Top 10 Best Telescopes 2020 (75+ Tested & Compared)

We’ve reviewed (and re-reviewed) more than 70 of the best selling astronomical telescopes so we know what makes the absolute best telescope.

Getting a first telescope that is wrong for you is just as bad as getting a bad telescope. Both will turn into dust collectors. Start with one of our recommended telescopes and you will be off to a good start.

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Telescopes can be large or small, short or tall, and can be lightweight or large powerful telescopes. And be aware that size does not always imply cost. There are small scopes that can be very expensive and very large scopes that are bargains.

Also, realize that if this is your first telescope, whether you start big or small, manual or computerized, if you continue in the hobby you will probably add a second to compliment the beginner telescope. So don’t fret about making a mistake. If you pick one of our recommended telescopes you will be off to a good start.

The Top 9 Best Telescopes

The prices given above are for classification purposes and the real prices could easily be ± $200 and should be checked on Amazon. Or you can check the accurate prices taken using Amazon API down below in the article.  

Read in-depth reviews of these below — plus, tips for choosing the best types of telescopes for different situations in an extremely beginner-friendly tune and the ranking of around 80 best selling telescopes classified according to their price range. So, if you have something against our recommended “best scopes”, you could always go for the one in 2nd or 3rd rank. 

Finding The Telescope That Best Suits You

Let’s consider which one of the above suits your current life situation. For that, you should consider 6 factors, which are –

Aperture = Power

When we talk about how powerful a car is we typically talk about horsepower or the size of the engine. When we talk about how powerful a telescope is, we speak in terms of the aperture measured in millimeters or inches. 1 inch = 25.4 millimeters

The aperture of the telescope tells you how much light it can gather. Because telescopes gather more light than your eyes, they let you see things you can’t see with your eyes alone. The more light the telescope gathers the higher the magnification you can use and the more detail you can see, up to a limit imposed by the atmosphere.

The recommended first telescopes have apertures of about 100 mm to 305 mm. This would be roughly 4 inches to 12 inches. Certainly, there are smaller telescopes but their light-gathering ability is more limited. There are larger telescopes but their size and weight are probably better reserved to second telescopes and those who have made a serious commitment. Many of those larger telescopes are best placed in fixed observatories.

To compare the light gathering of one telescope to another we use the ratio of the area of the lens in the front or the mirror in the back. This is what gathers the light.

For example, if we compare a 6” telescope to a 12” telescope we would square those two numbers. That is, we multiple the aperture by itself. We don’t care about the actual square inches, just the ratio of the two. Use the calculator app on your smartphone, computer, or that physical calculator on your desk.

To illustrate, let’s compare the recommended 6” Skywatcher Dobsonian telescope to the recommended Zhumell Z12 Dobsonian telescope. The optical tubes are of similar design, but one is larger than the other.

6 X 6 = 36

12 X 12 = 144

144 / 36 = 4

What does that tell us? It tells us that as you double the aperture you increase the light gathering by four times. That is a huge difference that you will notice at the eyepiece. If you can handle the larger scope you will be able to see more deep-sky objects as well as more detail on the planets.

Just realize that the 12” Z12 scope is almost 90 pounds so you will want to store it at ground level if you can. A hand truck can be used to make moving this large telescope easier. The 6” Skywatcher will be smaller and lighter. And note that both of these telescopes allow you to move them in two smaller, lighter pieces.

It would work the same way if we were using millimeters to compare smaller telescopes. Just don’t compare one scope in millimeters to another one in inches. That will mess up the comparison. Let’s do another example.

Let’s compare the recommended Zhumell Z100 to the same 6” Skywatcher which has an aperture of 150 when measured in millimeters. Got your calculator ready?

100 X 100 = 10,000

150 X 150 = 22,500

22,500 / 10,000 = 2.25

So the 150 mm Skywatcher gathers 2.25 times as much light as the smaller Z100. Again, this will show up in the eyepiece when you are looking at planets, galaxies, nebulae, and other celestial objects.

An increase of 25% in light gathering will provide a small improvement in what you see. A 50% gain is noticeable. More than that will make a very visible difference in what you see. So consider this when you are shopping. The goal is to balance size and weight, budget, and aperture to come up with the best combination for you.

