With every ROM, I always root if needed, and apply the same set of apps. I always remove the default launcher, whatever it is, and install Nova. I always remove all Google apps except Play. I always install Swype keyboard and remove all others. I always use ROM Toolbox to remove any system apps I don;t want, like Movie Maker, Weather, default Music player, live wallpapers and so on. So my tests and views are based on a standard build on whichever rom.
At the moment, all Stock 196 based roms are fast and smooth. The ones on HTCmania are very good. Personally, I don;t like Xposed framework - it stops one of my apps that I use, ShareKM, from working at all, and if you look at the FusionX thread, there seem to be a lot of issues - this might be because it's the most popular ROM, but for me the additional tweaks add little benefit and cause more complications.
CM based roms are experimental - they have bugs. If you can't live with them, don't bother flashing! If you can live with them, then the ROMS are nce and clean, but even so, performance is not as good, in my opinion, as a stripped down 196-based ROM, and neither is battery life. Then there are a couple of others. Lewa is good, but not as fast as stock and needs a lot of tweaking. Likewise MIUI is not really a finished article yet. Of the roms currently available, Slim V1 is very good out of the box, and if you use it as a base and strip it down, it's even better.
This of course is all just opinion. A lot depends on your own skillset and how much you want to tweak. The only way to learn is to try, and don't just go by other people's opinions.
Edited by TangerineTractor, 20 September 2013 - 12:38 PM.