Well... PH's are not as strong as M&T, I agree they are ugly and they
are not a good replacement for all M&T but my experience says they are
not as bad as some portray.
Look at http://www.sonomaproducts.com/Furniture/JL-ET-RO.htm
It uses pocket screw joints for all the upper aprons, pockets under the
shelf and one screw up at an angle from under the lower spreaders arch
up into each leg. Combined with dowles in the pickets and the top
attached with table buttons this unit forms one hell of a strong frame.
I have proof of this, one that I shipped was destroyed by a FedEx
Ground contractor. It was eventually returned with fork lift tire marks
on the box. The top was broken from the unit, two pickets were
completly dislodged and the frame was still solid and stands on all
four legs as flat as when I shipped it. I intend to repair it someday.
Would M&T be stronger? Yes. In fact I plan on building a set of this
line for my home and I'll be using M&T, but pocket screws can save time
and provide a strong joint.
I also use them occasionally on solid wood case work, table
legs-to-aprons (with added transvers braces), etc. and have not had any
problems. On occasion I'll add longer screws if using a soft wood or
landing in an over-running panel dado.