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Best Telescopes & Reviews: Comparing 200+ Scopes (2023)

Our team of experts including Zane, a TIME magazine mentioned home telescope maker, has tested 200+ telescopes and our chosen list of best telescopes are often recommended on most astronomical forums as well.

If you look at the list of best-selling telescopes on Amazon, you’ll see low-grade telescopes mostly reviewed by enthusiastic newbies who have probably never used another telescope in their lives. Most of these newbies are content with seeing a few craters on the moon and spotting the four moons of Jupiter. Yet, unfortunately, they probably don’t know that any decent pair of astronomy binoculars that cost under $100 can do the same thing!

If you can’t trust Amazon and most of the telescope blogs, how do you truly know what makes a great telescope? That’s why we’re here. Here, you’ll find all the information you need to buy the best telescope with confidence.

Some of these telescopes can cost a lot of money, so you want to make sure you are investing in a great product—especially if this is your first one! Our comprehensive list below of the best telescopes sticks with the same recommendations as our dedicated telescope ranking list page, where we’ve ranked and compared 200+ telescopes.

Best Telescopes Overview

  • Below $120: Orion SpaceProbe II 76mm EQ Reflector – The SpaceProbe II 76mm isn’t ideal, but it provides decent enough views and a user experience that’s not nearly as frustrating as most beginner telescopes at this price.
  • $120-$170: Orion SkyScanner 100mm Tabletop Dobsonian – The Orion SkyScanner 100mm offers all of the basic features of a larger telescope but at the lowest price point of any telescope we recommend – a great starting point for any beginner.
  • $170-$250: Zhumell Z114 Tabletop Dobsonian – The Zhumell Z114 provides a little more performance than a smaller 100mm scope and has more features for adjusting collimation and balance, along with sharp views at the eyepiece and a super-wide field of view
  • $250-$300: Sky-Watcher Heritage 130P Tabletop Dobsonian – The Heritage 130P’s collapsible tube makes it a breeze to transport and the 130mm of aperture is enough to resolve globular star clusters and details in galaxies clearly under dark skies, unlike with smaller scopes.
  • $300-$450: Sky-Watcher Heritage 150P Tabletop Dobsonian – Hardly any more bulky than the smaller 130P, the Heritage 150P delivers great views of Solar System and deep-sky targets in a compact and easy-to-use package.
  • $450-$550: Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 150P Computerized Tabletop Dobsonian – The Virtuoso GTi 150P is a GoTo version of the Heritage 150P. Normally GoTo is a hindrance and expense we don’t recommend bothering with, but the GTi 150P is still easily aimed manually and available at a bargain price, which makes it a fantastic pick as one of the best telescopes of our choice.
  • $550-$900: Apertura AD8 Dobsonian – The Apertura AD8 is one of the highest recommended telescopes for hobbyists, thanks to its fantastic value, included accessory bundle, and rock-solid Dobsonian base. While not the cheapest 8” Dob, it offers plenty of value for the money in the form of its dual-speed focuser and other upgrades that can cost hundreds of dollars to add to other scopes. It may be the only telescope you ever need!
  • $900-$1200: Apertura AD10 Dobsonian – The Apertura AD10 offers humongous light-gathering power in a relatively portable and easy-to-use package. It’s one of the best valued 10′ dobsonian telescopes available.
  • $1200-$1500: Apertura AD10 Dobsonian – The Apertura AD12 offers some of the most light gathering power a portable, affordable telescope can provide with the same easy-to-use Dobsonian mount.
  • $1500-$2000: Sky-Watcher 12” Collapsible Dobsonian – The 12” Collapsible is more portable than the AD12, though it needs some additional accessories to perform well and has a higher base price to begin with.
  • $1500-$2500: Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 – The Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 is certainly not the most economical or affordable telescope available, but is packed with bonus features and extremely simple to set up and use as well as being fairly lightweight/compact.
Pandemic-induced supply shortages are still a thing, and you might need to backorder telescopes in some cases. We highly recommend telescope e-retailers because they provide better technical and post-sales support, a wider product range, better deals, and greater assurance that you will receive what you ordered. In the US, High Point Scientific, AgenaAstro, Orion’s Telescope.com are all reputable retailers with decades of history and offer great shipping, refund, and financing options. Your experience with them would be as good as your usual Amazon orders.

Basic Guide On Choosing The Best Telescope For You

The first thing you want to do is to figure out what you really want out of your telescope. Consider:

  • Where will you use it?
  • Where will you store it?
  • How much weight can you carry comfortably?
  • How will you find the things you want to see?
  • Is this for home use or will you frequently put it in your car?
  • Will you want to take it on an airplane?

If your observing location requires walking up or down stairs, or you can’t handle carrying something too heavy, or if you just decide you want to travel a lot with your scope, choosing a smaller one might be a better idea. 8″ dobsonians are what we consider to be perfect in terms of the balance between portability and viewability.

While it’s amazing to peer through a big scope, it’s useless if it isn’t used. This goes for kids too. If you’re shopping telescope for a child, remember to choose something they can manage on their own.

Some telescopes come with built-in computer assistance for tracking and identifying celestial objects. We don’t typically recommend computerized telescopes over manual ones.

