then you have to buy bulbs every 2-3 years @ $300-$400 a pop.
Even still, plasmas seemed to be out of my budget. A 50" plasma @ BB or FS was running $6,000+ (not including that cheap LG 50" which had horrid reviews). Then I decided to take a look @ the commercial models. Turns out that you can get a 50" Panasonic 8th generation plasma screen for $4299.99 Canadian! The commercial model was a little bare, but I am getting expressvu, so I didnt need a tuner. The commercial model also has limited inputs, so you'd need to buy extra input cards. I myself figured I only needed an extra component input card for $129.99. And a wall mount for $199.99.
So Panasonic commercial plasma rings in @ $4629, and the sony 50" A10 comes to $3600 (assuming you dont get a deal by haggling - which I am horrid at). Thats getting pretty close. But when you factor in the extra bulbs you'r going to have to buy, assuming you can still get them when you need them, in 5 or 6 years you've spent the same as a the commercial Panasonic plasma, and you are still sinking money into it every couple years. Whereas the plasma is good for 20 years of 8 hours / day viewing.
The risks: Since it is a commercial product, you cant buy it at a local retail store like BB or FS. You have to order online, which means you have to buy it without seeing it first (it is the same panel as the consumer product, and the 50" consumer product looked amazing). There is a company in Ontario that quoted me that $4300 (free shipping), and that seems to be very reputable. Also, the return policies are not as good as BB or FS. If theres a problem with the unit then fine, it gets fixed or replaced @ no expense to you, but if you just plain ole dont like the way it looks @ you, then you gotta fork over 20% plus shipping for restocking. I guess thats better than saying "tuff luck" all together.
I placed a preorder for the Panasonic TH-50PHD8UK last night. They are going to be released in Canada on October 1st apparently, so it shoudlnt be much longer than that to get it shipped to me.
I spent a little bit more than I wanted originally when considering the RPLCD's, but I didnt have to make any compromises when it came to the product performance. It does involve a little bit of risk however, and I have to admit, I will be a little nervous until I get the unit in and I hook it up and confirm that everything is OK.
I'll let you know when I get it in how everything turned out.