One of the nice aspects of the Steinsaltz Gemaras is that he provides little historical background pieces to figures and objects referenced in the text, as well as linguistic analysis of certain non-Hebrew/Aramaic words. I was wondering how his work is received by academics and if he's considered to be reliable in terms of the history/archaeology/linguistics side of his Shas.
First of all, even though it doesn't fit the question, R. Ahron Feldman's review of the much older version of the Steinsaltz translation should not be missed, because it brings up crucial limitations of these volumes. Equally important, however, is Moshe Sober's response to R. Feldman's "fourteen points", as he calls them.
Having said that, I'm not aware of any good reviews published in the standard academic journals. The Seforim Blog has a good and fairly positive review from someone who fits the definition of an academic scholar (even if Talmud may not be his main focus). The Jewish Review also has a not-so-in-depth review. Both reviews, though, imply that Steinsaltz uses contemporary scholarship, but none have actually discussed his use of scholarship in great details.
The earlier edition was reviewed by Jacob Neusner, who, despite some critiques of a couple of Steinsaltz's scholarship, feels that the translation is good for "Yeshiva uses" (Religious Studies Review 17:3, 1991. p 225-229). His judgement, however, may not be so reliable.
R Feldman's book gives an academic critique of the the Steinzaltz gemara in this book touching on some of the points in the question
The Eye of the Storm: A Calm View of Raging Issues
By Harav Aharon Feldman
The article was also in Tradition, the full text appears here