Orion’s XX series of Dobsonians offers both IntelliScope and GoTo truss Dobsonians at an affordable price point. The XX12i is the smaller of the two IntelliScope versions and the cheapest model in the whole line.
- The Telescope Optical Assembly
The XX12i’s “tube” is composed of two steel segments with aluminum trusses linking them together. This allows you to fit the entire scope (theoretically) into a smaller car than a solid-tubed, single-piece scope like the Zhumell Z12, a water heater-sized monstrosity that takes up my entire hatchback and is hard for one person to work with. The XX12i’s tube, when disassembled, turns into a 26” long lower tube assembly, eight 22” long truss poles, and an 8” long upper tube assembly.
The assembly process of the tube is pretty simple. You attach the lower segment of the tube to the Dobsonian base, then attach the four truss pole pairs using the hand knobs provided. The upper tube assembly then sets on top of the trusses and is secured using four hand knobs. This entire process takes only a few minutes.
The main disadvantage of using a truss system is that stray light can shine into the tube far more easily, causing glare and contrast loss. This is easily solved by purchasing or making a light shroud – essentially a black Spandex or Lycra sock that fits around the trusses – Orion and various third parties sell one or you can sew your own out of Lycra.
The optical quality of the XX series of scopes is outstanding, as with the XT scop.es I’ve rarely heard anyone complain about them. The XX12i and XT12i both have given me fantastic lunar, planetary, and deep-sky views. The primary mirror sits on a 9-point floatation cell with a cooling fan on the back.
The focuser on the XX scopes is Orion’s dual-speed 2” Crayford model. It works almost as well as a more expensive unit like a Moonlite or Feather Touch, and most users will probably never need to upgrade to one of those.
The XX12i and XX14i both come with a 9×50 straight-through finderscope. This finder works well, but you shouldn’t need it much thanks to the IntelliScope. A red dot sight will work just as well, as will a Telrad.
The eyepieces included with the XX12i are a bit of a token effort. The 35mm DeepView (a glorified Kellner) performs rather poorly at the XX12i’s fast focal ratio of f/4.9, and actually provides too low of a magnification (42x) to be of much use – the exit pupil of 7.09mm is so big that many users will see image brightness loss and the shadow of the secondary mirror will be visible at the center of the field. The 10mm Plossl (150x) is acceptable, but you will probably want something better. Our guide provides a good selection of some higher-quality eyepieces you might want to consider – personally, I’d go with the Meade Series 5000 UWAs.
The included collimation cap with the XX12i is somewhat of a joke – you’re best off collimating on a star or using a laser collimator. Read our guide for more information on how to do that.
- The Mount & Orion Intelliscope
The XX12i’s mount is made out of particle board, as is typical with Chinese-made Dobsonians. You assemble it with a series of included screws and a hex wrench, which takes only a few minutes. And you’ll probably find yourself doing this often – the mount is tall and wide enough that it is quite difficult to fit it assembled into many vehicles without accidentally scratching the inside of your car. This is quite a big inconvenience to deal with on a regular basis, and with routine assembly/disassembly of the mount you risk chipping it or exposing the particle board (which easily warps and rots) to moisture damage.
Unusually, unlike on their smaller XT scopes, which use a bearing of melamine or whatever covers the whole base directly on cheap Teflon pads, the XX12i and larger XX scopes use real Ebony Star on chunky, thick Teflon pads for the most buttery-smooth motions possible. I’m not sure how Orion still has a stockpile of Ebony Star since that stuff was discontinued a while ago, but it works great.
The tube secures to the mount with two hand knobs which also adjust the tension/friction on the attitude axis. While it’s a little less convenient nor ideal compared to the spring tensioning system on the regular XT scopes, this system is much easier for the IntelliScope’s encoders to install onto.
The Orion IntelliScope system is extremely simple to use. While it doesn’t of course slew the scope to the target by itself, the IntelliScope quickly and easily guides you to any object of your choosing after an initial star alignment – and you don’t have to use it. The scope works fine completely manually without the IntelliScope.
I would highly recommend the XT12i to beginners and experienced amateurs alike. However, definitely keep in mind that this scope is time-consuming and requires a large vehicle to transport, and definitely leave some room in the budget for a few eyepieces and perhaps a laser or Cheshire collimator.