The 100 mm telescope can provide great views of the Moon because it is close and very bright. It will show you the phases of Venus, the rings of Saturn, and the Moons of Jupiter. And there are a lot of open star clusters, double stars and other bright of deep-sky objects that can be seen well with the 100 mm scope.

However, as you go after dimmer deep sky objects you will benefit from a larger aperture. And more aperture will show you more detail on the bright objects too.

It is not uncommon to own a smaller “grab and go” scope and a large aperture scope. So you can start small and add large later. Or start large and add a smaller convenience scope later.

When you read the ads or speak with a salesman they will be throwing terms like EQ mount, SCT, GoTo, and such at you. After you read this you will understand those and the other terms of telescopes. It is no harder than talking about how many cylinders your car has, how many seats and looking to see if the back seat folds down. So read on with confidence.

Optical Tubes

The part you think of as the telescope is more properly called the optical tube. This is the part that gathers the light. There are four types commonly available in the hobby astronomy market. They are all good designs, they just achieve their goals differently. As such, they each have advantages and disadvantages.

Without getting too deeply into the technical details, here is what you need to know.

  • Refractors

This has a lens in the front and an eyepiece in the back. Binoculars and spotting scopes are usually based on the refractor design. Refractors are easy to use and virtually maintenance-free. They can also be used during the day as spotting scopes.

Refractors are very cost-effective in the 70 to 120 mm aperture range. Larger than that they become fairly costly and heavy.

Entry-level refractors, like the Meade Infinity 102, are typically of the achromatic design. They work very well however they can produce a bit of chromatic aberration or CA. CA is a false-color halo around very bright objects like the Moon and planets. Some people find this objectionable and some do not. However, if you try to use the telescope for photography this color fringe will be very evident and even objectionable.

Higher-end refractors are called apochromatic refractors. They eliminate this color fringing but are much more expensive and heavier. These are mostly for use by high-end users and astrophotography.

  • Newtonian Reflectors

This design is based on a mirror at the bottom of a tube and an eyepiece that comes out the side. You can find reflectors as small as 76 mm but they begin to shine when they reach 100 mm in aperture, about 4 inches. The recommended Sky-Watcher 6” Dobsonian is an example of a telescope based on the Newtonian reflector design.

It is easier and more cost-effective to manufacture large mirrors than large lenses, so this design scales up beautifully. While it is unusual to see hobby refractors over 6 inches in aperture, it is common to see reflectors as large as 16 inches, over 400 mm in the aperture. You will note that most of our recommended telescopes are based on Newtonian reflector design.

Newtonian reflectors are excellent astronomy telescopes but are not useful for daytime purposes. The Newtonian design inverts the image. This doesn’t matter for astronomy but would be awkward for bird watching or viewing boats on the lake.

Unlike refractors, most Newtonian reflectors larger than 4 inches, 100 mm, require regular maintenance called collimation. This is a process of making sure the primary and secondary mirrors are properly aligned to provide the best image. It may sound daunting but the process is simple. It doesn’t have to be done at every use and it only takes a few minutes.

There is a special class of scopes called Dobsonians, or Dobs, that are based on the Newtonian reflector design. They are so popular I want to call them out here, in the optical tube section and will reference them again later. When you read or hear about Dobs, they are talking about a Newtonian reflector on a Dobsonian mount.

Many of our recommended telescopes are tabletop or floor standing Dobsonian designs. Their advantage is that they are very stable and easy to use. The introduction of the Dobsonian/Newtonian telescope has transformed the home telescope market.

  • Catadioptric – SCT and MCT

This design is based on a combination of a lens in the front and a mirror in the back. The two designs that are common to the hobby market are the Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope, SCT, and the Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope, MCT.

The recommended Celestron NexStar Evolution, shown here, is an SCT design on a computerized mount. At first, you might think it is a refractor, but within the optical tube is a lens upfront and a mirror in the back. The light comes to the eyepiece through a hole in the mirror in the rear.

