Well, the delay I had in laying my hands on Ubuntu 8.10 aka Intrepid Ibex lead to something else. In the mean time I was able to get Mandriva Linux One 2009 and I decided to give it a try. I was sceptical at first because I have been using Ubuntu for almost two years now. But Mandriva blew all that away.
The installation of Mandriva One 2009 GNOME was completed in about 10 minutes. The quickest Linux install on my computer so far. Also, the Mandriva iso for GNOME was pretty small at 607 MB. This meant a few applications were not included. At first glance I could see there were no games and there was no Tomboy something which I had grown to use more frequently. No big deal, I was able to install them from the Add and Remove Software tool.
As expected, there was no support for some audio and video formats. This too was fixed by installing the gstreamer0.10-ffmpeg-0.10.5-2mdv2009.0.i586 package from the net. So everything was set. One major positive I noticed was Mandriva never froze when watching videos as Ubuntu did. I had to do several reboots if I am watching a bunch of videos on Ubuntu. This stability of Mandriva impressed me the most.
AWN seemed to work fine although it was bare-bones. I was able to easily install the extras from the AWN Wiki and get things going. Here again the stacks applet worked perfectly while it did not work on Ubuntu. There were a couple of more applets which worked on neither distros.
So I am going to hang on with Mandriva as it is serving my needs perfectly well. The Mandriva Community is also very friendly and helped a lot when I faced any issues. Mandriva may not be as huge as Ubuntu but the stability and polish of the OS is unmatched. I can say that Mandriva 2009 is the best GNOME desktop I have run so far.
That effectively also means I would give the Ubuntu a pass this time and wait for the next iteration to see how things have improved.