Both sysmtems use grub as default for booting. Ubuntu has a somehow better "system-auto detect" than Fedora. Although Fedora detects a Windows ME partition and adds it to the menu, Ubuntu also detected Fedora and thus added Windows ME AND Fedora to the grub-menu. A big plus for Ubuntu.
Fedora looks like its predecessors and shows a nice graphical boot, while Ubuntu is bare naked. While Fedora looks "sweeter" for most users, Ubuntu definitely boots faster. A first login shows the "personal note" of both systems. Fedora sports the well known Bluecurve theme and with the new default wallpaper, it might be a bit too dark for many users but the Desktop is overall very polished, reduced to the important stuff and thus ready for your every day work.
Once you log into Ubuntu, you are not presented with one of the popular "blue" desktops but a earth colored "human" design. The Ubuntu desktop is more tweaked than Fedoras. the dustbin is placed in the lower panel, thus saving space, the other desktop-icons (Desktop, Computer,..) are removed and placed under the "Computer" section of the upper panel. This is an intelligent move because most of the time, windows are open and cover the icons on the desktop anyway. With the icons placed in the panel, you get a fast access to these apps even if your desktop is crowded.
Winner with a slight margin: Ubuntu
4. Exploring the system - Office
Both Dekstops ship with Firefox as default browser and Evolution as mail-client. Integration was done nicely in all aspects of the desktop. Also, both systems ship OpenOffice, the workhorse for any serious work. OpenOffice starts a bit faster in Fedora and features a nice bluecurve splashscreen. While the customizations done to OpenOffice like the language-implementation for the menu are optically nice, it all has a drawback: bugs are more likely to happen. And this is the big problem here. Fedoras OpenOffice crashes the whole (!) system everytime you start to use the spellchecker. This makes the officesuite hardly usable for everyday work.
An update to this bug is still on the waiting list. And talking about bugs: Fedoras "up-to-date" messenger informed instantly about new updates that were available from Red Hats mirrors to sort out bugs. Quite a surprise as twelve updates were already available on the very first day, Fedora was on the mirrors. But downloading and installing seemed to be tricky. The update tool crashed several times for no apparent reason. Same with using the "yum" tool from the command line. A look on the net revealed that the popular apt-get tool of Debian (which is used by default in Ubuntu) was already available for the new Fedora. Installing the rpm was easy and apt-get worked a lot better than yum. Selecting and deselecting software packages via the normal (out of the box) menu resulted in messages that nothing can be installed or removed. A bug? It seems so.
Ubuntus OpenOffice is rock-stable although it does not feature the language or graphical customizations done in Fedora. Evolution is usable and stable in both systems and nothing negative can be reported. All other applications, used in every day work are mostly bug-free (that is: no grave bugs were encountered on the notebook and the desktop during the ten-days test).
5. Media support
Here, Ubuntu really shines. Why? Because Fedora still does not give any mp3 or dvd or video support for end-users. While this policy is understandable, it is quite annoying for end-users who always have to tweak teir box in order e.g. to hear their mp3 collection. Many standard-rpms need to be replaced with the freshrpm repositories in order to use any media. The big question is: why does Fedora ship with tools like Totem or Rhythmbox at all, if they are almost completely useless? Ubuntu is better in this respect. Rhythmbox and XMMS worked out of the box, some videos could be seen, but not all. But there are more deb-packages available for download to satisfy absolutely every wish.
Something strange happened to the audio-CDplayer in Fedora. It told of a "nonexistent CDrom drive" and a rather quick exploration revealed that the audio cd is marked as /dev/cdrom, while the right entry would be /dev/hdd. But it took some time to find this quirk and correct it.
USB drive-support was quite good on both systems. No problems were encountered with digital cameras or USB-sticks, although some users reported problems with card-readers on both systems. Fedora had no problem with detecting 3 1/2" disks, while Ubuntu had. The fstab file needed a little tweaking here, changing the "auto" entry to e.g. "vfat" but these are rather minor annoyances, if you know your way around in linux. For an untrained linux-user, such things will be a big reason for continuous frustration.