I did a quick test between max 2010 and max 2012 using one of my files. the file in question was that of Slackman, a superhero I created.
In max 2010 the scene, with roughly 3 million triangles on screen, ran at 1 to 1.5 fps. With the inbuild optimisation feature that max has(replaces models with bounding boxes when navigating the scene).
The new max ran the scene at 20 to 30 fps, without replacing the model.
That's a performance increase of 2000% !!!
Ok, I know it doesn't work like that, but still. An increase from 1 to 20 fps is pretty damn impressive.