Antergos – If you would like to run Arch Linux, but would rather run a pre-configured system, Antergos won't let you down. Unlike other distros "based on" Arch, Antergos is Arch at its core. What I like most about running Antergos is the access to the Arch User Repository (AUR). This gives me access to any package I could want, plus I'm ensured to be running the latest and greatest at all times.
Currently I enjoy Antergos on my main PC, since it's a machine I can update on a daily basis. Available in both GNOME 3 and Cinnamon desktop flavors, Antergos' most recent claim to fame is the fantastic icon set provided by the Numix Project.
Now before you rush off to enjoy the rolling release goodness of this ready to go Arch distribution, understand that you're running bleeding edge software. This means treating this like you would any Arch installation and keeping up with the Arch mailing list for any potential bugs. I also recommend updating at least once a week to avoid any major update issues due to unforeseen circumstances.
Sabayon Linux – I've told anyone who would listen that if anything was to happen to Antergos or Arch Linux, I'd be running Sabayon Linux on my daily use box. The latest packages, great out of the box support and the install once and forget about experience is just what I need in my life. If you've ever used Gentoo Linux, then you'll feel right at home with a Sabayon installation. Like Arch Linux, Sabayon has great documentation and a strong community of experienced users to help you out.
Like any other intermediate distributions, Sabayon isn't without its challenges. One of the most common complaints is that, out of the box, the package manager is too slow. Despite being easily fixed, it's still a frustration for those not in the know. Others may complain about MP3s not playing out of the box. If you're someone that needs these things working out of the box, Sabayon may not be for you.
WattOS Microwatt Edition – I own an older netbook that, quite honestly, is more of a burden than a help. It's dated and has lousy resolution, but unfortunately it's the only notebook I own at this time. Luckily WattOS has managed to take some of the sting out of running this horrid little machine.
Not only does it provide me with a fantastic Debian base, I also get a nice Openbox window manager with various XFCE elements sprinkled throughout my installation. WattOS will run on older hardware like a champ, and as a bonus has been configured to minimize battery consumption while also using as little power as possible overall.
As much as I'd like to recommend WattOS to anyone who might listen, it does take a bit of getting used to since it is more focused on power conservation than performance. Another issue is in delaying the touch pad while typing. This feature must be handled via a script as the GUI options are useless in this regard. Plus the Openbox window manager isn't for everyone, so you might be happier exploring one of the other WattOS editions instead.
VectorLinux – I love VectorLinux. It's the perfect marriage of low system requirements and Slackware Linux power. Like other distributions previously mentioned, it comes in multiple editions ranging from a full featured KDE desktop down to Light Edition, which requires only 64MB of RAM.
Personally, my preferred VectorLinux desktop is the Standard Edition. This provides its users with the XFCE desktop environment, and will run butter-smooth on systems as old as Pentium 3 computers. As a Slackware based distribution, users are presented with two options for installing software – Slapt-get and Gslapt. Both of these methods of package installation can take some getting used to. However once you get the hang out it, you'll find installation of software is as easy as it would be on any distro.
The biggest consideration when looking at using VectorLinux is that the docs are aimed at going about things in the geekiest way possible. Many things that might be explained by pointing to GUI solutions will be handled via command line solutions. If you're an intermediate to advanced user, this is actually a good thing. For anyone else, this might be a bit of a turn off.
Above I listed a number of solid, tested and true Linux distributions that I personally believe in. To make things easier for you, I grouped them into newbie friendly and intermediate/advanced lists in order to save you a lot of wasted time trying a distribution that might not be right for you.
That said, once you've settled on which section of this article your Linux skills fall under, I recommend trying all the options listed in that section. You might be surprised to find that a lesser known distro is the ones that really meet your needs. Go ahead, download an ISO or two right now. And report back with your personal favorites in the Comments section.