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Multitrack Recording Help on Choices

I have been reading a lot on this site and others and have some general questions in regards to choices of multitrack recording devices before I make a purchase. I guess the big question every one asks is budget which I would like to keep around $800 range but would be willing to think about it if is compelling enough to go up to the $1200 range. This is for my hobby, a home studio where I just want to get a decent clean recording. I'm having problems between DAW for my computer or a stand alone system. Currently, I have a BR-532 a digital 4 track which works but I need more channels. I have just built a electronic drum set with TD-20 Roland module which has a total of 10 output channels, 2 can be either 1/4 or SPDIF. I would like to have the flexibility to do at least 12 (16 ideal) channels but could live with 10 channels. My big hobby is songwriting and I do the guitar, vocals, and drums. I have several friends who do bass, lead, and vocals. I currently have an old PIII 450 MHz with 192 MB ram (I get drop out in Cakewalk Home Studio if I try to use more that 12 or so channels) that I use to mix my recordings from the Boss, which works out well. I have access to a nice laptop with firewire that I could use but it cannot be dedicated to my studio. I do not want to upgrade my computer yet that is on the drawing board. I see my basic choices as, a firewire system like the PreSonus Firepod (could add another down the road) or Phonics 24 firewire board (16 channels of recording) for the laptop, a PCI like the M-Audio Delta 1010 for my current PC (again could add another for more channels), or a stand alone system like Fostex VF160 16 channels (records 8 analog and can do 8 more by optical so I could get a 8 channel preamp that converts to optical output) or Korg 3200 or other stand alone unit. The one thing I am worried about with computer based systems is latency and any other issues with computer based recording like drop outs and such. In particular, if I record single channels does latency affect how you play to already recorded channels and if so what do you do about it. Or is it better to have a standalone unit to record tracks and then mix down on the computer. Also with mixers with firewire is there a big advantage to over a standalone recorder such as more control over the signal before recording. Any thoughts or suggestions are greatly appreciated. My main goal is to spend most of my time playing and recording and less time having to spend just getting things working. Thanks for any help!