I'd been away from Linux for the past couple of years, but recently returned. I usually ran Debian Stable before ("Sarge", "Lenny", and "Squeeze") and liked their stability above all. Tried earlier versions of Mint a few times, but didn't like the Mint installer much. With Debian's, which admittedly is much, much older and quite dated, at least you can install in "expert" mode and determine EXACTLY what software gets installed and what doesn't. For example, do an "expert" install and you can finish with a console-only Linux system, then boot into that and add a DE or whatever else you want.
Anyway, so I'm back to Linux, I've checked out Mint Nadia Cinnamon, which worked fine for me. Checked out Mint Nadia Mate, which didn't work fine (couldn't get the proprietary Nvidia drivers to install no matter what I did). Also checked out Mint Maya Mate, which also worked fine for me. So then I decided to try Debian Testing ("Wheezy"), for which they've finally released RC1 of the installer. First time through, I chose the standard install, which installed the entire Gnome3 system, and I never could get to a GUI login screen. Second time, I did the custom install, installed only the base system (no DE), rebooted into that, and added only the most basic possible Gnome3 environment they offer. (They also offer KDE, XFCE, and LXDE, by the way, among many others, but no Mate and no Cinnamon.) The install was successful, and I got to my new DE just fine. Was able to find and install the Nvidia proprietary drivers okay (was stuck in Gnome3 "fallback" mode until I got that done).
I didn't become a big fan of Gnome3 by any means, but somewhat to my surprise, it wasn't quite the mess I'd anticipated either. It took me a bit of time to find out just how to find all my apps, how to add certain of these to the "favorites" or whatever they call their little "dock", "sidebar", or whatever it is, but it was doable. I didn't care much for the way the new desktop's arranged, with "minimized" windows shown open in miniature size on the desktop instead of simply as a button on a taskbar, but I'll admit that while I didn't much care for it, it seemed to work well enough. The system's responsiveness wasn't too bad, considering all the eye-candy. Reminded me a lot, frankly, of KDE, which has always seemed pretty "bloated" to me. The only real downer I ran into (other than the fact that I simply didn't care much for it in general) was that there's seemingly no screensaver app. That is, gnome-screensaver runs, but you can only access its power conservation functions. Can't select an individual screensaver, how long before it kicks in, or any of that stuff that I could see. And the way Debian has their package dependencies set up, if you try to rip out gnome-screensaver in order to replace it with something else, it'll trash your whole Gnome3 desktop. Still, if I were determined to run Debian, and if I wanted a top-of-the-line DE, I could live with Gnome3 if I had to.
Luckily, I don't have to, since Clem and others have created Cinnamon, and someone else has created Mate, either one of which I'd take over Gnome3 any day of the week. It'll be interesting to see what happens when Debian Testing finally goes Stable, though. A lot of people who run Debian do seem to be pretty geeky, so they may just give Gnome3 a pass in favor of a much more minimalist DE in any case. But I suspect their decision to go with Gnome3 as their default DE will cost them some users, too. In fact, I'll be shocked if it doesn't. Which could be a good thing for Mint in the long term.