I really liked Linux Mint. I’d recommend it to anyone starting out with Linux.
Its installation process made my first Linux installation simple. I was new to partitioning, so the lack of extended partition capability didn’t bother me. Otherwise, the process was incredibly straightforward. There’s a nice little introduction to Mint and its packaged software during install, so I took a look at that.
Mint 11 still includes Gnome 2 as its default desktop, so my migration from Windows to Linux didn’t confuse me as badly as the right-click-less, infinity-menu-including Gnome 3. Not that this is hugely important, but the included wallpapers all looked flashy (and very green), as did the default appearance in general.
It also has a fairly sensible set of default applications and settings tools. Banshee for music, LibreOffice Writer for text editing, other such normal computer capabilities. Also, though not hugely customizable, most things in Mint can be tweaked in some way.
I didn’t realize that the menu was unique at the time, but I really like MintMenu, Mint’s unique menu (obviously). It has easy access for Places, Applications, and System,can search for applications and looks quite pretty.
I also didn’t realize this was an important thing at the time I installed Mint, but wireless worked right of the box on my Lenovo x120e. I later installed Mint on my HP dv1000, and it didn’t install Broadcom firmware, but by then I’d learned (through trial by fire) how to fix that, and apparently Broadcom is famous for having poor Linux support.
Mint does have some minor drawbacks, though. The software manager is slow. Helpful, informative, but very very slow. My computer’s not the fastest, but I quickly started turning to apt-get from the command line to try out and install new applications; starting up the manager just took too much time.
I also don’t like the scrollbar much. It only pops up when the mouse goes near it, and doesn’t always appear under the cursor. Maybe I’m old-school, but I like a classic scrollbar. It’s a small thing, but because it’s used so often, I found it a little annoying.
All in all, though, Mint’s drawbacks are all minor and tweakable. The things I don’t like and the applications I replaced (Guayadeque for Banshee, for example) all seem matters of preference. I’m glad I tried Mint; I still have it running on my second computer, my old HP (though I’m trying Mint 12 RC on it right now). It works out the box, and it balances functionality and eye candy well. I could easily use it on a daily basis.