Computerized telescopes can come with additional work and requirements. For example, they will need a power supply and can take longer to set up than most other scopes. Knowing what you can do with a good star chart is much more beneficial.

The money you’re spending on a telescope should go as much towards the aperture (size of the objective lens or mirror) as possible. When you’re spending only a few hundred dollars on a computerized telescope, half your money is going to go to the drive systems and controller, and as a result, you get rather little actual “telescope” for your money. If you live in the city, you’ll definitely want to prioritize aperture. A small telescope will show little under severe light pollution, but in general, you’re going to want to get as far away from cities as you can when you sky watch anyways.

If you prefer to have the scope to find the targets, then look at PushTo or GoTo computerized packages.

There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to the level of technology that you’re comfortable with, though, and both kinds of scopes (tech-included or not) have their own pros and cons, so make sure to really think about what you want out of your scope before making any kind of purchase.

There are several different types of telescopes, with the most common types being refractor, reflector, and catadioptric telescopes.

  • Refracting telescopes usually provide the best image for their apertures but are usually pricey. They’re seldom available with large apertures. Inexpensive ones do have a fair amount of chromatic aberration though, thanks to the achromatic lens design they use. Refractors seldom require maintenance and do not usually need to cool down before use.
  • Reflector telescopes provide the most bang for your buck in terms of light-gathering power and resolution, but require frequent alignment of mirrors and may need to cool down before being used. Unintentionally, most of the recommended scopes on this guide are reflectors.
  • Catadioptric telescopes are moderately expensive but are much more compact than most equivalent-sized refractors or reflectors. They do require periodic maintenance and need to cool down as well, but not as much as most reflectors.

Cheap telescopes under $100 are almost universally considered toys. Below $300, consumer telescopes tend to have corners cut. Remember, a telescope is meant to last a lifetime; don’t be afraid to spend a few extra bucks if you’re able.

You don’t have to be a technical engineer to buy an awesome telescope, but if you understand a few concepts and terms like the ones below, you’ll be fine. 

  • Optical Tube Assembly – this is the light-gathering part of the telescope. Common forms are refractor, reflector, Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, SCT, and Maksutov-Cassegrain, MCT.
  • Aperture – This is the diameter of the front lens or rear mirror of the optical tube. This is usually stated in millimeters, mm, or inches and may be noted as 150 mm or 6” in the specifications. This is the key specification for judging the telescope’s ability to show you dim and distant planets and deep-sky objects. In general, the more aperture the better.
  • Focal Length – This is a measure of the optical path within the optical tube. Using this you can determine the magnification that will be provided by any given eyepiece.
  • FL scope / FL eyepiece = magnification.
  • Focal Ratio – This is simply the focal length divided by the aperture. It tells you about the physical size of the scope. A low focal ration optical tube will be shorter than a high focal ratio optical tube with the same aperture and of the same design.
  • Focuser – This moves the eyepiece in or out along the light path to bring the image into focus. Common sizes are 1.25 inch and 2 inch which determines the size of the diagonal or eyepiece that can be accepted. Some are single speed and some are dual speed, having a quick focus and a slow focus knob that allows much finer adjustments which can be helpful when using high magnification.
  • Diagonal – These are placed into the focuser and receive the eyepiece in refractors, SCTs, and MCTs. Common sizes are 1.25 inch and 2 inch which determines the diameter of the eyepiece that can be accepted. The diagonal turns the direction of the eyepiece either 45 degrees or 90 degrees to provide a more comfortable viewing angle. The 45-degree models are usually for daytime use when the optical tube is fairly level for use as a spotting scope. The 90-degree diagonals, also called star diagonals, are better for astronomy as the optical tube is usually pointing high in the sky.
  • Mount – This is what holds the optical tube and allows you to point it effectively. Common types are Equatorial, AltAz which works similar to a camera tripod, PushTo, and GoTo. The mount is a critical part of the telescope system. If the mount is wobbly, the image will shake every time you try to focus or when there is a breeze. If the mount is wobbly it may be difficult to track your target as you move the optical tube to account for the rotation of the earth. A good optical tube on a poor mount provides a frustrating experience.
  • PushTo or DSC Mount – There are sensors in the computer control system that track the position of the mount. An initial alignment procedure is done so the mount knows the date, time, and location. After that, you put your target into the computer, usually a handset, and it tells you where to point the scope to see that target.
  • GoTo Mount – Similar to the PushTo mount, there are sensors that know the position of the mount. However, the GoTo mount has motors that are controlled by the computer, usually a handset. After a quick initial alignment, so the mount knows the date, time, and its location, you put your target choice into the computer and the computer uses the motors to turn the mount so that the target can be seen in the eyepiece. As the GoTo mounts are motorized, the computer uses the motors to track the target as the Earth rotates where the other mounts require you to move the optical tube to track the target yourself.
  • Eyepiece – This is an optical device that goes into the focuser or diagonal. The optical tube gathers light but it is the eyepiece that provides the magnification. Eyepieces come in various focal lengths, each providing a different magnification according to the focal length of the optical tube according to the formula Focal Length Optical Tube / Focal Length Eyepiece = Magnification. Therefore a 10 mm eyepiece will provide different magnification depending on the focal length of the telescope. Eyepieces are standardized on 1.25” and 2” diameters. Which size you can use is determined by the focuser and diagonal. 

