Ranking 185 Telescopes with Price Groups

Rank & ratings last updated on

We believe that anyone purchasing a telescope ought to make at least $300 in savings. If you're serious about the hobby, you should increase your budget to $400 or more; in fact, this is the cost range that we recommend for most amateur astronomers. However, the low-cost, below $300 telescopes that are portable and simple to use can help you decide whether you want to upgrade to a larger telescope later on. For the majority of you, the 8" Dobsonian, which costs around $700, would be the best option. Astrophotography is even further outside of this budget, which requires telescopes costing at least $1500.
Caution
Though it is almost 2023, COVID-related disruptions in production lines combined with high consumer demand for telescopes have disrupted the industry, and thus, if you want a scope, you may have to place a backorder and wait several weeks to months. Furthermore, almost all telescopes have seen considerable price increases (30% to 50% on average) in the last 1-2 years.
We recommend avoiding Amazon for larger telescopes ($400+) because online US telescope retailers provide superior technical and post-sales assistance, product choice, and pricing, as well as a better guarantee that you'll get what you paid for. Most $400+ telescopes come with two boxes containing the optical tube and base, and Amazon (or some of its third-party merchants) is infamous in the astronomy community for shipping only one of the two boxes occasionally. However, we still love Amazon for everything else, and we'd recommend it for accessories, lower-cost telescopes, and even $300+ telescopes if (and only if) the value and availability are appealing! High Point Scientific, AgenaAstro, Astronomics, and Orion's Telescope.com are all reputable US sellers with good shipping, refund, and financing options, and your shopping experience will be comparable to that of your typical Amazon purchases. Of all the US retailers, High Point Scientific, the largest internet telescope retailer in the United States, is the community favourite.
$150
$200
$275
$350
$450
$700
$950
$1250
$1750
$2250

Around ~$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
3.7/5
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.
Celestron Cometron Firstscope Tabletop Dobsonian
Rank 2
3.6/5
The Cometron FirstScope is similar to the Orion 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 3
3.5/5
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 4
3.4/5
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 5
3.4/5
It is identical to the Celestron Firstscope but with a different optical tube decoration.
Rank 6Orion SpaceProbe II 76 Reflector2.7
Rank 7Gskyer Telescope 70mm Refractor2.5
Rank 8Zhumell 76 AZ Reflector2.4
Rank 9Celestron Powerseeker 70AZ Refractor2.2
Rank 10Hexeum Telescope 70mm Refractor2.2
Rank 11Celestron ExploraScope 70AZ Refractor2
Rank 12Celestron ExploraScope 60 AZ Refractor2
Rank 13Celestron Travel Scope 70 Refractor1.9
Rank 14Celestron PowerSeeker 60 EQ Refractor
1.9
Rank 15Celestron PowerSeeker 60 AZ Refractor
1.9
Rank 16Celestron Travel Scope 60 DX Refractor1.8
Rank 17Orion Observer II 70mm AZ Refractor1.8
Rank 18Orion Observer II 60mm AZ Refractor1.8
Rank 19Celestron AstroMaster LT 60AZ Refractor1.7
Rank 20Zhumell 60 AZ Refractor1.6
Rank 21Celestron PowerSeeker 50 AZ Refractor1.4
Rank 22iOptron iExplore 70AZ Refractor1.4
Rank 23ToyerBee Telescope 70mm Refractor1.3
Rank 24Zhumell Z60 Refractor1.3
Rank 25Zhumell Z50 Refractor1.3
Rank 26Celestron Travel Scope 50 Refractor1.3
Rank 27Orion GoScope III 70 Refractor1.2

