I have to admit, anticipation got the best of me. I figured the release candidate is about as good as it gets the night before the final one is released so I downloaded it last night and decided to do an installation of Netbook Remix on a Lenovo S10 netbook this morning.
First, when starting from a USB stick, you get the normal language choice that Ubuntu installers are familiar with. Next, there is a pulsing, white Ubuntu logo while Grub is starting up.
The installer interface through hard drive formatting is a similar experience to previous versions. However, immediately after formatting selection, you see a major difference in that we now get ext4 by default. It is nice that attention is paid to the filesystem in Linux, unlike some other "operating systems" that start with a W but will otherwise go nameless.
After this point, you get a very Windows-ish interface highlighting the features of the operating system in a slideshow-type presentation.
Now that the installation is over, the overall impression is that the new version has greatly improved performance. I have done these memory stick installations before and running the os from the stick has always seemed sluggish. Not so at all in this version.
The increasing attention to the look and feel is apparent. You still get the pulsing white logo on black background. The grub splash screen is also very good, but I'm not sure I like it that much better than the Jaunty version.
The OS boots very quickly, even on this netbook. Once again, enhancements in performance on startup are very apparent. Netbook Remix has changed the interface slightly... I'm not sure I like it. Where the previous version gave you access to more on the initial view, the new version has a Files and Folders menu along the left side which opens to the familiar bookmarks. I personally dislike the hierarchical nature of this but it does make it more consistent with the menus from other versions of Ubuntu/Gnome.
All the hardware works out of the box on the S10 except for the wireless NIC, which is incredibly disappointing to me. I don't normally install the machine using a wired connection, but hooking it up to a wired connection and bringing up the driver manager allows me to install the proprietary drivers without an issue.
Another difference, no Pidgin. This is the first version of Ubuntu I've seen without GAIM/Pidgin. At first glance there seems to be little difference between the two, but one thing Empathy does that Pidgin doesn't is telephony. For instance, voice chat with google talk is a feature I've wanted for a long time.
All in all, so far so good for the new version of Ubuntu Netbook Remix. Now on to the desktop!