1. Best Cheap Telescope: Orion SpaceProbe II 76mm EQ

The Orion SpaceProbe II 76mm lacks aperture or simplicity, but it delivers sharp images of bright targets like the Moon and planets with an acceptably sturdy mount and a quality set of accessories—both of which are hard to find at such a low price point.
Orion SpaceProbe II 76mm Equatorial Reflector Telescope
  • Acceptable quality optics, mount, and eyepieces
  • Much better than optically flawed or poorly mounted beginner scopes typically sold at this price
  • Fairly lightweight

The Orion SpaceProbe II has a mere 76mm of aperture, and thus, for deep-sky views of targets like star clusters and large nebulae, a pair of 50mm or larger binoculars wins. It’s also the only telescope on this list that isn’t a Dobsonian, instead being mounted atop an equatorial mount and tripod. However, the SpaceProbe II has sufficient quality optics to deliver pleasing images of the Moon, planets, double stars, and a few bright deep-sky objects, without the shoddy optics or plastic Huygens eyepieces many cheap telescopes are provided with. 

The SpaceProbe II 76mm comes with two 1.25” Kellner eyepieces providing 28x and 70x magnification, and you can, of course, purchase more eyepieces for higher magnification if you desire. The EQ-1 equatorial mount is a little tricky to set up but sturdy, and aiming the SpaceProbe II 76mm is easy with the included red dot finder.

Alternative Picks

The Meade Infinity 70 performs similarly to the SpaceProbe II 76mm, albeit with more chromatic aberration and a less steady mount, while the Orion FunScope 76 offers a much wider field of view for deep-sky viewing than the SpaceProbe II 76mm EQ and is far more compact, though its poor-quality optics make for miserable performance on the Moon and planets.

2. Best $120-$170 Telescope: Orion SkyScanner 100 Tabletop Dobsonian

The Orion SkyScanner 100mm may not have all the bells and whistles that higher-priced telescopes have, but if you can’t afford something more, this telescope will do the trick and provide sharp views of many of the most familiar night sky objects.
SkyScanner Packed Up
  • Inexpensive
  • Very wide field of view
  • Can be used on a tabletop or photo tripod

The Orion SkyScanner 100mm (not to be confused with the disastrously bad SkyScanner BL102) is really the minimum we’d actually recommend for a beginner, provided it fits within your budget. The tabletop Dobsonian mount is easy to use, the scope is easy to carry in one hand or even in a backpack, the field of view at low power is massive, and the 100mm aperture is enough for not only good planetary views but for “faint fuzzy” deep-sky objects too. 

The SkyScanner 100mm has a parabolic primary mirror for truly sharp images—though it cannot be easily collimated by the user—and comes with two 1.25” eyepieces: a 20mm for 20x magnification and a 10mm for 40x. The SkyScanner 100mm can handle up to around 100–140x magnification, and such magnifications are optimal for viewing the planets, so be sure to budget for an extra eyepiece or two if you can.

The SkyScanner 100mm weighs five pounds, and there’s a nice built-in handle attached to the side of the mount. When one needs an extremely portable and convenient telescope, the SkyScanner 100mm is your best bet. You can use it on a tabletop or attach the scope to a photo tripod too.

Alternative Picks

If you can’t get a hold of a SkyScanner 100mm, the Zhumell Z100 is nearly identical and offers essentially the same features and performance.

3. Best $170-$250 Telescope: Zhumell Z114 Tabletop Dobsonian

Our pick for the price range of $170 to $250, replacing theMeade Lightbridge Mini 114, which has sadly been discontinued by the manufacturer.
Zhumell Z114
  • Decent eyepieces
  • Reasonably lightweight

The Zhumell Z114 offers slightly better performance than a smaller 100mm tabletop scope and is easier to collimate by the user. It also has a rotating tube clamp to position the eyepiece angle where you want it, and the additional 14mm of aperture, while not sounding like much, adds 14% more resolving power and 30% more light collecting area, enough to make a real difference on deep-sky objects

The Z114 offers an extremely wide field of view, 2.1 degrees at 26x with the included 17mm eyepiece and up to 3.6 degrees with an additional lower-power wide-field eyepiece – big enough to fit even the largest deep-sky objects such as the Pleiades, and making it easy to find almost anything even with the included red-dot sight.

The Z114 also has fantastic optics, taking the 45x provided by the supplied 10mm eyepiece with ease and being capable of up to 200x magnification with a shorter focal length eyepiece like a 6mm goldline or a 2x Barlow (sold separately, of course). Don’t feel bad about spending a lot on extra accessories—they’re worth it with this scope.

Unlike the Z100, the Z114 can be collimated for the sharpest possible views. It’s great for anything – planets, star clusters, nebulae, and even some galaxies.

And at only 11 pounds, the entire telescope fits in a backpack and can be brought on an airplane, much like its smaller sibling, the Z100. 

