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"For a price drop this big, some corners must have been cut. I'm wondering if the new model is "made in China" rather than Japan, and quality/durability could be a potential issue. Does anyone know? If so, I would take this into overall consideration rather than simply base my decision on price and initial picture quality."

Most if not all electronic products are made in China now and re-badged by leading brand names, especially Panasonic. Panasonic Corporation of China -- [link deleted]

I remember seeing a show on cable featuring an electronics show in China where products like camcorders and DVD players were being showcased and they were all blank names, waiting to be purchased by a known named corporation to put their label on it. That is why there are similar looking products but sold under different brand names, like the BenQ W1000 and Vivitek H1080FD for example.