I just wrote a lengthy post on the Aperture forum about my recent tribulations with Aperture. I thought I'd post it here. I also suggest you read the original thread if you're interested.
I couldn't help but smile a little when I read your post. Great coverage btw.
I smiled because I've just spent the past two weeks playing with the LR3 demo and going pretty much through the exact same odyssey - as well as coming to the same conclusions. In fact, your post was like a transcript of my own deep personal thoughts ;-)
I decided to thoroughly test LR3 *because* of Aperture. I needed to export a client's session and Aperture refused to do it. Period. Kernel panics (!!!), hangs you name it: my edits were essentially trapped within the app with no way of getting them out. Since I didn't have time to jerk around I downloaded LR3 and redid the entire session's picks. Pretty good way to learn how to use an application fast. To my surprise, it worked. It worked well.
After the ordeal I managed to get Aperture running normally again (won't go into details, you probably know the rebuild/preferences drill) but was now confronted with serious doubts about my choice of workflow. For the first time ever I contemplated a move to LR3.
Like you, I hate the UI. I hate the modules. I find the DAM and its entire display and philosophy ridiculous or confusing at best. But yes, the new Details brick is amazing. The Camera Calibration presets are a godsend - not a dealbreaker mind you, but seriously efficient. And the biggest advantage is still - to my surprise - speed. You get used real fast to being able to zoom into an image to check focus, NR or sharpening without having to wait 20 seconds or more. No matter how much processing you do to a photograph, zooming in and out is done in a blink. This was quite destabilizing coming from Aperture's glacial image rendering.
So I sat down and began a series of tests. I edited all sorts of picks from my Aperture library to see where I could get with LR3 and compare. I imported the results back in AP3 to do side-by-side comparisons. Some of the results had me considering a workflow using both apps, with Aperture as the DAM and LR3 as a possible editor (sorry DLS!). I had opened Pandora's Box.
I figured if I was going to change, might as well try what else was out there. So I downloaded Capture One. Then I downloaded CS5 (still using CS3). Capture One's rendering was ok but didn't do anything to sway me. CS5 was CS5 - bloated and messy. Played around with the new Context Aware Fill and realized it was nothing but a very bad Clone Tool (talk about hype). I went back to LR3 and did more testing.
With the +shiny new toy syndrome+ out of the way I began to notice kinks in LR3's armour. It had a serious tendency to crash blacks into a weird posterized mess. My initial sense of getting better rendering was shaken by the fact that LR3 seemed inconsistent, with much depending on the type of image. I also realized how much I was missing the ability to add adjustment bricks beyond what was available in the built-in brushes. To make a (too) long story short: I felt constrained.
Now, after over two weeks of going back and forth I've decided to stick with Aperture. It's become obvious to me that LR is meant to be used along with Photoshop for anything beyond basic photo treatments. This makes perfect sense from Adobe's business standpoint. I have nothing against Photoshop and use it all the time, but I like being able to stay within my main app.
Does LR3 sometimes do a better job? Yes. Same goes for Aperture. Does LR3's built-in NR/sharpen and Lens Correction trump Aperture? Hell yes and I wish Apple would take notice. I'm using DFine, Sharpener Pro and PTLEns but would very much welcome not having to render TIFFs for those functions, to say nothing of the ability to go back and tweak.
But for my use Aperture is a better tool. And the good thing about all this is that in trying to replicate certain LR3 functions, I've found new ways of working with AP3 and have also revisited areas of my workflow.
The big caveat is still there though: Aperture 3 *needs to work*. Yesterday, after several days without any problems Aperture started crashing when applying a brushed curve to a certain picture. Just like that out of the blue. I had to repair the database - again. I lost time - again. It's like this application has psychotic episodes. It's just not acceptable. I send so many crash reports it's not even funny. It's also completely random which is even more infuriating.
So I'm like you. I'm back but with the knowledge that LR3 CAN work if Aperture fails on me. It's not elegant, it's cumbersome but it works.
Apple, you need to make Aperture 3 work. Every day.