I bought one of these as a gift for a good friend of mine, but wanted to make a few upgrades before I gave it to him so I had some time to check out the telescope and form some opinions. I have purchased several other Meade telescopes in the past (Infinity 60 and 70, Polaris 130, and an older 70az), both for myself and as gifts for others, and I have always been pleased with the quality of the products. This telescope was no exception.First a quick summary:Pros:-Good beginner scope that will take longer to outgrow than the typical entry-level scope-Excellent optics, especially for high power viewing-Heavier-duty tripod than others in the price range-Quality equatorial mount with slow motion adjustments-Dovetail connection between tube and mount is quick and easy to use-Comes with better quality eyepieces than the competition with a good range of magnifications-Amici prism diagonal gives correct (not mirror) images-Fits well into the separately available carrying case for this scope-Smooth, solid focuser provides plenty of travel and should accommodate a wide range of uses-Easily modified and upgradedCons:-Low power eyepiece provides a little more magnification that I would like (this is easily remedied)-I'm not a fan of red dot finders (this is also easily remedied)-Method of attaching tube to mount can make finder tricky to use and limits ability to balance the Declination axis (once again, also easily remedied)More detailed findings:Unpacking the scope from the box I was impressed with what a visually appealing telescope it was. Meade does a good job with that. I've put together a bunch of these, so it took me under 10 minutes to unbox and assemble. Even for a novice the process isn't terribly difficult, you don't need any tools, and the manual walks you through what to do. Once you get the hang of it, set up and disassembly takes less than 5 minutes thanks to the ease of use of the dovetail connection.While an equatorial mount can be intimidating at first sight, it really is easier to use than you would think. There are a number of internet articles and videos that show how to do a proper polar alignment, but it's not necessary for visual astronomy. All you need to do it set the mount for your latitude, point the mount vaguely North, then you're good to go. It's really that simple. To be truly optimal, you can then adjust the position of the counterweight so the telescope balances when the Right Ascension (RA) axis is horizontal, then adjust the position of the tube back and forth using the dovetail (or better yet tube rings, more on that later) until the tube is balanced on the on the Declination (DEC) access and you've got a scope you can push with one finger that stays where you put it when you stop pushing. Point it where you want to look, find what you want to see in the eyepiece, tighten the little thumbscrews on the axes locks, then use the slow motion control to position the object you want to see right in the middle and enjoy. As the object drifts across your view you can use the RA knob to keep it centered, with occasional nudges on the DEC knob since you probably don't have the scope aligned perfectly with PolarisThe mount comes with setting circles, but they're more trouble to use than they're worth so don't worry about them.While the EQ mount is not quite as immediately intuitive as an Alt-Azimuth (AZ) mount, the biggest advantage is the fine tuning adjustments. With the AZ mount you have to nudge the telescope to keep objects in view, and sometimes you nudge too far, sometimes not enough, and sometimes when you let go after getting it where you want it the scope springs back a little bit (""mechanical backlash""). Plus, you have vibrations every time you touch the scope to move it. Many AZ mounts have a slow motion adjustment rod on the vertical axis, but they don't usually work that well. The EQ mount's fine tuning knobs on both axes eliminate nearly all of those problems, or at least cut them down to manageable levels. Best of all, if you don't like polar alignment for some reason you can also always set the latitude for 90 degrees and use it just like an Alt-Az telescope. This is useful for using the telescope for viewing objects on land, too.On that note, unlike many scopes this one comes with an Amici prism diagonal, which unlike a simpler mirror diagonal, gives correctly oriented images. The diagonal included with the Meade scope appears to be optically identical to the one that Celestron scopes come with but in a different housing.