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I agree about the big controls. This is what is the worst in Gnome
Isn't this due to the HIG ? Apps can make icons the size they want, but the HIG has to be respected.
Anyway, you can use smaller fonts to scale down everything.
The second is slow GTK (maybe for someone who used only gnome it seems to be fast and highly resposive but for me (I use KDE on linux, but most of my time I work in windows) it is simply sluggish.
Stop contradicting yourself and comparing apples and oranges. If it feels fast and highly responsive when using only Gnome, then it is good enough, that's what we want. It's not a stupid speed contest like you imply.
Then, Windows shell has nowhere near the same functionalities as a Gnome (or KDE) desktop, so stop the nonsense.
Most of the thing Gnome (and KDE) are useful for to me are not even possible in Windows !! From start of session (sessions) to end (actually stops no matter what, even if with some delay), with a lot of things in between (on the fly language change, multiple language input methods everywhere, 3 simultaneous networked user desktops, shared sound between users, ...).