5 Best Computerized Telescopes in 2021 [GoTo & Non-Motorized]

Astronomy technology is becoming more versatile and accessible to astronomy enthusiasts every year. Though they’re not exactly brand new, computerized telescopes are another worthy addition to the world of amateur astronomy. Computerized telescopes are simply standard telescopes (reflector or refractor) that come with a built-in computer and use a GPS system. 

They make navigating the night sky much more manageable, so they’re particularly great for budding astronomers (though they’re great for seasoned veterans as well). While this new tech is pretty exciting, it also makes picking out equipment an even more complicated task, often requiring a fairly intense amount of research to find what you need. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know before buying a computerized telescopes—what variations there are, if you really need to get one, how much they cost, and what ones are the best at what they do.

We Recommend

Best value for money

Celestron NexStar
6SE Telescope

Best budget option

Celestron NexStar
127SLT Telescope

Best collapsible option

SkyWatcher S11800
GoTo Dobsonian

Types of computerized telescopes

Computerized telescopes are broken up into two categories, motorized, also known as “GoTo,” and non-motorized.

GoTo telescopes have an electronic motor that’s connected to the included computer, which allows the user to input locations, and the telescope will automatically go to them.

  • They’re user-friendly, sleek, and you don’t have to do things manually.
  • GoTo telescopes are extremely helpful for beginners, but they’re also useful to seasoned enthusiasts seeking to save time as they scan the cosmos.
  • The big disadvantage of a computerized telescope is that it makes things “too easy,” which we really don’t think is that big of a deal! 

Non-motorized versions are similar in that they still have a computer, but you have to manually move and adjust the telescope to the desired location (the computer provides instructions).

  • This could be considered the downside of non-motorized versions, but many argue that the non-motorized versions are better for beginners.
  • They make scanning for objects easier while not providing the motorized “crutch.”
  • Overall, they can both be great for beginners, but non-motorized telescopes offer the opportunity to learn the ropes of the manual adjusting process using guided instructions.

Computerized telescope price timeline

Dissimilar to traditional reflector and refractor telescopes, the price ranges for computerized telescopes are easier to navigate. In general, motorized telescopes are inexpensive and you can typically find a good quality one for under or around $500. 

Under $100 – Anything under $100 is considered a cheap computerized telescope. These telescopes, while very inexpensive, are not typically worth buying—it’s best to spend a bit more and get something with higher quality.

Budget: $100-$300 – Telescopes residing in the $100 to $300 range are typically decent quality, and they’re a good choice if you’re on a tight budget. We recommend getting something around $300 if you can, though.

Mid-range: $300-$600 – This is the perfect range for someone who’s interested in jumping into astronomy, or an intermediate astronomer looking to upgrade their old equipment.

High-end: $600-$1,000 – A higher-end computerized telescope will cost you about $600 or more. Optics and overall viewing quality begin to take a leap-up at this point.

Seasoned Astronomer: $1,000+ – This range is primarily for seasoned astronomers who want to upgrade their viewing experience, and also don’t have too much of a budget. Telescopes in this range provide a gorgeous viewing experience, but that’s why they’re more expensive.

Also read: 5 Best Solar Telescopes in 2020 [to Observe The Sun]

Don’t forget the power source

Before buying a computerized telescope, it’s essential to determine where you’ll be using it most. Where you plan to use, it plays a part in what other accessories you need, especially when it comes to power.

  • These types of telescopes always require electricity to operate (obviously), so you’ll need a stable power source if you want to view the night sky uninterrupted. 
  • If you’re using it at home, for instance, you can simply plug your telescope into an outlet in or outside of your home. However, if you’re using it somewhere remote, you’ll need a portable power supply. 

Both options can affect the overall price and the portability of the telescope. Most portable power sources for telescopes have an adapter that you can plug into your vehicle, but if you’ve ever tried that before, it kind of ruins the experience (you’ll be wondering if your car battery will die the whole time). Adding a portable power source also affects the overall weight of your telescope, which is crucial to remember if you plan on hiking with it!

