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Gentoo is compiled fromt the ground so you have the option of adding all of the compile options which inceases performance. You also install things as you need them instead of getting a bloated distros with a bunch of apps that you will never use. The only thing I don't think is that good is the compile time. I don't mind though because you get better performance which can actually save you time.
Gentoo is a relatively small distribution. The command line install appears difficult but is easy to use with documentation. The install is unique in that is allows you to choose features you want. You also complie your own kernel from the start so Gentoo is very customized. Gentoo is also very fast because of the customization although the installation process takes much longer. The portage system is great to install programs although it can be unstable at times and not always get the program installed.
Knoppix has great hardware recognition, lets you see your entire computer and partions at once, and help in recurting newbies by demonstartions. Needless to say it takes a bit longer to load programs, expecially OpenOffice. Knoppix is also very versitile. I booted with to it with a floppy on a 90mhz computer with 48mb ram and no harddrive. I couldn't get KDE because lack of memory but I was able to download Seti@home and when I saved Knoppix saved into memory. I was able to use Knoppix to run Seti@home on an old computer with no harddrive. This is a live-iso every linux user should have a copy of.
I Mandrake because I can plug in my camera which is not supported by most camera software and Mandrake creates an new folder in my /mnt directory for the camera. It is very easy to change setting with the Mandrake 9.1 Control Center, and the package management helps a lot with installing software. I also like the fact the right after it was installed I was on the internet and could see everything on my network of a router with DSL. A bad side is that it takes forever to load anything in the /mnt directory. I can go /mnt/cdrom and it will take 15 minutes before anything is displayed. For that I just open konsole and mount in there. Also with newer SIS chipsets like 740 Mandrake does a good job of supported. Overall Mandrake doesn't provide the learning curve of harder distrobutions but makes up for it with a large number of features.