Well I did it... I made the plunge, and got the Deni 5150 (a later model of Carb Lover's ice cream maker). It arrived from Amazon at my office today (at which point I plunged it into our freezer at work so I could begin making ice cream tonight!) and the results vs. the Panasonic maker? Well...... in short, I now realize the Panasonic machine sucks.
I had some of last week's batch of watermelon ice cream still in the back of my fridge, so I figured it would be best to do a test with that. The first drastic difference I noticed is simply the power. The Deni keeps on going while the Panasonic starts and stops, and always sounds like it's straining. After 15 minutes, I could hear a difference, and a peek through the top indicated that my batch was churning and freezing nicely. After about 20 minutes I took a taste..... wow, it was smooth, creamy, with not a hint of the iciness I had experienced from the panasonic. Soonafter this point, the ice cream was at a soft serve consistency, and I transferred it to a tupperware and moved to the freezer. I'll be very interested to try it out tomorrow morning and see the results, however I can already tell that this is better.
It's funny, as the only passable results I'd ever gotten with the panasonic was to create ice cream mixes with whipped cream. Somehow that eliminated the iciness that plagued all my other batches. Ah well, no matter.... I'm happy now, and maybe I can donate my panasonic model to a local neighbor's kid or something :-)