It seems we have very similar outlooks, taste, & criteria for our OS?!
My background is almost entirely in the Ubuntu tree…started with Ubuntu 9.04, continuing with the introduction of Unity (hated it, then grew to like it, then grew to loathe the ever-increasing resource requirements) until about 14.04, when I switched to Lubuntu and got pretty good at LXDE customizations. I have a heavily customized version of LXDE with the choice of 4 different desktop paradigm logins (inspired by LXLE) for my various family & friend users who look to me for support; between MY network and their machines, I’m administering about 20 machines. It’s a huge PITA. I’m looking at rolling releases to avoid the update/upgrade cycle every 2 years in Lubuntu, but not sure if rolling is a step forward or a step back with my users (it’s definitely a step forward for me!).
Siduction LXQt is probably the best LXQt implementation I’ve come across, but even Siduction devs caution against using on production machines, which is what I have. So no matter how much I like it, prolly not gonna happen. Sparky is based on testing repos and seems pretty solid so far, but I’m anxious to see how it handles the period of feature freeze and comes out the other side. To be determined… I wish Sparky had a larger user-base, or a more active community, but it’s based on Debian; and even though it isn’t Debian proper, Debian isn’t going to disappear or be taken over by evil corporate types anytime soon.
I really like Arch, the simplicity of configuring exactly what you want, nothing more nothing less, in a vanilla fashion. And it’s been pretty stable in a VM, but prolly not a good choice for my beginners (who have stayed beginners for years…prolly not gonna change). But Manjaro is the sweet spot for my beginners. I see that 2-week lag of testing & massaging upstream Arch packages as a STRENGTH of that distro, not a weakness. The only weakness of Manjaro, IMO, is the lack of a software center for my beginners. I hope that’ll change someday, but Manjaro devs don’t seem to think it’s an issue worth addressing.
So I like ALL of these…Siduction, Sparky, Arch, Manjaro and even including Lubuntu. And while none are “perfect” for me, I’m not done putting them through all the paces, but if I had to make a decision today, I’d be choosing between Sparky & Manjaro.