Alternative Picks

The Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro is identical to the Z114 in optical performance and features, and we highly recommend it if you cannot find a Z114.

4. Best $250-$300 Telescope: Sky-Watcher Heritage 130P

The Sky-Watcher Heritage 130P is another tabletop Dobsonian like the Z114 and Z100, with even more aperture, allowing for brighter and more expansive views of the night sky—and a collapsible tube to maximize portability.
  • More aperture and easier collimation than 100/114mm tabletop scopes
  • Collapsible tube for portability
  • High-quality included accessories

The Sky-Watcher Heritage 130P has a collapsible tube, making it just as portable as a smaller instrument, but its 130mm aperture is a significant gain compared to a 100mm or 114mm tabletop telescope. The Heritage 130P comes with two 1.25” eyepieces—25mm and 10mm “Super” Konigs yielding 25x and 65x magnification, which are just fine to start with—though you may want more eyepieces such as a 6mm “goldline,” which would provide 108x, more appropriate for viewing planets and other small targets like globular star clusters. 

You can just barely start to resolve globular clusters into stars with the 130P on a good night, and it’ll show you dark markings on Mars and the shadows of Jupiter’s moons a bit better than with a smaller scope.

The Heritage 130P weighs significantly less than a solid-tubed scope of its size (think Zhumell Z130), which makes finding a sturdy table, bar stool, or crate to set it on a bit less of a challenge.

Alternative Picks

The Zhumell Z130 provides essentially the same performance and optics as the Heritage 130P in a solid tube, which adds weight but decreases complexity. The GSKYER 130mm EQ’s mounting is not our favorite, but it also features similar optics, a nice set of eyepieces, and a well-designed focuser, though quality control can be questionable.

5. Best $300-$450, Budget 6” Dobsonian: Sky-Watcher Heritage 150P

The Sky-Watcher Heritage 150P provides even more capability than the Heritage 130P and smaller tabletop Dobsonians, but in a similarly compact and easy-to-use package.
Skywatcher Heritage 150P Flex Tube Dobsonian Telescope
  • Large 6” aperture without inconveniences of a full-sized tripod or base
  • Collapsible tube for portability
  • Not much heftier than a smaller scope

The Sky-Watcher Heritage 150P is pretty much just an upscaled version of the popular Heritage 130P, with 20mm of additional aperture providing 33% more light gathering power and and 15% more resolution. The 150P features the same collapsible tube as the 130P allowing it to fit in even the smallest of spaces, and works best when situated atop a surface such as a bar stool or milk crate. With a 6” telescope you can start to resolve globular star clusters into individual components, see dust lanes in galaxies, and spot Neptune’s large moon Triton, among other things.

The Heritage 150P includes 1.25” diameter, interchangeable 25mm and 10mm focal length eyepieces providing 30x and 75x – and it can handle up to around 300x magnification, so some shorter focal length eyepieces for higher power on clear and steady nights would be appropriate. Aiming the 150P is accomplished with the provided red dot finder.

6. Best $450-$550, Best Computerized Telescope: Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 150P

The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 150P, essentially an upgraded Heritage 150P, can be used manually or with its easy-to-use wireless GoTo system, and pushing the scope manually has no effect on its computerized operations either.
Virtuoso GTi 150p tabletop dobsonian
  • 6” of aperture with fully motorized GoTo/tracking, all in an affordable and compact package
  • Able to be used manually as well, even when powered on
  • Otherwise same great features as Heritage 150P

The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 150P uses the same tube, optics, and tabletop Dobsonian mount as the Heritage 150P, but adds Sky-Watcher’s unique GTi GoTo system to the mix. The Virtuoso GTi mount can be used as a manual Dobsonian exactly like the standard Heritage 150P, or powered on for full automatic GoTo and motorized tracking controlled by your smartphone, with either the free SynScan app or another app like SkySafari. You can even aim the scope manually while the mount is powered on with no ill effects on the tracking or pointing accuracy of the motorized GoTo features. As with the Heritage 150P, you get two 1.25” Super eyepieces (25mm/10mm providing 30x and 75x respectively) with a red dot finder, and the scope is meant for tabletop use.

Alternative Picks

There are 6” f/8 full-sized Dobsonians available at the same price range of the Virtuoso GTi 150P if you must have one. Among our favorites are the Orion SkyQuest XT6 and Sky-Watcher 6” Classic Dobsonians, either of which are far bulkier than the little 150P but still excellent choices.

7. Best $550-$650, Budget 8″ Dobsonian: Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic

Our budget pick for an 8” Dobsonian is a much bigger telescope than the small tabletop Dobsonians that precede it, but with significant advantages in capability and use—double the light gathering of a 6” and with a 2” focuser too.
orion 8945 XT8
  • Large 8″ aperture and easy collimation
  • No significant portability difference from 6” Dobsonians
  • No table or crate needed
  • Included accessories provide excellent value

An 8” telescope will show even more than a 6”. The entire Messier catalog is relatively easy to access from a suburban or dark site. Pluto may be spotted from reasonably dark skies, and many deep-sky objects begin to show fair amounts of detail. The moons of Uranus are possible sights on nights of steady air.

