"running beta 2...kde seems little sluggish on older laptop"
how old?(specs please) are you using compiz or kde desktop effects?
xfce4 is a very good option, very nice and fast
lxde is another good option specially if you like old kde3, it is very similar to kde3
e17, i don't know if it is a good desktop for you, could be a bit too heavy in the graphics department, depending on your hardware specs
under certain circumstances you can use more lightweight desktops like fluxbox or icewm, really, really lightweight, 5 seconds to load or less
it depends on hardware specs and what you want from your desktop