HT and two channel receiver recommendation

A long time friend just emailed me asking for a recommendation between the Onkyo TX-SR309 and the Denon AVR-1312. He wants the best of both worlds meaning good HT and two channel performance, hence his question to me. I have to be honest, I dont know much about HT receivers. I noticed the Denon does not have USB inputs and that to me is very important looking forward. Anyone familiar with the sound of these two brands ? I noticed based on a quick query that these are also the companies lower tier components. Feel free to recommend any brand you think outperforms these two. From what I see his budget is around $300. Thanks.

That is very hard @ only $300.00. I would stay in the 2 channel wold and do a 2 channel home theater. @ $300.00 you are spreading the performance and features thin. My father thought that 5 ch would be cool and his budget was much bigger. After a few experiments I set him up with a 2 channel home theater set up and it made him
much happier then he would have been with bargain basement AV. In the last 3 years I have seen more of my customers buying a better quality 2 channel reciever or integrated amp, than the multi channel stuff and hooking it up to a DVD Player and a TV and calling it good. I see more people demanding high performance over features. For a little more than $300.00 you can get a lower end Cambridge Audio integrated amp that will sound better and will be easier to use use than the Denon and or the Onkyo. If he must have the AV then buy the Denon.
Without looking them up I would have recommended the Onkyo because I think they are more user friendly. My father-in-law has my old Onkyo, I have an Integra, and my Sister-in-law has a Denon.

After looking them up, I'd recommend the Denon because it is "rated" for low impedance drive capability and has high current/descrete amplifiers. While I know this is partially marketing hype, the addition weight, nearly 4 lbs, give another indication that the power suppliers just might be more substantial.

I do think that going with a surround sound receiver will yield more "joy" at this level because the blu-ray HD sound is far superior to standard DVD and stereo recievers cannot decode these formats. I personally think that this difference is far more significant than what you'll find between a stereo and HT receiver in this price range.

Having said that, if movies, specifically blu-ray, are not on the menu, then I've always thought that the Onkyo stereo receivers would be a great bang for the buck. The TX-8050 is listed on Amazon for $314 with free shipping and has a lot of nice features.
I would think at 300.00 you will have to sacrifice something. If your freind could muster anther 100.oo look at the Marantz NR1401 or the 1501, I think you would be into a better quality of sound, but neither have the USB. Also keep an eye here on AG as someone may have something listed that is a better quality component used that a 300.00 component is new. IMHO
Just from hearing these in the past three years, but not sure of model numbers at the big box type of stores, I'd lead toward the Onkyo. They seem more musical than the Denon (Denon could get offensive), and more pleasant in the highs. Then maybe Pioneer, second choice. Most of them lack transparency. The power ratings they give might only be for one or two speakers driven at a time at 1 khz (fairly common). So IOW, a 100 wpc receiver might be in the 30 wpc range, and 8 ohms is usually the lowest they can handle. It's not the same as high end stereo amps more realistic ratings. I just wanted to give you a heads up so he doesn't use inefficient speakers.
This is an update. He didn't even wait for my advise and just called to tell me he bought an Onkyo TX-SR509 from Crutchfield. He is very happy with his purchase too. Thanks to all of you for your responses.