The key advantage of this optical tube design is compact size. An 8” Newtonian reflector optical tube is typically about 48 inches long and weighs around 20 pounds. An 8” SCT would be about 17 inches long and weigh about 12 pounds. So the SCT, being smaller and lighter would travel in the car more easily and be easier to carry around. Note that those weights don’t include the mounts. I will discuss mounts later.

They would have similar light gathering ability. However, the SCT and MCT optical tubes are much more expensive per inch of aperture. So you have to balance light gathering and price with size and weight. And since their design tends to offer a narrower field of view at their lowest magnification, they are often matched to computerized mounts.

While these can be collimated, like the Newtonian reflector, they typically hold their alignment for years. Many people never collimate them. So think of this as a maintenance step you might consider every few years rather than every few uses.

There are spotting scopes based on the catadioptric design, so they can be used during the day. However over about 5” they become somewhat impractical as their high minimum magnification and a narrower field of view don’t lend themselves well to daytime use.

Mounts

We need something to hold that optical tube so we can aim it at the object we want to see. That is the telescope mount.

All of the mounts recommended here are altitude/azimuth, AltAz, type mounts which means you move them up and down, left and right, like a camera tripod. This type of mount is very easy to use.

The Dobsonian mount, mentioned earlier, is a specific type of AltAz mount, but rather than being on a tripod it is on a rotating base that sits on a table or on the floor. The Dobsonian mount is extremely popular.

From a price/performance point of view, the Dobsonian design, based on the Newtonian reflector, is the king of price performance. For these reasons, most of our recommended telescope packages are based on the Dobsonian mount design.

Because Dobs are so cost-effective, Dobs can become fairly large and heavy for a very moderately priced telescope. With proper planning, even large Dobsonian/Newtonian telescopes can be a great choice. My 12” Dob, 95 pounds, is similar to the recommended Zhumell Z12. It sits on a hand truck in my garage making it almost as easy to move around as my smaller scopes.

The alternative is the AltAz or Dobsonian mount is the equatorial mount. This is specifically designed for astronomy and is a very good design. However, the equatorial mounts that come with entry-level telescope packages are usually of poor quality and design so you won’t see any recommended here.

Manual vs. Computerized Mounts

Your choice here is whether you will find the targets or you want the telescope to find them for you. Both are valid approaches.

Some manual mounts provide you with a handle that you use to point the optical tube. Some manual mounts add slow-motion controls in the form of dials to make it easier to move the optical tube in small increments to compensate for the rotation of the earth.

Some designs have you use the optical tube itself as your place to grip in order to point the optical tube. The Dobsonian mounted optical tubes are moved in this fashion. It works quite well.

If you use a manual mount you will easily find and enjoy viewing the things you can see with your eyes such as the Moon, planets, bright stars, and a few bright deep-sky objects. After these, you will want to learn ways to find dimmer objects that you cannot see with your eyes.

There are a variety of ways to find things in the sky including star hopping, ALT/AZ coordinates, and RA/DEC coordinates. They all work and are not hard to learn. I am not going to go into the details. Just be aware that after you have enjoyed seeing what you can find with your eyes you will want to learn one of these methods in order to go deeper with your telescope. As part of the learning process, you will become more familiar with the sky and will remember where things are located.

Computerized mounts incorporate computer assistance. The goal is to help you find the targets in the sky that you cannot see with your eyes alone. Some also work well as manual mounts while some require you to use the computer.

PushTo computer assistance is very similar to the GPS in your car. The computer, usually a hand control that comes with the mount, tells you where to point the optical tube, but there are no motors in the mount, you point the telescope.

GoTo mounts are computerized and fully robotic. This is similar to how large observatory telescopes work. The mount incorporates a computer control system that drives motors. Think of this as a self-driving car.

Like the PushTo system, you enter what you want to see into the handset or other computer device, but the GoTo mounts will turn the optical tube for you. They also incorporate automatic tracking. The computer uses the motors to track the rotation of the earth so that your object remains in the eyepiece.

Which is better, manual or computerized? That is up to you. Both types of mounts are popular.

If your budget is limited, you can get more aperture in the optical tube if it is on a manual mount. Most of the recommended telescopes are on manual mounts for this reason. If you get a computerized mount, some of your budget goes to the computer and you end up with a smaller aperture.

