Look and Feel
The most notable change from previous versions of Mint is the new default theme, Mint-X-Metal. This theme takes advantage of a new feature of MintMenu, Mint's Windows-like start menu. In the new release, the menu can be themed differently from the rest of the GNOME desktop. Mint-X-Metal applies a metallic texture to the menu.
The overall theme has changed radically from the last few versions of Mint. Instead of the bright greens of previous Shiki-Wise (green version of Shiki-Colors) themed desktops, Mint-X features a metallic gray look in both the theme and the default wallpaper. There's also a new icon set heavily based on Faenza, the Linux community's favorite square icons. Here's a screenshot of my laptop screen with all windows minimized.
|Modified Linux Mint Desktop|
My desktop isn't the default setup. For one thing, the default setup has the panel on the bottom. There's also no dock out of the box; that's a program called Docky, which is available in the Linux Mint reposotories. One of the reasons I prefer Mint over Ubuntu is that it's easier in Mint to get this one-panel setup I've preferred since fairly soon after I started using Ubuntu.
As usual, Mint comes with a more familiar set of default applications than Ubuntu (Thunderbird instead of Evolution for e-mail, Pidgin instead of Empathy for IM). In another advance for user friendliness, the Linux Mint Welcome Screen gives you a convenient set of links to helpful resources, including a downloadable user manual in .pdf format and tutorials and forums on the Linux Mint site. Overall, it's much easier to jump in and find out about Mint than about Ubuntu.
So far, the only drawback I've noticed is that Pidgin logs me out of Facebook chat a lot. Other than that, everything runs smoothly, making this the first Mint release that I didn't have some kind of major issue with.