Reviews & Rankings of 201 telescopes

Our team of experts has reviewed, rated, and ranked around 201 telescopes they have either owned or used at least once. Price classification is based on the average cost at the time of publishing. The current rate might be slightly different from the price groups. For current pricing, please check the retailers' websites. 

Caution

Almost everything decent is out of stock due to the pandemic. So if you want a scope, you'll have to place a backorder and wait several weeks to months, sadly. We'd also highly recommend telescope e-retailers because you'll get better technical and post-sales support, product range, deals from online telescope retailers, and also, better assurance that you'll get what you ordered. In the US, High Point Scientific, OPTCorp, 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 easy as your usual Amazon orders.

Jump to telescopes in the price range of :-

Below ~$75

Telescopes below $100 have to make large concessions in quality and usefulness to the point that they’re little more than fun toys for casual glimpses at the Moon, planets and other bright targets. However, if it’s all you can afford, the scopes below still beat having nothing. 

Rank 1
While not particularly useful overall, the Funscope 76 offers a super-cheap introduction to the world of astronomy and telescopes in a diminutive package. It’s not a serious observing tool by any means, but the FunScope comes with quality accessories and handles similarly to a much larger instrument.
Rank 2
The Meade Infinity 70 is one of the few inexpensive refractors we recommend. While lacking in aperture and suffering from chromatic aberration, the scope does come on a full-sized tripod - and offers considerably sharper images than the tabletop 76mm telescopes available in its price range.
Celestron Cometron Firstscope Tabletop Dobsonian
Rank 3
The Cometron FirstScope is similar to the Funscope in terms of overall usefulness and sports largely the same optics and accessories, but uses an optical as opposed to a battery-powered red dot finder. This may make the scope a little more inconvenient to use, but reduces the cost by a small amount.
National Park Foundation FirstScope Tabletop Dobsonian
Rank 4
The National Park Foundation FirstScope is the same basic telescope kit as the Cometron and Funscope 76mm tabletop telescopes, but lacks any finder at all - instead simply being aimed by sighting down the tube.
Rank 5
The basic bare-bones FirstScope will work okay, but lacks a finder or acceptable quality eyepieces. The views through this instrument at even low powers are mushy and the eyepieces feel like looking through a drinking straw.
Celestron FirstScope Moon Signature Tabletop Dobsonian
Rank 6
Identical to the Celestron Firstscope, but with a different optical tube decoration.

Rank 7Orion SpaceProbe II 76 Reflector3.7Not Recommended
Rank 8Zhumell 76 AZ Reflector3.7Not Recommended
Rank 9Celestron ExploraScope 70AZ Refractor3.7Not Recommended
Rank 10Celestron PowerSeeker 60 EQ
3.7Not Recommended
Rank 11Meade Infinity 60 Refractor3.6Not Recommended
Rank 12Meade Adventure Scope 603.6Not Recommended
Rank 13Celestron ExploraScope 60 AZ3.6Not Recommended
Rank 14Zhumell Z603.6Not Recommended
Rank 15Celestron AstroMaster LT 60AZ3.6Not Recommended
Rank 16Orion Observer II 70mm AZ3.5Not Recommended
Rank 17Zhumell 60 AZ3.5Not Recommended
Rank 18Orion Observer II 60mm AZ3.5Not Recommended
Rank 19Zhumell Z50
3.2Not Recommended
Rank 20Meade Infinity 50 Refractor2.9Not Recommended
Rank 21Celestron PowerSeeker 60 AZ
2.8Not Recommended
Rank 22Celestron PowerSeeker 70 AZ
2.7Not Recommended
Rank 23Celestron Travel Scope 702.5Not Recommended
Rank 24Orion GoScope III 702Not Recommended
Rank 25Celestron PowerSeeker 50 AZ2Not Recommended
Rank 26Celestron Travel Scope 502Not Recommended

Jump to telescopes in the price range of :-

~$100 range

Telescopes in the $100 range are acceptable but tend to come with either a mediocre mounting, mediocre accessories, or some other major limitation hindering performance. 

Rank 1
The Zhumell Z100, unlike its smaller sub-$100 brethren, offers a truly parabolic primary mirror allowing for sharp images of the Moon, planets, and other targets at anything but the lowest powers. It’s also extremely portable, fitting in even a moderately sized backpack.
Rank 2
The SkyScanner has all of the same advantages and disadvantages of the Z100 and exactly the same optics, but includes a 20mm Kellner eyepiece (20x) instead of the Z100’s 17mm Kellner (24x) for low power.
Meade Polaris 80 Reflector
Rank 4
The Meade Polaris 80 is far from our favorite, with a rather light-duty mount and cheapened build, but overall performs acceptably well provided you are careful not to bump it. It comes with a large range of accessories, although none are exactly high-quality.
Orion SpaceProbe II 76 EQ Reflector
Rank 5
The SpaceProbe II has significantly less light-gathering ability than even a 70mm refractor, but offers potentially the sharpest images of any of the scopes in its price range. However, the mount is a little confusing for beginners and the included accessories are decidedly mediocre.
Rank 6
The PowerSeeker 80EQ is similar to the Meade Polaris 80EQ, but with far inferior eyepieces and a totally useless finderscope. However, it does have adjustable tube rings which allows one to balance and rotate the tube more freely.
Celestron PowerSeeker 80AZS Refractor
Rank 7
The PowerSeeker 80AZS is almost useless for planetary and lunar observing thanks to its high amounts of chromatic aberration and abysmal included 4mm eyepiece and Barlow, but makes for a great wide-field instrument for viewing large deep-sky objects.