Ignoring cost for a moment, if you like to find things on your own and want to “really” learn the sky, a manual mount is the way to go. Many find the process of learning the sky a major part of their enjoyment of astronomy.

If you get in the car, put the address in the GPS, have no idea how you got there, and get home the same way, you may want a computerized mount. You will spend less time learning the sky and more time observing. But then, you’ll be making compromises on the quality of what you see.

Most of the recommended telescopes are based on manual mounts to help you maximize your aperture per dollar. But we do recommend the Celestron Evolution for those who want a computerized mount.

If a computerized mount sounds more interesting to you and you would like to visit other options, visit this article on best-computerized telescopes.

Eyepieces are what magnifies the image. They are marked with a number that relates to their focal length, measured in millimeters. High numbers are low power eyepieces. Low numbers are high power eyepieces. The formula works like this:

Focal length of the optical tube / Focal length of the eyepiece = magnification

It is common to have more than one eyepiece so you have different magnifications to try on each object. Some celestial objects look best at low power and some better at high power. If you are using a manual mount you typically use a low power eyepiece to find your target, then move to a higher power eyepiece if the object looks best at high power.

Eyepieces come in standard sizes of 1.25” or 2” diameters. One is not better than the other. However, the larger size of the 2” allows the eyepiece designers to offer a wider field of view as part of the design.

The size your telescope can accept is based on the focuser. For example, the recommended Zhumell Z12 and the Skywatcher 6” and 8” Dobsonian telescopes have focusers that can accept 1.25” and 2” eyepieces. This can give you more flexibility in your eyepiece choices. The rest only accepts 1.25” eyepieces which are appropriate for these smaller scopes. Big 2” eyepieces would be too heavy for these smaller scopes.

A Barlow lens, named after the inventor, is an optional optical accessory. It is a way to provide a second magnification for each eyepiece. For example, to have 6 magnifications, you can have 6 eyepieces or you can have 3 properly spaced eyepieces and a Barlow lens which will also yield 6 magnifications.

Some people prefer to use only eyepieces. Others like the Barlow lens because it can save you money while expanding your magnification choices. Some telescope packages include Barlows and some don’t. You can always add one later if you wish.

Take the eyepiece and Barlow lens count in the package into consideration. Over time you will likely add eyepieces. Whether you add them immediately or later may depend on what is included in the kit.

If your kit includes Plossl type eyepieces, these are good eyepieces. Kellner type eyepieces or lower cost eyepieces found in lower-cost telescope packages. They are sometimes described as 3 element eyepieces. They are certainly good enough to get you going but are not as good as Plossls.

Ramsden and Huygens type eyepieces are very poor quality but sometimes appear in very low-end packages. If the eyepieces have an H, R, or SR on them they are of this type. They work but you will soon be seeking to replace them. None of our recommended telescopes include these eyepieces.

If you are a preteen, a dorm student, or live in a small third-floor walkup apartment, a big scope may be too difficult to store and handle. A telescope in the “grab and go” category, one you can pick up and carry to your viewing area in one trip may be your best choice. Consider our recommendations for a tabletop or a refractor telescope.

If you have the option for ground-level storage, you will have more options to select a larger, more powerful telescope that you can leave fully assembled and ready to go on a moment’s notice. With proper planning, a scope that weighs 50 to 100 pounds or more can be made easy to handle. If this is your situation, take a close look at the 6”, 8” and 12” telescopes that made our recommended best telescopes list.

A garage or shed that is dry and well ventilated can be a great place to store a telescope. Telescopes are not especially sensitive to temperature when stored, but telescopes don’t like dampness. If your garden tools rust, that is not a good place to keep your telescope.

If you keep it in the house and the temperature difference between the house and the outside is large your scope may not reach full potential until it has warmed up or cooled down to the outside temperature. Likewise, a telescope coming from an air-conditioned house to humid summer air will form condensation which can fog up lenses and mirrors. Plan for some temperature equalization time of 30-60 minutes if you keep your telescope in the house.

