Hi Aaron! Welcome to PF. You probably came to the right place as there are plenty of enthusiasts here. Aperature is good and the difference between 6 and 8 inches is night and day. The price break is also favorable compared to >8" scopes. An SC is clearly what you want, and you are in the right ballpark pricewise. I really like the Meade. It's a nice instrument, portable [33 pounds] and comes with GPS - a big plus:
At the top of your $ range, but don't be afraid to check the resale market. Dealers often carry preowned or open box scopes of this ilk at huge discounts. Just make sure you get some kind of warranty. If it is fully functional after 60 days, you almost can't go wrong.