You can do margin kerning (aka “protrusion”) and font expansion in pdfLaTeX simply by loading the package
microtype (i.e., by adding
to the preamble). I also suggest using the
tracking options option for small-caps, which increases the space between letters (which is typographically correct, but only for small-caps and all-caps text):
For further information (and for several fine-tuning options) you can consult the
Edit: Yes, in my opinion and (I think) in a typographer’s opinion, these features do make a lot of difference. Margin kerning and font expansion help pdfLaTeX typeset the text, producing a lot less over/underfull hboxes. Letterspaced small-caps are also more legible and much more aesthetically pleasing.