You will likely use your telescope near your home. However, if you live in a light-polluted area and wish to take your telescope to a darker location for better views, how will you get there?

If you plan to put it in the car and take it to darker locations, well, how big is your car? Will you take it camping? How much room can you devote to the telescope?

Perhaps you want to take it on an airplane. Or maybe you want to take your bicycle to go to that park near your home? Something that fits in a backpack or carryon bag might be the best choice. Take these factors into account so you get a scope you will love to use.

 

Just like everything else in life, the more you can spend the broader your options. However, in today’s hobby astronomy market the options have never been better and the costs have never been lower. At one time, if you wanted an “affordable” home telescope you had to build it yourself. Today, almost anyone can afford a telescope.

Telescopes Rankings and The Best In Each Category

In ~$100 Range

1. Zhumell Z100

Today’s Amazon Price – $99.99

4.8/5

Kids and first time telescope buyers who aren’t sure about the hobby and/or can’t increase their budget to at least $200. 

Usability rating4.4/5
Visibility rating3.5/5
Portability rating5/5
Company rating3.5/5
Weight6.2 lbs
Aperture3.93″ (100mm)

The Zhumell Z100 is the smallest, lightest and cheapest telescope we recommend. At its low price point, the scope does make some sacrifices – it isn’t easily collimated, the optics are a little variable in quality, and it doesn’t have a lot of aperture – but it’s still capable of showing you a lot, and is super easy to use right out of the box with almost no knowledge required. The Z100’s simplicity and small size mean it can be set up in seconds and taken almost anywhere, and the super wide field of view it delivers makes it easy to find most of the more interesting objects in the sky. Rest assured that even though the Z100 is cheap, it’s not junk in the slightest.

The Z100’s included red dot finder and the wide field (2 degrees, 4 times the width of the full moon) provided by the 17mm eyepiece make it reasonably easy to find most objects, and the 40x provided by the 10mm is enough to show you Saturn’s rings, Jupiter’s cloud belts and moons, Venus’ phases, Mars’ ice cap and a wealth of lunar detail. The scope is no slouch on deep-sky objects either, with the 100mm of aperture being enough to show you hundreds of star clusters, dozens of nebulae and a handful of bright galaxies. Additional aftermarket eyepieces can provide lower magnification and wider fields of view, or higher magnification for planetary viewing respectively.

While there are technically some telescopes available for lower prices than the Z100, anything lesser will have poor optics, low-quality accessories or a shaky mount. Not so with the Z100.

RankTelescopeRating
2Orion SkyScanner 100mm4.8
3Meade Infinity 70mm4.3
4Orion FunScope 76mm4.2
5Celestron Firstscope4
6Meade EclipseView 603.7
7Celestron PowerSeeker 70EQ3.7
8Celestron PowerSeeker 70AZ3.2
9Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ3
10Celestron Powerseeker 114AZ2
11Celestron 70mm Travel Scope2
12Celestron Travel Scope 501
13Barska Starwatcher 400x70mm1
14Celestron PowerSeeker 50 AZ1
15Emarth Travel Scope 70mm1
16Gskyer Travel Scope 70mm1

In ~$150 Range

2. Zhumell Z114

Today’s Amazon Price – $343.99

4.6/5

First time telescope buyers who can’t afford a ~$200 Zhumell Z130 or a ~$300 fully sized 6” dobsonian to start viewing the galaxies, but want a better scope than the Zhumell Z100. 

Usability rating4.6/5
Visibility rating3.7/5
Portability rating4.8/5
Company rating3.5/5
Weight11 lbs
Aperture4.5″ (114mm)

The Zhumell Z114 is a great telescope for beginners and newbie astronomers alike. With 4.5 inches of aperture and a super wide field of view, thanks to its f/3.9 focal ratio, this scope makes it super-easy to find and see all of the bright planets and some of the more iconic deep-sky objects such as the Orion Nebula, the Andromeda Galaxy, the Ring Nebula, and the better globular clusters such as M13. The Z114’s small size lends it well to portability, as it can fit in a moderately sized backpack. Despite its low price and fast focal ratio, the Z114 is no slouch optically, and when properly collimated can give high-power views of the Moon and planets that a beginner astronomer just a few decades ago would’ve killed for. 

