The premise of telescopes is one of those products that have remained somewhat unchanged over the years, but advancements in technology have made them more powerful, compact, and affordable. These sky optics bring the wonders of the great beyond into perfect focus so all of us can see the beauty that lies outside of our natural view. Whether you’re an avid user looking for something bigger and better or a newbie just starting out, choosing the perfect scope makes all the difference.
As with most things in life, taking the time to understand the best products out there helps you get the most for your money. When looking to buy a new telescope, there is a lot to consider such as the price, magnification, build quality, clarity, design, and much more that makes your next purchase much harder than you think. This is where we come in as we continually review all of the telescopes on the market which leads us into our next telescope review.
The following details the Top 20 telescopes which includes the best reflectors, refractors and catadioptric telescopes while breaking down the advantages of owning each one.
- Easy mounting system
- Wider eyepiece
- Very portable
- Perfect for intermediates and professionals
- Lightweight and powerful
- Should have included an extra eyepiece
- No light shroud tool
Claiming the top spot in this review is a Dobsonian telescope with a 12-inch truss tube from Meade Instruments. Over the years, Meade has become one of the biggest names in astronomy and this is yet another reason why. This telescope is a higher end model, but gives you everything you need to create a memorable astrological experience anytime, anywhere.
The Meade Instruments Lightbridge Dobsonian telescope is highlighted by a 12-inch aperture and focal length of 1525mm. The durable construction is lighter than it looks which makes it highly portable for astronomers on the go. Featuring a laminated base, Azimuth axis mount with roller bearings, f/5 focal ratio, and secures your investment with a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty.
- Amazing, modern appeal
- Coated lens’s
- Durable and precise
- Smooth, natural movements
If you’re looking for a telescope that gives you class and performance in one, then considering the 2nd option in this review is a great place to start. Barska is one of the leading manufacturers of showmanship telescopes and the 28 x 60 brass Anchormaster is one of their best one’s out there. Highlighted by an amazing brass finish, this refractor boasts amazing attention to detail on the outside, and high performance specs on the inside.
The Barska Anchormaster scores impressive with 9.7 out of 10 and features Plossl eyepieces which are interchangeable. Complete with a rack and pinion focuser, you can rest assured you’ll get amazing visuals during night and day time viewing. Other features include brass cradle mounts, Mahogany tripod with legs that extend, brass stabilizing chain, achromatic lenses and includes one eyepiece.
- Highly recommended for intermediate and experience astronomers
- Includes a high-quality Equatorial style mount
- Heavy-duty aluminium tripod
- Includes one year Carson limited warranty
- Sophisticated, sleek design
- Not for pro level use
The Carson Red Planet has become a fan favorite for beginners and intermediates and does a great job growing with you if you’re just starting out. This 100 x 90mm refractor telescope comes in with a very affordable price tag and comes in much less then you would think. Equipped with a 50x – 100x magnification, 90mm aperture, and 1000mm focal length, this compact telescope gives you superior clarity, magnification, at a price you can afford.
The Red Planet boasts a 4 star rating on Amazon and is complete with a 6 x 30mm finderscope, K9mm and K20mm eyepieces, 90-degree corner lens, aluminum tripod that’s adjustable, EQ mount, and gives you piece of mind with a 1-year Carson limited warranty.
- Powerful enough for deep space gazing
- Includes a huge database
- Compatible with other add-on accessories
- Includes foldable tripod that’s extremely durable
- Incorporates GPS technology and auto adjusting time
Celestron makes their debut with the CPS 1100 Star Bright XLT which is a Schmidt-Cassegrain model giving you 2800mm focal length. This powerful telescope is not for those who take astronomy lightly as it was built specifically for professionals looking to get the most out of star gazing. This model is available with three different diffractions including an 800, 925 and the more powerful 1100.
The CPC 1100 features nearly 60 all-positive consumer reviews and boasts a dual form arm AZ mount that’s fully computerized. The ergonomic design makes it perfect for long continuous usage and gives you everything you need including Celestron’s NextStar computer technology, intuitive GPS alignment, 280mm aperture, and a focal length of 2800mm.
