Similar to nordle here, having been a relatively recent user of Mandriva 2005LE followed by SuSE 9.3 Pro and now Gentoo.
Gentoo packages seem/tend (apparently) more up to date. As for installing firefox, hell I just
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. The same for realplayer.
The good thing about gentoo, seems to be that it's one line install (like debian - not too sure about Slack, I never had any success with it), the portage package manager will check/solve ALL dependency problems that may arise (like debian, but I understand that theres a bit more too in with Slack), plus the gentoo developers don't seem to have any qualms about making versions of non-FOSS apps (e.g. realplayer, nvidia driver and others) available through the repositories (again, don't know about slack, but debian don't usually do that).
Sure, with some packages, theres a "fetch restriction" on them, usually when it's something that you have to "accept" the t's&c's - but that seems reasonably straight forward.
Plus, in the 3 or so years that I've been meddling with Linux, IMO gentoo documentation is amongst the best out there.
Sure I don't know enough to do the "stage 1" install, but with the 2 discs, the install handbook available to view via my laptop (just too lazy to read the bit of the install docs to get them from the CD using the Links text browser), and following the install instructions religiously, I had gentoo up and running in about an hour (the "stage 3 + GRP packages).
The only downside is that when you do "emerge" something, it downloads the source and then compiles it on your system - if it's a big package (like the whole of KDE or something like that) it can take some time to compile (15 hours was my max, and yes that was KDE).
So it depends on what you want to do, how much "effort" you put in, and in some cases, how much you pay - "bought/paid for" copies of mandriva usually have some of those "commercial" apps pre-compiled, configured and ready to go - my early days with mandrake (pre-mandriva) taught me that. I always used to get the disc(s) direct from them. It made me lazy, but it also made my early linux experience very smooth, vvv enjoyable.
"What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away". Tom Waits