RankTelescopeRating
2Meade Infinity 904.4
3Meade Polaris 130 EQ4.2
4Meade Infinity 80AZ4.1
5Celestron PowerSeeker 80EQ3.8
6Celestron AstroMaster 76 EQ3.7
7Celestron AstroMaster 114 EQ2.5
8Celestron Powerseeker 114EQ2.5
9Celestron ExploraScope 114AZ1.5
10Tasco Luminova 675×1141
11Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ1

In ~$200 range (1st choice)

3. Zhumell Z130

Today’s Amazon Price – $399.96

4.6/5

Beginners who want more portability than a full-sized Dobsonian (ie, 6″) without too much of a sacrifice in performance.

Usability rating4/5
Visibility rating4/5
Portability rating4.5/5
Company rating3.5/5
Weight21 lbs
Aperture5.11″ (130mm)

The Zhumell Z130 takes everything good about the Z114 and makes it a bit better by adding an additional 16mm of aperture, which translates to a 30% gain in light-gathering ability and a 14% gain in resolution. While that might not seem like much, it can make a huge difference in whether or not you’re able to resolve minute details on the Moon, Mars or Jupiter, split a tight double star, or see a faint fuzzy. The Z130’s longer focal ratio of f/5 also makes it easier to collimate, at the expense of a smaller maximum field of view. Like the Z114, the Z130 should still fit in a (large) backpack and requires a table to use – though with a weight of about 21 pounds, you’ll need quite a hefty table to adequately support the telescope.

RankTelescopeRating
2Zhumell Z1304.6
3Orion StarBlast II 4.54.5
4Orion StarBlast 4.54.5
5Celestron Inspire 100AZ4
6Orion StarMax 90mm3.5
7Gskyer Telescope, 80mm AZ1
8Bushnell Voyager 700x76mm1

In ~$200 range (2nd choice)

4. Meade Infinity 102 Refractor

Meade Infinity 102

Today’s Amazon Price – $654.97

4.5/5

Kids who won’t be able to deal with the collimation and cool-down requirements of a reflector, and want something that clearly looks like a telescope to them.

Usability rating4.5/5
Visibility rating3.6/5
Portability rating4.2/5
Company rating4/5
Weight12.2 lbs
Aperture4.01″ (102mm)

The Meade Infinity 102 definitely isn’t our favorite telescope on this list, but it’s not a bad choice for some users. The achromatic refractor design of the Infinity means it doesn’t require any collimation and little in the way of cool-down time compared to a reflector, at the expense of suffering from chromatic aberration and having a lesser aperture than reflectors at the same price point. For use with young children, the simplicity combined with the fact that it “looks like a telescope” can be a big factor in getting them to use it. And even though the scope is smaller and has chromatic aberration, the views are pretty good – especially if you are looking at deep-sky objects or use a color filter to reduce the visibility of the chromatic aberration on bright objects. 

The Infinity 102 comes mounted on an easy-to-use mount and tripod (largely metal in construction) and slow-motion controls for precision pointing and tracking. It also includes 26mm (23x), 9mm (67x), and 6.3mm (95x) MA eyepieces of decent quality, and a plastic Barlow lens which does the job, though it isn’t great. A real, quality Barlow for around $40 will dispense with it easily. It also uses a red dot finder.

The only big flaws with the Infinity 102 are its glare problems from using a shiny plastic dew shield (easily fixed with a can of black spray paint and some #80 grit sandpaper in about 15 minutes) and its Amici prism diagonal, which causes annoying, bright spikes of light on bright objects. Replacing the Amici with a real diagonal will cost around $30, which is something to consider when buying this telescope.

In ~$300 range

5. Sky-Watcher Traditional 6” Dob

Today’s Amazon Price – $817.39

4.9/5

Beginners with a budget below $350. One of the best value for money telescopes you can get and is almost what every serious beginner astronomer buys. That’s if you wouldn’t regret not buying the 8″ Dobsonian due to the 8 inch’s extra weight/size or price. 