- Includes a 1 year limited warranty
- Collects a great amount of light
- Easy to transport with the included carrying case
- Great day time viewing with a crystal-clear view
- Features a magnification eyepiece
- Works far better during the day then at night
If you’re looking for a powerful Cassegrain telescope that’s more affordable than most, then Orion introduced the 9825 Apex just for you. This 127mm Maksutov-Cassegrain model comes in with 9.6 out of 10 and boasts a pretty competitive price tag which helped make it a fan favorite among intermediate and professional astronomers.
The 127mm Orion Apex is one of the best Cassegrain’s out there specifically designed to give you the best optics for day time and night time use. All you need is a tripod and you’ll get amazing magnification which gives you crystal clear views of the moon, planets, clusters and nebulas. It’s highly recommended to pickup an AZ or field mount which unfortunately is not included, but at this price, its well worth it.
- Mirror diagonal provides improved nighttime viewing
- Great focal length produces clear imagery
- Eyepieces provide great magnification
- Available in multiple different colors
- Can be used for celestial viewing with a correct-image diagonal
- Poorly written instruction manual
Orion makes another appearance in this review with the 9024 AstroView which is a 90mm refractor telescope. Claiming the 6th spot due in part with well over 100 all-positive consumer reviews and a price that comes in under $300. For the money, this scope is a great deal which includes two Plossl eyepieces (10mm and 25mm) 6×30 finderscope, Starry Night software, rack and pinion focuser, and a mirror diagonal at 90-degrees.
The Orion 9024 AstroView is highly recommended for beginners, intermediates and professionals looking to take their astrological prowess to a whole new level. Specs include a powerful 90mm aperture, 910mm focal length, and an EQ2 tripod that’s adjustable which is perfect for celestial tracking manually.
- Great price point
- Simple to handle and operate, even for beginners
- Travel friendly due to lightweight design
- Includes additional accessories which are usually add-ons
- Accommodates beginners and intermediates
- Not recommended for professional use
SkyWatcher may not be the biggest manufacturer out there, but they’re always regarded as one of the best. This traditional 10-inch Dobsonian telescope features a classic white exterior and gives you a whopping 1200mm focal length @ f/4.7. Available in three sizes each with their own price point including a 6, 8, and 10-inch model which is the hardest one for retailers to keep in stock, this SkyWatcher is a steal at this price.
Out of the box, the SkyWatcher S11620 includes a single-speed 2-inch Crayford-style focuser, 1.25-inch adapter, two Plossl 1.25” eyepieces, rocker mount complete with Teflon bearings and a tension clutch which makes it simple to make altitude adjustments.
- Superb build quality
- Durable, sturdy construction
- Aesthetically appealing
- Includes manufacturer limited warranty
- Provides crystal clear viewing
- Not for heavier riders
- Handlebars will have to be tightened over-time
If you’re looking for a reflector telescope with all-glass optics giving you crystal-clear views even with deep space viewing and in a price you can afford, then this is it. Gskyer introduced the AstroMaster 13EQ which has become one of the best-selling reflectors of all-time. Boasting well-over 200 all-positie consumer reviews, the 8th choice in this review is easily one of the best telescopes this year.
The Gskyer AstroMaster 130EQ is a professional rated scope, but can be used by intermediates looking to refine their astrological skills. Outfitted with an aperture of 13mm, 650mm focal length, f/5 focal ratio and rack and pinion focuser is Gskyer proves once again high quality telescopes don’t have to cost a fortune.
- Compact and lightweight
- Cheap, comparatively speaking
- High powered magnification
- Fully coated front and back lenses provide ultra-clear viewing
- Tripod could be bigger
For beginners and intermediates, this 80mm refractor telescope is just for you. Scoring a 9.4 out of 10 and another budget friendly telescope from Gskyer, it comes with a near perfect 5-star Amazon consumer rating. Highlighted by an 80mm aperture, 400mm focal length and f/5 focal ratio, you can rest assured you’ll get a powerful scope designed to explore the universe at an affordable price.
The 80mm AZ Space Astrological Refractor Telescope is hands-down one of the best and also makes our review of one of the best kids telescopes this year. Highlight features include a 3x Barlow lens, fully coated glass optics, CF4 optical glass, 1.27-inch adjustable tripod, and three eyepieces including a 5mm high, 10mm medium, and 25mm low eyepiece.
