PowerCore is both software and hardware and as PowerCore plug-ins run only on PowerCore hardware, there is really no point in comparing the hardware only.
With PowerCore you have access to some of the best plug-ins that you will ever hear in a VST/Audio Units enviroment.
For instance the MD3 Mastering package: here we have taken some of the best algorithms from our high-end platform System6000 ported over to the PowerCore, making it the best multiband dynamics processor and the best limiter on the VST/AudioUnits market. Or take a look at the Access Virus|PowerCore: one of the most -- if not the most -- famous virtual analog synthesizer, available for the PowerCore.
Some plug-ins are included with the hardware whereas others are optional: this way you don't have to pay for something that you don't need.
With the PowerCore Unplugged, you basically only buy the DSP card, so you can use it as a basis for a palette of plug-ins of your choice, or to add more power to the PowerCore system you already have.
Like other DSP cards PowerCore will help your host CPU to do the heavy calculations. It is very hard to compare the speed of different DSP cards, as the technology used in the different solutions vary greatly. Some uses dedicated DSP processors like we do, others use other types of chips to do the calculations.
We think that using dedicated DSP processors is the best solution as this is also what we use in our hardware processors like the M5000, Reverb4000, System6000 - actually - in almost all TC processors. This is also what most other hardware audio companies use, and this is part of why PowerCore Platform is supported by a lot of prominent names in the industry.
PowerCore is available both as a PCI-card (PowerCore PCI mkII or PowerCore Unplugged), a PCI Express card (PowerCore Express), a compact portable solution (PowerCore Compact) and a 19" rack module (PowerCore FireWire, PowerCore X8 or PowerCore 6000).
Click here for more information about how much DSP power each PowerCore plug-in consumes.