Phoronix has grabbed five of the latest and greatest versions of Linux to see how they compare and which is best at various tasks.  Most of their testing compares the performance of common tasks in Linux, such as compressing and uncompressing as well as taking a look at multimedia performance.  As some of these distros are sepcifically designed with certain task in mind it seems that choosing the distro that fits your desired usage makes more sense than just grabbing the most popular ones. 
“With many Linux distributions receiving major updates in recent weeks and months we have carried out a five-way Linux distribution comparison of openSUSE, Ubuntu, Fedora, PCLinuxOS, and Arch Linux. We have quite a number of tests comparing the 32-bit performance of these popular Linux distributions on older PC hardware.”

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