- Features an intuitive automatic alignment technology
- Accommodates beginners and intermediates
- Simple no-tool setup
- Easy to operate even with no experience
- Connectivity to PC or laptops
- Heavier than most in its class
- Too basic for pro level use
Another high quality Cassegrain telescope by Celestron claims the 10th spot in this review and sports impressive specs including a 2350mm focal length and 9.25-inch diffraction. This Schmidt-Cassegrain model isn’t exactly for beginners as it was specifically introduced for professionals and those looking to get the most out of astronomy. Giving you a bird’s eye view from anywhere to see anything in the sky with the type of clarity and focus you just won’t find in another model.
The Celestron CPC 925 StarBright XLT gives you everything you need including a convenient hand remote control, intuitive GPS alignment, Autoguider port, focus mechanism, NexStar computer technology, and features a unique ergonomic design. The durable heavy-duty die cast aluminum build is extremely lightweight making it highly portable.
- Easy to use for users of all skill levels
- Comes fully assembled
- Includes award winning Starry Night software
- Fast focal ratio
- Includes two eyepieces and dust cover
- Poor instruction manual
The 4.5-inch Orion Star Blast is a teal reflector telescope and is one of the most affordable high-performance models in this review. This reflector boasts a large 4.5” aperture which gives you a super fast f/4 focal ratio giving you ultra-bright, detailed views of the moon, planets, nebulas, and star clusters. Perfect for celestial viewing as it offers a wide viewing angle which means using your entire field of vision giving you a wide open view of above.
This Orion reflector telescope comes pre-assembled and you’ll be star gazing as soon as it arrives. Out of the box it includes two Explorer II Kellner eyepieces, collimation cap, Starry Night software, eyepiece rack and the acclaimed EZ Finder II reflex sight.
- Durable, solid tripod
- Low magnification secondary mirror with internal baffling
- 843x more light gathering capability than the human eye
- Lightweight, aluminum tube construction
- High quality Schmidt-Cassegrain model
- Does not include a power cord
The Celestron XLT series has become well-known and the 12th spot in this review is no exception. The CPC 800 XLT is a fully computerized telescope which has a near perfect 5-star rating and is best suited for intermediates and professionals. This high-performance model was built to last with its exceptional build quality complete with an aluminum optical tube.
This 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope boasts specs of 2032mm focal length which is more than enough power to see into deep space with exceptional clarity. Other features include Starbright XLT optical system and SkyAlign alignment technology which makes aligning a breeze and precise.
- Provides max magnification
- Intuitive, perfect focus
- Adjustable tripod included
- Sharp, clear imagery
- Features an internal polar alignment
- Not recommended for beginners
Orion makes another appearance in this review, this time with the AstroView 120ST. This EQ refractor telescope scores 9.1 out of 10 and boasts a wide view, perfect for deep-space sky objects giving you superior resolution. The clarity and crisp views is something hard to find in a refractor in this price range which is something that Orion does best.
The AstroView 120ST EQ sports a 120mm aperture 600mm focal length which is great for day or night viewing of planets, the moon, nebulas and stars. Other features include two Sioius Plossl eyepieces, 6 x 30 finderscope, 2-inch rack and pinion focuser, Starry Night Software, and a mirror star diagonal at 90-degrees.
- High quality optics
- Includes limited warranty on parts and the telescope itself
- Max magnification
- Short tripod
One of the best telescopes under $100 claims the 14th spot in this review which is a 60mm refractor which is perfect for beginners. The ease of use and German technology makes this travel scope highly regarded and comes with well-over 100 all positive Amazon consumer reviews. This entry level refractor sports a 60mm aperture, 350mm focal length, and f/5.8 focal ratio which give you surprisingly good views for the price.
The 60mm Gskyer refractor telescope comes with a rack and pinion focuser, low and high magnification eyepieces, all-glass optics, aluminum alloy material, and an AZ mount complete with slow motion control. This is a great package if you’re just starting out and at this price, you won’t go wrong.
