My laptop is now running Linux Mint 15 on a new Intel 520 SSD. Boots in a few seconds and pretty much back to the old Gnome 2 interface with some enhancements.
So far it seems to work well other than some odd behaviour by my wireless card, and the process was relatively painless. I had to update a few OS configuration files, install missing packages, and then put the old hard drive in a USB box and copy /home over to the SSD.
But for some reason the 8192SE wireless card won’t run at more than 18Mbps even when it’s two feet from the wireless access point. I didn’t actually check what speed it was running at in Ubuntu 12.04, so this may have always been the case. It’s consistent with the throughput I’ve seen between the laptop and my home server (around 1-1.5 megabytes per second).