Also read: 5 Best Travel Telescopes in 2020 [Portable & Durable]

How to choose the right computerized telescope?

The first things you should always check with a new telescope are aperture, which is the diameter of its primary optical mirror/lens, and focal ratio, which determines narrow or wide viewing capabilities. However, when hunting for a quality computerized telescope, there are two primary questions you’ll need to ask yourself: “Does it have GPS?” and “Are the components well-made?” 

Does it have GPS?

  • A lot of older computer systems don’t have a Global Positioning Device (GPS), meaning you’ll have to go through a manual alignment procedure similar to setting up a regular telescope. 
  • Learning this procedure can be frustrating, but many suggest it’s a worthwhile endeavor because it’s helpful knowledge, and it becomes easier with practice. 
  • If you’d prefer to avoid having to do this 100% manually every time you move locations or set it back up, look for a GoTo mount that has a GPS system. An onboard GPS will allow for much quicker alignment. 

Are the components well-made?

  • With computerized telescope mounts, precision is absolutely essential to proper functionality. 
  • Any GoTo mounts that are made with cheap components will produce unexpected results, require continuous alignment, or not work at all. 
  • Because of this, you should always read reviews, recommendations, and anything else you can find about the mount itself—make sure it performs how it’s supposed to before you buy it!

Best computerized telescopes

1. Celestron NexStar 90SLT Computerized Telescope

The Celestron NexStar 90SLT is an excellent entry-level telescope for those new to astronomy and on a budget

The telescope is a combination of both reflector and refractor technology (known as compound), with well-made optics

It excels at viewing the Sun, Moon, and other planets. Saturn is about the limit of its magnification, which will appear small, but you’ll still be able to make out the rings and some of its moons. 

The computerized mount makes tracking and finding objects in the sky pretty easy

The alignment tech it uses, SkyAlign, is quite good at detecting objects and automatically adjusting and aligning the telescope for clear viewing. It comes with a hand controller that you can use to browse the extensive database of over 40,000 stars and objects

The telescope comes with two eyepieces, a red-dot finderscope, batteries, a hand controller, and access to astronomy software, Starry Night.

Check the price of Celestron NexStar 90SLT Computerized Telescope here

What we liked

  • Great for beginners
  • Excellent optics for viewing planets
  • Lightweight and portable 
  • The computerized system makes tracking objects easy for beginners

What we didn’t like

  • Batteries have a short life, you’ll need an external power source for extended use
  • Bit of a learning curve for the hand controller

Optical Type: Compound (Maksutov-Cassegrain)
Aperture: 90mm
Focal Ratio: f/14
Magnification: 50x, 139x
Weight: 12 lb

2. Celestron NexStar 127SLT Computerized Telescope

The Celestron NexStar 127SLT is another great beginner option, but with a higher aperture and a bit better power. 

Though it is similar to the 90SLT, it has some distinct differences. Aside from the aperture being much higher, the computer system is practically flawless

Its alignment software, SkyAlign, is easy and straightforward, and it’s incredibly easy to find what you’re looking for with its 40,000-object database. 

It also excels at viewing both planets and deep-sky objects beyond our solar system (to an extent, of course). 

However, this telescope does have similar downsides to the 90SLT. The battery life is very short, so you’ll need an external power supply, and the hand controller is difficult to learn for a beginner. The mount that’s included is also reportedly a little unstable at times. 

Overall, in terms of capability and affordability, this is a great mid-range telescope for both beginners and intermediate astronomers. It comes with two eyepieces, a red-dot finderscope, adjustable tripod, and astronomy software, Starry Night.

Check the price of Celestron NexStar 127SLT Computerized Telescope here

What we liked

  • Great for beginners
  • Excellent optics for viewing planets and DSOs
  • Lightweight and portable
  • The GoTo mount is easy to use and works exceptionally well

What we didn’t like

  • The hand controller has a learning curve

Optical Type: Compound (Maksutov-Cassegrain)
Aperture: 127mm
Focal Ratio: f/12
Magnification: 60x, 167x
Weight: 18 lb

3. Celestron NexStar 6SE Telescope

The Celestron NexStar 6SE Telescope is a significant leap in quality from our previous two entries with a higher price point as well. 