~$150 range

Telescopes in the $150 range are acceptable but tend to come with either a mediocre mount, mediocre accessories, or some other major limitation hindering performance. 
Rank 1
4.25/5
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 into even a moderately sized backpack.
Rank 2
4.25/5
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.
SarBlue Mak60 with Dobsonian Mount
Rank 3
4.1/5
It won’t win any prizes for stunning deep-sky vistas, but the Mak60 and Dobsonian mount package provide a tremendously portable scope with sharp views of the Moon, planets, and double stars, with a reasonably useful set of included accessories and a steady, easy-to-aim mount.
Orion SpaceProbe II 76 EQ Reflector
Rank 4
3.9/5
The SpaceProbe II 76 EQ lacks aperture, but it’s easy to use and the views of the Moon and planets are sharper and brighter than those through low-quality cheap refractors. The included mount and accessories are plenty good to get started with, too.
SarBlue Mak60 with Freestanding Tripod
Rank 5
3.8/5
The Mak60 configuration with a standard photo tripod works well, though aiming at high magnifications can be frustrating. This scope is great for viewing the Moon and planets, but tracking them manually at high magnification on its provided tripod can be a challenge.
Orion SkyScanner BL102mm
Rank 7
3.2/5
The SkyScanner BL102 has questionable optical quality, a mediocre build, and eyepieces that are straight up junk. It's a strange, unusual, and sudden departure for a company known primarily for its high-quality Dobsonians.
Explore Scientific FirstLight 90mm Doublet Refractor with AZ Mount
Rank 8
3.1/5
The FirstLight 90mm doublet provides pleasing low-power views and is easy to use. However, the included tripod is less-than-stable and the scope suffers from chromatic aberration on bright targets such as the Moon and planets.
Rank 9
3.1/5
The PowerSeeker 80EQ is an okay telescope, but its equatorial mount isn't the best and the supplied eyepieces and finderscope are nearly unusable, making it a less-than-decent choice. However, it does have adjustable tube rings, which allow one to balance and rotate the tube more freely.
Celestron PowerSeeker 80AZS Refractor
Rank 10
3.1/5
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 11
3.1/5
The AstroMaster 76EQ 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 on a relatively sturdy mount.
Rank 12Celestron Inspire 70AZ Refractor
3
Rank 13Celestron PowerSeeker 70 EQ Refractor
3
Rank 14Celestron AstroMaster 70EQ Refractor
2.9
Rank 15Abotec 80mm Aperture 500mm Refractor2.7
Rank 16Celestron Explorascope 80AZ Refractor
2.7
Rank 17Celestron AstroMaster LT 76AZ Reflector
2.7
Rank 18Celestron Travel Scope 80 Refractor
2.5
Rank 19Explore FirstLight 70mm Refractor AZ Mount
2.5
Rank 20Celestron PowerSeeker 114 AZ Reflector2.3
Rank 21Celestron PowerSeeker 114 EQ Reflector2.3
Rank 22Orion Observer 80ST EQ Refractor2.3
Rank 23Celestron AstroMaster LT 70AZ Refractor
2.3
Rank 24Hexeum Telescope 80mm Refractor2.2
Rank 25Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ Refractor2
Rank 26Celestron Travel Scope 70 DX Refractor1.9
Rank 27Celestron ExploraScope 114AZ Reflector
1.8
Rank 28Zhumell Z70 Refractor
1.8

~$200 range

A budget of $200 will get you a workable telescope with few constraints that permanently hold it back, albeit with a few concessions on accessories. 
Rank 1
4.3/5
The Zhumell Z114 offers many of the same advantages as 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
4.1/5
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.
Explore One Aurora 114 Reflector
Rank 3
3.8/5
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.
Celestron Cometron 114AZ Reflector
Rank 4
3.7/5
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 5
3.7/5
The StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ Refractor has decent optics and a pair of quality eyepieces included. It’s also very easy to aim thanks to Celestron’s StarSense Explorer Technology. However, there are probably a dozen things you can actually see with this telescope where the StarSense Explorer app might be of any benefit, due to the pitifully small 80mm aperture.
Explore Scientific FirstLight AR80 White Refractor with Twilight Nano
Rank 6
3.7/5
The FirstLight AR80 is cheap and lacks a good set of accessories, but it's hard to argue with its good optics, simple and sturdy mount, and almost unmatched convenience. It's great for travel or as a "grab n' go" scope, and its wide field of view makes it great for viewing large deep-sky objects. With a focal ratio of f/8, it doesn't have too much chromatic aberration and can thus provide thrilling views of the Moon and planets.
Celestron Inspire 80AZ Refractor
Rank 7
3.4/5
The Inspire 80AZ has good optics and comes with decent accessories, but offers neither a wide field of view nor an equatorial mount with fine adjustments, and its included red dot finder can be confusing to get used to.
Orion Observer 114mm Reflector
Rank 8
3/5
The Observer 114mm is essentially just a cheapened StarBlast II with lower quality fittings and seemingly worse quality assurance. When the StarBlast II is a known quantity with a minuscule difference in price, this doesn’t strike us as a worthwhile gamble.
Gskyer Telescope 80mm Refractor
Rank 9
3/5
Rank 10Orion VersaGo E-Series 90mm Refractor2.9
Rank 11Celestron AstroMaster 90AZ Refractor2.6
Rank 12AstroMaster 80AZS Refractor
2.6
Rank 13StarSense Explorer LT 114AZ Reflector2.4
Rank 14Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Reflector1.3