Usability rating4.8/5
Visibility rating4.3/5
Portability rating4/5
Company rating4.5/5
Weight35 lbs
Aperture6.02″ (153mm)

The Sky-Watcher 6” Traditional is a fantastic, easy-to-use and all around great telescope for beginners and experienced astronomers alike. 6 inches of aperture allows you to seriously delve into the realm of deep-sky objects and observe ultra-fine details on the Moon and planets, while at the same time remaining plenty light and portable – and unlike smaller Dobs, the 6” doesn’t need a table. The telescope’s long focal ratio of f/8 makes it extremely easy to collimate, with collimation being needed far less frequently than on fast tabletop telescopes and larger Dobsonians. With this scope and decent skies, you’ll be able to pick out sights such as Neptune’s moon Triton, the spiral arms of M51, and resolve the great globular clusters such as M13 into individual stars.

The scope includes 25mm (48x) and 10mm (120x) Plossl eyepieces and the scope’s 2” rack-and-pinion focuser allows for more options with eyepieces down the road. The included finderscope is an adequate 6×30 unit.

While it might seem rather large and unwieldy, the 6” Traditional is actually quite portable, fitting in most automobile trunks, and setup takes only about two minutes.

RankTelescopeRating
2Orion SkyQuest XT64.6
3Orion SkyQuest XT4.54.5
4Celestron Omni XLT AZ 102mm4.3
5Orion AstroView 90mm4.2
6Sky-Watcher Virtuoso4.2
7Meade ETX80 Observer3.7
8Celestron AstroMaster 130 EQ3.5
9Gskyer Telescope, 600x90mm AZ1
10Celestron 114 LCM
1

In $350 range

6. Sky-Watcher Traditional 8” Dob

Today’s Amazon Price – $710.88

4.9/5

Beginners who want a good all-around telescope; one of the best choices overall for beginners. If you’re in doubt on which model to buy, always pick the 8” over the 6” if you can.

Usability rating4.7/5
Visibility rating4.6/5
Portability rating3.9/5
Company rating4.5/5
Weight45 lbs
Aperture8″ (203mm)

The Sky-Watcher 8” Traditional improves upon the 6” Traditional without any noticeable increases in bulk or decreases in usability, as both scopes have the same focal length and the mount is similarly sized. However, an 8” has a 33% increase in resolution and a 78% increase in light-gathering ability, which means the 8” Traditional will show significantly more stuff in the sky than its smaller sibling. The 8” Traditional is capable of resolving most globular star clusters with ease, revealing the faint details of dozens of galaxies under dark skies, and may even be able to reveal Pluto provided you have perfect conditions.

The 8” Traditional’s other upgrades are a smoother, higher-quality Crayford focuser instead of a rack-and-pinion focuser, and a larger 9×50 finderscope. Like the 6” Traditional, the 8” Traditional includes 25mm (48x) and 10mm (120x) Plossl eyepieces.

Since its tube is basically the same length as the 6” model, apart from a slightly larger base and overall heavier build there is virtually no decrease in portability going from the 6” to the 8” Traditional. 

RankTelescopeRating
2Orion SkyQuest XT84.8
3Orion SkyQuest XT6 Plus4.7
4Celestron Astro-Fi 1304.6
5Orion StarBlast 6 Astro4.5
6Celestron StarSense Explorer DX (102, 130)4.4
7Orion SpaceProbe 130ST4.3
8Celestron NexStar 130SLT4.1
9Celestron NexStar 127SLT3.8
10Celestron NexStar 4SE
3.7
12Celestron Nexstar 102 SLT3.7
13Celestron Nexstar 90SLT3.7
14Meade StarNavigator NG 102mm3.5

In ~$450 range

7. Zhumell Z8

Today’s Amazon Price – $667.47

5/5

Hobbyists who want a “supercharged” version of the standard 8” Dobsonians like the previously recommended Skywatcher 8″ Dobsonian. 

Usability rating4.8/5
Visibility rating4.7/5
Portability rating3.9/5
Company rating3.5/5
Weight54 lbs
Aperture8″ (203mm)

The Z8’s improved dual-speed Crayford focuser makes focusing at high magnification a breeze, and its 30mm wide-field eyepiece makes it easier to find deep-sky objects than the standard kit 25mm Plossl often included with beginner telescopes. The Z8 also has improved roller bearings making for smoother motions, and comes with a cooling fan and laser collimator to make setting up the telescope even quicker.

