Well, Paul S found this excellent, free converter from Koyote Software.
I can't promise it will work faster though.
AVCHD's biggest selling points are its high-compression and easy hard drive storage -- the very things that make it challenging to edit on a PC! (Final Cut, as far as I know, is the only personal computer video editor that uses an intermediatary codec for editing -- though it can take a very long time to convert the files too, when you do your final output!)
I'm just not sure what the solution is though. You've got a very fast computer, so you may well be able to edit AVCHD natively, without converting it. But even still, when you output it, it's going to take a very long time!
With tape-based HDV getting harder and harder to find, AVCHD may well be the future of consumer hi-def -- but all of the players didn't think this one through before they dumped it on the market.
And then, so many mfgr's have added their own twists to AVCHD, that it is impossible to cover all bases. It is like trying to pick up mercury with a pair of tweezers, or maybe herd cats.
I fear that the holiday season will bring more versions and variations to the table, and until everyone has time to try out each and report, it will be a nightmare on the fora. Add in the ever changing variations of older formats/CODEC's for the DSLR's that shoot motion footage, and we've got the makings of the "perfect storm."
Hey, it keeps you and Paul_LS on your toes, right? I'd suggest writing a book on AVCHD, but if you ever tried to cover all those bases, you'd never get to print.
I'm oddly comforted by the fact that AVCHD is in such a state of disarray right now.
I kept thinking they're be some clear-cut answer and kept getting frustrated that I couldn't find it / figure it out.
Now, I've come to understand the problem isn't me... it's AVCHD. Seems to be a complete mess of incompatible implementations and huge PC editing demands.
Frankly, I'm not thrilled with either option.
HDV is a reliable, proven workflow. But it's tape-based (a minor annoyance - I've been living with tape for 20 years), requires separate timecode splitting (why on earth isn't PRE doing this, seriously, how hard could it be?), and is only 1440x1080 resolution. Oddly, I've seen references to 1920x1080 HDV but also references to the fact that that would impossible since the spec only supports 1440x1080... hmmm.
AVCHD seems like it's just not ready for prime-time. The hard drive and flash drive media are definite plusses, but the format itself... maybe in a few years?
If I had to pick the least objectionable, I'd go with HDV.
But, sadly Steve may be right. I looked on Sony's website the other day, and every HD camera was AVCHD except their shoulder-mounted pro version (yeah, I want to carry THAT around DisneyWorld).
So, quite frankly, I may just wait until the AVCHD world gets it act together before I part with my $$$. Dunno......