$250-$325 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. 
Rank 1
4.3/5
The Heritage 130P has a whopping 130mm (5.1") of aperture, includes a pair of great eyepieces and a collimation tool, and also features a collapsible tube that allows it to fit into a smaller space, 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. However, the compactness and light weight are more than worth this minor inconvenience.
Rank 2
4.3/5
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. The Z130 comes with tube rings and a nicer focuser when compared to the 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.
Rank 3
4/5
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.
Gskyer Telescope 130EQ Reflector
Rank 4
3.9/5
The lack of a well-known brand may be off-putting to some, but the GSKYER 130mm EQ features a tremendously nice 1.25” all-metal Crayford focuser, the optics are just as good as the other 130mm f/5s on the market, and the included (though mislabeled) set of three 1.25” Kellner eyepieces isn’t bad either. The scope’s equatorial mount is not the steadiest, however, especially compared to a good Dobsonian.
Rank 5
3.8/5
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 it offers lackluster views of deep-sky objects and the simple mounting may frustrate some users.
Explore FirstLight 80mm EQ3 Refractor
Rank 6
3.7/5
The FirstLight 80 has rock-solid optics with a long enough focal ratio to mostly escape the troubles of chromatic aberration, along with a sturdy equatorial mount, but its included accessories are somewhat lacking.
Orion Observer 90 Refractor
Rank 7
3.4/5
The Observer 90's long f/10 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-3 mounting is also rock solid.
Celestron AstroMaster 90EQ Refractor
Rank 8
3.2/5
The AstroMaster 90EQ is a fairly good instrument, and the included mount holds it adequately, but the included accessories are rather poor, and the mount can be frustrating for beginners. An alt-azimuth mounted 80mm or 100mm refractor is probably a better choice in its price range.
Explore Scientific FirstLight 114 EQ3 Reflector
Rank 9
3.1/5
The FirstLight 114mm EQ3 is a fine scope, but the included accessories are low-quality and the price tag is quite high for what you get. Consider the Orion StarBlast II or Zhumell Z114 instead.
Explore Scientific FirstLight 114 Twilight Nano Reflector
Rank 10
3.1/5
The FirstLight 114mm Twilight Nano features a full-sized alt-azimuth mount and tripod—but why? A Dobsonian is cheaper, more stable, and easier to aim, while an equatorial mount is more versatile. As with all of the FirstLight scopes, you’re not getting a good deal on the provided accessories, either; they’re basically decorations.
Orion Observer 134mm Reflector
Rank 11
3/5
The Observer 134mm’s questionable optical quality, cheap cast fittings, low-quality finderscope, and the vignetting caused by its comically tall focuser pretty much ruin any consideration of it being viewed as a quality telescope. The price tag isn’t a hoot, either.
Gskyer 90mm Refractor 
Rank 12
3/5
Rank 13Celestron AstroMaster 130 EQ MD Reflector
2.4
Rank 14Celestron AstroMaster 130 EQ Reflector2.4
Rank 15Orion StarBlast 90 Refractor
1.7
Rank 16Celestron AstroMaster 114 EQ Reflector1.7
Rank 17Celestron Ambassador 50 Table Top Refractor
1.3

