Well, I've taken the plunge: I flattened my laptop yesterday, and installed Vista RC2 (5744) and the latest Office release candidate (4518.1006). So far I love it, and I haven't encountered anything in the first 24 hours that looks like a bug. This is the first time I've had such a smooth and trouble-free experience in installing any version of the 2007 Office clients, which seems a good sign that we're getting close to an RTM-ready build.
My tired XP configuration, with dozens of programs installed and un-installed over the last year, had become quite flaky and was taking nearly 20 minutes to simply boot up. A few too many Office beta versions and interim builds, I think. So the single biggest benefit I've experienced so far is that my system boots so much faster. I'd imagine that's more due to the flattening than Vista RC2 itself, but it's nice nonetheless.
And things look absolutely great now, both Office and other programs. It's nice to see the aero glass effects on old programs like FileZilla (which I use for SFTP). And although I love all the panoramic photos that come with Vista, I prefer a dark background that's not too busy so I put a photo of my own on the desktop: the lights of Spokane from Mount Spokane, taken on a day when I hiked up all three mountains (Spokane, Day, and Kit Carson) alone two years ago.
A quick aside for my fellow photo nuts: that image is exactly as taken, with no adjustments of any kind. That final glow of sunset, as shot from a big heavy tripod on the side of a mountain, was one of my favorite moments of natural light I've ever had the chance to shoot.
There are a few things about Vista that most "power user" types change, and so have I. I have the UAC stuff disabled, since I'm installing and configuring so much software right now that it just feels in the way. And I added the Run command and a command prompt back to the Start Menu and a few other little touches like that. But the basic things I need to do are all working flawlessly, and I strongly recommend going to RC2 if you can.
I think I may now be able to say that I won't have XP running on any of my machines ever again. So long, old friend, thanks for the memories ...