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>or does 3.7 do a materially poorer job at conversion? If so, in what way?
Uh, well, CR 5.x has moved CONSIDERABLY beyond CR 3.x; Recovery, Fill Light, HSL Controls, Grayscale conversion, Parametric Curves, Clarity, Vibrance, substantially improved sharpening and demosiacing, Presets, Snapshots, Open as Smart Object, output sharpening, 512MP size capability, TAT tool, Spot Healing, separate defaults for ISO and camera serial numbers, Adjustment Brush, Graduated Filter...
You are leaving ALOT of functionality and image quality potential on the table with CR 3.x. Seriously, if you gotta ask, you really should update...
more profiles to choose from for each of several Canon, Nikon and other cameras (yes they do produce different renderings of the raw file), localized adjustments, the TAT (Targeted Adjustment Tool) already mentioned by Jeff It would be too tedious to list them all, but Jeff has done a pretty good job.
There's just no comparison.
I upgraded from Photoshop CS3 to Photoshop CS4 on the basis of the massive improvements of ACR 5.2 over ACR 4.6 alone and ACR 4.6 is already a huge leap forward compared to ACR 3.7.
If you browse older threads, you'll see that there had been complaints by Canon and Nikon users about raw conversions in versions prior to 4.6.
5.2 resolved all of those issues.