I use the dip, occasionally thinning it with mineral spirits as needed (though eventually you lose the proper "cling" of the dip and have to replace your can). I have mixed results, sometimes if the can is new, it's great. Other cans I've received have been sitting on a shelf for a year or two and are pretty poor.
I tend to apply it indoors using curved pliars on the base, and submerge the whole miniature. I let it drip off and then use chopped up or shredded bits of paper towel to pull off the excess. I used to shake them off outdoors, but that's annoying - so indoors it is.
Like any hobby thing, it's definitely a process you learn, and because it "sepia tones" the miniature you need to go back and highlight the occasional stuff (or have a q-tip on hand with mineral spirits to wipe away the dip on large bright surfaces). I definitely aim for tabletop and fast....normally trying to crank out 200+ miniatures a year when I have a suitable gaming project. I find the dip helps protect the miniatures and locks in the basing material (which I apply before priming).