OK, Ed -- You still haven't answered the question: Which one would you buy, if you could only get one?
This is a tough one to answer, since everyone has their own priorities and preferences. Still, knowing what I know, if I were starting out today, I would probably get a 6" or 8" Dobsonian-mounted reflector. The fact that I am something of a "refractor guy" says a lot about this choice.
A 6" Dobsonian is simple, cheap, and will teach you a lot. The simplicity part is important, since you will spend your time aiming and observing with your telescope, rather than playing around with the sometimes complicated controls on an equatorial mount.
Beginners need early success, and the 6" or 8" aperture is big enough to throw up a bright image of most common celestial objects.
A great beginner's scope:
Orion's XT8, an 8" Dobsonian reflector ($499)
I like all the 6" Dobsonians from Meade, Celestron, Orion, and Discovery. Just pick one; they're all good. If you're feeling ambitious, get an 8" version. The differences between the brands show up mainly in the quality of the accessories. Look for a 6X30 finder (or larger), Plossl instead of Kellner eyepieces, and Pyrex instead of plate glass mirrors.
Avoiding "Aperture Fever"
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