I have used Mandrake since 8.2. I tried Red Hat 8 around the same time Mandrake 9 came out and went right back to Mandrake 9. rahulsundaram was right about it being great for ppl fresh out of windows. The fact that it can read your NTFS partitions right out of the box is a huge plus.
Seems like RedHat is a little more of a server os, while Mandrake fits the desktop market a little better. Both can be either one with some tinkering, but out of the box Mandrake will probably be easier for you. 9.1 has great hardware support. I have been using it without any real troubles. Recognised all my hardware and connected to my DSL quite easily