The Orion XT8 is not a tabletop unit, but rather sits on the ground on its own, with a tube about 48” (1.2 meters) long. The scope is certainly a lot less compact than a 6” or smaller tabletop unit, but you’re rewarded with double-that’s right, double-the light gathering ability, 33% more resolving power, and a sturdy, freestanding telescope that can last a lifetime. The XT8 can also handle 2” eyepieces thanks to its 2” diameter single-speed Crayford focuser. A single 25mm, 1.25” Plossl eyepiece, yielding 49x magnification with the XT8, is provided, along with a red dot finder.

The average person can handle an 8” Dobsonian, and the gains over a 6” are certainly worth the price and inconvenience. An 8” telescope will last you a lifetime.

7. Best $550-$900, Best Value 8″ Dobsonian – Apertura AD8 Dobsonian

Our pick for the price range of $650-$900, Apertura AD8, is the best valued 8″ dobsonian you can get your hands on and comes with all the accessories you need. It’s our personal favorite!
Apertura AD8
  • Large 8″ aperture and easy collimation
  • No significant portability difference from 6” Dobsonians
  • No table or crate needed
  • Included accessories provide excellent value
  • Extremely good value

An 8” telescope shows far more celestial objects and detail than a 6” while an 8” f/6 Dobsonian like the AD8 is negligibly heavier or bulkier compared to a standard 6” f/8 Dob. The AD8 sits on the ground and pivots on smooth roller bearings with friction and balance adjustments. You get double the light gathering power of a 6” scope and 33% more resolution.

With an improved dual-speed focuser with a micro-adjusting knob, a quality 9×50 finderscope, and even an included laser collimator, the Apertura AD8 is well worth the money. The AD8 even has a cooling fan for cold nights!

The AD8 comes with two eyepieces: a 2” 30mm SuperView (40x) and a 1.25” 9mm Plossl (133x). We would highly recommend an additional 6mm “goldline” eyepiece to get the best planetary views the scope can offer.

The AD8 is the best 8” Dobsonian available, along with our top overall pick for a beginner telescope, and nothing beats the sheer value in its price range; some of the other 8” Dobsonians from Orion or Sky-Watcher cost a little less but just the dual speed focuser easily is worth more than double the price increase of the AD8. The Apertura AD8 is the telescope I most often recommend to beginners. 

Alternative Picks

The Zhumell Z8 and Orion SkyLine 8 are identical to the AD8 in every way should you not be able to find one.

8. Best $900-$1200, Best Value 10″ Dobsonian: Apertura AD10 Dobsonian

Our pick for the price range of $900-$1200, the Apertura AD10, is identical to the AD8 and comes with a 10″ aperture.
Apertura AD10
  • More performance than an 8” in essentially the same size package
  • Excellent included features/accessories
  • Still fairly portable
  • Extremely good value

The Apertura AD10 is only slightly less portable than the Apertura AD8 and 8” Dobsonians, but offers you 56% more light-gathering power and 25% more resolution. While it’ll still fit in an SUV, however, keep in mind that the tube and base are big enough that they’re getting a bit awkward to handle—though nowhere near as much so as the Apertura AD12. The AD10 has the same features, accessories, focal length, and, of course, great value for the money as the AD8; the only difference is the slightly wider tube and larger aperture.

The AD10 will easily reveal faint Solar System targets like the moons of Uranus under dark skies, and can resolve the Encke Gap in Saturn’s rings or surface details on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede under good seeing conditions. You’ll be able to start resolving spiral arms in galaxies like M51 and M33, and most of the objects in the Messier catalog are downright easy to see. A 10” is a serious telescope and a size that many people choose to stop at. You’re unlikely to run out of interesting things to see with it if you have access to clear skies, and transporting the AD10 in most vehicles isn’t much of a problem.

Alternative Picks

In addition to the identical Zhumell Z10 and Orion SkyLine 10, the Celestron StarSense Explorer 10” Dobsonian is a great option if you want a slightly more lightweight and convenient instrument than the AD10 and don’t mind purchasing accessories separately. The Explore Scientific FirstLight 10″ Dobsonian is also a great choice.

9. Best $1200-$1500, Best Value 12″ Dobsonian Telescope: Apertura AD12 Dobsonian

Our pick for the price range of $1200 to $1500, Apertura AD12, offers 44% more light-gathering power when compared with Apertura AD10.
Apertura AD12
  • Huge aperture
  • Great accessories
  • Simple to set up and use if you can accommodate its massive size

An upscaled version of the AD8 and AD10, the Apertura AD12 offers colossal light gathering power. A generation ago, only a professional or very rich amateur could own a telescope this large!

A 12” Dobsonian easily shows Pluto, resolves even fairly dim globular clusters, and shows incredible detail in many galaxies, even from the suburbs. Jupiter’s moon Ganymede may even show a slight dark marking called Galileo Regio. Uranus’ moons are fairly easy to spot.

Weighing only 75 pounds, the AD12 is not a lightweight telescope. Its 14” wide tube is rather awkward to carry too, but don’t fret! You can fix this with homemade or aftermarket straps. Or just put the whole scope on a hand truck or dolly. That being said, the AD12 will still fit in most sedans and SUVs, though compact car owners may be in trouble.

