My experience with the live CD was sufficiently interesting to want to evaluate a full install on the 'travel laptop' as it is thought of. So I grabbed the old, slow 160Gb HDD that was left over from my Macbook after the SSD upgrade, now surplus to requirements, even as a backup, and popped it in. This disc is nice because it runs very quietly and is vibration-free, compared to the 320Gb Western Digital that is both relatively noisy and vibrates noticeably (just like the failed disc it replaced!).
Installation took around 20min or so, and although there were a couple of occasions when I thought the machine had simply stopped responding, eventually the CD started spinning again and all was well.
With any OS freshly installed there are always updates, and this was no exception: firefox 21 to 22, thunderbird, various other bits & pieces. Then there were the non-free add-ons, available from the main menu to allow handling of restricted file formats like MP3 etc DVD playback & so on. Excellent that I didn't have to actively hunt down the repositories to enable that, because with some distros that has been a royal pain, and who want's a computer that can't handle music & movies? Then came more software like Audacity & WINE and another round of updates.
In use it really is quite quick, and not noticeably slower than machines packing much faster processors, more RAM and higher data throughput rates. There's nothing to suggest that this machine is 7 years old and limited in spec, and if I popped it down in a showroom full of new laptops no-one would complain about the speed. So if you have some older, slower hardware that is no longer up to snuff I can't recommend strongly enough giving it a go instead of buying more kit.