I've seen a number of people say "you just have to get over the initial learning curve". And this is true. I stand by my above statement, but after putting some real effort into learning it, I have to say it's awesome. That is, Blender is great, and the UI is still horrid, but now I know how to use it. I have to give them props for really decent documentation and tutorials on their website. Without those I would have given up on it (again). I really think it's a great program, it's too bad that I had to put 2 days of effort into just trying to basic things with it. Oh well, I only needed to learn it once and I think I'll stick to using from here on in.
Whenever I play around with rendering software I always do the mirror ball test:
The quality is pretty good, although it's certainly not the fastest renderer I've ever seen (took about 2 hours for that image on my 2 core E6750). I'm aware that I can switch out renderers, but I haven't learned how to accomplish that yet. I read something about the yafray renderer, but their site seems to be having difficulties so I wasn't able to try it out. So now I can join the 3 other people on the planet that's saying "Blender is OK".