Of the high end packages, 3DS Max 2009 tries hardest to make life easier for its users. Some new modelling tools help make four-footed animation easier. There are also some new navigation options which make it more straightforward to find your way around a scene.
Confusingly, though, there are now separate Design and Standard options which cost the same and are aimed at architects and everyone else respectively. Since most users would like a full feature set for their buck, this hasn't been a universally popular move.
Other changes in this update include the usual round of additions to shaders (texture generators), texture and object mapping, rendering and lighting.
Although there's a 30 day trial, the catch for novice users is the price – for that money, you could buy yourself a used car instead.
Overall, despite its capability, this is far too complex a product to contemplate as an entry level choice. 3DS Max gets a five out of five for raw performance, but two out of five for the high price, complexity and bizarre split product line.