I've been playing for a while and have been playing on elite settings for the past month. At first, I didn't like getting popped quickly (I fly an escort refit T5); but after doing a couple of STFs, realized that I need to start challenging myself.
Now all I can play on is elite. If I drop a level, missions go by in a flash. I also found that I had to alter my build, and it was for the better. Itís helped in PVP / PVE as I no longer rely on a single tactic and Iím far more familiar with my hot keys.
I do on my main, as I enjoy the challenge. For my alt's I do it on normal to 'blow through the repetitive content'. As far as I know, the only thing upping the difficulty does is add challenge mode but not appropriate rewards(IE: only a 2.5% increase or something?) Which is why I suspect many people don't bother with the hassle.
I did until the game decided to cheat me on the Dafari patrol mission. It would make sure there was a Breen dreadnaught near the mission objectives, It made it impossible for me to win that fight. Seriously angered me. So now i play on Advanced.
There is just to many in game bugs to play on elite. You can warp into a sector or a deep space encounter where lots of ships are at a spawn point and be destroyed. You could respawn but you would just die and get a 2nd crit.
So until they fix those types of bugs I stick with normal.
I played on Elite until I realized that the Risk vs. Reward is bad, and I'm counting fun as part of the reward. Sure, you get a slightly better grade of completely random drops, and sure each kill nets you slightly more skill points, but mission rewards do not change and that's the bread and butter of playing the game.
Is it more challenging? Yes. It takes a few deaths to get a handle on the differences between normal grade targets and elite, but the learning curve is short and almost flat. The only thing you need to know is this: Elite mobs have more hull, shield and weapon strength, and that's it. They don't start using more abilities, and that's really the crux of it. When the measure of hard means "more hp, more damage output", it's pretty apparent that this game isn't meant to be "easy to learn, hard to master".
That said, running elite missions solo eventually gets just as boring as normal missions. Group elite missions though, that's a completely different ball game and can be a lot of fun with the right people. Good way to farm items too.
I started an alt a week or so ago and switched to elite after stranded in space, dont think he's died yet (outside fleet actions), though he came dang close in the Kuvah'magh mission (ground part accidently pulled 2 enemy squads)
i think i've only had 1 green drop (lt 10) not counting a worthless purple sci console from the SB24 FA