Mandrake has a reputation for superior features and performance, It is a very polished and complete Linux distribution which uses the very popular KDE desktop enviornment. To the new Linux convert, it has a very similar look and feel to MS Windows and can be very quickly installed and configured with an excellent array of applications for the serious minded computer user. I am not a gamer and leave that commentary to others. With any Linux distribution, you may have to consider whether your printer, video card, and other hardware are well supported, but Mandrake provides a nice set of graphical tools for configuratin changes.
As you become familiar with Linux, you become aware of the most popular available applications which support internet browsing (Mozilla, Opera, etc.), email, networking, digital cameras, scanners, graphics, CD/DVD burning, P2P file sharing (LimeWire?), education, business productivity (OpenOffice / StarOffice), etc.. If you come from the Windows 95/98/ME world, you might not yet be familiar with the security and flexibility of user accounts and remote access features of multi-user operating systems. It is wise to study the concepts of superuser (root) and regular user accounts.
One of Mandrake's most distinctive and technically impressive features is that it is designed to force you to create and use a personal account. In fact, if you try to force KDE to open while you are logged in as root, it will cover the screen with red and hide all the desktop icons. For this I rate Mandrake higher for new users than any other distribution I have tried. When you first try Linux, you will probably not have anyone beside you guiding you on the finer points of Linux. Therefore, it is a good thing that Mandrake prevents you from making an initial mistake that could cause you a lot of grief.
-- RonDuncan? - 15 June 2004