I'd be really interested to know what the outcome of your research was. Have you bought a new camera yet?
Presently I'm in the same boat as you. I was on the verge of buying a DSLR (seriously considering the new Sony Alpha 350) but have recently decided that it just wouldn't be practical for lugging around with me and have therefore decided to seek a top spec compact instead.
The article you posted a link to was very interesting. I think it summed up the market perfectly - there isn't one manufacturer that offers those with an interest in pursuing more creative control over their photography a compact that ticks all the right boxes.
I've been reading your's and Ali's comments about the G9 with particular interest and was intrigued that you both draw different conclusions from the same review. Personally, I love dpreview and find it's reviews to be extremely thorough, but occasionally, having finally made it to the end of the review, I'm left wondering what exactly their conclusion has been as there is a tendency to contradict or wash over earlier statements they have made.
Another site I like is dcviews.com
as it has a huge database of cameras and offers links, in most cases, to several reviews.
I didn't like the G9 at first because I also took the noise issues from the dpreview article and was disappointed by the lack of a 28mm lens but the more I read about it, the more I realise that by purchasing a compact you are making a compromise: choosing portability over image quality at higher ISO:
"For ultimate image quality with compact cameras it is best to keep ISO levels as low as possible to avoid noisy or grainy images. The Canon G9 is no exception in this area. Images taken at ISO 80 or 100 are simply superb with plenty of detail and nice colours, but when you get to higher ISO levels, quality definitely starts to suffer. ISO 1600 or 3200 on the Canon G9, or any other compact for that matter, should only be used when there are no other options available, such as using a tripod or flashlight." dcview.com review
Once you can accept the limitations that a compact has, I think it sounds like the G9 is definitely a contender:
"Although the Powershot G9 does have a green Auto mode, where all important decisions are made for you by the camera, it is not really meant for the point-and-shoot enthusiast... this camera is really too advanced for snapshots only. The serious photographer... will certainly find the Canon G9 to be a worthwhile investment and a true photographic tool... the G9 enables you to use your creativity to the full... we feel it would be ideally suited to act as a handy addition to your DSLR kit with all the control of a DSLR, without the discomfort of its size and weight." dcview.com review
"The G9 continues the traditions of this line, offering a slew of manual functions, great image quality, blazing fast performance, a durable exterior, and class leading specs (12-megapixels, 6x optical zoom, Canon's OIS, Face Detection AF, etc.), not to mention plenty of automatic controls for beginners. The addition of RAW mode is very appreciated... we feel offers a good value for those who want all of the control over the exposure process of a dSLR, but don't want to carry around a bulky camera bag with lenses, etc. Therefore, the Canon PowerShot G9 is a worthy adversary in the prosumer category (if not the top contender)...", www.steves-digicams.com
"The PowerShot G9 is a solid high-end camera, though it won't be replacing your digital SLR anytime soon. It offers a full set of features, both automatic and manual, and throws them into a well-built, expandable body. If you keep the ISO as low as possible you'll get some nice photos out of the camera, though a D-SLR will wipe the floor with the G9 at higher sensitivities. I...recommend the PowerShot G9 to anyone who wants a high-end camera without stepping up to a digital SLR." from dcresource.com who noted earler in his review that: "...Lots of noise reduction above ISO 200 (in low light) and ISO 400 (in good light); useless ISO 1600 and 3200 settings." www.dcresource.com
I think however that this conclusion from Cameralabs sums up the G9 and the compact market perfectly:
"...the G9 offers probably the best manual control of any compact in a form factor you can squeeze into most pockets. Couple that with a good lens, superb build quality, respectable images at lower sensitivities, support for RAW, decent face detection, a neat time-lapse video feature, and best of all, a flash hotshoe, and you’ve got a camera which will still greatly appeal to enthusiasts. The relatively slow performance and lack of wide angle in the current climate prevent us from awarding our Highly Recommended rating, but the G9 still comes Recommended.
Ultimately there remains demand for a highly capable top-of-the-range compact, and while the PowerShot G9 misses out in some key respects, it’s still a lot closer than anything else on the market.", www.camerlabs.com