Out of curiosity, I downloaded the latest ACDSee Pro 2.0.238. Got it to import about 50 RAWs and some JPGs into it. The browser is fairly clean and logically ordered. But metadata and keywording is clunky.
I find it quite disorienting when you "view" an image from thumbnails, the browser just disappears, one can only really use the filmstrip. I very much miss having a Loupe to examine photos quickly from the browser. So I tried using the film strip, then using the context menu to go to full size; it zooms in on the JPEG thumbnail and doesn't render a real preview! So the browser is not really able to show you your photos.
OK, so I have to live with a modal interface, View is the only way to "view", and one has to accept the management interface cannot be used if you want to actually see your image as it is.
So then I "edit my image", only to find this is destructive editing (and again modal). So out i go and go to RAW processing. There are two overlapping interfaces which doesn't make sense to me. And lots of the tools are actually destructive for editing.
RAW processing is pretty basic. Exposure, color, detail and cropping. Playing with sharpening I wanted to go back to see my previous edit - but there is no undo!
You can reset everything but not step through changes, thus cannot do quick before after comparisons, cannot get back to a previous setting if your cat jumps on the mouse etc.
But the capital offense is indeed the RAW converter:
As far as i can tell, there is substantial image detail lost. Trying to recover with sharpening causes pretty noticeable artifacts. I tried to get the two apps as close as possible in terms of look (unsientific I know, but as algorithms are different there is no way to clearly equalise them). In Lightroom, look for the detail of the skin reflections, and the more subtle gradations on the fabric. With ACDsee there are weird black holes probably caused by the poorer sharpening algorithm. The skin color is flat and grey, and I couldn't get it any better.
Then there are whole important aspects of image control just not available in ACDSee. In Lightroom there are very cool mouse-adjustment tools for hue saturation and luminance for 8 color channels; this is important for more careful color control. Click on the little circle in the HSL panel and drag on a region of your image; you are intuitively adjusting that local color region the color information (same works for tones in the tone curve panel). These adjustments give you fantastic immediate control of color and tone, and are nowhere available in ACDSee. You may say well that sort of stuff is only good for preofessional, but it is not. I now consider solid management of color channels just as important as exposure and tone control.
I also miss the clarity tool, before/after comparison, great BW conversion, vignettes etc. And the whole benefit of non-destructive editing is flexibility. Lightroom gives you Snapshots and history of all your edits. You can spawn out virtual copies and stack them together with ease. And a direct interface to processing presets, applicable to batch import makes complex processing trivial even for large groups of images. ACDSee is much less flexible, I can't even undo settings changes during RAW processing!
The local enhancements are destructive in ACDSee, so I won't try comparing them. Lightroom is just too far ahead here. I can't emphasise how sensational it is to do local adjustment, then tweak it however i want later, save sets of different adjustments. It is all metadata, no pixels are being harmed. In the screenshot above my previous post, my eye is locally enhanced (one set is exposure, another is tint), i can toggle these setting around, tweak parameters without ever having to "undo".
I think as a browser ACDSee is OK, though I dislike its modal nature and inability to see my image properly in the browser. But as a RAW processor, I would never use it. Detail being lost (or at least cannot be recovered) is the killer, but the feature set is weak, and the flexibility to very limited. I personally wouldn't pay $130 for it.