What about updating the defaults of the old configuration monsters so they conform to contemporary expectations and beauty standards?
Some are very easy to theme. Good thing, because beauty is in the eye of the beer holder and standards change:
MS thought fake glass was classy, seems embarrassed about that now. Apple thought fake metal was metal, kept toning it down ever since. They still can't agree whether skeuomorphy is the best thing since fake sliced bread or silly.
Interfaces are getting less and less of artificial prettification.
The "ugly" interface design of CDE and similar-styled WMs is actually pretty damn good:
The pseudo-3d consistently higlights controls that can be pressed, and shows when they are.
The chunkiness makes sure there are no fiddly small targets, or functionality easy to overlook.
The weird colours are easy to distinguish without causing eyestrain and work with both white(ish) and black(ish) text.
The old-style iconifying seems strange and not very useful now but actually makes the interface more consistent.
Of course everyone's familiar with the interface paradigm now, so it makes sense to sacrifice a little clarity for prettiness. After specifying a few gradients in straightforward syntax (my config contains maybe two dozen lines of appearance tweaks, most of the rest is functionality I don't think I can even get in Gnome) prettier than my Gnome Shell setup.
That one is reasonably pretty by default, but trying to fix the occasional eyesore/unwanted behaviour often turned out confusing/annoying to the point I gave up.
LEGO won't be ready for the average user until it comes pre-assembled, in a single unified look, and glued together so it doesn't come apart.
The point was trying to make w MATE vs openbox, 99 packages ( MATE) vs 9 ( Openbox). Those aren't actual numbers ... just an example. Each one of those packages in MATE do SOMETHING, add functionality, features etc so forth. Which is responsible for you having a more enjoyable media experience ... have no idea or whether they could be installed independently with #! Openbox and provide the same experience.
Just seems like alot of pita, no shortage of less-pita options. Like using what worked the best for you seems ok to me. The whole DE's are actually faster ... so many differences and factors in something like that. Specs, users skill level, versions blahblah more blah n shrugs. Guessing like most stuff nixish, try stuff ... find what YOU like/prefer and go from there ? From what OP said ... Sounds like he's got hardware specs enough to run whatever anyway.
If you're a big gnu/Linux gamer. Might not hurt to spend some quality time w Google/etc researching the subject. Probably have already tho ...
Some common cbiz abbreviations. This will save me time and yet @ same time tell folks what the babble is supposed to mean.
Vll ! = ( Viva la gnu/Linux !) Vl#!! = ( Viva la #! !) Last but not least, UD ... OD ! = ( Use Debian ... or die !)