~$300-$400 range

Rank 1
4.5/5
The Heritage 150P is essentially a bigger version of the smaller 130mm Heritage, with the same user-friendly tabletop Dobsonian mount and collapsible tube but a bit more light gathering capability. While still a tabletop telescope, it packs great views in a package that can fit in almost any vehicle, storage space, or container.
Most Portable
Sky-Watcher Virtuoso 90 Catadioptric
Rank 2
4/5
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.
Popular Science Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 100AZ Refractor
Rank 3
4.2/5
Sporting the same great features of the StarSense Explorer DX 102AZ but with a significantly lower price, this scope is quite a bargain for what you get and compares favorably in view quality to 114mm reflectors in its price range. The StarSense Explorer technology is a nice (if unnecessary) bonus that’s included for essentially no extra cost.
Rank 4
3.9/5
The SpaceProbe 130ST is just a Z130/Heritage (our $200 pick) 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.
Rank 5
3.5/5
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 or resolution with larger 114mm and 130mm reflectors, and it is outclassed in convenience by the 90mm Maksutov-Cassegrains at and below its price range.
Rank 6
3.5/5
The Inspire 100AZ is admittedly not our favorite choice in its price range due to the chromatic aberration, but it offers relatively sharp views and super-low maintenance, plus the potential for terrestrial viewing that reflectors lack. It also sports 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.
Orion SkyScanner BL135mm Dobsonian
Rank 7
3.45/5
Not only does the SkyScanner BL135 have an uncomfortably low height for a free-standing instrument, but it also suffers from a variety of shortcomings. Its optics are satisfactory, but the Dobsonian mount is poorly made, the focuser is almost unusable, and the eyepieces and finder are cheap garbage. The BL135 is quite literally an Orion-branded generic instrument that can be found on Alibaba, so there isn't anything unique here. 
Explore Scientific FirstLight 130mm EQ3 Reflector
Rank 8
3.3/5
The FirstLight 130mm Newtonian is undermounted, the secondary mirror is undersized, stopping it down to around 120mm, and the included accessories are not very good. We’d steer clear—the 130mm equatorial scopes from Orion and GSKYER are much nicer, and a Dobsonian is better still.
Sky-Watcher StarTravel 102 AZ3 Refractor
Rank 9
3.3/5
The StarTravel 102AZ3's build quality is great, and its short 500mm focal length and 2" focuser make it great for wide-field deep-sky sweeping, but the scope's fast f/4.9 optics make it unsuitable for lunar and planetary viewing, and its supplied mount and star diagonal are far from good for the price.
Explore FirstLight 102mm Doublet Refractor with EXOS EQ Nano
Rank 10
3.1/5
The 102mm f/9.8 refractor offered by Explore Scientific and Bresser excels in its optical quality. The Exos Nano EQ-3 mount is adequate, though weighing it down somehow might be a good idea. You’ll want to replace the accessories, too. And maybe the focuser. Think of this one as a blank canvas to turn into a Picasso.
  • Rank 11 - Explore Scientific FirstLight AR102 Twilight Nano Refractor - 3
  • Rank 12 - Celestron AstroMaster 102AZ Refractor - 2.8
  • Rank 13 - Orion StarBlast 102mm - 2.5
  • Rank 14 - Celestron 80 LCM GoTo Refractor - 2.2

