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Alesis makes great compact drum machines; here's a summary of my experience with some other options.
iPad apps: DM-1, iElectribe, Korg MS-20 These apps are actually terrific, and if you already have an iPad they will be very, very inexpensive for you. The DM-1 is more "rock" oriented; the iElectribe is (unsurprisingly) more tech sounding. If you do dance music and/or like things that might sound more futuristic, you'd like its sounds. The MS-20 is the app version of the synth, and has a steeper learning curve. It has a sequencer that's terrific.
All of these apps can serve multiple purposes from basic metronome to full fledged recording projects. Costs average $20/app.
Cheap Keyboards: I like Yamahas and some Casios I'm sure some will sneer, but the canned rhythms on many of the keyboards sold for <$100 these days are great, and if you spend 30 minutes reading the manual and learning their functions, you can get some very useful stuff from them - VERY useful. Most also have "drumkit" voicing so you can create your own rhythm loops. And you get a keyboard, too.
Korg Kaossilator Pro Yeah, I know: $350 isn't inexpensive. However, I just love this piece of gear. It has canned rhythms, and the touchpad with hundreds of sounds which you can use on four infinitely stackable loop channels. I really, really like the interface; as a guitarist, it's more intuitively accessible for me because it's all about the fingertips. Also, if you get into project work, I found a lot of it's functions very helpful (e.g., you can change keys and tempos down to tenth of a BPM).
With all of these I use a BBE Sonic Stomp to enhance the sound; deeper bass and a nice sort of EQing make this $99 box a must. I like it more than other similar units I've tried, but of course everyone's tastes are their own. Either way, get a bass enhancer.