Avid Mbox 2 Mini by Andymuck
Now I know I will get a lot of flack for this, but the Mbox 2 Mini isn't as bad as people make out. One huge reason is that it has gotten me started with Pro tools, for that itself it was worth it.
the unit itself is quite nicely built, with a solid, metal chassis in a blue and white colour scheme, and sturdy connections. the layout is clear and concise, and aulthough the controls are a little on the small side, they are easy to use.
Once Pro Tools is installed, the unit is plug and play compatable, working as both the interface and the iloc dongle for PT. The Mbox also works with any coreaudio application, such as itunes and Logic for example. I currently use mine mostly as a monitor controller between my macbook and Yamaha HS80m's and it works perfectly well.
The interface is basic but works well, with 1 microphone preamp, offering enough headroom for most tasks, and an alternative line in, along with a second line in for other sources. the two TRS monitor outputs are solidly built and put up with a fair amount of abuse and the headphone output gives a good, useable volume range. I would like atleast a pair of pre-amps and maybe a second headphone amp on a portable interface, but at the time, I couldn't spring for the full-size mbox.
Clearly the interface is a budget proposition and the mic pre isn't going to win any awards, but it's quite useable, especially for a poor student. infact this Mbox has saved me on a number of occasions. once a mic pre blew in a radio studio, so I used the u87 through the mbox and got a fine vocal recording, it lacked some character but was in on time and worked well, requiring only my laptop for power. the second was when a video camera kept picking up interference, so, luckily, again due to its portabiliy I packed my mBox and used it with some 20m mic and headphone cables to get a perfectly usable recording with plenty of headroom and clarity.
So to sum up, this isn't the best interface or mic pre you will ever use, but in a jam, or even on a budget, its a great option with a laptop, and its portability, along with compatibility with older protools versions, will prove its worth. Definitely worth a shot if you find one for a decent price, or even just as a monitor controller.