I use a seven- to eight-year-old Sony MiniDisc to record lessons and various live performances. The sound is fantastic, especially with the above average (but by no means professional) microphone I use.
It’s not especially cumbersome, but its lack of USB interface means pulling tracks off of it requires playing things back through an analogue input in real time. There’s also a couple seconds spin up time that isn’t quite awful, but can be a wee bit annoying.
I have no experience with I-Pods and the like, so haven’t kept up on the state of digital recording at all. But given the ubiquitousness of flash drives, media players, and the notion that I don’t need a built-in microphone, I’m assuming there is a relatively inexpensive recorder out there that will match or best the MiniDisc.
I’m looking for something relatively small in size, has enough space in its drive to record eighty minutes of uncompressed sound (which would be better than the MiniDisc, but I’m assuming that 700MB is a trivial amount of storage on a device), has a microphone jack, a USB connection, and if I’m really lucky, has some sort of remote control (I have one now, which makes recording during lessons a lot easier).
Oh, and fairly cheap to boot. I’d be whimsically replacing an otherwise perfectly good, has-served-me-well unit, so it’s not really worth changing things around if I have to spend a bundle.