We’d recommend getting a smaller scope to complement the Apertura AD12, just to make sure you’re hooked before bringing this beast into your home. A smaller scope would help too, for nights when it isn’t worth hauling the big scope out. But if Apertura AD12 is in your budget, and if you can get this scope to where you want it, do it. There’s nothing quite like the power of a 12 inch Dobsonian.

Alternative Picks

The AD12 is sold by other brands as the Zhumell Z12 and Orion SkyLine 12. If you’d rather stick with a more compact scope, in addition to more-expensive 12” and 14” collapsible/truss tube Dobs the 10” Truss Tube from Explore Scientific and the 8” GoTo FlexTube Dobsonian from Sky-Watcher are great picks, as are standard 8” and 10” Dobs at lower prices.

9. Best $1500-$2000, Best Value 12″ Collapsible Dobsonian Telescope: Sky-Watcher 12” FlexTube Collapsible Dobsonian

The Sky-Watcher 12” FlexTube Collapsible Dobsonian offers a much more compact form factor than a standard 12” when disassembled while still being packed with performance.
Sky-Watcher 12" f/5 Flextube Dobsonian Telescope
  • About as portable as a standard 8” or 10”
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Big, bold, and bright views as to be expected with any 12” Dob

While the smaller FlexTube Dobsonians provide little advantage over their solid-tubed counterparts – especially for the price – the 12” FlexTube model from Sky-Watcher is a far less bulky option than a solid-tubed scope like the Apertura AD12 for space-conscious users. The 12” FlexTube’s optical tube assembly collapses in seconds with the turn of a few levers/knobs to a shorter length than a standard 8” or 10” scope. However, you don’t get as many features and amenities by default as Apertura’s excellent scopes, and additional upgrades like a shroud will be needed for the open tube.

Alternative Picks

The Explore Scientific 12” Truss Tube Dobsonian, as well as the Sky-Watcher 10” FlexTube GoTo, are also great picks at this price range for a high-quality, high-performance and portable Dobsonian.

10. Best High End Computerized GoTo Telescopes – Celestron NexStar Evolution 8

While hardly delivering the most aperture for your money, the NexStar Evolution 8 is a premium telescope for those who desire a convenient and simple observing experience.
Celestron NexStar Evolution 8
  • Compact Schmidt-Cassegrain optical tube along with built-in battery and WiFi make for a convenient setup
  • High-quality tracking and some imaging capabilities too
  • Sufficient aperture for good views

The NexStar Evolution 8 is incredibly easy to operate with its provided hand controller or over WiFi, features fully motorized GoTo and tracking, and even has its own built-in rechargeable battery for plug-and-play use. The 8” model is our favorite, offering better performance than the 6” with a minimal increase in bulk; the 9.25” has some issues that make it less-than-ideal, especially for beginners.

Being a Schmidt-Cassegrain catadioptric design, the Evolution’s main drawback is the somewhat narrow maximum field of view compared to a similar sized reflecting telescope. However, the computer functions more than make up for this.

The Evolution 8 comes with two eyepieces: a 40mm plossl (51x) and a 13mm Plossl (156x).  While these will be fine to start out with, we’d highly recommend obtaining a 2” diagonal and low-power 2” eyepiece as well as a high-power ocular to get the widest vistas and the highest powers usable with NexStar Evolution telescopes.

Alternative Picks

In addition to the smaller/cheaper 6” and more well-accessorized 8” EdgeHD/StarSense models of the NexStar Evolution, there are a wide variety of other options to consider in this price range including computerized 12” and 10” Sky-Watcher Collapsible Dobsonians, and if you’re interested in astrophotography an a la carte OTA and mount are also worth considering.

A Few Frequently Asked Questions

Which telescope brand is better – Meade, Celestron or Orion?

Almost all of the major telescope brands make great products—and unfortunately, they all market irredeemable garbage at low price points, using their good reputations to fool newcomers. Brand loyalty or image should never be a factor in choosing a telescope or accessories.

Where should I buy telescopes from?

Amazon, Agena Astro, High Point Scientific, Orion Telescopes & Binoculars, Oceanside Photo and Telescope (OTPCorp), Omegon, and Tejraj are all trustworthy retailers of telescopes with excellent customer service.

How much is a decent telescope?

A decent telescope can cost as little as $100, but we recommend spending at least $150 to $200 for something good with no compromises. You get what you pay for.

Can you see galaxies with a telescope?

Any telescope can at least show you the Andromeda Galaxy, but the quality of your views and the number of galaxies depends on your telescope’s aperture, your light pollution and sky conditions, and your skill as an observer.

Are telescopes easy to maintain and service?

The most complicated things you’ll generally need to do to your telescope are to collimate it (at least check every time you take it out) and clean the optics every few months or years. Collimation requires nothing more than a star and/or a collimation tool and is explained in our guide, while cleaning is generally little more than a rinse with distilled water (for mirrors) or cleaning with optical tissue and coating-safe lens cleaner or lens wipes (for lenses).

Why are Dobsonian telescopes considered the best telescopes?