Rank 7Meade Polaris 70 Reflector3.7Not Recommended
Rank 8Celestron AstroMaster 76 EQ Reflector
3.7Not Recommended
Rank 9Celestron Inspire 70AZ Refractor
3.7Not Recommended
Rank 10Celestron PowerSeeker 70 EQ Refractor
3.7Not Recommended
Rank 11Orion Observer II 70mm EQ Refractor
3.7Not Recommended
Rank 12Meade StarPro AZ 70 Refractor
3.7Not Recommended
Rank 13Celestron AstroMaster 70EQ Refractor
3.7Not Recommended
Rank 14Celestron PowerSeeker 114 EQ Reflector
3.6Not Recommended
Rank 15Explore Scientific FirstLight 90mm Doublet Refractor AZ Mount
3.6Not Recommended
Rank 16Celestron Powerseeker 114AZ3.6Not Recommended
Rank 17Meade Adventure Scope 80 Refractor
3.6Not Recommended
Rank 18Celestron Travel Scope 80 Refractor
3.6Not Recommended
Rank 19Celestron Explorascope 80AZ Refractor
3.6Not Recommended
Rank 20Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ Refractor
3.6Not Recommended
Rank 21Explore FirstLight 70mm Refractor AZ Mount
3.6Not Recommended
Rank 22Orion Observer 80ST EQ Refractor
3.3Not Recommended
Rank 23Celestron AstroMaster LT 76AZ Reflector
3.2Not Recommended
Rank 24Celestron ExploraScope 114AZ Reflector
2.9Not Recommended
Rank 25Celestron AstroMaster LT 70AZ Refractor
2.9Not Recommended
Rank 26Zhumell Z70 Refractor
2.3Not Recommended

~$150 range

A budget of $150 will get you a workable telescope with few constraints that permanently hold it back, albeit with a few concessions on accessories. 

Zhumell Z114 Tabletop Dobsonian
Rank 1
The Zhumell Z114 offers many of the same advantages of the Z100, but with a collimatable and slightly larger primary mirror offering sharper images and 30% more light gathering capability. It features the same red dot finder and 17mm/10mm Kellner eyepieces that are included with the Z100.
Rank 2
The Infinity 90’s unobstructed aperture means that it ends up offering similarly bright and sharp views to the Z114, albeit with the disadvantage of chromatic aberration on bright targets such as the Moon and planets. It also features the same included accessory bundle (3 eyepieces and a Barlow) as most of the Meade Infinity and Polaris scopes.
Rank 3
The Infinity 80 is essentially an improved PowerSeeker 80AZS with a more versatile mount and vastly superior included accessories. While being a poor performer on high-magnification targets and offering less light gathering capability than its larger sister scopes, the Infinity 80’s super-wide field of view makes it easy to find and frame the largest targets.
Rank 4
Offering the most light-gathering capability in its price range, you might be wondering why the Polaris 130EQ isn’t at the top of our list. This is because Polaris 130EQ seems to suffer from less-than-ideal quality control and a significant proportion of 130EQs seem to ship with poorly figured primary mirrors, offering mushy images at even moderate magnifications. It’s a gamble you might want to pass on.
Meade Polaris 114 EQ Reflector
Rank 5
The Polaris 114EQ’s long focal ratio of f/8 makes it much easier to collimate and get sharp images compared to Zhumell Z114/Orion Starblast 4.5, but also reduces the scope’s maximum field of view, making finding targets slightly more difficult. Additionally, the scope’s meter-long tube is more likely to suffer from vibrations caused by wind or bumping it than a shorter instrument.
Explore One Aurora 114 Reflector
Rank 6
The Explore One Aurora 114 is marketed mainly towards kids, but makes for a surprisingly good scope for adults too - the optical tube is identical to the Zhumell Z114’s, the full-sized mount/tripod has slow-motion controls, and the included eyepieces are quite good. However, the Aurora’s red-dot finder is very poorly made and overall the scope has a relatively cheap feel to its construction.
Orion VersaGo E-Series 90 Refractor
Rank 7
The VersaGo E-Series 90 is an acceptable choice for beginners, but we’re not impressed by its inclusion of a 45-degree erecting prism instead of a true star diagonal. However, the optical tube is the same as the Meade Infinity 90, and the included Plossl eyepieces are quite well-made - with a real star diagonal, the VersaGo 90 is quite the performer.
Meade 80mm StarPro AZ Refractor
Rank 8
The StarPro 80 is an acceptable, albeit lackluster choice for the beginner. With only 80mm of aperture and a focal ratio of f/11, the StarPro is limited to the Moon, planets, and the brightest deep-sky objects. The scope’s mount is also on the lightweight side.
Celestron Cometron 114AZ Reflector
Rank 9
The Cometron 114AZ is simply a Z114/StarBlast optical tube perched atop a glorified photo tripod. While stable and of course quite capable of delivering sharp images, the lack of fine adjustment capability and the jerky motions of the mount make for a rather frustrating user experience out of the box.

Rank 10Celestron Inspire 80AZ Refractor
3.7Not Recommended
Rank 11AstroMaster 80AZS Reflector
3.7Not Recommended
Rank 12Celestron AstroMaster 90AZ Refractor
3.7Not Recommended
Rank 13StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ
3.6Not Recommended
Rank 14Orion GoScope 80 Refractor
3.3Not Recommended
Rank 15Meade S102 Refractor
3.2Not Recommended
Rank 16Levenhuk Skyline 120S Reflector
3Not Recommended
Rank 17StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ
2.8Not Recommended
Rank 18Meade Polaris 127 Reflector
1.5Not Recommended
Rank 19Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Reflector
1Not Recommended

~$200 range

With a budget of $200 or more, you’ve got a lot more options for a good telescope, with fewer compromises to the quality of the instrument itself or its accessories. 

