Recently the latest beta version of Blender 2.5 was published and we're finally done with the alpha stage.
After three alpha versions, Blender 2.5 becomes beta, to the joy of the users worldwide. Even if I personally thought that even in the alpha stage, 2.5 was really decent, I downloaded 2.53 without hesitation.
Even if some of the basic functions still haven't made an appearance in this beta version (such as the "bevel" tool), the new 2.53 takes a big step in the right direction by firstly getting rid of many annoying bugs of the previous alpha stage.
Thanks to the Durian open movie project "Sintel", many features developed by the team were added in this version.
I have also noticed a slight improvement in performance, especially during rendering complex scenes and, as always, a performance upgrade is always welcome. Some problems with flickering meshes I've experienced in the early alpha stage are also gone.
Unlike the alpha stages, where we knew how many of them are going to be, there is no certain number given for the beta versions. We do not know exactly how many of them are going to be and according to the official website, new beta versions are going to be released over and over again, until the program is 100% stable.
There is another question many have asked: is it worth it to start working with 2.5 now, or should we stay with 2.49 and wait till the final release?
The answer is...both yes and no. While it is certain that the new interface has improved a lot since 2.49, the missing (or not yet implemented) features may cause some users to stick with the old Blender. The smoke and fire simulation or the increased functionality of the overall interface are a strong reason to download 2.53 now, though, so it's really up to the user to decide.
Add to that the fact that 2.49 files are compatible with 2.53 and vice-versa.