~$400-$550 range

A budget of $400 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. 
Best Value
Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 150P Dobsonian
Rank 1
4.8/5
The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 150P is a fully GoTo 6” telescope in a compact, lightweight package that can be used manually. With quality optics, well-made included eyepieces, and the ability to be used manually even while the mount’s electronics are powered on and aligned with the sky, it’s hard to argue against this fabulous instrument-especially at a price on par with most manual telescopes of its aperture.
Rank 2
4.7/5
The Apertura DT6 may not have the widest field of view thanks to its 1.25”-only focuser, nor much in the way of accessories. However, it’s easy to collimate, its focuser is well-made and all-metal, and it’s the best deal there is on a free-standing 6” Dobsonian. You’ll need more eyepieces and might want to consider replacing the finder, but the DT6 will serve you well for a long time.
Rank 3
4.5/5
The XT6 is a nice scope with well-designed altitude bearings, good optics, and a 2” metal Crayford focuser, but its high price tag and basic accessories mean there are better deals to be had elsewhere in some cases. With recent changes to the scope’s design, it also has few differences from the more-expensive SkyLine 6.
Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 130P
Rank 4
4.4/5
The Virtuoso GTi 130P adds GoTo functionality to the beloved Heritage 130P without hindering the ability to move the telescope manually—even when powered on and aligned—with a minimal increase in weight. However, the usefulness of this feature with a wide-field and relatively small instrument is questionable, especially when a larger scope could be purchased for the same price. The 150mm model is only a bit more expensive.
Rank 5
4.4/5
The 6” Traditional has a poorly-designed “brake” for its altitude bearings, its rack-and-pinion focuser is inferior to a Crayford design, and the scope’s secondary mirror is too small to illuminate 2” eyepieces despite its focuser’s ability to take them. However, the included Super eyepieces are quite good, and optically, the scope is as good as any other 6” f/8 Dob out there.
Orion Skyline 6"
Dobsonian
Rank 6
4.3/5
The SkyLine 6 used to be an improvement over the XT6, but due to shifts in price and upgrades to the XT6, this is no longer the case. The SkyLine 6” is essentially a dramatically price-hiked copy of the Apertura DT6, with no differences besides an extra included 9mm Plossl eyepiece (which isn’t anything special, and superior oculars are available separately for under $40).
Rank 7
4/5
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.
Explore FirstLight 100mm Mak-Cassegrain with Twilight Nano Mount
Rank 8
3.9/5
While poorly accessorized and lacking slow-motion controls on its mount, the FirstLight 100mm Maksutov has tremendously good optics and the compact tube and lightweight mount make it easy to bring out in a hurry, or even fly with on a plane. There’s no electronics to worry about either.
Explore FirstLight 100mm Mak EQ3
Rank 9
3.8/5
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.
Rank 10
3.8/5
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.
Rank 11
3.7/5
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.
Orion AstroView 102mm Refractor
Rank 12
3.4/5
The AstroView 102 has a lot of chromatic aberration, uses a lot of plastic parts, and it’s undermounted too. A longer refractor is more likely to give good lunar and planetary views; a fast achromat should be mounted atop a steady alt-azimuth mount and preferably retail for a lower price. The AstroView 102 is simply not a good choice and is not worth the asking price.
Celestron Astro Fi 90 Refractor GoTo
Rank 13
3.4/5
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 limit 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 $200 range.
Sky-Watcher StarTravel 80 AZ-GTe Refractor
Rank 14
3.4/5
The lightweight and portable design of the AZ-GTe mount makes for a great pairing with this wide-field, short-tubed 80mm f/5 refractor. The included accessories are great, too. However, considering the high price tag and the huge amount of chromatic aberration inherent in a cheap fast refractor, we’re not sure who this telescope is intended to appeal to.
Rank 15
3.2/5
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.
Explore FirstLight 127mm Mak-Cassegrain with Twilight Nano Mount
Rank 16
3/5
The Twilight Nano makes for a nice combination with a 100mm or smaller scope, but the fat 127mm Maksutov-Cassegrain’s long focal length and much higher weight require a beefier mount and one with slow-motion controls. And as usual, the accessories are junk.
Solomark Polaris 130EQ Reflector
Rank 17
2.7/5
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.

