In linux distros I value a focus on usability and consumer grade documentation (been working in tech support for years. If I can't teach people to teach themselves how to use a linux distro, its worthless to me). So Ubuntu is pretty much at the top of my list for that - but I love Gnome3 and neither Ubuntu or Mint support that by default. (There's complications with gdm conflicting with the cinnamon desktop manager that lead to trouble installing new packages. Unacceptable!)
So I'm pretty much in the same boat. Just spent the weekend trying to get my laptop working with a variety of distros, and I've settled on debian, but i'm having a whole host of trouble with drivers that I didn't expect.
I'm tempted to try out Arch Linux, but I'm studying comp sci at the moment, and the attitude of Arch users has turned me right off even looking at it. ("Pah, girls shouldn't study comp sci! I bet you use a mac!" "Um, actually I use linux." "Oh really? Which distro?" "Mint" "Oh, thats not *real* linux. If you were a real geek you'd be using Arch." God, teen boys can be obnoxious. I wish I didn't look so young, then it would be more obvious I have half a decade of industry experience, and started using computers when they were still playing with trucks in the sandpit.) The linux users who use slackware/gentoo/ubuntu/mint/fedora/openSUSE are all just happy to geek out about F/OSS with me, but those arch kiddies drive me nuts. SO I haven't installed it out of sheer stubborn bloody mindedness. I'm considering downloading a Fluffy Ponies style theme for my GUI too, but I'm not sure I'm willing to go *quite* that far to thumb my nose at some bratty boys!
Anyway, my recs for OS's that are a bit different include:
- Puppy Linux (Founded here in Australia! Whoo!) Small footprint, ok interface, all you need to get shit done.
- Arch or Chakra (the latter being a KDE remix of the former)
- PClinuxOS (Never actually used it myself, not a huge fan of KDE, but I've heard good things)
And its not Linux, but that might make it even more interesting, HaikuOS (https://www.haiku-os.org/
) is based on BeOS, which frankly I hadn't ever heard of, but HaikuOS itself looks really interesting.