I'd suggest passing on the i-Roast 2 and using a popper until you're ready to upgrade to a drum roaster.
Positive Product Points
• For a first roaster, it's fun and easy, and more affordable than a drum roaster • Very little smoke • Programmable roast curves
Negative Product Points
• Very loud, making it somewhat difficult to hear first crack and impossible (for me, anyway) to hear second crack • No control of the roast curve during the roast, other than being able to end the roast by entering cool down mode • You can't look at the curves you've programmed in and saved — be sure to write them down in a safe place for future reference! • Inconsistent results — very sensitive to voltage and ambient temperature variations. You can control the former with a variac (at a sizable extra cost), but controlling the latter can be hard depending on your situation.
This was my first roaster. I had it for almost two years before upgrading to a drum roaster. I sometimes got some very good batches out of it, but the majority were mediocre. I always thought it was just a matter of developing my skills as a roaster, but after a few batches with my new HotTop, I now realize the machine makes all the difference.
You'll eventually want to upgrade, so you might want to consider jumping straight to a "real" roaster. If I were to do it over again, I'd bite the bullet and get a HotTop from the get-go. (Of course, hindsight is 20/20...) My guess is that a popcorn popper will give you about the same quality and consistency as the i-Roast 2 (I haven't tried the popper method). That would certainly be a more affordable way to get a feel for home roasting before you decide whether to get drum roaster.
Sweet Maria's, as always, was a great retailer to buy from. The product arrived swiftly.