that is why this review of vector linux, where they ran kde on a pIII 866Mhz machine with 256mb of ram, noted:
"This is our first encounter with VectorLinux and before we tried it the idea of reviewing Kde distributions was associated to powerful machines but, after analyzing the requirements for this distribution, we decided to try it with the minimum and we must say that we are surprised to see that Kde is able to travel at lightspeed.
We are very impressed with VectorLinux 5.8 SOHO. Before this, we thought that Kde working at this speed only a dream on machines like our GX50. Also the stability is something that caught our attention, but maybe this particular aspect is a legacy from Slackware."
indeed. the #1 reason i switched to suse back in the day was how much faster it was on the desktop compared to red hat and mandrake (yes, this was before the "iva"ization). their stock packages were fast and solid; at least as good as the kde i built from source and in some places perhaps even a bit better. it was impressive and proved that, yes, it could be done.
so when people look at kde and moan about resource consumption, don't blame the upstream project so much as those who put it together with their operating system. that isn't to say we aren't also bringing some Hefty Grade Features(tm) from time to time that do indeed require some extra muscle, but in general ... we're a lot more svelt than our reputation might suggest.