I don't like the Vanilla forum layout, but maybe it's bc I just haven't seen enough. The one thing I wish I could look more into is their Gamification/Badges system to see how they do it. Right now I have a coder finishing up something that my guess will be similar to what vanilla has (gamification mod) but since I only recently saw they had this and I've never used their software, I really don't know. Other than that, I think their payment plans are ******** which is why I went with xenforo for my new project rather than vanilla.
Well, it's no contest. Vanilla is so 'basic' it's close to impossible to run a decent site on it. I wanted to get it running for a client of mine and to discuss with my editors on my blog (so it would be no-registration), but it was horrible to work with. I chose myBB instead.