Ok, I've got a couple of questions regarding MIDI keyboards.

First off, how important is it to have one? Sure I know they're great for recording keyboard parts (duh), and also for inputting other note events like drums and anything else the software you are using can handle... But is there any other solution to using one?

Secondly, I've been looking round at a lot of different ones, and was wondering what to look for in one. Some have almost no assignable dials on them - as simple as a volume slider and mod control... whereas some have 7 million MIDI assignable dials and presets etc. Are these assignables handy etc? If anyone could point me out a good MIDI keyboard (keep the prices reasonable) then I'd be much obliged

Thats it really... I'm just building up my own little recording set up and I'm down to the nitty gritty... just need the keyboard, the mic's... and to be able to get my stupid Interface to work.

Thanks for any help in advance
If you're using software synths or samplers (Reason, VST instruments, etc), you'll definitely want one. But midi controllers come in many kinds, and which one is best for you depends on what you're planning to do with it.

If you're a trained pianist who wants to play in a pianesque manner, the range and the quality of the action is very important, so you'll want to invest in one with 88 good hammer-action keys.

If you're planning on using software synths, get one with at least a couple of sliders and knobs and a pitch bend/mod wheel so you can alter the sound as you play, and you may not need more than a couple of octaves.

If you're mainly programming drums, get one of those pads like the M-Audio Trigger Finger or the Korg PadKontrol.

And so on. There are even midi guitars.

Personally, i have a Korg Kontrol 49. It's a great keyboard with 49 decent spring-weighted velocity sensitive keys, a pitch bend wheel, a mod wheel, 8 sliders, 8 knobs, two switches, 16 velocity sensitive pads and an x/y joystick. Those are all assignable, but it also comes with many presets for the most popular programs.
It's pricey though, about $400. M-Audio make controllers that have similar features for a lot less. I decided not to buy one because i read a lot of negative reviews on harmony central, but i never actually tried one and others seem to be happy with theirs. So it may not be that bad. All i can say is that i love my Korg.
I thought nobody was ever gonna reply to this thread!
So thanks for that LKW
I'm no real pianist, although I can play. But I'm definitely not going to need an 88 key, I was looking at a 49'er. I was really just asking if its worth shelling out the extra money just to get the extra MIDI programable dials/sliders etc.

Example, would this be any good? Its got no programmables at all

Compared to one like yours, which has plenty of knobs and dials to keep you up late at nigt...
And I'll be using the keyboard for plenty of things, everything from recording piano/keyboard parts, recording drums (although I've discovered that Logic's UltraBeat plug-in is actually very good in itself), and recording synth and string loops. Generally recording everything which isn't a guitar or vocals.