Go for one of the Pioneers. BDR-x06, x07, or x08 will be quality drives.
The x06 series has had no issues, and probably would work just fine. The x07 may support higher speeds, and probably performs slightly differently on some media (but only minute differences). The x08 series is seemingly just as good, maybe with slightly higher speeds, so maybe not worth the expense. Keep in mind the speeds you would actually use. So the S07 might be good.
The BD[B]C[/B]-207 is just a combo drive: read+write for DVD & CD, read only for BD media. So if you never want to write BD media, you could go with this drive.
To the footnote question: No. There is a separate bit of hardware in the BD drive equal to that of a DVD drive for using DVD media (just as there is CD hardware for dealing with CDs).
If a drive is better at reading, it is because of the choice of components and design of the error-correction capabilities.
[Pioneer claims to make use of the BD hardware for CD media in some of its deluxe drives, but it’s only applicable to CDs, and it’s more meant to get a “higher quality” read from good source material. It’s probably no more helpful for degraded media than just reading the disc at slow speeds.]