Zhumell Z130 Tabletop Dobsonian
Rank 1
The Z130 is the best of the Zhumell tabletop Dobs, featuring even more aperture and a slower focal ratio of f/5 which makes it less demanding of collimation and eyepiece quality. Z130 comes with tube rings and a nicer focuser when compared to Heritage 130P. The only downside is that at over 20 pounds, you’ll be hard pressed to find a suitable surface for the scope to rest on.
Sky-Watcher Heritage 130p Tabletop Dobsonian
Rank 2
The Heritage includes the same accessories and sports the same optics as the Z130, but features a collapsible tube that allows it to fit into a smaller space and reduces the weight by a bit when compared to Z130 which makes it a better choice for kids. This does create the disadvantage of stray light being able to easily enter the tube, which can be (mostly) remedied by creating a foam shroud. For an adult, the weight difference is insignificant.
Rank 3
The Orion StarBlast is essentially identical to the Zhumell Z114 optically, but on a different mounting. The StarBlast II version is perched atop a rather spindly EQ-1 equatorial mount. While there is a bit of a learning curve to using the EQ-1, you’re rewarded with a full-sized tripod, equatorial movements and the ability to upgrade to motorized tracking later on.
Rank 4
While often recommended as a beginner telescope and indeed not a bad choice, the Orion StarBlast Astro is essentially identical to the cheaper Zhumell Z114, and offers no significant differences. At its price point, you’d be better served by the equatorially-mounted StarBlast II or one of the 130mm tabletop dobsonian reflectors.
Rank 5
The Infinity 102 is admittedly not our favorite choice in its price range due to the chromatic aberration and less-than-ideal mounting, but offers relatively sharp views and super-low maintenance, plus the potential for terrestrial viewing that reflectors lack.
Rank 6
The StarMax 90’s Maksutov-Cassegrain design makes for an ultra-portable planetary scope with great performance and a convenience factor that can’t be matched, but offers lackluster views of deep-sky objects and the simple mounting may frustrate some users.
Meade Polaris 90 Refractor
Rank 7
The Polaris 90 is a capable telescope, but lacks the aperture of our other recommendations in its price range, and the ergonomics of a long equatorial refractor on a mediocre equatorial mount are less-than-satisfactory.
Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refractor
Rank 8
The Inspire 100 is very similar to the Meade Infinity 102 in design and functionality, as well as sporting some nice conveniences such as a lens cap doubling as a smartphone adapter and some ergonomic improvements to the accessory tray, but has a significantly inferior mount and an often higher price tag than its competitor.

Rank 9Explore Scientific FirstLight 114 EQ3 Reflector3.8Not Recommended
Rank 10Celestron AstroMaster 90EQ Refractor
3.8Not Recommended
Rank 11Explore Scientific FirstLight 114 Twilight Nano Reflector3.7Not Recommended
Rank 12Celestron AstroMaster 130 EQ MD Reflector
3.6Not Recommended
Rank 13Celestron AstroMaster 130 EQ Reflector
3.6Not Recommended
Rank 14Orion StarBlast 90 Refractor
3.6Not Recommended
Rank 15Celestron Ambassador 50 Table Top Refractor
3Not Recommended
Rank 16Celestron AstroMaster 114 EQ Reflector2.7Not Recommended

~$250 range

Rank 1
The Orion XT4.5 may have less aperture than some of its cheaper rivals, but has an ultra-smooth true Dobsonian mount with real bearings, high-quality included Sirius Plossl eyepieces, and its long focal ratio makes it significantly easier to collimate. The scope’s long tube also means that it doesn’t necessarily need a full-height table or stool to be at a comfortable height for use - a milk crate or box will probably do.
Sky-Watcher Virtuoso 90 Catadioptric
Rank 2
The Virtuoso 90 is very similar in mechanics and performance to the Orion StarMax 90, but its motorized mount allows for hands-free automatic tracking, and makes for a fun platform to use for daytime panorama shots with a camera. The scope also includes a solar filter, making it a great platform for both day and night use.
Orion StarBlast 114mm Reflector
Rank 3
The StarBlast 114mm AutoTracker uses the same mount as the Virtuoso, but sports a 114mm reflector optical tube instead. Although superficially similar to the StarBlast 4.5 and Z114, the AutoTracker 114 is slightly longer in focal length (500mm vs. 450mm) and includes a collimation cap for easier collimation.
Orion SpaceProbe 130 EQ Reflector
Rank 4
The SpaceProbe 130EQ provides a decent amount of aperture on a sturdy EQ-2 mounting, but with a spherical f/6.7 primary mirror it provides less-than-sharp images at higher magnifications and the included Kellner eyepieces are rather substandard considering the scope’s price tag.
Meade 102mm StarPro AZ Refractor
Rank 5
The StarPro 102 is identical optically and includes the same accessories as the Meade Infinity 102, but at an oddly higher price and with a vastly inferior, less stable mount and tripod.
Rank 6
The AstroView 90’s long f/11 focal ratio makes for a great planetary scope with remarkably little chromatic aberration, and the included Sirius Plossl eyepieces provide crisp and sharp views. The scope’s EQ-2 mounting is also rock solid. However, the AstroView 90’s small aperture means it simply cannot compete in light grasp nor resolution with larger 114mm and 130mm reflectors, and it is outclassed in convenience by the 90mm Maksutov-Cassegrains at and below its price range.
Levenhuk Skyline Plus 130S Reflector
Rank 7
The SkyLine Plus 130S is little more than a rebranded SpaceProbe 130EQ with a significantly lower quality plastic 5x24 finderscope as opposed to the 130EQ’s 6x30, and a 2x Barlow tossed in. It’s not fabulous, but will do the job.
  • Rank 8 – Explore Scientific FirstLight AR102 Twilight Nano Refractor – 3.7
  • Rank 9 – Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ Refractor – 3.7
  • Rank 10Celestron 80 LCM GoTo Refractor3.2

~$300 range

A budget of $300 or more allows you to get into the full-sized 6” Dobsonians as well as a few computerized offerings. These are the entry-level into “grown-up” telescopes. 