(see pictures for side-by-side comparisons). Both have plastic bodies with plastic eyepiece holders and metal 1.25"" front ends for inserting into the drawtube. The Meade version has ""safety undercuts"" that keep it from falling out if you accidently loosen the drawtube set screws. The Celestron model does the same thing with an oddly shaped insert. Between the two, the Meade feels more slim and streamlined while the Celestron tends to roll around and risks falling on the ground. The prisms inside appear to be identical, and both appear to be smaller than the full 1.25"" width. I'm not an optics expert, but it seems like that might restrict some of the light coming through. Then again, the light cone may be small enough as it goes through there that it isn't an issue. Both seem to give bright, sharp images. Attached is a picture of the two side by side along with an Agena Astro Amici prism for comparison.The eyepieces the scope comes with are far better than the Celestron competition (at least the Powerseeker 70) and offer a decent range of magnifications (unlike the Celestron). The scopes comes with a MA 26mm, a MA 9mm, and a MA 6.3mm along with a 2x Barlow lens that isn't all that useful since it can really only be used with the 26mm eyepiece. However, this gives you 35x, 70 x , 100 x , and 143x magnification options. Since a 70mm scope is capable of giving around 140 x magnification (under good conditions) that covers the whole useful range of the scope. Using the Barlow with the 9mm or 6.3mm eyepieces will result in dim, grainy images that you can't completely focus. Ignore the unreasonable magnification numbers advertised with scopes. The Celestron Powerseeker 70, for instance, claims ""525 power!"" but it's not really capable of any more than this Meade is. In fact, due to the shorter focal length the Powerseeker 70 isn't going to be quite as sharp at max power as the Meade (the Astromaster 70 should be equal to the Meade, though).I only have a couple complaints there. I would prefer to have a slightly lower power (25-28x) since it makes it easier to find things, and while the Barlow lens is good optical quality and works very well with reflector scopes, the extra long nosepiece on it means it doesn't fit all the way into the diagonal. It works, it just doesn't fit well. Both of these problems are easy to fix. I tried the scope with my older Meade Series 4000 Ploessl set and they worked beautifully. Sharper images, larger fields of view (the ""circle"" you see when you look through is bigger). Plus, the Meade #126 Barlow doesn't have the extra long nosepiece and fits perfectly in the diagonal. To be fair, Meade eyepieces aren't cheap but I've had really good results with much cheaper generic Chinese Ploessl eyepieces, so they're a good way to go, too. You don't have to upgrade from the eyepieces the scope comes with but they do make it more enjoyable to use. The eyepieces the Celestron Powerseeker 70 scope comes with (an H20 and an SR4), on the other hand, are much lower quality visually and need to be replaced immediately as far as I'm concerned. Score one point for Meade.If you do want to upgrade (either up front or down the road), I would suggest Ploessl eyepieces in the 32mm, 20mm, 15mm, and 12.5mm ranges. Each can be used with the 2x Barlow (either the one the scope comes with or one you buy that fits better) to give 28x, 45x, 56x, 60 x , 72x, 90 x , 120 x , and 144x magnifications. You can get by without the 15mm since the Barlowed 32mm does nearly the same thing as the un-Barlowed 15mm, but the 120 x magnification from the Barlowed 15mm is actually usable more often than the 144x since it doesn't require conditions to be as ideal. It depends on your wants and your budget. Another advantage to the new eyepieces is that the Barlowed 12.5mm gives the same magnification as the MA 6.3mm but has more eye relief and thus is easier and more comfortable to look through since you don't have to jam your eyeball as close to the glass. This is a major quality of life enhancement. Plus, the old eyepieces will still be useful since (except for the 6.3mm that will be your least favorite of the bunch) they do provide different magnifications (35x and 100 x ) from the Ploessl set. Amazon has a lot of eyepiece options from several different manufacturers, so take your pick there. Kelner (K) eyepices are no better than the ones you've got, and Huygens (H, HM, or MH) and Ramsden (R or SR) eyepieces are lower quality. Ploessl and Erfle designs are the best value for beginners. Better designs can cost more than your entire telescope.The steel tripod is also a lot sturdier than the aluminum tripod the Powerseeker 70 comes with. The tripod tray is more useful and versatile as well. Scope another point for the Meade.The red dot finderscope is nifty, but seems gimmicky to me. It makes it easy to point the telescope at bright things, but part of the point of a finderscope is to allow you to see things you can't see with the naked eye. This is essential for using books like Turn Left at Orion ( https://www.amazon.com/Turn-Left-Orion-Hundreds-Telescope/dp/0521153972/ref=mt_spiral_bound?