I've had the same thought processes on this subject myself. I've gotten the impression that the volume of fresh, or raw, wood in relation to the size of the fire is what's important. Little chunks, like plain ol' rubber ball size, in a UDS or small cheapie offset--like my Brinkmann S'n'P, don't seem to produce the thick white smoke so bad. If one has a large smoker, like the DPs, with a fairly large "oven", or cooking chamber, and a similarly large firebox, then a split isn't so big compared to the "furnace". At least, that's how I've wound up wrapping my head around this conundrum.
The other thing I've seen on a Q post somewhere, is that flaming logs are preferable to smoldering logs. Those larger offsets/pits can support flaming better. I keep thinking about trying out my Brinkmann with a flaming fire of logs, to see what the temperature does. Now that I have 3 thermometers, and extra wood in the form of oak and mesquite that I likely won't use as flavor wood, I may just try that.