~$550 - $800 range

On 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-inch Dobsonians are usually the most recommended in astronomy forums for beginners and hobbyists. 
Rank 1
4.9/5
GSO-made 'best bang for your buck' offering from HighPointScientific, the most popular US telescope retailer. It's optically and functionally the same as the Zhumell Z8/Orion Skyline 8, but often priced lower. The Z8 and AD8 have the exact same set of eyepieces, focuser, altitude bearing, and finderscope. As of April 2022, AD8 is the least expensive of the three options, and HighPointScientific's assistance makes it superior in every way.
Rank 2
4.9/5
Produced by the same company GSO, the Zhumell Z8 is the exact replica of the Apertura AD8 and is optically similar to the Orion Skyline 8". If you can't get hold of Apertura AD8 for some reason, Zhumell Z8 is the clear 8" Dobsonian of choice.
Rank 3
4.7/5
While not as well-accessorized as the AD8 or the Z8, the StarSense Explorer 8" is lightweight, provides great views, and the StarSense Explorer technology makes the scope extremely easy to use, even for newcomers. The only downsides are its price and lack of accessories.
Runner Up
Orion Skyline 8" Dobsonian
Rank 4
4.6/5
Other than the branding, altitude bearings, and accessories, the Skyline 8" is the same scope as the AD8/Z8 and is made by GSO as well. Orion's extreme price markup because of its brand name makes it the best pick only if the Apertura AD8 or Zhumell Z8 is not available.
Rank 5
4.6/5
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.
Rank 6
4.5/5
The Orion XT8 is one of the cheaper 8" Dobsonians on the market. It's pretty bare with regards to accessories, but its low price and high-quality 2" Crayford focuser make it a great buy—although it certainly needs some additional accessories.
Rank 7
4.4/5
The Sky-Watcher 8" Classic comes with everything you need to get started at a low price, with a 9x50 finderscope and two eyepieces. However, its focuser and Dobsonian mount are not the most well-designed and can frustrate newcomers.
Rank 8
4.2/5
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.
Most Compact 8" Dob
Sky-Watcher 8 Flextube Collapsible Dobsonian
Rank 9
4.1/5
The 8” Flextube’s collapsible tube is nice for those needing the most compact 8" dobsonian possible, but comes at the cost of a higher weight, more frequent collimation, and stray light issues. It also lacks the dual-speed focuser of some of its competitors(Z8, AD8, Skyline 8, XT8 Plus), which by itself is a $100 accessory.
Rank 10
4.1/5
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 11
4/5
The Omni XLT 150 Reflector’s f/5 focal ratio and 750mm focal length provide 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.
Celestron Omni XLT 102 Refractor
Rank 12
3.9/5
The Omni XLT 102 is well-made and offers great lunar, planetary, and deep-sky views. While the equatorial mount and long optical tube are more cumbersome than the shorter, faster altazimuth-mounted refractors also available, the Omni beats them at high-power views, and the equatorial mount is a lot easier to keep pointed at the Moon and planets—especially if you add an aftermarket motor drive.
Rank 13
3.7/5
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 14
3.6/5
The AstroView 6 is functionally nearly identical to the Omni XLT 150 EQ, albeit with a slightly different accessory package and a rather unsteady and unappealing mount. We’d recommend you avoid this scope; the optics and accessories are nice, but it’s prone to jiggling and you might accidentally topple it over trying to aim it anywhere in the sky.
Rank 15
3.5/5
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.
Sky-Watcher 102 mm Skymax AZ-GTi Mak GoTo
Rank 16
3.5/5
While expensive, the 102mm Skymax Maksutov makes for a wonderful pairing with the AZ-GTi. Moving the mount manually won’t disrupt tracking or slewing accuracy, thanks to the GTi’s Freedom Find encoders. The optics are fabulous, the cooldown time is negligible, and the included accessory set is plenty good to start with. However, the Celestron Astro-Fi 102 is essentially identical, apart from the lack of manual adjustments, at a much lower price.
Explore FirstLight 130mm Newtonian Twilight I Mount
Rank 17
3.4/5
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.
Sky-Watcher StarTravel 102 AZ-GTe Refractor GoTo
Rank 18
3.3/5
As with the smaller 80mm model, the huge amount of chromatic aberration and the stripped-down nature of the GTe mount (lacking any ability to be moved manually) make this scope and mount combination a rather unappealing pick at any price range, much less the outrageously high one it commands.
Rank 19
3.3/5
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.
Rank 20
3.3/5
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.
Takahashi Starbase 80 Achromatic Doublet Refractor Alt-Az
Rank 21
3.3/5
The Starbase 80 has great optics, a well-made mount, and a wonderful pair of included Orthoscopic eyepieces. It’ll last you a lifetime. However, it’ll also take you a lifetime to recover from the exorbitant price tag Takahashi asks you for an 80mm achromat, no low-power eyepiece is provided, and the finder is essentially an iron sight.
Explore FirstLight 127mm Mak EQ3
Rank 22
3.2/5
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 a tiny field of view), and the included accessories are nearly unusable.
Explore Scientific FirstLight 80 mm Refractor with iEXOS Equatorial GoTo
Rank 23
3.2/5
This package is advertised for astrophotography use, but with the lightweight nature of the iExos mount, the achromatic optics of the telescope itself, and the plastic focuser, it’s not going to be good for anything but smartphone astrophotography (which Explore Scientific has thankfully provided a low-quality adapter for). This package is actually less than the sum of its parts.
Sky-Watcher StarTravel 120 AZ3 Refractor
Rank 24
3/5
The StarTravel 120 has a ton of chromatic aberration, but its fast focal ratio and 2” focuser lend it well to wide-angle views of the sky. Unfortunately, this scope is bundled with a completely inadequate mount and a 45-degree 1.25” erecting prism; it quickly becomes unappealing given the cost of replacing these with quality accessories, and a 150mm f/5 Newtonian has similar views of deep-sky vistas at a lower cost and with better high-power performance.
Rank 25
2.7/5
The NexStar 102SLT is under-mounted, its dew shield is too short, it can’t balance with heavy eyepieces, and there’s quite a bit of chromatic aberration thanks to its rather fast focal ratio. We’d recommend you steer clear.
Not Recommended

