It's pretty strange if you've used cpanel you think that you've actually got control of things. Yeah, I've got 50 icons, but in reality only three are useful.
The dreamhost panel has about 30 options (hidden in submenus) and "significant" changes can take 5-15 minutes to be executed but you REALLY can control (and therefore screw yourself over) with the panel.
And even cooler is that with shell access you can REALLY change things if you want.
Performance is variable, but it's not often it doesn't work enough to do the work that has to be done.