Most stores around here (Batteries Plus, Allied Battery, GI Joes, etc.) sell the red-tops for between $100 - $110. Online, they typically run between $120 - $140, go figure.
For $80, I'd get one.
I actually called Optima and the lady recommended the red top. Said the only reason to get a yellow-top is if you have lots of accessories (very large stereo, offroad lights, etc.). Very helpful customer service there.
Red top will hold a charge just as long as a yellow top and should survice just as many discharge/recharge cycles ... according to their technical support dept. Note that this is not necessarily the message they send in the marketing literature.
Anyway, I went with a red top and it has worked just fine (only in about a month, though).
I've never heard that yellow-tops aren't recommended for general starting -- not the message in their literature and not what the lady told me over the phone. She said a yellow top would be fine, but that I'd just be throwing money donw the drain since all I needed was a red top.