My stepdaughter and I have been running 12.04 on our laptops for awhile until my wife bought her a new laptop and she's back using Win7. I have tried some different ways to make 12.04 work for me, and after hearing so many good things about Mint and the XFCE and KDE and Cinnamon and MATE and various flavors it's available in, I think I'm ready to jump in. No more searching around for things Canonical leaves out on purpose. I like the idea.
My laptop is older (2009 is old these days, go figure*) and it was sloth-speed when it came out. Acer Extensa 5230E. Originally (for the first week I had it) was equipped with a single-core Celeron 900 (Penryn, GL40 chipset, 800MHz FSB, 2.2GHz) and 2GB of RAM. I quickly swapped those bits out to double the memory (and bring the speed up from 667MHz to 800MHz) and give me a dual-core CPU (Pentium T4300, 2.1GHz but two cores). Made all the difference in the world and the Passmark CPU score went from 800-something to 14-something and it even increased the memory scores and graphics scores. I used this laptop from Fall 2009 to Spring 2011 as my primary desktop machine. Since then it's gone from Win7 only, to dual boot with 10.04, and 10.10 right up to the day they discontinued support, and then I did 3 upgrades in 2 hours, to 11.04, 11.10, and 12.04. I really did try Unity, but I got sick of searching for common things, like the calculator, after trying in vain to "lock" it to the panel and it not staying. I thought, maybe I need a different environment, so on a recommendation from a friend I tried KDE, but couldn't get sound or most audio panels to work unless I plugged in a headset and even then the microphone wouldn't work. At the moment I use Unity on the laptop just to have audio working and I am just sick of not being able to play movies without downloading some odd codec here and there.
So now with more recommendations (including a friend who runs an entire lab of school computers on Mint 13 Maya MATE or something like that) for Mint rolling in, seeing people happy with it, seeing it as a factory install available on high-end custom built laptops, I'm thinking this is the distro for me. And next year I'll probably be on Slackware for all I know. Point is, Linux gives me the freedom to choose what I want, when I want. If I want to change distros every full moon, *I CAN*, and that is the beauty of it. Now I'm off to turn a USB drive into an installer so I can spend tomorrow morning loading it up and seeing how it feels. Knowing this is a factory install on whitebox laptops is good, too, because as fast as my laptop feels under Linux, I know I could work faster with something made in the last year or so.
My goal is to try Mint out on this Acer for the next few weeks, and then I found a $498 ASUS K55 laptop at Walmart I'd like to buy, i5-2450, 6GB RAM, and the keyboard has a numeric keypad and feels AWESOME to type on, better than any laptop or desktop keyboard I've used (and yes, I mean even better than IBM Model M's, sacrilege to some of you folks, but it REALLY is that good). I think that ASUS will run great as dual-boot and I'll really try hard not to screw up the MBR on the 750GB drive it has.
*old is relative, I ran a Mac Plus to 1992...and then after trading through two SE's (dual floppy then FDHD with a 20MB hard drive) and then my first taste of System 7 and color in a IIx, I found myself buying a new LCIII in 1994, which I kept for seven years and was the first computer I accessed the internet with. I then went through some Centris/Quadra models and bought a Power Mac 6500 which I used from 2003 to 2006. Yes, on the internet. A G3/400 and G4/400 and an iMac DV SE were the last three Macs I owned. Then my wife bought a laptop (Gateway ML6230 with a 1.5GHz Celeron) from Best Buy for $279 and insisted I get one, too, and I've been PC since. I do have a Pismo under my desk, but I hide it from my wife