I'm posting this from my Gateway M685 running the openSUSE 11 beta 2 Live CD and Firefox 3 beta 5. It is, simply put, very good. The version I booted and tested was the KDE 4 desktop (KDE 4.0.3 release 17). I can't do much more than a cursory report as I did not install it. I'll touch on what caught my eye.
The live CD booted into the graphic desktop without any problems whatsoever, and into the notebooks full 1680 x 1050 resolution. It did not have any drivers to take advantage of 3D acceleration, but the driver that was used provided more than adequate 2D performance for the desktop.
One small but very important application I've come to appreciate is Dolphin, the 'replacement' for Konqueror's file capabilities. Konqueror still has those features, but Dolphin is supposed to be the lighter-weight alternative. I'm sure it's meant to compete with Gnome's Nautilus. One feature in Dolphin (and Nautilus) is the columns view.
Not to put to fine a point on it, but if you've been around Mac OS X , you'll see that it's very, very similar to OS X's Finder in this aspect. Consider the example of Finder under Tiger, from my daughter's iMac under Tiger.
There are some who will say that Finder's implementation is superior to Dolphin's. I personally don't care. The brushed metal look was interesting for all of five minutes, and that was years ago when it was first introduced. I prefer the pastel look on Dolphin. What I do wish is that the wasted white space around column slider were eliminated just like it is on Finder. It would also be nice if a different default slider style were selected.
What's also missing is search. The following is what happens on the Mac when I type 'java' in the search bar located on the top right side of Finder.
You'll note that it finds everything that is has the word 'java' in it, and categorized them. Now there's a Mac feature worth copying.
The other application which I briefly used is the Konsole. While it certainly isn't new, it's been cleaned up considerably to the point where it certainly feels new. First and foremost it comes up with white text on a black background, instead of the insipid black-on-white that seems to be the norm of every command terminal on both KDE and Gnome for the last few years.
I am very pleased the developers implemented split-view mode in Konsole. This makes it very easy to look at two different views of the same output, or two different terminals side-by-side or one atop the other (see above). This is going to make development a lot easier. Kudos to the Konsole developers.
Other little touches include the overall theme (which I like) and the bottom panel. It's nice and well-balanced, and I can find everything with little or no trouble. The only problem I have is that Konqueror has pride of place on the left side. I expected Firefox to be there. I know that Konqueror is quite capable, but many sites don't recognize it when it's used as a browser. For example:
And this is but one example of many, including my other major site, Google. With the shift to the 'cloud' and more applications from Google and Yahoo the last thing that KDE needs is a browser that's treated as a second class citizen. Why must distributions that use KDE insist on shoving Konqueror at the user as the browser of first choice, instead of Firefox? Kubuntu does the same thing, and it doesn't even provide a link on the desktop to Firefox the way openSUSE KDE does.
Annoyances aside. I really like the KDE 4 desktop and where it's going. And I really like openSUSE 11. I may wind up installing it on rhea over Mandriva just to see if some of the issues I found with openSUSE 10.3 have been addressed. I like the fact that the latest kernel is shipping (2.6.25), and I also like that the latest gcc (4.3.1) is being used and looks to be shipping with openSUSE 11. I grow increasingly optimistic with each release.