Can you say "Can of Worms" ???
You'll get a lot of replies on this one.
Let's see - comparing a $3000 computer system with an "all-in-one." First let's talk about the negatives about both.
Negatives to the All-in-one:
1. Bad mic-pres
2. Bad A/D converters
3. Cheesy on-board effects processors
4. Very limiting (though you can add outboard stuff to a lot of these boxes, there's typically no helping the sound of an all-in-one.)
5. Upgrades VERY pricey - when this thing breaks/needs upgrading - you have to flush the old and drop another $3k for a new one.
6. Lots more disadvantages, but I'll leave those to other 65 posts you'll get on this one.
Negatives to the PC/Mac based:
1. Initially kind of expensive. (However, for $3k, you can do just fine!)
2. Portability can be a pain. (It's do-able, but less easy than the all-in-one)
3. Not much else. (Or at least, in my biased opinion there's not.)
Positives - All in one:
1. It's all in one! Take it everywhere you go. Throw it in a laptop bag and record anywhere!
2. GUI has a relatively small learning curve.
Positives to PC:
1. Outboard gear infinitely upgradeable.
2. Built-in effects on Cubase/Cakewalk/Pro Tools are far better than those built into all-in-ones.
3. If parts break or become outdated, replace a relatively inexpensive part, not the whole beast!
4. Very easy GUI!
5. Sound quality associated with better gear.
I just built another rackmount pc for on-the-road recording consisting of an AMD 64, 3200 processor, ASUS Motherboard, Antec Rackmount case, Silverstone quiet power supply, Maxtor 40GB and 160GB hard drives, Windows XP, 1 Gig of Kingston RAM, Samsung LCD (15"), Gator Shock mount case, and Pelican flight case (to transport the lcd and mics) for $1621.87. Add Cubase SX to that, it brings you to $2200. Add the Aardvark Q10, you're now at $2900. You now have a bad-ass machine that is infinitely upgradeable with great converters, good pre's, mobile, quiet, and incredibly flexible. Did I mention, it sounds good!
This, to me, sounds like a no brainer. If you e-mail me, I will gladly send you an excel spreadsheet with links to all of the parts that I used as well as prices (at least they were the prices a couple weeks ago - they've probably gone down now.)
My e-mail address is: email@example.com
My 2 pennies,