Orion Skyline 6"
Dobsonian
Rank 1
The Orion SkyLine 6 provides some of the best value in its class. With an all-metal 1.25” Crayford focuser, high-quality 25mm (48x) and 9mm (133x) and a full-sized Dobsonian mount, you’re sure to get bright, sharp views of the heavens without having to deal with a tabletop mount nor a spindly tripod.
Apertura DT6
Dobsonian
Rank 2
The DT6 is essentially a SkyLine 6 copy without the included 9mm eyepiece, meaning you’ll have to go shopping for an extra eyepiece or two if you want high-magnification views of the Moon, planets, double stars, and globular star clusters. The eyepiece of the DT6 is a good 25mm Plossl, whereas the Skywatcher Classic comes with "Super" Modified Achromats, though they do come with both a 25mm and a 10mm instead of only the 25mm.
Rank 3
The Sky-Watcher 6” Traditional - like all 6” Dobsonians - offers tremendous value and convenience. Unlike the SkyLine 6, the 6” Traditional sports a 2” rack-and-pinion focuser, enabling the use of 2” eyepieces down the line. But you don't really need a 2" eyepiece in a 6" f/8 telescope due to secondary mirror illumination.
Rank 4
The XT6 Plus includes more accessories than its competitors - a solar filter and 2x Barlow lens to complement its 25mm and 10mm eyepieces, and an attractive white trim - but its 1.25” focuser is all plastic, plus the scope has a steeper price tag than other 6” Dobsonians.
Rank 5
The XT6 is sometimes the cheapest 6” Dobsonian available, and performs just as well as its competitors, but has the worst value. With a plastic, 1.25”-only focuser and only a single eyepiece (25mm, 48x), by the time you get it up and running you’ll have spent significantly more money than if you’d just bought one of the other scopes in its price range to begin with.
Rank 6
With its f/5 focal ratio, the StarBlast 6 provides a wider field of view and lower magnifications with a given eyepiece than the 6” f/8 Dobsonians listed above, but requires a rock-solid tabletop for use and has more stringent collimation requirements. At f/5, coma is noticeable, especially in wide-angle eyepieces, but it's not horrible for the price and portability.
Rank 7
The SpaceProbe 130ST is just a Z130/Heritage (our $200 picks) optical tube placed atop an EQ-2 equatorial mount, and includes high-quality Sirius Plossl eyepieces. While perhaps not the largest nor most advanced scope in its price range, the 130ST is a great platform for beginners and can be easily upgraded to motorized, hands-free tracking later on.
Explore FirstLight 100mm Mak EQ3
Rank 8
The Explore Scientific FirstLight 100mm Mak is a great lunar and planetary or “grab n’ go” scope thanks to its lightweight and ultra-compact form factor, and features some of the best optics possible for a scope in its size range. However, its included 25mm eyepiece (56x), star diagonal, and finderscope are rather sub-par, and the small aperture combined with the super-long focal ratio of f/14 means you won’t be viewing much in the way of deep-sky objects.
Explore FirstLight 80mm EQ3 Refractor
Rank 9
The FirstLight 80mm f/11 is a great scope optically, but suffers from the mediocre accessories of the other FirstLight scopes and a relatively small aperture of only 80mm, making it a poor choice for deep-sky viewing.
Celestron Astro Fi 90 Refractor GoTo
Rank 12
Like the other Astro-Fi telescopes, the Astro-Fi 90 is able to be completely controlled by your phone or smart device. The Astro-Fi 90 is lower on our list due to its small aperture and long focal length, which limits its target options to the point that the computerized mounting is of questionable usefulness to begin with. The views you get would be similar to the views provided by manual scopes in the $150 range.
Celestron Astro Fi 102 Reflector GoTo
Rank 10
The Astro-Fi 102’s Maksutov-Cassegrain optical design makes for a compact package, but the scope’s long focal length and rather small aperture prevent the GoTo technology from being of much use, as the 102 is limited to only the Moon, planets, and the brightest deep-sky targets which are relatively easy to locate manually.
Solomark Polaris 130EQ Reflector
Rank 13
The Polaris 130EQ is essentially a cheapened version of the SpaceProbe 130ST, with a Moon filter and Barlow lens included on top of the (mediocre) 25mm and 10mm eyepieces, and a slightly lower quality 6x30 finderscope compared to the 130ST’s.
Celestron Nexstar 90SLT Mak GoTo
Rank 11
The NexStar 90SLT is not a bad scope and features an acceptable mount and accessories along with great optics, but setting up and aligning the mount is time-consuming and quite frankly overkill for a small instrument that’s almost exclusively useful for the Moon and planets.
Rank 14
The ETX-80 is extremely portable, lightweight, and offers full GoTo and a super-wide field of view, but with a cheapened build and diminutive aperture it offers the worst value of anything in its price range.

Rank 15Sky-Watcher StarTravel 80 AZ-GTe Refractor3.7Not Recommended
Rank 16Sky-Watcher StarTravel 102 AZ3 Refractor
3.7Not Recommended
Rank 17Meade Starnavigator NG 90 GoTo Mak
3.6Not Recommended
Rank 18Meade Starnavigator NG 90 GoTo Refractor
3.6Not Recommended
Rank 19Celestron 114 LCM GoTo Reflector
3Not Recommended
Rank 20Meade StarNavigator NG 114 GoTo Reflector
3Not Recommended

~$350 - $550 range

In this budget, you can get an 8″ Dobsonian which is the best balance of aperture, portability, affordability, and simplicity for a beginner. Below 8″, you start to lose enough light-gathering ability to resolve much (though 6″ isn’t a horrible start, if that’s all you can do, the 8″ is definitely a better way to go). Most of the scopes we recommend in this category are well made enough to last you a lifetime, such as the 8” Dobsonians and various 5” and 6” tripod-mounted reflectors. 8″ Dobsonians are usually the most recommended in astronomy forums for beginners and hobbyists. 

