My experience with the LX-850 shows that what everyone commenting here has stated has some truth in it, whether pro or con. Piggled's experience aside, there are some strong points and many weak points to this mount - pretty much like most products on the market. In looking at some alternatives to my needs, I can't decide on what to obtain based on the feedback in these forums.
First, a confession: my blood runs a little Meade Blue, as I was loosely associated with some of the people in the company way back in the 80's. Having said that, I am not a fan boy but did purchase a LX-850, used, a couple of years ago as I was getting back into the hobby after a long time away.
Second, I am also a mobile astronomer, so, even though the LX-850 is a beast, it doesn't take more than a 1/2 hour to set up and Polar Align under any circumstances. I have made some changes to the mount that dramatically help with this, however.
LX-850 - The Bad:
Out of the box, the Mount Head is heavy - around 65 pounds (about the same as others in this category). That weight is from an actual scale, not the manufacturers web site. Second, the handles on the unit are poorly placed from a balance perspective if you need to move the mount (as I do). Third, the mounting plate for the telescope(s) is extremely cumbersome - although this is due to my need to move the mount. Fourth, the "Rosette" knobs for Alt adjustment will hurt your hand(s) - Meade does supply a tool, but it tends to slip off the knob and makes adjusting Polar Alignment very difficult (I have fixed this). Fifth, the RA balance shaft, although a piece of art, is difficult to initially start the weights. If you aren't mobile this is of little concern. Sixth, the cabling from the computer to the mount is less than...ideal.
Since I am mobile, I was able to overcome some of these "complaints." First, I split the DEC and RA pieces and reassemble in the field. I use two double-sided threaded bolts to guide the re-attachment of the DEC to the RA and this makes things light and easy to handle. I have replaced the Rosette knobs for the Alt adjustment with large wheel-style knobs (thanks to Garry Ingle), and the Allen bolts for the AZ adjustment lock down with Cam Bolts - this makes Polar Alignment extremely easy with no movement while tightening down the axis during PA. I haven't come up with a satisfactory computer cable strategy yet, but I'm working on that.Since I have no need to do side-by-side work, I also replaced the stock mounting plate with an ADM (and an A-P for my 14" SCT). I want to get a Rayox, but good luck finding one of those.
Perhaps the biggest downside is the lack of ASCOM support from Meade. Although there is nothing that any ASCOM software can do that the Meade software cannot also do (at least what I am interested in), it would be nice to have a choice, and to be able to move away from needing the hand box all the time. Yes, I realize there are ways around this, but it would be nice if Meade supported industry standards. This is not specific to the LX-850, however.
One last complaint - well, two. First, whoever wrote the manual needs to proof-read their work. In addition, it would be nice if the manual actually contained the information that is referenced in the manual in other locations and on the handset ("place the scope in the German-North position as described in the manual - uh, no, it's not). Second, the software appears to have some big glitches in it, and, quite frankly doesn't appear to have evolved much since the 1990's. I know it is expensive for programmers to code, but come on Meade, this software was written during the Windows NT days. Interestingly, I have two LX-850 computers, and two Hand Controllers. One is "stock" and the second set is Star-Patched (excellent). Regardless of which set I use, certain features do not work for me, including the one thing you are supposed to do each outing - Automatic Rate Calibration. This may be because I have a used example, but it fails on the "StarLock searching" and I need to hard start the computer to get out of it. Annoying.
One funny note: the Meade Drift align algorithm - it works but gives you nearly impossible instructions e.g. "turn the Azimuth knob counter-clockwise 1.789 turns." I got the 1 part down, but not sure about the .789. Honestly, it doesn't save you any time over a manual drift align if you need to do this.
LX-850 - The Good
While I haven't used every controller out there, I have extensive experience with Synta controllers and the Autostar controllers. No contest here - not even close - Autostar by a mile. Argue as you will those are the facts. Not that Synta's are bad, just nothing is as easy to use as the Meade, but, AGAIN, I haven't used everything out there. Another plus, even though I bagged on it earlier, is the software. Meade's alignment routine works well and is consistent. I do get much better results if I Polar Align using Polemaster, but the Meade routine is okay. It does seem to miss some targets by the proverbial country mile, however. There is a LOT to the software, and it will take some time to figure it all out. But the results are worth it.
Next, the mount is easy to balance. That huge, threaded RA counterweight shaft makes balancing easy and precise. It is just a pain to get the weights started.
The mount is SOLID and holds your telescope well in any reasonable wind. No shaky, fragile wobbles with this beast. The tripod is outstanding. I use three scopes, a 115 APO, and a 10” and 14” SCT so if wind was going to rock this boat, it would be apparent with those loads on it.
Perhaps the shining star (couldn’t help it) is StarLock. Despite that fact that I cannot get ARC to work for me, StarLock finds a guide star and locks on like a pit bull and does so without any muss or fuss. Yeah, I could buy a separate guide scope and camera for around 300-500 bucks, then learn to use “free” software, and then spend my observing time fretting over my guiding. However, I choose to use StarLock – it does its thing without me needing to load some other program on the computer, it does it well, and I get outstanding results. I can’t speak to my RMS per session or any other test of the drive accuracy and guiding by StarLock other than my consistently nice pics. It may be that I can only get down to 1” of tracking accuracy with this mount. Since I use very fast video cameras I don’t have to worry about “integrating” 18 hours of captures on my selected objects, so this is not a worry for me. I prefer in my limited time under the stars to see a lot of objects per session, and I can capture them both on the screen and in pics just fine with my Mallincams (yes, I support two manufacturers loathed on CN – Meade and Mallicam, yikes!). I just love showing 15 magnitude objects on my screen to interested bystanders in 5-30 seconds of capture with my Mallicams. Amazing.
For me, the LX-850 is a joy to use. It took some getting used to, however. Would I buy it again? I would, provided I could be confident that support would be there. I haven’t availed myself of support from Meade recently, but many folks have had poor results. Others have had outstanding support. The other worrisome thing for me is the seemingly low parts replacement (or no parts replacement) policy at Meade. Years ago, you could count on getting the parts you needed for out of warranty repairs. Those parts seem to be very scant on the Meade website and this is a concern. On the other hand, the mount has been bullet proof for me, so maybe I’m worrying about nothing. Despite the lack of love on CN for Meade equipment, there is some excellent support and advice here, as well, so don’t let that dissuade you.
To wrap up this long-winded message, I will be keeping the LX-850 mount for (hopefully) a long time. I will be looking to augment my mobile astronomy with a more mobile solution, however, as I am not getting any younger. But, if the reviews are to be believed on CN, there really aren’t a lot of great choices. Each make and model has its drawbacks until you step up big for Astro Physics or 10 Micron. One thing is for sure, Astronomy is a great hobby and the technology is only getting better each year. It is a great time to be alive!