Let me suggest a framework for thinking through the decision on which AVR (or controller/amp combo) to buy. I'll assume you place an extremely high premium on what I call "core sound quality" (as do the editors at Playback and The Absolute Sound, BTW). So, one key question, which should probably be considered separately from issues of features or functions, is:
1) Does the component I'm considering offer core sound quality good enough to do justice to my speakers (and to meet my personal expectations)?
To put it bluntly, all the gongs and whistles in the world are not going to turn a mediocre amplifier into a good one. Expert recommendations can help, here, but at the end of the day the only real answer is to listen and then decide. However, features do also play a role, and one that is not isolated from the "sound quality" question. So two other questions to ask are these:
2) Is my room and/or are my speakers such that they might benefit from a good room/speaker EQ system?
The standard audiophile view is that the less circuitry between you and the sound the better, and that viewpoint has a certain validity. However, I've personally observed many speakers/rooms where a good room/EQ function made the entire system sound not just a little but a LOT better--even in purist audiophile terms.
Roughly speaking, you can subdivide AVRs into those that do or don't provide auto EQ systems. Among those that do, you can subdivide AVRs in those whose EQ systems optimize sound for one or two listening locations vs. those that optimize sound for multiple locations (the Audyssey-equipped systems). Finally, there's a distinct pecking order among Audyssey-equipped systems (starting with the 2EQ version, then MultEQ, then MultEQ XT, and at the top of the pyramid MultEQ XT with Pro installation/calibration and Audyssey Dynamic EQ functions enabled).
3) Do I/should I care about Dolby TrueHD and/or DTS-HD Master Audio?
Many pundits argue about various workaround strategies (use the "Uncompressed 5.1" soundtrack, or "let the player convert TrueHD to PCM," etc., etc.) for choosing components that don't support Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio. But personally, I think it makes more sense at this point to choose components that support TrueHD and Master Audio in the first place.
Whenever you invest in higher-end electronics it is desirable to try for some measure of "future proofing," so I would encourage you to choose components that either support Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio now, or for which already planned/announced firmware updates will later add TrueHD or Master Audio decoding.
The new advanced codecs really do sound great.