Yeah the front zip has grown on me as well. For a smaller-sized pack like this I like it a lot.
I'm kinda with ya on the top lid thing but find myself using the extra spaces more and more. Like hat, gloves, snacks n shit on bottom, with wallet, keys, phone n shit on top.
On food, you can get a lot more in if you buy #10 cans of your favorite freeze-dried and re-pack 1 cup meals yourself. 6-9 full meals take up very little space. I use a 1 cup meal like beef stew to cut down on bulk.
On the top being sorta open without a sleeve/collar. I take my 3L bladder and flip it up and over, on top of everything, so in effect, it acts as a pretty good weather barrier, in most anything but a river crossing. This also helps keep the back wall from bulging into the frame space and making contact with your back.