Depending on which side of the courtroom you are standing on is a definite factor in determining whether pre-trial release is better than being released on bail. If you are trying to prosecute the case or are the person against which the crime has been committed you would probably be for a bail being set. If you are the defendant, you would much prefer getting out on a pre-trial release and not having to worry about coming up with bail or finding a bail bondsman. The court system probably will feel having a bail set is better because they can make some money on it.
In order for you to be released on bail, you have to give the court or County Treasurer some money. If the crime is bad, the bail is more expensive. If the bail is too much for you to pay, you can get a bail bondsman to pay the bail. A percentage of the bail is paid to the bondsman and the company gives the court the bail. You do not get your money back but you also do not have to come up with a large sum of money. If you do go to your hearing, the bail is kept by the county until you can be brought back before a judge. If you do go, then the money is returned except for administrative fees.
A pre-trial release requires no bail being paid. You promise the court you will show up to regularly scheduled meetings before the trial and then to go to your hearing. Other than being put back in jail if you fail to show up for a meeting, there is no other reason to keep your word. While this is probably enough for most people, it is not going to be enough for someone who has committed a serious crime and faces serious punishment.
There needs to be some reason for the defendant to actually show up to the trial if they know they are going to be found guilty and have to go to prison for a length of time. When there is money involved, someone is going to make sure they get it back. If a bail bondsman is being used, which is usually the case in high bail amounts, a bounty hunter will make sure the person gets brought back in. If someone is not going to be a flight risk and will not be hurting anyone else if released, it is better to just release them on their own recognizance and save the taxpayers from having to pay for all the regularly scheduled meetings when a pre-trial program is in place.
If you are the defendant and do not have the money to pay even the percentage the bondsman requires, it would be very good for you to have a pre-trial release. Society can only hope that you will do the honorable thing and show up for the meetings and your hearing.