Given that I am retired, and given that photography is one of my hobbies, I have a lot of quality time to spend playing with, trying out and using various RAW converters including Photoshop, Bibble, Capture One, Nikon Capture, DxO, Silkypix and RAWShooter Premium 2006.
Each photographer has his own preferences as to which of these are best and is prepared to defend that choice come what may. I have found that to my eyes there is not a whole lot of difference in the final product. Any differences that I have found are generally subtle and since the default settings don't help much in making comparisons, I continue to look for software that provides a 'WOW' experience every time. No such holy grail exists...but I still keep looking.
Recently, Helicon introduced their version of a RAW converter and editor and to me it may well be the best single stand alone comprehensive software conversion and editing tool around.
Pluses include an intuitive workflow: source > noise > brightness > color > aberration > sharpening > distortions > resize > frames > save.
I particularly like the double frame that compares the source photo with the adjusted result. Another clever touch is the option of having a detailed and illustrated help panel at the bottom for those who are working their way through the program.
At the moment two plugins are available and there is a list of other 'unsupported' plugins. If Photoshop plugins can ultimately be added that will certainly broaden the appeal.
Their web site is at: http://www.heliconfilter.com/pages/
Since I just started using Helicon Filter Pro, only today's posting on my photoblog site was processed with Helicon. Look for more postings of the results at: http://lightandshadow.my-expressions.com/