I haven't had the time or disposable income to jump on Essentials yet, and will be interested to know how you find it!
DON'T DO IT! Save your money, and if you feel the need, pencil the errata in the books up to March 2010; beyond that they are simply shifting the paradigm of class construction. The rules are the same as core 4e, but you get less stuff at an higher price.
2. Hear more about why 4e combat is a "deal breaker" for you.
I'll field that second question first because it has been a bit more on my mind lately and is aa bit more on topic. To my mind there are three big problems with the 4e combat engine, in reverse order of subjectivity:
-Magic Item Necessity -Too Safe -TIME
I agree these can be problems.
- Personally, I tend to run battles with lots of minions. Everything which is not a minion is in some ways special, so it's ok if it takes a bit longer to solve.
- Also, for battles which are not important, I don't use the grid and tend to adjudicate things based on the descriptions of the players and a sketch of the area. If the players trust you as a DM, it works quite well. If there is doubt about something, I tend to rule in favour of the PCs.
- I consider every creature which reaches the Bloodied condition to have lost morale and attempting to flee. Except for monsters which have an ability which triggers on Bloodied: these monsters fight to death, unless the PCs successfully use Intimidate (there are some guidelines in the DMG.)
- Rather than concentrating on inflicting HPs, I tend to inflict attacks which reduce Healing Surges; THESE are the true measure of the resistance of characters.
With these points in mind, I find that combats don't last much more than they did in 3e.