If you had asked me six months ago which of the two upcoming Service Packs, Vista or XP, was going to cause me the most trouble I would have quickly responded "Vista". Oh how that hasn't been the case. My older Toshiba laptop has been a real pain and I think Windows Live Oncare egged it on a bit too. The fact of the matter is that I have endured tons of torture when trying to uninstall the last Refresh. So much so that I am going to reformat and load SP3 clean. This is normally my standard operating procedure for Service Packs but I usually dred the work in spinning back up to full speed with the loading of drivers and utilities. Not this time however. This time I am looking forward to blanking this drive.
As a whole the stories are true. XP SP3 does seem a bit faster. And it is a helpful update to XP. The install process isn't bad and you don't have a series of restarts to sit through. Like any install, when it goes right it goes great and when it goes bad it goes worse. It did kill the network settings on one of my boxes. Or so I believed. A few dozen reboots seems to have pushed out whatever was clogging the tubes during the beta cycle. My warning is here that if you have a unique network situation .. wait on SP3. Otherwise I would also advise waiting to see how others report in on the update as uninstalling the SP can be problematic. And of course the best recommendation, or at least the one that is the most time consuming, is to back all your data up and reinstall everything fresh. With XP being around for so long that could be a very daunting issue to consider.
Ars has a rundown of how we got to this point and a rough timeline of the rollout.
To know more about the changes that come in SP3 take a look at the Super Site for Windows FAQ.