by Stew

This telescope came delivered for $995. With all the features it proclaims, I was apprehensive to say the least. I have been both pleased and dismayed. I am going to divide up between OTA and Tripod/Autostar.
OTA: At 27 lbs. w/o the mounting cradle, and 48″ long, this is not for the faint of heart. It is a brute to move about. For an inexpensive Achromat the optics are very good, with color fringing only on the very brightest objects (Moon, Venus, Sirius at high powers). Those objects you would expect chromatic aberration on. It comes with the MEADE workhorse 8X50 finder scope, but a rinky dinky PLASTIC 1.25″ diagonal. This will be your first add on, a good 2″ diagonal (the OTA is rigged for 2″). I did have to perform surgery on the OTA when I first got it. I had to pull the focuser end off to fish out a piece of plastic that was banging about inside the tube. MEADE says they check these units out, but maybe that crew was smoking dope, as it made a LOT of noise that you could not miss. All in all, I am very pleased with the OTA.Tripod/Autostar: Let the fun begin. The equatorial head seems more than capable for this tube assembly, but any thing bigger (MEADE 10″ SN) and I think you are in trouble. It may or may not come with reference marks, and said marks may or may not be in the right place. Between the manual (MEADE has not got that right yet in all these years), and the haphazard quality control you may be in trouble. There are NO manual slow motion controls, it is all driven. The tripod itself (read legs) is a big brother to the Vixen GP tripod but much cheaper. The spreader tray is plastic with attachment in the center, which allows for substantial movement of the legs, and the legs are pop riveted rather than screwed to the EQ mounting lugs. I have made the following improvements; filled the legs with foam, drilled out all the pop rivets and replaced with screws and nylon lock nuts, and drilled the spreader tray/supports for long bolts and wing nuts at the three corners to provide stability to the tripod. Now it is stable.
Autostar: Being a star hopper, I have not used the GOTO functions that much, but it appears to me that the learning curve is steep. they have a “tracking” function that allows you to just drive the scope for star hopping. The push buttons are VERY hard to operate with gloves on, so a lot of push button mistakes are made in the cold, very frustrating. Tracking is good enough for visual use but not even close for any type of photography.
Summary: If you are looking for a telescope that works out of the box, this ain’t it. If you do not mind tinkering, it can be made into a very good telescope. It is not a beginners telescope, contrary to the advertisements.