Out of interest, were you using the same fonts in each terminal emulator? For gnome-terminal, were you using a monochrome or antialiased font?
Did you use a core X font in xterm (set with the -fn argument), or a fontconfig font (set with the -fa/-fs arguments)? Does it make much of a difference if you put xterm into unicode mode?
Rxvt may be faster than the other terminal emulators, but its speed comes at the cost of features. You might not require some of the features found in the slower terminals, but some people can't do without them (a good example is the accessibility support found in gnome-terminal).
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