So far I am quite happy with the 3Ware Escalade 6410 (32 bit) 4 drive
IDE RAID card I'm using on my home system, doing RAID 10. However,
now that you can only buy the 64 bit cards, the prices are about twice
as much. Probably around $200+ for a 4 drive card instead of the
$100+ I paid for the older 32 bit card. Set up is very, very easy. I
haven't tried using software RAID yet on any of my Debian systems so I
can't compare how easy/difficult that is.
Supposedly, performance wise, Linux software RAID is just as fast or
faster than most hardware cards for RAID 0 and 1, but I'm not sure
about RAID 5 and 10. I also haven't done any serious benchmarking to
see what the RAID 10 really buys me for running an RDBMS or the like,
but it should be much faster than RAID 1.