That, again, is a subjective issue. Personally, I don't like HDR Efex Pro. But I'm not a fan of ny Nik products. When I reviwed it, it seemed more geared to the grunge/surreal look and I never was able to achieve a 'natural' result that I was happy with. Speed wasn't great either. I haven't tried v2, but from what I've seen, the tonemapping isn't really any better.
I guess that's where we differ. I'm a fan of Nik's products. I do agree with you that the first version seemed more geared to the grunge/surreal look and that's probably because they want to be an alternative to photomatrix. The newest version still retains that capability, but I find the tonemapping to be better and I'm basing it on the results I was able to achieve trying out HDR Efex Pro2 after I upgraded. I think you'll find that color and contrast is better processing your photos with the second version. Give it a try and tell me what you think. There are also plenty of samples online that I felt looks pretty natural. I thought achieving a natural look was pretty easy by simply going easy on the sliders to the point where one might not notice the added resolution and the opening up of shadows if not viewed side by side with the original.
I agree with Bob's observations. From what I've seen from others, HDR Efex Pro is indeed more suited for producing the grungy look than natural looking tonemapping. Based on that I never tried it in depth myself, also because of its price. A photographer firiend of mine did test it in more depth, and didn't like the overprocessed look, and it also produced halo artifacts that were very hard to avoid. He also reached the same conclusion, and stayed with SNS-HDR.
The newest version has new ghost reduction algorithms for what it's worth. As for the price, I guess it depends on the version you buy. I see that SNS' pro version is more expensive than HDR Efex, while the home version is cheaper.
Maybe I'll try out the SNS after testing the HDR Efex Pro2 more thoroughly to see if it fulfill my needs. Am I correct in saying that SNS doesn't offer a full trial version? The trial version is their free version without the graphical interface right?