Dobsonian telescopes have smooth and simple motions – up and down, left and right with no complicated equatorial coordinates or locks or levers. Their simple construction means they’re also relatively lightweight, cheap, and easy to assemble, meaning you can put your money and focus on the telescope tube itself. The Dobsonian’s Newtonian reflector optical design also provides you the most aperture for your buck allowing you to see more of the Universe – and without the pesky chromatic aberration of a refractor.

Small, medium, & large telescopes – What’s the difference?

Usually, when astronomers refer to amateur-sized telescopes, they lump them into several classes. 
“Small” used to refer to telescopes of 6 inches of aperture or less, but the trend of larger and larger telescopes means that most astronomers today term “small” as being 8 inches of aperture or less.
“Medium” usually refers to telescopes with an aperture of between 8 and 13.1 inches. Larger amateur telescopes (almost all of which are Dobsonians) pretty much require truss tubes to be managed by one person and fit in an automobile.
“Large” is a confusing term because there is no set definition as to where it ends. Some people would call a 30” Dob a “large telescope”. However, we would term it to be anything between 14” and 22” in aperture. A 22” is about the largest one-person scope you can buy.
“Very large” usually refers to telescopes above 22” of aperture. Telescopes above 22” (with the exception of some very exotic and groundbreaking ATM builds) are simply not manageable by one person and seldom fit in a regular car or truck. They also typically cost over $10,000, so few tend to own them. The largest amateur-owned telescopes you typically see are 36” to 42” in aperture, but there are some 50-inch, 60-inch, and even two 72-inch amateur telescopes that either exist or are in development.


These are just a few things to keep in mind as you shop to get the best telescope for beginners. Whether you’re an avid astronomer at the local observatory or just a college student looking for something to poke out of your dorm room window, now you are prepared enough to make a smart decision about what telescope you want next.

Good luck getting the top telescope there is for your budget. 

An amateur astronomer and telescope maker from Connecticut who has been featured on TIME Magazine, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, La Vanguardia, and The Guardian. Zane has owned over 425 telescopes, of which around 400 he has actually gotten to take out under the stars.

30 thoughts on “Best Telescopes & Reviews: Comparing 200+ Scopes (2023)”

  1. Thanks for the information! I’ve been searching for one as a present for my husband. He loves to look up at the stars and try and find constellations and stars/planets, etc. Would #4 or #5 be better for him just stargazing and wanting to see more definition in the planets/stars? I don’t know what the difference is on relating to that! Just looking for help, even after reading the reviews and comparisons! Thanks for any and all help!

  2. Very comprehensive guide. I like the Zhumell z8 and z12. However can’t find it in Europe. Is it sold under a different name? Can you recommend an European equivalent?

  3. Hi Zane,

    I’m looking for my first telescope since high school. I’ll be spending most of my time looking at DSO’s. I’ve been looking at the Evolution 9.25 and it seems manageable to me. If I were to purchase something with a little bit larger aperture, a shorter focal ratio, and a mirror with as good or better quality lens, what do you feel would be a good way to go? A telescope which can be broken apart to carry works best. I’m pretty sure I can manage any single piece of 25-30 lbs, but 30lbs is pushing it if it’s the tube itself. Thanks!

    • Hi Steve,

      Personally I’m not sure whether I’d go for the Evolution 9.25. It is a little unsteady on its supplied mount. I have a C9.25 AVX and love it but the longer C9.25 tube really needs a steady mount like the CPC or a CGEM.

      I would highly recommend the Sky-Watcher 10″ Collapsible (with or without GoTo) – you’d be surprised how easy it is to move the tube (it is a bit over 30 pounds but has plenty of places to grab), and the base isn’t too much trouble. It’s a lot cheaper, more stable, and has more light gathering ability as well as a wider field of view.

  4. I live in an area with some light pollution. Celina, Ohio area. Dobsonians are the best for viewing because of light gathering? What is the best compact one that can do what a 12″-14″ dobsonians can do? Schmidt-Cassegrain type is what I’m talking about for ease of portability. My budget is $3000.00 or so. I want to be able to see and also be mobile. Thank you so much

    • What you are asking for doesn’t exist. Large SCTs are extremely bulky and actually harder to manage than a Dob.

  5. Hi Zane,
    Appreciate your reviews thank YOU.
    Want to buy my first telescope very confusing yet frustating to say the least when it comes to decision making !! 🤪
    Seems like Zhumell is your fav
    Unfortunately not available in Turkey. For my budget Meade & Celestron has put me off after reading your reviews,found a web site that distubutes Omegon,Orion& Sky Watcher brands .
    Overall i would like something that will blow me away ..even though on a resticted budget🙄 tossing up on Orion dobsonians / reflectors ..but Omegon is a new brand for me .
    I woul appreciate it greatly if you could compare both brands..just want enjoy the greater skies..planets nebula galaxies or any unexplained out there😃 cheers &TIA

  6. Hi Zane
    Just wondering what the determents on calculating light gathering power &how can i calculate a telescopes
    Light gathering power,i believe there is a formular cheers

