I'm shocked Debian worked where Ubuntu failed. In my experience the only difficulty of Debian is the complete lack of pre-installed content (which I think is a plus anyways). Since you apparently had no issues with drivers, you're likely already in the clear. Unfortunately Xfce is in a state of perpetual brokenness... despite being so light. Slightly less broken and not any more resource intensive is LXde which is very much the look of GNOME 2 -- a little easier to navigate than Xfce and a lot less intrusive than GNOME 3.