I own the 55 hitachi, its a wicked tv, no problems at all.
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Will you care or even perceive a difference at a 12 to 14 feet viewing distance? Better visit the dealer and vary your viewing distance, if immersion in movies is a goal rather than casual viewing. The SMPTE and THX viwing-distance calculators suggest either of these is too small for a 12 to 14 foot viewing distance.
Check out this link to see who is buying what. http://www.plasmatvbuyingguide.com/index.html. You will see the Panny's are the best rated plasma's on the planet. The 9UK, 60U and 600U Panny's use the same engine, but have different features. I sell the Panny's and have had excellent success with them. A great picture.
As for the Hitachi's. They do have a wonderful picture, but so do most HDTV plasma's. The Hitachi is one of the better one's out there, though.
Im making the same decision...probally going wth the hitatchi...panny ook very clay like when the contrast ratio is bumped up...and thats what i plan to do with it... Also the hitatchi looks better off...which I know...I know...it matters what it looks like when its on, not when its off. However believe there are many fctors involved, and when somone walks into the room, I want them to look at the screen and say "wow"...n expeced result with the Hitatchi 55"...i mean supposivly its like 35% more viewing area...a whole lot...a whole lot