Just came across this while looking for something to generate normal maps from a colour image, and as it's currently free due to being in beta, I thought others might find it useful as well
Make sure you have an OpenCL compatible GPU first, as it needs one to run :
The section about generating normal maps from a colour image starts at 35mins :
You can also use it to generate ambient occlusion maps from an imported .obj mesh, which could come in handy I'd imagine.
No idea if it's quicker for this than 3ds Max is though, as my steep learning curve with Max hasn't got to that point yet.