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I think Comp Settings will always give you a linear motion blur, whereas subframe sampling will run the simulation at finer granularity to generate the new samples.
Edit: Looking at the Particular options, Comp Settings and Subframe Sample aren't mutually exclusive. And it doesn't look like the Subframe Sample reads the comp's sample settings , just the shutter angle/phase. So, use the same calculus you used prior to AE CS3 to determine which method works for you.
What's more, I doubt there'd be any way for Particular to take advantage of adaptive sampling anyway, since the layer it's applied to isn't 3D and isn't moving, so it wouldn't have an adaptive sample rate.
Aaron is right. Particular does use its own routines for motionblur sampling since this stuff is not rooted in the AE SDK and developers have to take care of it themselves. Any enhancements in AE itself therefore go unnoticed. You will have to manually ramp up the number of samples if you need to go beyond 16 "steps", which is the old default for AE up to version 7 and will be used this way if you use "Comp Settings".
Thanks for such a quick response!
Correction to my above comment: it's 2D layers, not 3D layers that use adaptive motion blur.