IME, execution of a telescope design makes the most difference, along with glass types and the quality of it's melt and manufacture. Not all types of the same glass are created and melted equal. It generally gets better when the price goes up. And I agree that aperture and brightness differences due to that are to be considered alongside contrast, clarity and sharpness that are more related to quality of manufacture of a design, though good manufacturing quality together with good glass is ideal of course.
That's why so many seeking great views in a portable scope end up with a small high quality apo. Over the decades, I ve seen and observed with many scopes, including small apo's of different design and quality.
The joy coming from using a small high quality scope is real and a good antidode for aperture fever. My own scopes have been in the range of 55 to 406mm of aperture. My current most used scope is a very fine Nikon 82mm ED refactor made in Japan, unfortunately NLA. Could also have been a very fine 76, 78, 80, 89, 90, 92 or 94mm APO or MCT telescope, depending on what would have crossed my path. All great telescopes in that ballpark are a joy to use and own, just with slightly different accents.