I'm new to DS but I'm aware that this topic has come up before. I've done a search on it and found a few threads but most degenerate into flames and/or move off topic. I'd like to discuss the topic and perhaps come to an understanding of why certain game design choices were made.

The topic is this: What were the goals behind how much cyberware/bioware cost in essence and how much adept powers would cost?

I'll start by stating that my opinion is that bioware essence costs are exceptionally low. This discussion covers primarily physical-oriented characters and their representation across various concepts. There may be other disparities, but I'd like to concentrate on this one for now. I base this opinion on the following:

Magical enhancement and cyber/bioware enhancement are presented as being comparable (among physically oriented characters) in the setting, and so they should be comparable in the rules as well. I don't mind that bioware is more efficient at gaining raw attributes than the other methods, and I don't mind that magical enhancement is better at gaining skill enhancements. However, attributes have been given a much larger role in the outcome of skill rolls in SR4. They are equal to skills in a singular roll, though apply to a much broader range. With that in mind, it seems odd that the costs in essence for attributes would be so low as compared to the magical cost of a skill increase. Also, with the large amount of other 'ware and adept powers to define the various methods to "physical power" (for lack of a better term), why choose to make such a large imbalance in the basics (attributes/skills.) To be honest it appears that the core rules were changed (that is, static TNs and attribute+skill rolls) but little thought was given to changing adept powers, cyberware, and bioware to suit the new changes.

Monetary costs were obviously considered when balancing bioware. Given that the system has always had issues with balancing karma and monetary rewards, this seems like a poor design choice. Each of the three manners of enhancement have downsides, monetary costs are a fine balance for the lesser detectability of bioware over cyberware and the lack of any specific sites that remove these enhancements altogether. But they shouldn't be considered a balance for lesser essence costs or higher efficiency (as compared to magical enhancements).

I understand that bioware is presented as the next step up in technology from cyberware. I don't have much of an issue with this except in degree. As I mentioned earlier I believe monetary costs is a horrible balance mechanism for shadowrun and bioware is, by far, more efficient (in some cases over doubly so). Bioware already has a huge advantage in being exceptionally dscreet. Traditionally it is more essence friendly, but it was not available for quite the scale in changes that cyberware was available for (as an example reflex enhancement was cheaper "essence"-wise in SR3 for bioware, but it was not available in as high a grade and didn't give the full advantage that cyberware options gave.) At the time this seemed to be a fine trade-off. I'm not sure making bioware that much more efficient was necessary for giving the sense that technology has progressed in shadowrun.

In my opinion the most persuasive argument that bioware is balanced incorrectly, is the massive disparity between purely magically enhanced characters and characters with just a few essence points worth of bioware. In the past "burnout" magical characters were viable, but they were giving up magical power in order for enhancements elsewhere (usually survivability). In the current edition characters that meld bioware and magic are much more capable at their main role, than those that don't use bioware. It would be one thing if the setting were moving towards magic and technology being more compatible, but that doesn't appear to be the case. If the intent was to make a "burnout" type concept more desirable then I believe the system has overcompensated. I believe a better response would have been to structure karma/monetary rewards better and to discuss the consequences of low karma, high monetary reward games. That is, that such a game will tend to have characters leaning more towards cyber/bioware enhancement for progression as their magical progression will be very slow.

I'd like to see some counter arguments and/or solutions that people have come up with. While I believe that some enhancements have a clearly incorrect cost (such as Synaptic Booster and Improved Physical Attribute) I don't believe that simply changing the cost (either essence or monetary) is optimal. For example, I'm fine with Synaptic Booster giving initiative passes cheaper (essence-wise) than adept magic or cyberware. But I'd at least like it to be somewhere in the same realm given how important initiative passes are to any combat in the system.