~$950 range

In this budget, you can get 10′′ Dobsonians, which gather 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′′.
Rank 1
4.9/5
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-inch Dobsonian.
Rank 2
4.9/5
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.
Rank 3
4.7/5
If your budget is big but you don’t want a 12”, the StarSense Explorer 10” Dobsonian is easily one of the best 10” scopes you could buy thanks to its lightweight base and the usefulness of the StarSense Explorer technology in finding deep-sky objects. However, be prepared to spend quite a few extra bucks on some accessories for your new scope.
Runner Up
Orion Skyline 10" Dobsonian
Rank 4
4.6/5
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.
Budget Pick
Apertura DT10 Dobsonian
Rank 5
4.5/5
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 6
4.4/5
Another more “bare-bones” entry, the Sky-Watcher 10” Classic comes with two eyepieces, a 9x50 finderscope, and a single-speed focuser.
Rank 7
4.3/5
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.
Explore Scientific FirstLight 10" Dobsonian
Rank 8
4.1/5
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. The scope is also not particularly compact and can have issues with the tube hitting the base if it’s properly balanced to compensate for heavy eyepieces.
Sky-Watcher 10" Flextube Collapsible Dobsonian
Rank 9
4/5
The 10” Flextube is not as compact as the Explore Scientific truss offering, but is much easier and quicker to assemble. It also comes with a nice 9x50 right-angle finderscope like the GSO Dobsonians.
Rank 10
4/5
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 11
3.7/5
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 12
3.6/5
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.
Explore FirstLight 127mm Doublet Refractor with Twilight I
Rank 13
3.5/5
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.
Sky-Watcher 127 mm Skymax AZ-GTi Mak GoTo
Rank 14
3.3/5
As with the 102mm Skymax Maksutov, this mount and scope combination is a great “grab n’ go” instrument--but with a high price tag and minuscule gains over a 102mm Maksutov thanks to the Synta Maksutovs’ stopped-down 120mm of actual aperture. The only things you really gain are price and cool-down time for the optics on cold nights.
Rank 15Celestron SkyProdigy 130 Reflector GoTo3
Rank 16Celestron Ambassador 80 Refractor
1.3

~$1250 range

In this budget, the best for visual astronomy is the 12′′ Dobsonians, which gathers 44% more light compared to the 10′′ Dobsonians. But remember, the best telescope is the 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.
Rank 1
4.8/5
The AD12’s massive tube requires a strong owner and a 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 a massive aperture and stunning views at a price that can’t be beaten with the help of the best accessories in the class.
Rank 2
4.8/5
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.
Budget 12″ Dob
Apertura DT12 Dobsonian
Rank 3
4.6/5
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, a 50mm straight-through finder, and only a single-speed focuser.
Orion Skyline 12″ Dobsonian
Rank 4
4.5/5
The Skyline 12 is essentially identical to the Z12 and AD12 but at a much higher price. For even more money, you can also buy the Skyline 12 as a “kit” with a 2” UHC filter and some charts included.
Best GoTo
Sky-Watcher 8″ Flextube SynScan Collapsible Dobsonian GoTo
Rank 5
4/5
The Skywatcher 8″ Collapsible GoTo 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 can even be controlled via your phone or tablet with the SynScan Pro app or SkySafari. The GoTo 8” Collapsible is more or less a regular 8” Collapsible with the SynScan system.
Rank 6
3.7/5
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 7
3.7/5
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.

~$1600-$2000 range

Sky-Watcher 12″ Flextube Collapsible Dobsonian
Rank 1
4.5/5
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 SkyWatcher 12″ Flextube Collapsible is very easy to set up and transport.
Explore Scientific 12″ Truss Tube Dobsonian
Rank 2
4.3/5
Offering even more portability than the Skywatcher 12″ FlexTube Dobsonian, the ES 12” Truss Dobsonian can even fit in a passenger seat! However, assembly is a bit more complicated, and the scope needs quite a few DIY modifications and upgrades—as well as some better accessories—to work at its best.
Sky-Watcher 10″ Collapsible Dobsonian GoTo
Rank 3
4.1/5
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.
Rank 4
4.1/5
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 6″ SCT GoTo
Rank 5
4/5
The C6 optical tube is best with either a HyperStar unit or an f/6.3 reducer for deep-sky astrophotography, but is a reasonable scope to start with and works well on the Advanced VX mount. However, setting up this relatively small scope on a clunky, big, and complicated mount for visual use is simply overkill.
Celestron Advanced VX Series 8″ Newtonian GoTo
Rank 6
3.5/5
The Advanced VX 8” could be an acceptable platform for learning astrophotography, but it is quite a complicated rig to set up and assemble, and arguably overkill for visual use. The 8” optical tube is also pushing the limits of the mount’s capabilities, and thus it can be a bit frustrating to get consistently sharp results with long exposures.
Celestron Advanced VX Series 6″ Refractor GoTo
Rank 7
3.2/5
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.