Apertura AD8
Dobsonian
Rank 1
GSO-made 'best bang for your buck' offering from HighPointScientific, the US' largest telescope retailer. It's optically and functionally the same as the Zhumell Z8/Orion Skyline 8", but often priced lower and with superior customer service. Z8 and AD8 have the exact same set of eyepieces, focuser, altitude bearing, and finderscope.
Rank 2
Produced by the same company, GSO, the Zhumell Z8 is the exact replica of Apertura AD8 and is optically similar to Orion Skyline 8". If you can't get hold of Apertura AD8 for some reason, Zhumell Z8 is the clear 8" Dobsonian of choice.
Orion Skyline 8"
Dobsonian
Rank 3
Other than the branding, altitude bearings, and accessories, the Skyline 8" is the same scope as AD8/Z8 and is made by GSO as well. Orion's extreme price markup because of their brand name makes it the best pick only if the Apertura AD8 or Zhumell Z8 is not available.
Rank 5
The XT8 Plus features a bundle of extra accessories such as 2x Barlow lens and a solar filter which are not present in the Z8/AD8/Skyline 8, but lacks the cooling fan, right-angle finderscope, and laser collimator of the GSO 8”(Z8, AD8, Skyline 8) or the right-angle finderscope of Sky-Watcher Flextube.
Rank 6
Sky-Watcher's 8” Traditional is usually the cheapest 8" Dobsonian available in the US and comes with the bare essentials to get started, but its straight-through finderscope is uncomfortable to use and the included eyepieces are decidedly mediocre.
Rank 7
While lesser in aperture than similarly-priced offerings, the StarBlast 6i’s tremendously wide field of view and its IntelliScope PushTo system makes locating deep-sky objects an absolute breeze, and the included accessories are decent too.
Rank 8
The plain Orion XT8 is a nice scope, but needs some extra accessories - or at least a high-magnification eyepiece - to unlock its full capabilities, and by the time you invest in such an upgrade you could’ve just bought a scope with even more included out of the box.
Apertura DT8 Dobsonian
Rank 9
The DT8, like the XT8, is a solid choice for beginners but needs a high-magnification eyepiece for optimal planetary/lunar views and the price is a bit steep considering the lack of accessories.
The FirstLight 8’s included accessories are abysmal, but the unique variation on the Dobsonian mounting and ultra-heavy-duty focuser allow for greater versatility with heavy, expensive aftermarket wide-angle eyepieces, and the rotatable tube rings make for a slightly more comfortable observing experience.
The Astro-Fi 130 is optically identical to the 130ST and Z130, but sports a 2” plastic rack-and-pinion focuser. The Astro-Fi’s fully computerized GoTo mount is controlled by your phone or tablet, and will automatically slew to and track almost any object you choose. However, the scope is a bit of a battery guzzler and the free SkyPortal app is lacking - for optimal use you’ll need a rechargeable power supply and a copy of SkySafari Pro, both of which increase the price of this gizmo by quite a bit.
Rank 12
The Omni XLT 120 provides great lunar, planetary, and deep-sky views with all the elegance of a large equatorially-mounted refractor, and can be upgraded to motorized tracking later on. However, its chromatic aberration, complicated setup, and small aperture might make it a less-than-ideal choice for those looking for a simple beginner scope with bright views.
Rank 13
The Omni XLT 150 Reflector’s f/5 focal ratio and 750mm focal length provides a wider field of view than the 6” f/8 Dobsonians we’ve listed, bolstered further by the XLT’s 2” focuser. The scope’s equatorial mount can also be motorized later on for automatic tracking.
Rank 14
The AstroView 6 is functionally nearly identical to the Omni XLT 150 EQ, but lacks the Omni’s 2” Crayford focuser or tubular steel tripod legs. However, it sports a significantly lower price tag.
Rank 15
The StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ uses the same optical tube as the Astro-Fi 130 and other 130mm f/5 telescopes, but is mounted atop Celestron’s StarSense Explorer mount which assists in locating targets with your smartphone. However, the Astro-Fi 130 is similar in price and offers full tracking and GoTo, which is vastly preferable to the simple Push-To system of the DX 130AZ.
Rank 16
Like the DX130AZ, the StarSense Explorer DX102AZ has a smartphone-aided PushTo system that allows you to easily locate almost any object in the sky. However, with a relatively small aperture and a price tag big enough to obtain a larger and/or fully computerized instrument, it is not the most economically justifiable scope.
Orion StarSeeker IV 130mm Reflector GoTo
Rank 17
The StarSeeker IV 130mm features full GoTo, but unlike most computerized telescopes it can be pushed around manually without ruining the GoTo alignment - a huge plus. It can also be controlled via SkySafari just like the Celestron Astro-Fi telescopes. However, the included accessories are rather sub-par and the price is very steep for what you’re getting.
The 127SLT has sharp optics and enough aperture to show you some faint fuzzies, but the mount is undersized and the field of view of the telescope is quite narrow thanks to its long focal ratio.
Explore FirstLight 127mm Mak EQ3
Rank 19
The FirstLight 127mm Maksutov is a rock-solid scope with wonderfully sharp images, capable of absolutely stunning lunar and planetary views. It also lacks the cumbersome and wobbly computerized mount of the 127SLT. However, the FirstLight 127 has an even longer focal ratio (and thus tiny field of view), and the included accessories are nearly unusable.
Rank 21
The NexStar 130SLT is a decent telescope, but its tripod legs are not the best, and for less money you could get the Astro-Fi 130 which has the same views but is more stable and easier to align and control.
Rank 22
The NexStar 4SE is optically identical to the other Celestron and Orion 4” Maksutovs on our list, but has a built-in flip mirror and comes with the well-made NexStar SE mount. While the higher-quality gearing in the SE mount is nice, the main advertised features of the 4SE such as the flip mirror and built-in wedge are basically useless gimmicks, and you’d be better off with a larger computerized scope or with the Astro-Fi 102.
Orion StarSeeker IV 114mm Reflector GoTo
Rank 23
The 114mm StarSeeker IV offers the same flexibility in its mount control options as the 130mm StarSeeker IV, but the significant aperture reduction warrants question as to how worthwhile the GoTo system really is.
Explore FirstLight 130mm Newtonian Twilight I Mount
Rank 23
This scope is a bit unusual, with a taller-than-necessary focuser and a very nice (albeit probably overkill) mount. While indeed quite decent, the lack of decent accessories provided with the FirstLight 130mm combined with its small aperture means that its overall value for the money is debatable.
Celestron Omni XLT 102 Refractor
Rank 24
The Omni XLT 102 is a fine instrument, but rather lacking in aperture or accessories. We’d prefer its larger siblings like the XLT 120 or 150 if given the option.

