One of the first things you would notice after booting into Ubuntu 8.10 Desktop , is the new improved Human theme which has got a tinge of Orange. Status bar,Buttons glow and few icons have been changed and made more friendly looking. Ubuntu 8.10 also includes a brand new theme "Dark Room".
However , with "Dark Room" theme I noticed I was unable to read text in Menu Bar sometimes.
Ubuntu 8.10 includes the latest stable version of Gnome - Gnome 2.24 . Gnome 2.24 is an extremely polished desktop environment and includes a host of feature addition. Nautilus the default File Manager in Gnome , now supports like Mozilla Firefox , Tab Browsing allowing you to browse number of different directory location inside a single nautilus window in separate tabs. Also Nautilus now supports encrypted private directory.
Furthermore , Ubuntu 8.10 includes improved Network Management tool allowing you to easily configure your DSL , Wireless , Wired , VPN etc networks.
Multiple tabs in Nautilus, also note new eject icons infront of mountable drives and encrypted folders
Ubuntu 8.10 supports "Guest Login" allowing anyone to log into Ubuntu machine without having an account ,however only catch is Guest users will not get access to any file of other users or be able to create files for security reason. This is especially useful where a single computer is used by a number of users , and you dont want others to peek into your files.
Hardware support has definitely improved with version of Ubuntu 8.10 , everything from Network Card , Bluetooth to Sound Card worked out of box on my cranky old Lenovo y410 laptop, In fact prior to version 8.10 I had hell lot of trouble configuring my sound card properly and even then headphone jack never worked properly. Inclusion of Alsa-1.0.17 in Ubuntu has definitely improved audio hardware support.Also there is improved support for NVidia graphics chipset/card. Proprietary drives can be easily downloaded and installed onto the system from (System -> Administration -> Hard Ware Drivers ). One reason why HardWare support is better in Ubuntu 8.10 is Ubuntu 8.10 is based on Linux kernel 2.6.27 which has significantly better hardware support.
Also , I am not sure whether it's me only or other people have also noticed that Intrepid Ibex runs a lot faster compared to earlier version of Ubuntu - "Hardy Heron" everything opens in a jiffy.
On the Software side , File-Roller now supports ALZ, RZIP, CAB, TAR.7Z file types , Ubuntu 8.10 includes updated version of X.Org - X.Org 7.4 which includes new much helpful failsafe X to diagnose cases where X Server fails to start. Ubuntu 8.10 also includes updated Samba 3.2 for browsing Windows Share on a network.
However , Ubuntu 8.10 includes older version of Open Office even though Stable 3.0 Version of Open Office is out. Though it will not be difficult for someone to update Open Office from repositories on a new Ubuntu 8.10 system.
Conclusion : Overall Ubuntu 8.10 is a well polished desktop Linux distribution , though not radically different from earlier version 8.04 of Ubuntu. Features like Tabbed Browsing in Nautilus , Encrypted Folders , better Hardware support ,being faster etc are reason compelling enough to Upgrade to the latest offering from Ubuntu team.