I've never thought much of Panels, as I have always been comfortable with writing my own themes.
I've played around with it extensively and I've even watched this helpful screen cast series. But I can't see what the benefits are.
I usually build websites where non-technical people can edit the nodes. Usually each node form will have several fields where the user can add all the content for that page.
To get the most out of Panels, it seems you have to split your pages into separate nodes that hold 1 piece of content and then use the Panels to bring the separate nodes together. This might be fine if you are creating a site that is only to be edited by a web designer.
However, it creates an issue when you give the site to a non technical person to add content. Most non-technical people would like to do all their page creation on a single screen. If they have to create lots of different nodes and then let Panels bring them altogether, it seems to be confusing for them.
I know Panels has better performance and better support for context compared to Blocks. However, it seems to add a lot of complexity and abstraction.
I can see how it would be incredibly useful for a non-themer, but I can't see what the benefits are for someone who can theme.
Could someone enlighten me. Thanks!