I can’t speak on the other boxes/cards, but I have a M-Audio Fast Track Pro and it works beautifully. (Just got done recording something just now).
The patch you’re asking about is to enable certain functionality that doesn’t work out-of-the-box. Without the patch, the FTP can only achieve 16bit/44.1KHz quality recordings. After the patch, you can record at 24bit/96KHz and the digital outputs are enabled as well.
That said, I did a bit of playing around with the FTP before compiling a new kernel and it worked quite well. However, I have to say that the performance and sound quality is top-notch with a patched custom kernel.
The FTP is also built well. It’s probably the most well-rounded I/O box for the price. I was told (I don’t know if the guy was reputable) that the lower-end Alesis I/O boxes were throwaways. I did a quick google on the Focusrite and it looks like a great box. However, after a quick Google, it would seem Linux users were having trouble with getting it working (albeit, the thread I found was from a year ago).
I’d say the FTP is a safe bet and seems to be well supported in the Linux audio world.
EDIT: I just watched some videos on the Focusrite and that box looks really great. Solid as a rock.