But for best performance you still need to patch and recompile your kernel as well learn the in-and-outs of dealing with the multiple Linux user interfaces.
With my setup I was getting pretty reliable sub-10msec latencies with Jack's settings with no xruns, although I usually let things slide to 60-70 just so I could have more responsive system.
The other thing that sucks about Intel HDA (besides the low quality of digital-analog conversion chips and relative high buffer requirements) as far audio creation stuff is concerned is just the lack of I/O options. This is the biggest real difference between 'profesional' and 'consumer' audio hardware. My old M-Audio Audiophile 24/96 has Analog stereo in, stereo out, digital in, digital out, and midi in and midi out. It also has nice-quality D-A/A-D conversion and the difference is enough that a with a quiet room and nice headphones pretty much anybody can tell the difference.
But, of course, that's PCI.
Otherwise I have no problems with using Intel-HDA for anything. It's the sound card I use the most since that is what is on my laptops. For music playback and doing some recording stuff it's perfectly fine and unless you are in a quiet area with high quality headphones the chances of anybody being able to the the difference is very unlikely.