Rank 25Sky-Watcher StarTravel 102 AZ-GTe Refractor
3.7Not Recommended
Rank 26Celestron Nexstar 102SLT Refractor GoTo
3.7Not Recommended
Rank 27Meade ETX90 Observer Mak GoTo
3.7Not Recommended
Rank 28Orion StarSeeker IV 150mm Reflector3.6Not Recommended
Rank 29Orion SkyView Pro 8 EQ Reflector
3.6Not Recommended
Rank 30Sky-Watcher StarTravel 120 AZ3 Refractor
3.6Not Recommended
Rank 31Meade StarNavigator NG 125 Maksutov GoTo
3.6Not Recommended
Rank 32Meade Starnavigator NG 102 Refractor GoTo
3.6Not Recommended
Rank 33Meade Starnavigator NG 130 Reflector GoTo
3.5Not Recommended

~$550 - $850 range

In this budget, you can get 10″ Dobsonians which gathers 56% more light compared to 8″ Dobsonians. It’s totally worth it if you don’t mind the weight and bulk. If you are going to be able to put the 10″ into your car and move it around to darker skies, get the 10″.

Apertura AD10
Dobsonian
Rank 1
The Apertura AD10 builds on the AD8 by adding just a bit more aperture. The accessories and focal length are the same, and the scope is only a tiny bit more bulky, but the views are over 56% brighter than an 8” scope! If you can afford the additional expense, it is well worth it compared to an 8” Dobsonian.
Zhumell Z10
Dobsonian
Rank 2
The Z10 is made by GSO, the same manufacturer as the Apertura AD scopes, but sold by a different company. It is absolutely identical to the AD10 in every way.
Orion Skyline 10"
Dobsonian
Rank 3
The Skyline 10 is identical to the Z10 and AD10, but at a significant price markup and occasionally with a cheap star chart tossed in.
Meade 10" LightBridge Plus Truss Tube Dobsonian
Rank 4
The Lightbridge Plus offers a significant portability bonus over the solid-tubed 10” and 8” scopes on our list. However, this comes at the cost of an increased setup time and slightly inferior included accessories - and for the best views you’ll want a cloth light shroud to cover the truss tube.
Rank 5
Explore Scientific’s 10” Truss Dob is quite pricey, but is all-metal in construction and is absurdly compact when dismantled. It also has multiple built-in cooling fans. The scope includes no eyepieces, however, and really needs a shroud to reduce stray light.
Sky-Watcher 10" Flextube Collapsible Dobsonian
Rank 6
The 10” Flextube is not as compact as the Explore Scientific and Meade truss offerings, but is much easier and quicker to assemble. It also comes with a nice 9x50 right-angle finderscope like the GSO Dobsonians.
Apertura DT10
Dobsonian
Rank 7
The DT10 is essentially a stripped-down AD10 with only a basic 25mm Plossl eyepiece, a straight-through rather than right-angle finder, a single-speed focuser, and none of the other accessories included. If you’d rather start basic and upgrade later, it’s not a bad choice.
Sky-Watcher 10" Classic Dobsonian
Rank 8
Another more “bare-bones” entry, the Sky-Watcher 10” Classic comes with two eyepieces, a 9x50 finderscope, and a single-speed focuser.
Orion SkyQuest XT10 Plus Dobsonian
Rank 9
The XT10 Plus is almost as well-accessorized as the GSO 10” Dobsonian and its various rebrands, but lacks a cooling fan and sports a higher price tag. It does, however, include a solar filter and 2x Barlow lens.
Rank 10
The XT8i’s Intelliscope system allows for easy, seamless location of deep-sky objects - though it doesn’t automatically slew the telescope to them nor track for you. If you’re feeling adventurous, the scope can just be used manually like any other Dob.
Explore Scientific FirstLight 10" Dobsonian
Rank 11
The FirstLight 10”, like its smaller brethren is well-designed but lacks even a functional set of accessories - the finder and eyepiece will need to be replaced right away.
Rank 12
The base XT10 is a great scope, but to get the most out of it you will definitely want more eyepieces, and perhaps a better finderscope - all the more reason to consider one of the more well-accessorized scopes listed above and save yourself the trouble.
Rank 13
The NexStar 6SE has enough aperture that it really begins to be able to take advantage of all that the computerized GoTo technology has to offer. It’s also remarkably compact.
Rank 14
While we’d prefer the 6SE due to its greater aperture (that extra inch matters a lot more than you might think!) the 5SE isn’t a bad choice for those on a budget or looking for a little more portability. However, if given the choice between the 5SE and a Dobsonian, a 6-10” Dobsonian is a much better choice for the money.
Explore FirstLight 102mm Doublet Refractor with Twilight I Mount
Rank 15
The FirstLight 102mm f/10 is a great scope optically, and the version sold with the award-winning Twilight I mount makes for a rock-solid piece of equipment. However, the included accessories are very poorly made, and an equatorial mount like that of the Celestron Omni XLT or Orion AstroView scopes might be more appealing to a refractor user.
Orion StarMax 127 EQ Mak
Rank 16
The StarMax 127 is a well-made instrument with good views, a solid mount, and decent accessories, but we think that there are much better deals given its high price.
Meade 5" LX65 Maksutov
Rank 17
The 5” LX65 has sharp optics and is on a well-made mount, but the NexStar 6SE is lighter, around the same price, and offers equally good planetary and vastly superior deep-sky views.
Rank 18
The AstroView 120ST’s large unobstructed aperture offers decent and high-contrast views of deep-sky objects. However, its fast focal ratio of f/5 combined with its 120mm aperture means it has absolutely massive amounts of chromatic aberration, making the scope borderline unusable for lunar/planetary and other high-magnification viewing.
Orion StarSeeker IV 127mm Mak GoTo
Rank 19
The StarSeeker IV 127mm Mak is much more stable than its NexStar counterpart and a lot more user-friendly than the 5” LX65, but lacks the versatility of the LX65 mount nor the sweeping deep-sky views of the StarSeeker 130mm.
Orion StarSeeker IV 102mm Mak GoTo
Rank 20
Apart from the dual optical encoders, the 102mm StarSeeker has no real advantages over the Celestron Astro-Fi 102, which is significantly cheaper and provides near-identical views and functionality.
Explore FirstLight 127mm Doublet Refractor with Twilight I
Rank 21
The FirstLight 127 Doublet/Twilight I is a great scope paired with a great mount. Unfortunately, said scope is a bit on the large side for its mount. The tripod is a bit too short and a bit too light-duty to properly accommodate the massive 127mm doublet OTA and allow it to reach its full potential.

