I have downloaded and installed the new openSUSE 11.0 release, and my first impressions are generally positive. I'm still learning my way around it, though, so this is very preliminary information.
The download took a lot longer than the installation, of course. I chose to download the complete DVD image, and 4.4 GB is a big, big download. It took about 3 hours, using a BitTorrent client on my current Ubuntu system. I also opted for the 64-bit version, since the two laptops I am planning to test it on have an Intel Core 2 Duo and an AMD Turion 64 CPU. As I write this, I also have the download of the 32-bit version running, just in case.
The installation only took about 15 minutes on the newer Lifebook S6510 (Core 2 Duo 2.2 GHz) laptop. I thought that compared to the Ubuntu 8.04 installation it was a bit more complicated, it asked me a couple of questions which I thought the average PC user might have trouble understanding, but in the end it all installed ok.
The first thing that I noticed after booting the installed system was that it had set the display resolution to 800x600, even though it had correctly identified the graphic controller as an Intel 965. When I checked the display settings, it looked like the problem was that it hadn't identified the monitor correctly. When I changed that to LCD 1200x800, it came up with the proper resolution.
I was surprised that this fresh-from-the-server distribution still contained Firefox 3.0 beta 5, and OpenOffice 2.4.0 rather than 2.4.1. I assume that if I had gotten the online update working correctly, these might have been updated, but read on...
The biggest problem I ran into was when it tried to set up the online update service. It said that it was connecting to the update server... and then... never came back. I stopped it and restarted it, still no luck. So I finally gave up on that, because my intention with this installation was just to see if it worked correctly and supported all the hardware in my laptop. It does seem to do that much.
Overall, my first impression is that openSUSE 11.0 is much better than the previous version I tried (10.2). It installs easier, and it recognizes all of the devices in the laptop. But I don't think it is as smooth and simple as Ubuntu, and novice Linux users might find it a bit intimidating. It asks questions about disk layout, desktop management and such which experienced users are likely to be very happy to see early in the installation process, but novices are likely to say "How the heck should I know", and it is not obvious that there are default choices which will at least produce a functional installation. Ubuntu, by contrast, keeps the questions to a minimum and produces an installation that a PC user is likely to be comfortable with by default.
I do, however, think that these latest versions of either openSUSE or Ubuntu would be excellent alternatives for most ordinary PC users, including laptop users, and that is a huge step forward for Linux in my experience. As I told my brother (who is still using XP, and has sworn not to touch Vista until Hell freezes over), in many cases the average user who is accustomed to Windows XP would have no more trouble changing to Linux (openSUSE or Ubuntu) than they would have changing to Vista, and with Linux they would end up with a more robust, stable and flexible system.