While it is advertised for both beginners and advanced users, it’s the perfect telescope for an intermediate user. 

It comes with a fully-automated GoTo motorized mount, with a database of over 40,000 objects. 

The 150 mm aperture provides enough light-collection for incredible viewing within our Solar System, but it’s not the greatest for viewing DSOs. 

The NexStar 6SE is a fantastic choice for astrophotographers or anyone who wants to dive into the field (though, it doesn’t come with any adapters). 

The telescope comes with a 25mm Plossl eyepiece, a red-dot finderscope, and access to astronomy software, Starry Night.

Check the price of Celestron NexStar 6SE Telescope here

What we liked

  • An excellent choice for intermediate users
  • Superior optics for viewing our Solar System
  • Great for astrophotography (need adapters)
  • Lightweight and portable

What we didn’t like

  • Not the best at viewing DSOs

Optical Type: Reflector (Schmidt-Cassegrain)
Aperture: 150mm
Focal Ratio: f/10
Magnification: 60x
Weight: 30 lb

4. SkyWatcher S11800 GoTo Collapsible Dobsonian

The SkyWatcher S11800 GoTo Dobsonian is a high-end computerized reflector telescope for intermediate or advanced users. 

The GoTo system with this telescope is expertly designed

It’s incredibly simple to align the telescope, it provides automatic tracking of objects at high magnifications, and it allows quick transition from automatic to manual adjusting. 

The optics are high-quality and provide stellar, crisp views of planets, including Jupiter and Saturn.

While the collapsible feature is beneficial for portability, you’ll have to re-align and adjust the telescope each time you collapse it. 

It’s also not exactly easy to lug around, with a base of around 35 lbs and a total assembled weight of 55 lbs. It comes with two eyepieces, a CRAY ford-style focuser, a hand controller with a database over 42,000 objects.

Check the price of SkyWatcher S11800 GoTo Collapsible Dobsonian here

What we liked

  • Great upgrade-telescope for intermediate and advanced users
  • Excellent optics provide crisp planetary and DSO viewing
  • Collapsible design makes it easy to carry and fit in tighter spaces
  • Easy to use computer system

What we didn’t like

  • Requires more alignment due to collapsable feature

Optical Type: Reflector (Dobsonian)
Aperture: 203mm
Focal Ratio: f/5.9
Magnification: 50-139x
Weight: 55 lb

5. Orion SkyQuest XT10g GoTo Telescope

The Orion SkyQuest XT10g Computerized GoTo Telescope is our favorite choice for the advanced user. 

With a 10” (254 mm) aperture, you’ll be able to view galaxies, nebulas, star clusters, as well as planets and stars with excellent clarity. 

The hand controller is intuitive and straightforward for regular users, and it includes a database of over 42,000 objects. 

The GoTo design is seamless, and, with the included GPS, aligning and adjusting the scope is effortless

There are few problems with this telescope, but the only issues that arise with this beast of a telescope are minor quips. The software for the hand controller is reportedly shipped with an older version, which requires updating. The power cord is not included, which is an odd thing to leave out, and it requires an external power source. 

Overall, it’s an excellent GoTo telescope for both beginners and advanced observers. However, at that price point, it’s the best motorized telescope option for seasoned astronomers with larger budgets.

Check the price of Orion SkyQuest XT10g GoTo Telescope here

What we liked

  • Ultimate seasoned-astronomer experience
  • Fantastic optics for viewing distant planets and DSOs
  • Intuitive hand controller
  • Extensive object database and effortless alignment
  • Both firmware and software is well-designed and well-made

What we didn’t like

  • Power cord not included
  • Some hand controllers are shipped with older software with issues (update fixes this, though)
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