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KDE Plasma, no doubt about it. Well ahead of all others. The most powerful, the most configurable the most innovative and available in special versions for desktops and tablets so nothing gets sacrificed.
I sign on that!
I use KDE because it is highly configurable (much than the others i tried so far), has many great options [i don't have to download other apps that backs up desktop environement settings like the one for Unity...that has no options at all, in order to set options in different categories(look, behaviour, tweaks)], looks great, and is in my opinion, fast (can use it with 3d effect even on Atom processor with my AOD 270 from Acer).
And yes, it is Plasma Desktop or KDE Plasma Desktop now - as 'KDE' does and has done stuff from tablet and mobile UI's to web tech (ownCloud was a KDE project). And now, while our desktop is frozen and our libraries have been for 3 releases, we still release the applications. Leading to some sites saying "KDE 4.12 is released". Well, I can understand people still calling the desktop 'KDE' but I doubt anybody would agree it makes sense to call a release of the applications separately a new 'KDE'.
It will get more interesting next year, when the KDE applications 4.14 will probably be relased in the months before KDE Frameworks 5, which is followed by Plasma Workspaces 2 (not sure about the versioning of Plasma yet, btw).
Then what are you gonna call 'KDE', all of it? None? Releasing "KDE 4.14", weeks before "KDE 5" and then "KDE 2"? That makes no sense... And none of this is complicated: if you understand "Microsoft Windows Phone" vs "Microsoft Office", "Apple MacOS" and "Apple iPhone", you should understand "KDE Plasma Dekstop" and "KDE Calligra" just fine.
Distribution: Debian Sid AMD64, Raspbian Wheezy, various VMs
Had to vote XFCE. I'm old-fashioned I suppose and I like that it's lightweight enough for my netbook but will also do fine on my desktop with two monitors as separate X sessions (something others struggle big time at]).
I have to admit I even use compositing nowadays for window and window decoratoin transparency to better see my conky or another window behind my terminal, to look at notes for example.
If I ditch my netbook for a [relatively] modern laptop I might start giving KDE a go again though as the integration of applications was definitely clever and useful though I'd turn off all the eye candy and more modern features I think.
I apologize for the bad choice of the word "dinosaur". I was not willing to give the idea that KDE is bad/obsolete. I realize that this was the first impression by your answer. When I wrote "dinosaur" I was thinking about "heavy". I tried KDE sometimes and it always seems to me slower than all other. There are a lot of people that has KDE as their first choice for DE and this is very important, because from the conflict of ideas we have the evolution.
I'm a KDE person but know what you mean. I'm lucky enough to have hardware that would put a grin on the face of many MS gamers and appreciate that this is what makes my desktop zippy. Also that if I didn't have that hardware I'd be looking at something like XFCE.
Well, for those having issues with the heavy-ness of Plasma Desktop or KDE applications in general (?), not only have there been huge performance improvements recently in the 4 series, the next generation will be significantly better.
The plasma 2 technology (I linked to the tech preview just released) offers fully hardware accelerated drawing, with everything written in QML. That should ensure smooth animations and all that on any hardware stronger than the first generation intel Atom ;-)
Meanwhile, there is some heavy work going on in Frameworks 5, the next KDE libraries. Much of it is about splitting it up, moving functionality into Qt 5 (we did a LOT of that already in Qt 5.2 and making the rest easily available for Qt applications on inqlude.org. This modularization of the KDE libraries will allow applications to only load those components they need, saving memory and start up time. But there is also work going into fixing some architectural limitations and speeding things up. Hint: watch out for news on Nepomuk ;-)
When the KDE applications follow the move to Frameworks 5 (Plasma 2 is already building on that platform) is not clear yet - KDE will start with releasing Frameworks 5 in the first half of 2014, hopefully shortly followed by Plasma Workspaces 2. The applications will probably keep building on Platform 4 for a while longer.
On a related note, yes, those talking about "KDE 4.x" will find themselves in confusing lands. We have stopped releasing our software as a whole and version numbers are diverging - the latest desktop from KDE is Plasma Desktop 4.11, while the latest applications are at 4.12. Next year, we might have Plasma in a 2.x series, Platform at 5.x and Applications at a different 5.x numbering. Or not, it depends on what technically makes most sense.
I know, many of you are used to calling our desktop "KDE", as it has been for almost 15 year. Newbies won't have much trouble with calling the desktop 'Plasma' or 'Plasma Desktop' (after all, few people struggle separating Microsoft Windows from Microsoft Office or a Microsoft Keyboard, nor does anybody confuse the Mercedes S class with a Smart) but I guess it will continue to annoy some of our old users. Sorry for that - we've done what we could to prepare you for this day and there's not much we can do than repeat it...
Out of the options I chose KDE as its the most feature complete.
A pure XFCE is lacking and I rely on various gnome components to flesh it out, which I like.
Gnome Shell I struggle to be productive with.
Unity I like some elements, the Menu, launcher, but others, like all the scopes just seem to slow open and finding things for me.
I am currently using Crunchbang on this machine which is good out of the box, but difficult to change common settings.