Sure, we'll do that !
AFAIK they've adopted a way to run their simulation that's very similar to how popcorn works under the hood, so it probably closes the performance gap a bit.
And on the workflow side, it looks like they've done a terrific job with the node-based system.
If you don't like scripts, you'll definitely prefer Niagara over PopcornFX. Well, over PopcornFX v1.x that is :)
Other than that, the two systems now look very alike.
Niagara has a stack of modules, which are more or less the same thing as popcorn v1's evolvers.
Our evolvers are either builtin C++ modules or scripts, theirs are graphs.
They also use named storages to communicate between those modules in the stack, exactly like we use named storages to communicate between evolvers. Even though they've improved this by introducing namespaces, it still suffers the same fundamental limitations regarding reusability.
One reason we can't have a nicely working library of modules/behaviors that you can easily reuse across effects is because of these limitations. Usually a complex behavior is a collection of things: various stages at update, computations at spawn time, additional resources the internal logic uses (could be a mesh, a lookup texture, etc)
you sometimes need to setup some stuff before another part of the sim runs, then process stuff after that other part has run, making your "behavior" split into multiple stages. With a design like PopcornFX v1 or Niagara, you can't black-box that and abstract the concept into a simple to use "thing" (node, module, whatever)
I'm sure they'll find ways to work around these limitations (if they haven't already!) and make it painless enough to use.
We're taking a radically different path with PopcornFX v2 though. (there are nodes, just like Niagara, but the big difference is the way they're organized, what they mean, and how you use them :))
It feels like 2018 is a pretty exciting year for VFX systems in general, there were a ton of great stuff at GDC this year, Frostbite, Niagara, Bungie, us ;), it looks like the Unity folks are also going to release a first version of their new node-based VFX system (can't wait to see what they come up with btw, we know some of the guys in the team behind this, they're all amazing folks, so we can probably expect something kickass as well ! :))
So, yeah, when Niagara comes out we'll do a bunch of tests against popcorn v1 and v2 for sure.