Distilling your comment into non-irate hate, my environment is 3 widescreen displays, side by side. Presently I have 13 terminals, 1 "heavy" text editor, two VNC sesions and chrome. I have similar environments on Gnome at home, and KDE at work (minus chrome).
In terms of objectivity:
- I have more usable screen space for me & my apps than I do in Gnome (no backdoor configuration, but a few mainstream mods), significantly more than KDE (running in those VNC sessions). I never bother with Unity anymore.
- In terms of performance, I can drag windows around and do not wait for redraw once. When I drag a window the contents do not disappear, nor do they stop updating (why should they?), they simply move where my mouse puts them and continue playing video or scrolling text or whatever as they move. Gnome is second best. With 13 terminals open that does happen from time to time, but thanks to the magic of Spectacle I can usually avoid the mouse for simple operations. While I rarely sit at KDE directly, it was the worst performer when I last had it installed on my desktop. It works second best to OS X with VNC however. Gnome is terrible in that regard.
- In terms of memory usage, in OS X it is hard to say for certain but "kernel task" is at 1.8GB, which certainly includes non OS things. No other task at this moment is above 600M. So let's call it 1.8GB. Gnome-shell is using 2.2GB, with only one chrome and one terminal open. The particularly old KDE implementation that comes on the company install of RHEL defeated my ability to gauge memory usage, it would appear to be around 500MB.
- I'm not going to debate the facets of the X windowing system and where you feel the problem is, I don't care. I'm not an X developer and will not ever be. It's a package I install, I don't want to spend more than an hour or two configuring it. I understand that Gnome and KDE encompass a lot more than pixels, again that's not relevant for most users. To most of us it's pixels and if it doesn't work the way we want, we throw it out entirely.
While I am an engineer and spend all day with various X's, write a lot of code, stare at a lot of waveforms, and run a lot of heavyweight processes, I don't understand why any sensible person would not want their window system to be smooth and responsive. First and foremost the machines that I use a windowing system are for me to interact with, I should be the priority. When it comes to heavy processing, I have machines that have absolutely no UI on that do the heavy lifting and parallel processing. If I *do* heavy processing on the machine with my window system, the UI needs to get priority, it is a desktop and interactive first and foremost. I'm not sure, beyond a few users with very specific needs, why anyone would not want that behavior out of the box. I've tried XFCE, and didn't like it. I haven't yet tried Mate/Cinnamon.
I do want a good Linux solution it is my preferred OS and religion, but I find that once Canonical gave up the helm in favor of Unity, that Linux returned to it's native state of infighting and bullshit. It is still superior to Windows by lightyears, but there's no reason why the windowing systems continue to resemble angry squirrels wrestling in a canvas sack. I don't know what level of neck beardery suggests that you would prefer to have a sluggish, unresponsive windowing system, or why that helps you with coding or productivity related tasks, but it interferes with mine and my use case seems to resemble what you describe.