Mint. Mint is brilliant. It will change your life because you will stop noticing that the OS is even there. Everything just works. Cinnamon fits me like a glove, does everything the way that I would want it to. And every time I update to a new release I get the feeling of "wow, nice touch. You have really polished that" not "Oh fuck me, what have you done?!?! WHY? WHERE IS THAT TOOL I USED DAILY?!?!?!?!"
I use Linux Mint Cinnamon 17.3. I generally agree with your assessment. I would like to toss out some negatives:
I can not put the taskbar on the side. I have a widescreen monitor. I value my vertical space. To add insult to injury, moving the taskbar to the top shows occasional glitches too. That shows shoddy programming, or at a minimum, short-sighted programming.
I miss xsetroot. Why KDE and GNOME decided to make the background unwritable is beyond me. This has nothing to do with Mint itself but it is mentionable. I used to enjoy running xscreensaver as my wallpaper.
Back on topic, I am running Mint on my Dell XPS 13 laptop with no proprietary drivers. Is Mint based on older technology? I don't care. It works and is stable. I am running Mint on my custom built desktop with an NVIDIA GTX980 with only the NVidia drivers being proprietary... and they were installed through Synaptic. No futzing about.
In short, while Mint is NOT the distribution that I would build, it is the most usable distribution out there for me; furthermore, the installation process offers full disk encryption (which I use for my laptop) and home directory encryption (which I use on all of my computers). Very cool.