Is the test suite not up to much? I get the impression from the project that the overwhelming majority of the effort (limited though the manpower is) goes into the invisible framework stuff underneath, but that there's an absolute dearth of applications and chrome.

There was a game developer recently-ish (I forget who they were...) who said they had used GNUstep to develop their racer. Like you, they commented that they found many bugs in the framework -- but also that they had fixed a large number and were subsequently able to use it quite happily for their work. It would be great if GNUstep were able to achieve some maturity.