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In ~$700 range

8. Zhumell Z10

Today’s Amazon Price – $699.99

5/5

Who, down the line, don’t want to feel that you could be getting even better views with more aperture if you had gone just a little bigger than 8″, but with a moderate sacrifice in convenience. 

Usability rating4.8/5
Visibility rating4.8/5
Portability rating3.6/5
Company rating3.5/5
Weight60 lbs
Aperture10″ (254mm)

The Zhumell Z10 builds on the Z8 by adding just a bit more aperture. A 10” has 56% more light gathering ability than an 8” and a 25% increase in resolution, providing even brighter and sharper views. While the Z10 isn’t significantly longer or less compact than the Z8, it is heavy enough and awkward enough that some people may have trouble lugging one around often. However, if you’re willing to put up with this hefty scope, you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views in a relatively portable, easy-to-use package.

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In ~$900 range

8. Zhumell Z12

Today’s Amazon Price – $1,398.99

5/5

Moderately experienced astronomers with either a second, smaller telescope or those who are okay with lugging a monster telescope around on a regular basis.

Usability rating4.5/5
Visibility rating5/5
Portability rating3/5
Company rating3.5/5
Weight75 lbs
Aperture12″ (305mm)

Many 12” telescopes are truss tubes for a good reason – the water-heater-sized tube of a scope like the Z12 is not exactly easy to handle, no matter how strong you are, and the scope may not fit in every vehicle. Though this is obviously a bit of a problem to contend with, the Z12’s views may very well be worth it for you. With 44% more light gathering ability than a 10”, more than double that of an 8” and 4 times that of a 6” scope, the Z12 transforms stargazing from being “exciting” to “mind-blowing”.

The Z12 comes with a built-in cooling fan, adjustable bearings to compensate for balance, a 9×50 right-angle correct image finderscope, a dual-speed 2” Crayford focuser, and a laser collimator. The Z12 also comes with a 30mm (50x) SuperView wide-angle eyepiece and a 9mm (167x) Plossl eyepiece. While the accessories do need some tweaking and you might want additional eyepieces, you simply can’t beat the Z12’s humongous aperture and tremendous value.

RankTelescopeRating
2SkyWatcher GoTo Collapsible Dobsonian 8-Inch4.8
3Celestron NexStar 8 SE4.7
4Meade 6” ACF LX653.9
5Explore Scientific FirstLight 102 w/EXOS-2GT3.8

In ~$1200 and $1500 ranges

8. Celestron NexStar Evolution 6/8

Today’s Evolution 6 Amazon Price – Price not available

Today’s Evolution 8 Amazon Price – Price not available

4.7/5

Beginners who want a convenient, compact and computer-controlled telescope. 

Usability rating4.5/5
Visibility rating4.5/5
Portability rating5/5
Company rating4.5/5
Weight36 – 40.6 lbs
Aperture6″ (150mm) to 8″ (203mm)

The Evolution’s Schmidt-Cassegrain optical design puts a lot of aperture into a relatively small package, and when it does need collimation you can adjust it without leaving the eyepiece! The Evolution mount also has a built-in rechargeable battery, and thus you don’t need to worry about running out of AAs, forgetting your power supply at home, or the dreaded cord wrap that is almost inevitable with most computerized scopes.

Like the Celestron Astro-Fi telescopes, the Evolution can be controlled via its built-in WiFi and the SkyPortal or SkySafari app, but there’s also a traditional hand controller provided should you need it.

The NexStar Evolution telescopes come with 40mm (38x & 51x respectively) and 13mm (115x & 156x respectively) Plossl eyepieces, and a red dot finder for aligning the scope’s GoTo.

RankTelescopeRating
2Orion XT10G4.5
3Celestron Advanced VX 6″ Refractor4.1
4Explore FirstLight 152mm4
5Sky-Watcher Pro SW 80ED APO 80mm ED4
6Orion Skyview Pro 8 GoTo
3.6