Note: This post has been moved here from my other blog.
I love the Character Builder.
IMO, the most tedious part of starting a campaign is filling out the character sheets. In the campaign I'm currently playing, our entire first session was spent filling out the character sheets. But the WOTC's Character Builder lets you do it in no time. It does all the math for you, and prints all your powers on little cards for easy reference. Admittedly, the cards only add to the board game feel, but they do make the game flow faster. Use up an encounter power, turn over the card. Simple. Heck, the math aspect alone is worth it. No longer do I have to figure out all the factors that make up my attack and damage rolls. Fourth edition has so many ways to add to your attack and damage, I really prefer having the program figure it up for me. Now that I've used the Builder, I can't imagine building a character without it.
The Builder is expensive. You get it by subscribing to D&D's website, which is $60 a year. For your $60, there are a few other nice resources on the website, but nothing that tops the Builder (so far - they've made some lofty promises for the future). Well, it sounds expensive, but it is updated with content from every new book they release. With the builder, you can stop buying a lot of future splat books. If you're the type who buys a lot of D&D books looking for new build options, then the program might actually save you some money. Especially since those books can run about $35 each. Note that there are some installation issues on some computers (it doesn't work on one of mine), and Mac users are out of luck.
There are some free home-made builders out there, as there are for most editions of D&D (and other RPGs), but the ones I've tried haven't nearly been as good as the official program. And some home-made builders have been shut down by WOTC for using copyrighted text in their builder's power cards, so future prospects for high-quality free alternatives don't look good.
Anyway, if you can get past the price (which might be more worth it in the future), then the Character Builder makes a good thing even better. And you really only need one copy of it per group, so maybe the group can chip in and have one player put it on their laptop. Then you can just pass the laptop around whenever it's time to create or level up your characters.