I picked up the Alesis i04. It got here Friday but I haven't had a chance to unbox it, so I can't review it yet. I was primarily looking for more inputs so I can record my picking buddies live instead of tracking one instrument at a time.
If it works okay, this unit gives me 4 mono inputs at the ridiculously low price of $98. Added to the two inputs I already have on my E-mu soundcard, I'll have 6 total inputs (assuming my computer can keep up).
Now I just need to build a couple of isolation booths in my living room and I'll be set to go.
When I get everything set up I'll give you some more feedback. To tell the truth I'm a little skeptical that the unit can do everthing I want at such a cheap price, but I'll soon find out.
As far as making the switch from an external unit to a computer based program, I think it will grow on you. I also have an old Tascam Portastudio and had to make the switch. It requires some effort, but the computer programs are so powerful and versatile by comparison, it's well worth taking the time to learn. My program has an optional interface that displays the controls just like a traditonal mixing board would. You still have to use a mouse to make adjustments instead of turning knobs, but it might ease the transition for you.