_encoding=UTF8&me= ), which I would very strongly recommend because it gives easy to follow directions for finding hundreds of interesting things to look at that are within the capabilities of this telescope. Fortunately, there are easy upgrade options out there. I got a nice new-old-stock 6-screw Meade 6x30 finderscope (with a tall bracket). You need at least a 5x24 finderscope (6x30 is considerably better), and it's best to get one with 4 or more adjustment screws to make it easier to align and more likely to hold alignment if it gets bumped. Do note that many of the 6x30 options available on Amazon require a dovetail base, so you may need to buy a mounting base to go with it. Otherwise if you look around online you can probably find one that connects to the telescope with the same two-bolt arrangement this scope comes with. I had to round out the base a bit on the one I bought with a Dremel tool to make it fit better, but that's not essential. I like to put a grippy non-slip foam rubber pad on my telescope tubes (available at any hardware or home improvement store) to keep the paint from being scuffed and to help the finder seat better so it doesn't move if it gets bumped.The downside to the heavier eyepieces and heavier finder scope is that it causes balance problems with the scope, which is a drawback to having the dovetail attached directly to the telescope tube. It's also true that in some positions, the finder can be awkwardly placed and hard to use. Both of these problems can be easily fixed as well. You can pick up a set of 2.9""-3"" tube rings (like this: https://www.amazon.com/Orion-7369-76mm-Telescope-Rings/dp/B0000 x MVJ0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497448409&sr=8-1&keywords=76mm+tube+rings ) that will fit this scope. You can find them from other vendors as well. Depending on what you get, they may be slightly too big to close snugly on the telescope but this can be fixed with thicker felt on the inside. You can pick up a roll of 0.5"" to 1"" wide felt weatherstripping cheaply on Amazon or at any hardware or home improvement store. You can easily remove the existing dovetail from the telescope with an Allen (hex) wrench. The tube rings probably need different mounting hardware than they come with, though. While the rings I bought were threaded, I didn't trust the threads so I ended up going with an M6x20 barrel headed bolt with flat washer and a nylon lock washer. That ensures the bolts won't work loose over time. You could accomplish the same thing using loc-tite or a similar product. The pictures show the modification and how it fits together. I then put a couple pieces of electrical tape over the bolt holes in the telescope tube to keep light and (more importantly) dust out of the tube. Total cost of the mod is $27-$40 for the tube rings, $2 for hardware, and $5-7 for the felt weatherstripping you probably needed for something else anyway. Not essential, but it does make the scope easier and more fun to use. After you've used a scope with tube rings you won't want to use one without them. The mod is also completely reversible without any damage to the telescope.The advantage here is that you can slide the scope more freely forwards and backwards to more easily adjust the tube balance, and because you can rotate the tube it makes using the finderscope easier because you can rotate it to the most comfortable viewing position.Not a lot else to say about the scope. The focuser is smooth and solid, and while it was stiff at first it'll loosen up with use. If it bugs you then you can clean off the grease and replace it with thinner grease (like White Lithium grease). While I would have preferred an EQ-2 mount like the Polaris 80 and up come with, the EQ-1 is still adequate for the task of holding the scope. This particular mount comes with the best axis lock screws I've seen. Nice, grippy rubber-coated knobs.I would also like to add that the scope fits very well into the Meade Polaris 70-80-90 carrying case that's also available on Amazon. The sleeve for storing the telescope tube is loose enough that the tube fits inside with the tube rings still in place. I'm not sure if that would still be the case for the 80 and 90 models if you did the same tube ring modification. I plan on getting a Polaris 90 sometime in the next 12 months or so and when I do the review for it I'll let you know how that goes.All in all this is a good beginner telescope. It's has considerably advantages over the typical 60mm Alt-Az scope that most people seem to buy as an entry-level scope, so it's less frustrating to learn with. If you really get into astronomy you'll probably want to upgrade to a bigger scope with more aperture eventually, but given the quality, light weight, ease of transport, and ease of setup of the Polaris 70, even after you get a bigger scope you'll probably want to hang onto this one as a ""grab 'n' go"" scope for when you don't feel like setting up the bigger scope. While the Celestron competitors (the Powerseeker 70 and the Astromaster 70) can ultimately be upgraded to the same level that the Polaris 70 can be upgraded to, I think the Polaris 70 can be upgraded to an optimal level for less total expense and it's less in need of immediate upgrade. The Polaris 70 is a better telescope right out of the box.I'm very pleased with my purchase and I think my friend will be very happy with his present.