  7. G’day Zane ..
    Trying to get my first telescope
    Just need a hand though,limited in choice due budget
    Hoping u can spare time to help make that decision a bit easier
    In much appreciation .Cheers

    -Omegon Dobson Telescope Advanced X N 203/1200

    -Skywatcher Dobson Telescope N 200/1200 Skyliner Classic DOB



  8. Hi Zane thank you for yr advice ..dont know why but to me Orion has written ‘Buy me ‘ all over it
    I ‘ve read your X review Orion xt8/Skywatcher 8″ dobs .With respect to your rating《Skyliner 5☆》and《Orion xt8 4.8☆》Though it seems that Orion has a better overall rating as opposed to Skywatcher ,as i’m indeed newbie did i miss a point other than Skywatcher had more accessories?
    Could you kindly round it up in laymans terms for it to sink in
    Ps.i have provided specifics of 3 diff dobs (not in anyorder of preferance ) ,pls pls pls if u could generously in brief let me know whyone is better than the other ..i would be everso grateful..

    **Omegon Dobson Telescope Advanced XN 203/1200
    Telescope Type Reflector (Mirror Telescope)
    Telescope Structure Newton
    Mirror Diameter 203 mm
    Focal Length 1200 mm
    Focus Ratio f / 6
    Separation Force 0.58
    Limit Brightness Mag 13.3
    Light Gathering Capacity 820
    Maximum Magnification 400x
    Optical Tube Weight 10.2 kg
    Optical Tube Structure Full Tube
    Focuser 2 ” Crayfird
    Stock Type Dobson
    Stock Dobson
    GoTo Control No
    Tracking No
    Tripod Wooden
    Eyepieces (1.25 ”) 1.25 ” Plossl 25mm
    Finder 8×50
    Accessory Tray Yes
    Total weight 20.4 kg
    Series Advenced X
    Observable Objects Moon & Planets, Nebula & Galaxy

    ***Skywatcher Dobson Telescope N 200/1200 Skyliner Classic DOB
    Design Newton
    Mirror Diameter 200mm
    Focal Length 1200mm
    Focus Ratio f / 6
    Separation Force 0.58
    Limit Brightness Mag 13.3
    Light Gathering Capacity 820
    Maximum Usable Magnification 400x
    Tube Weight 11 kg
    Tube Structure Full Tube
    Focuser Crayford
    Connection of Focuser to Eyepiece 2nd”
    Stock Dobson
    GoTo Control No
    Tracking No
    Stock Material Wooden
    Eyepieces (1.25 ”) 25mm, 10mm
    Finder Binoculars 9×50
    Eyepiece Adapter 1.25 ” – 2 ”
    Total weight 26 kg
    Observable Objects Moon and Planets, Nebula and Galaxies

    ***Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian
    Optical Design Reflector (Mirrored Telescope)
    Optic Diameter 203mm
    Focal Length 1200mm
    Focus Ratio f / 5.9
    Main Mirror Structure Parabolic
    Glass Material Low Thermal Expansion Borosilicate Glass
    Eyepieces (1.25 ”) Sirius Plossl 25mm
    Magnification with Eyepieces 48x
    Separation Force 0.57arcsec
    Lowest Magnification 29x
    Theoretical Maximum Magnification 406x
    Limit Brightness Magnitude 14.2
    Optical Quality Diffraction Limited
    Finder Binoculars EZ Finder II Red Dot Finder
    Focuser 2 ” Crayford (with 1.25 ” adapter)
    Secondary Mirror Block 47mm
    Secondary Chuck Blocking Diameter 23%
    Secondary Mirror Block Area 5%
    Mirror Coating Aluminum & Silicon Dioxide
    Stock Type Dobson
    Computer Compatibility –
    Tube Material Steel
    Tripod Material Wooden
    Optical Tube Length 118.1 cm
    Optical Tube Weight 9.2 kg
    Stock / Tripod Weight 9.38 kg
    Total weight 18.6 kg
    Observation Area Moon, Planets, Bright Deep Space.

    • I like the Omegon, but you’ll need to get a 9mm or 10mm eyepiece for it. Same with the XT8. All three are good scopes and very similar.

      • Very much appreciate professionalisim on the subject .Thanx for yr replies ..cheers 🚀🛰🪐🌞☄🌠🌝🙂🙂🙂🙂

  9. Thank you for the wonderful reviews and info. Looking for a nice beginner telescope that can grow along with our experience. Family of 4 and want to keep at lake house. Really want to be able to see planets, moon. $500ish budget.

    Thank you for your help

  10. HI Zane – Thanks for your reviews. We are in Sydney and light pollution is high. My son is 10 year old and we are looking to buy a decent telescope for viewing. Can you recommend one

  11. Hey Zane,

    I’m been wanting to purchase a telescope for a very long time and I really appreciate your feedback on the ones you mentioned. I’m a newbie at telescopes but I’ve been looking at the skywatcher 6” and the 8” just wondering what is the big difference between the two. The 8” is around the $445 range while the 6” is around $315.
    Thank you!

  12. Hi Zane,

    Love your telescope reviews and I am wondering what your goto pair of Binocs are. I almost have as much enjoyment using my cheap pair as I do my scope but am looking to upgrade.



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