~$2000-$2500 range

Meade 6″ f/4.1 LX85 Astrograph Reflector Telescope
Rank 1
4.4/5
The Meade 6” f/4.11 LX85 Astrograph is a great kit for the beginner deep-sky astrophotographer. There are better mounts available for sure, and such a fast imaging Newtonian needs a coma corrector to provide good photos, but it makes for a great package, and the price is quite attractive too.
Rank 2
4.2/5
The XX12i functions similarly to the Explore Scientific 12″ Truss Tube but features Orion’s Intelliscope Push-To system like the smaller XTi scopes in Orion’s catalog.
Rank 3
4.2/5
The 8” Evolution has the same bells and whistles as the 6”, but with more aperture-and is a substantially steadier and better-made scope than its cheaper cousin, the NexStar 8SE. However, given the availability of cheaper computer-aided or GoTo Dobsonians with wider fields of view, the Evolution is quite the luxury package with few real-world advantages.
Meade 8″ f/4 LX85 Astrograph Reflector Telescope
Rank 4
4.1/5
If you really want a scope that’s good for both visual and imaging use, there are worse options than the 8” f/4 LX85 Astrograph. It’s a great scope for wide-field views of deep-sky objects. You can do some deep-sky imaging with it, and with a strong Barlow lens, you can also image the Moon and planets pretty well.
Rank 5
4/5
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.
Meade 6″ f/10 LX85 ACF Telescope with Mount and Tripod
Rank 6
3.9/5
The 6” f/10 LX85 ACF is essentially a much more expensive twin of the Celestron 6” Advanced VX SCT kit, but without the ability to use a HyperStar to shoot at f/2 and a heavier scope less suited for any kind of imaging, all at a higher price. It’s not bad, but not a great deal either.

~$2500+ range

Sky-Watcher 12″ Flextube Dobsonian GoTo
Rank 1
4.3/5
The 12” Flextube isn’t as compact as a true truss model, but for many people, the collapsible tube is all you need to fit it into a vehicle or storage space. Setting up the GoTo 12” Flextube is almost identical to the manual version; the scope can still be used manually, and there isn’t much of a price difference.
Celestron Advanced VX 9.25″ Schmidt-Cassegrain GoTo
Rank 2
4.2/5
The Advanced VX is not up to the task of supporting the C9.25 optical tube for deep-sky astrophotography, of course, but it makes for a much less intimidating option than the massive Evolution or CPC mounts offered with the C9.25, and you can swap the C9.25 out for a smaller astrograph more in line with the Advanced VX’s payload capacity if you wish.
Celestron Advanced VX 700 Mak GoTo
Rank 3
4/5
7” Maksutovs are specialty products, with long cooldown times and almost exclusively useful for lunar and planetary viewing or imaging, but if you’re willing to put up with the limitations of the Advanced VX 700, it essentially provides the same capabilities and focal length as the C9.25 with slightly lower maintenance and more tolerant focusing. However, you’re losing quite a bit of aperture, and the cooldown time can be a nuisance if you don’t rig up some kind of fan system.
Celestron 9.25″ NexStar Evolution Schmidt Cassegrain GoTo
Rank 4
3.9/5
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.
Meade 8″ f/10 LX85 ACF Telescope with Mount and Tripod
Rank 5
3.9/5
Similarly to the 6” f/10 ACF package, the Meade 8” f/10 ACF has serious drawbacks compared to offerings from Celestron, but without nearly as much versatility or overall value. Again, it’s not a bad scope, but not a good price for what you get compared to other options.
Celestron CPC 800 GPS SCT GoTo
Rank 6
3.8/5
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).