I politely disagree. The new Combined Panner as I use it in 6.5 is brilliant, especially in the Mixer. I would challenge anyone using a different panning mechanism to a race to get the stereo field left/right/wide/narrow/reversed, to taste, faster. Don’t think it’s possible. And in the much maligned Mixer, the target to click is huge.
It’s very much like the Location Bar at the top of the Project window. Once you get it, it’s fantastic.
To the OP: I think some of the newer features (new Mixer GUI in particular) have been offputting to some long time users. I am a user since 2.0 myself (2002), but apparently enjoy change more than most. Paradigms have been changed in some cases and there certainly are some debatable decisions. But overall, I consider 6.5 a clear improvement over 5.5 on many levels. I am willing to change my approach to tasks to maximize results when given new tools. Actually, I rather enjoy it. Keeps my mind fresh.
Overall, I feel that 6.5 is a worthwhile move forward and that once acclimated, I can move faster than ever. Which summarizes my take of Steinberg. Consistent improvement in Nuendo for a reasonable amount of money. Actually, for peanuts when considering the big picture. For a new user, those previous paradigms would not be an issue, and I think 6.5 is a good place to start with the app. Better than starting with 5.5 and sooner than later have to absorb the changes.
I too have PT and use it sparingly from time to time for various reasons. Certainly, back in the day, a really solid hardware based PT rig was simply more powerful and stable than any Native system being pushed to the edge. These days, however, it seems that the scenario has flipped, and a seriously powerful and well built PC running Nuendo likely defines stability currently.
I just bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Thought about the iPhone 6 Plus, which friends have as well. In the end, either is so ridiculously capable, as compared to 18 months ago that there is actually less difference between the Note 4 and the 6 Plus than there is between the 6 Plus and the 5S.
The same with current PT and Nuendo. In many ways, they are closer in feature set to each other than they are to a version of themselves from 3 years ago. For me, the customization built into Nuendo is the decisive element. But you have to be willing and able to put in the work to fully comprehend what Nuendo is uniquely capable of to reap the full benefit.
I’ve read the manual through 3 times. Worth every minute invested. My system is highly customized and I love it.