it looks like you are on the right path-- i have the esi gigaport, and, if i had a infinite amount of money, i would have swapped it out by now...
the problem with the gigaport is that its driver only supports asio output, and all audio programs only support 1 asio driver for both input and output, with no option to load any other drivers, so you must figure out another way to get the audio either into the audio program, or out to the card, or both.
i have currently been having problems using vst eq's--they will cause pops and delays in the audio stream. i am unsure were the problem is originating from, but is corrected by removing any vst eq. i am currently using a intel 945gclf with 1.2ghz (i think?) dual core atom processor, 2gb ram, and have 6 crossovers setup (highpass, and low pass for a active 3way setup), all at 4th order. it stays around 50-60% cpu usage during normal use.
as for accessing the audio processing easily, it is just not possible--
here is a pic of my dash with Console brought up(i changed my config a little, but you get the idea) on a 7" liliput 629GL monitor:
it would be downright dangerous for me to tweak anything in console if i wasn't parked, and even if your were the passenger, it would still be hard (i need to lean forward to see what i am doing on the screen).