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I started using the 8.5.1 "Code Drops" from the time they became available to us as "Design Partners" with IBM. That means I've been running 8.5.1 as my PRIMARY mail and development client now since BEFORE Lotusphere 2009. Even in its earliest code drops, with most features still incomplete, I found it better than the 8.5.0 release -- and hated dropping "back" to that for Lotusphere 2009.
My advice is this: Install it, use it, and take the time to get to know it. The designer especially can take a bit of getting used to, but once you do it's absolutely worth it. If you're having trouble, contact one of us design partner types and we'll do what we can to make it easier.
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