Rankings of 92 telescopes between $300 and $1200

This is the price range which we recommend to most amateur astronomers who are looking for a visual treat. Astrophotography is even beyond this budget, for which you should look at the $1200+ ranking.

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 suggest staying away from Amazon for buying bigger sized telescopes ($300+) 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. Most $300+ telescopes are shipped in two boxes (tube in one and the base in another) and Amazon(or some of its third party vendors) is infamous in the astronomy community for shipping only one of the boxes every now and then. That being said, we still love Amazon for everything else and would still recommend Amazon for accessories, cheaper telescopes, and even the $300+ telescopes if (and only if) the pricing or availability is alluring! In the US, High Point Scientific, OPTCorp, Orion's Telescope.com are all reputable retailers with great shipping, refund, and financing options and your experience would be as easy as your usual Amazon orders.

Jump to telescopes in the price range of :-
Jump to telescopes in the price range of :-

~$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 10
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 11
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 12
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 13
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.
Rank 10
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.
Rank 11
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.
Rank 18
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 20
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 21
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 22
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 16
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
Rank 10
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