Rank 21Meade ETX125 Observer Mak GoTo
3.9Not Recommended
Rank 22Celestron SkyProdigy 130 Reflector GoTo
3.6Not Recommended
Rank 23Celestron Ambassador 80 Refractor
3.5Not Recommended

~$850 - $1200 range

In this budget, the best for visual astronomy is 12″ Dobsonians which gathers 44% more light compared to 10″ Dobsonians. But remember, the best telescope is one that gets used. If you get one so big it’s a pain to use you’ll end up hardly using it. 12″ is the biggest little telescope available commercially. 14″ and above really hurt in portability and price. 

Meade 12" LightBridge Plus Dobsonian
Rank 1
While not the cheapest nor most well-accessorized on our list, with a 12” Dobsonian you’re beginning to almost require a truss tube due to the massive length and bulk of such an instrument - particularly if you plan to transport the scope and do not own a large vehicle. The 12” Meade Lightbridge Plus is very easy to set up and transport, and even the rocker box comes apart into flat sections for those needing the most compact form factor possible.
Sky-Watcher 12" Flextube Collapsible Dobsonian
Rank 2
The 12” Flextube is much simpler to assemble and disassemble than the Lightbridge, but does not break into as many nor as small pieces as its competitor. However, the collapsing tube may be all you need to fit it in a moderately-sized sedan or SUV.
Apertura AD12
Dobsonian
Rank 3
The AD12’s massive tube requires a strong owner and large vehicle (or a convenient at-home setup such as a dolly or cart to simply roll it outside) to be set up and transported easily, but if you can fulfill these requirements you’ll be rewarded with massive aperture and stunning views at a price that can’t be beat with the help of best accessories in the class.
Rank 4
The Z12 is basically the same as the AD12, though it is offered at slightly higher or lower prices depending on circumstances and available stock.
Orion SkyQuest XT10i Dobsonian PushTo
Rank 5
Like the other XTi scopes, the XT10i’s Intelliscope system aids in aiming the scope to thousands of deep-sky targets. The XT10i’s large cutouts in the base also greatly aid in overall portability and reduce the weight of the scope, making it an improvement over regular 10” Dobs even if you don’t plan on utilizing the Intelliscope system particularly often.
Orion Skyline 12" Dobsonian
Rank 6
The Skyline 12 is essentially identical to the Z12 and AD12 but at a much higher price. You can also buy the Skyline 12 as a “kit” with a 2” UHC filter and some charts included - for even more money.
Orion SkyQuest XT8g Dobsonian GoTo
Rank 7
The XT8g features full GoTo, but can be pushed around manually with or without aligning the GoTo system - and without disrupting the alignment of said GoTo system. It also has the same dual-speed focuser as the higher-end 8” manual Dobsonians on our list, and can even be controlled via your phone or tablet with the SynScan Pro app or SkySafari.
Sky-Watcher 8" Flextube SynScan Collapsible Dobsonian GoTo
Rank 8
The GoTo 8” Collapsible is more or less a regular 8” Collapsible with the same SynScan system as the XT8g, but without the XT8g’s dual-speed focuser.
Apertura DT12
Dobsonian
Rank 9
The budget pick for a 12” Dobsonian. While considerably less expensive than the AD12/Z12, the DT12, like its smaller cousins, lacks any of the bonus accessories; including a single 25mm eyepiece, 50mm straight-through finder, and only a single-speed focuser.
Meade 6" Lx65 ACF Catadioptric GoTo
The 6” LX65 has considerably sharper optics than the NexStar 6SE thanks to its ACF design, and a considerably heavier-duty mount. However, the user interface is a bit more outdated and challenging to master than the more beginner-friendly NexStar, and the unit is quite a bit heavier.
Rank 11
While still a decent pick, the 8SE’s mount is less than ideal due to its rather small tripod legs and lightweight single-arm fork design. We’d recommend stepping up to the 8” NexStar Evolution or CPC if you must have an 8” GoTo scope.
Celestron Advanced VX Series 6" Newtonian
Rank 12
The 6” Advanced VX Newtonian is easier to get the hang of using - especially for astrophotography - than even its 8” model, due to its lighter weight and shorter tube, but lacks the 2” focuser of the 8” model (which is more suitable for fitting a camera to) or as much aperture for visual astronomy.
Meade 6" LX65 Maksutov GoTo
Rank 13
The Maksutov version of the 6” LX65 possesses a narrower field of view but slightly sharper images and a lower price tag compared to the ACF scope.
  • Rank 14 – Orion StarSeeker IV 150mm Mak GoTo – 3.8
  • Rank 15 – Celestron SkyProdigy 6 SCT GoTo – 3.7

