Pros: Inexpensive, large aperture for price (4.5"), quality optics
Cons: Tripod a little jiggly, spotter scope is a little weak.
It used to be that Sky and Telescope type magazines would tell you to stay away from department store telescopes. This was certainly true of the old 60-mm plastic refractors. They were always over-powered so the only thing you could see was the moon, and their inefficient tripods meant that even when you were looking at the moon things bounced all over the place and you couldnt see anything. We wont even speak of the cheap nature of the 60-mm lens that lost a significant amount of light coming through it even if it had the proper power.
Now those cheap telescopes run around $30-60, and can be had at such places as Toys-R-Us. The Meade 114EQ-AST is the next step up, and really it is a base-model for decent and useful telescopes. You can find this model at Wal-Mart, and several similar telescopes are available in places like Toys-R-Us. This telescope is not like the former cheap department store telescopes that probably discourage many people from ever trying anything better. This Meade 114 is a decent telescope, and probably about the best you can do for $150. It would be better to spend more money to get a larger aperture, but if all you have is $150, this telescope is probably the best you can get.
With an aperture of 114 mm (4.5 inches), this scope is a decent size. Two lenses are included with the telescope a 9 mm and a 25 mm. With the 1000 mm focal length of the telescope (F 8.8 with a 114 mm mirror) this translates to a power of 111x for the 9 mm lens and 40x for the 25 mm lens. Under poor light conditions (off a balcony in the city of Orlando), I can see Saturns rings (I have not yet been able to discern the Cassini Division, but the rings are clearly separated from the planet) and Jupiters clouds.
The spotter scope is a little bit weak: I have seen M42 in Orion (which to me is more impressive through binoculars), but I have not yet been able to hunt down the dimmer and more isolated Andromeda Galaxy. This isnt so much a function of the telescope as a function of the inefficient 24 mm spotting scope, which does not spot a wide variety of stars.
The telescope is designed like other large telescopes. The eyepiece will hold any 1.5 eyepiece. Supposedly if you wanted to try to see better definition of Saturn, you could get a higher power lens, but due to the shaking with the slightly inefficient base, I dont think it would work very well. Or, alternatively, if you wanted a larger field of view you could get a different lens for that as well. You can get a camera adaptor if you want to try your hand at astrophotography (this telescope is not so good for most astrophotography purposes because it is not steady enough). The point is that all of the lenses you decide you want will probably fit on another larger telescope, too, if you decide to go that route.
The telescope weighs 18 pounds, including the aluminum tripod and equatorial mount counter-balance. I think Meade could have put more weight into it (like another 12 pounds) to keep it from being so jiggly. The telescope tends to bounce quite a lot at high power, which is very distracting. This is why I gave the telescope four stars instead of five a little more weight would have been helpful. However the light weight does make it rather transportable. If you have a dark field you like to drive to, the tripod collapses very easily and the scope will fit very well in any trunk.
Meade has the same telescope with a computer-driven mount for an extra $150 (Meade DS2114 ATS). If you have the extra money, this is probably worth your while. It will make it much easier to find objects in the sky, so more of your time will be spent looking at things and less of your time will be spent looking for things. Many beginning astronomers have a lot of problems locating objects with an equatorial-mounted, reflector telescope because 1) things are reversed, and 2) turning the knobs makes things go diagonally rather then up and down. This helps when you are trying to track an object across the sky as the earth turns, however it takes a lot of getting used to. And if you are not used to it, you are better off with the computer-driven telescope.
On the other hand, if you can use more money to increase the size of the aperture, this would be well worth it, too. Of course the next size up that Meade makes is $600 (Meade LXD75N-6), far more then the 4.5 computer-driven telescope. On the other hand there are many, many 6-8 inch telescopes on Ebay for under $400, although I have no idea how good they are.
To sum it up: for $150, this is a very good introductory telescope. The telescope you buy is directly proportional to the amount of money you can spend. If you have anything less then $100, go with quality binoculars something like 10x50s. If you have $150, then buy the Meade 114EQ-AST. If you have more, get the same telescope with a computer drive, and if you have more then that Well, perhaps you may still want to buy this telescope to make sure you enjoy the hobby before jumping into something that costs $1,000.