~$1200 - $1500 range

Explore Scientific 12" Truss Tube Dobsonian
Rank 1
Offering even more portability than the 12” Lightbridge Plus Dobsonian, the ES 12” Truss Dobsonian can even fit in a passenger seat!!
Orion SkyQuest XT12i Dobsonian PushTo
Rank 2
While possessing the same massive size as the AD12 and its rebranded variants, the XT12i features Orion’s Intelliscope system like its smaller brethren, and comes with cutouts in the base which greatly enhance portability.
Sky-Watcher 10" Collapsible Dobsonian GoTo
Rank 3
Featuring full GoTo and a collapsible tube, the 10” Collapsible is a great option for beginners and experienced users alike. Like most GoTo Dobsonians, the 10” Collapsible can be operated completely manually should you not want to use the GoTo system, and it can be adjusted manually without upsetting the GoTo alignment.
Orion SkyQuest XT10g Dobsonain GoTo
Rank 4
The XT10G is basically identical in operation to the 10” Collapsible GoTo, but of course lacks the collapsible tube - and features a dual-speed focuser, unlike the Collapsible.
Celestron NexStar Evolution 6 Schmidt-Cassegrain GoTo
Rank 5
The Evolution 6 features substantial improvements over the NexStar 6SE - mainly, a built-in lithium-ion battery and Wi-Fi control capability out of the box. It also has better gearing, a slightly simpler setup, and comes with two eyepieces out of the box as opposed to the 6SE’s single 25mm Plossl. However, the views are identical to those through the 6SE.
Celestron Advanced VX Series 8" Newtonian
Rank 6
The Advanced VX is a decent platform for learning astrophotography, but quite a complicated rig to set up and assemble and arguably overkill for visual use.
Celestron Advanced VX Series 6" Refractor GoTo
Rank 7
The 6” Advanced VX Refractor suffers from some chromatic aberration, and is certainly not the astrophotography-ready platform that marketing material might suggest. It’s a great choice for those who want a big refractor, though you might want to ponder what it is that’s so appealing about such a rig before purchasing.

~$1500 - $2000 range

Rank 1
The XX12i functions similarly to the Meade Lightbridge 12, but features Orion’s Intelliscope Push-To system like the smaller XTi scopes in Orion’s catalog.
Rank 2
The 8” Evolution has the same bells and whistles as the 6”, but with more aperture - and is a substantially steadier and more well-made scope than its cheaper cousin, the NexStar 8SE.
Orion Atlas 8 EQ-G Reflector GoTo
Rank 3
The Atlas 8 is absolutely overkill for visual astronomy, but makes for a great beginner astrophotography setup if an autoguider and coma corrector are added.
Rank 4
The 8” Advanced VX Schmidt-Cassegrain makes for a surprisingly portable setup, and is especially good for planetary imaging. However, the Advanced VX is simply not up to the task of supporting the 8” Schmidt-Cassegrain optical tube for deep-sky astrophotography - nor is a C8 an ideal first astrophotography scope.
Orion Sirius ED80 EQ-G Refractor GoTo
Rank 5
The Sirius ED80 is a great scope for astrophotography - though you could probably assemble a better rig if you shop a la carte. However, its extremely cumbersome mount and small aperture make it nearly useless for visual astronomy.
Celestron CPC 800 GPS SCT GoTo
Rank 6
The CPC 800 is a little less fancy than the 8” NexStar Evolution, but comes on a beefier mount and can be used for astrophotography on an equatorial wedge (sold separately).
Orion SkyView Pro 180 EQ Mak
Rank 7
Not Recommended

~$2000 range

Orion SkyQuest XX12g Dobsonian GoTo
Rank 1
The XX12g is identical to the XX12i, but with full GoTo as opposed to the Intelliscope system. It’s probably the most rewarding scope to use of all the ones we recommend on our list. Larger and more expensive GoTo Dobsonians exist, but we’d recommend sticking with a 12” or smaller scope to start with.
Sky-Watcher 12" Flextube Dobsonian GoTo
Rank 2
The 12” Flextube is a little more cumbersome than the XX12g, but considerably simpler to set up for each use - it’s best if you have a minivan or truck to transport it, however - or if you can store and roll it out of a garage.
Orion Sirius EQ-G GoTo 180mm Maksutov GoTo
Rank 3
7” Maksutovs are a bit of a specialty project - mainly useful for lunar and planetary viewing - but the Sirius 180mm is a great pick - not only does it have great optics, but the Sirius EQ-G mount is great for astrophotography with a smaller and shorter telescope later on.
Rank 4
The Advanced VX 700 is identical optically to the Sirius 180mm, but the mount is a little more beefy - at the expense of being slightly less well-suited for astrophotography with another telescope.
Orion Atlas 10 EQ-G Reflector GoTo
Rank 5
The Atlas 10 provides great deep-sky views and with some patience can be configured for deep-sky astrophotography. However, it is incredibly cumbersome and absolutely nightmarish to set up, arguably belonging in some sort of permanent observatory or at least stored in a way that it can be rolled outside fully assembled.
Celestron 9.25" NexStar Evolution Schmidt Cassegrain GoTo
Rank 6
The 9.25” NexStar Evolution is an extremely massive setup - as bulky as the 12” Dobsonians on our list. However, it’s got all of the same features as the Evolution 8 with just a bit more aperture - all perched atop a super-heavy-duty tripod.
Orion SkyView Pro 180 EQ Mak GoTo
Rank 7
Not Recommended
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