- Stylish, modern appearance
- Standard field tripod included
- Features automatic alignment
- Ideal for beginners and intermediates
- Boasts GPS sensors which make it easier to locate and track celestial objects
- Does not include batteries
Meade Instruments introduced another beauty when they gave us this 8-inch LX90-ACF which is an advanced coma-free telescope. Built to meet the needs of intermediates and professionals which is a perfect telescope to grow into which will give you years of high-performing use in any lighting condition with optimal visuals.
The Meade LX90-ACF is available in an 8, 10, and 12-inch model, each with different price points. Out of the box, you get a 2000mm focal length, 8” f/10 Advanced coma-free optics, Ultra-High Transmission Coatings, and the highly acclaimed AudioStar handbox which includes a speaker.
- Incorporates high quality mirrors
- Includes GoToNova hand controller
- Wide aperture provides perfect viewing for celestial objects
- Red dot finderscope makes locating and tracking simple
- Eyepiece provide max magnification
- Poorly written instructions
For those looking for an affordable Newtonian telescope which is fully controlled by computer, then the 16th spot in this review is just for you. The iOptron SmartStar Astro Computerized Telescope is one of the newer models out there and sports a very aggressive price tag for those looking for superior quality without having to spend a fortune.
This 114mm Newtonian reflector telescope sports a focal length of 1000mm, and includes a red dot finderscope, Alt-Azimuth mount, GoToNova hand controller, and a K9 and K25 eyepiece. Built for comfort and highly recommended for more experienced astronomers, iOptron delivers once again.
- Offers wonderful light gathering for shaded, dark areas
- Mini tripod simple to deploy and fold
- Offers great viewing for nature including bird viewing and hunting
- Angle prism at 45-degrees provides clear images
- Carrying case included
- Not meant for pro level use
TwinStar makes their only appearance in this review with a portable refractor with a 40x magnification. This powerful refractor sports a 400mm focal length through its fully coated 80mm achromatic objective lens. Giving you performance and aesthetics in one complete package, you can rest assured you’ll get superior visuals for finding and tracking anything in the sky.
The TwinStar AstroMark refractor telescope boasts a Super Bright f/5.0 F-ratio which gives you amazing brightness which improves clarity. Out of the box, it includes two Kellner 1.25” eyepieces (10mm and 25mm), 6 x 26 finderscope, carrying bag and an instant use portable tripod. All this and the complete package is still under $100 which is a steal.
- Highly regarded among experienced users
- Quick, simple assembly
- Affordable price
- Built with upgraded technology, made to last
- Includes computerized hand control
- Not very sturdy, known to vibrate
- Some users have noted bootloader error
The NexStar series from Celestron has become one of the best-selling brands and the 102SLT is one of the biggest reasons why. With nearly 350 all-positive reviews, this computerized refractor is perfect for uses of all skill levels and does a great job growing with you. The ease of use extends to more complex, high-performance astrological purposes.
The NexStar 102SLT is highlighted by a 102mm short tube refractor, StarPointer finderscope, SkyAlign and hand controlled software which is flash upgradeable. This means your software will never be obsolete and aside from the 102 SLT model, you can choose from a 120SLT, 130SLT and 90SLT which is best suited for beginners.
- High quality, modern appearance
- Build from exceptional build quality
- Lightweight, only weighs 7 pounds
- Includes Mahogany tripod
- Tripod not as sturdy as most
Celestron introduces a sophisticated brass telescope which stands out with its brass and mahogany finish. This scope looks perfect in any room and will become the centerpiece in your home or office. Complete with an Altazimuth cradle mount, 50mm objective lens, glass precision optics, and a 15-45x zoom.
The Celestron 22303 Ambasador stands out with its amazing appeal, but for the price, you’re also getting a great performing telescope. Coming in at under 13-pounds makes it highly portable, and whether you’re viewing during the day or night you’ll be getting amazing views of planets, stars, nebulas, and other deep space objects.
- Altazimuth mount provides exceptional viewing experience
- Vertical and horizontal slow motion controls
- Lightweight makes it easy to carry from location to location
- Includes various eyepiece for differing magnification
- Easy to use, ideal for beginners
- Not suitable for high level pro use
Vixen rounds out this review with another budget friendly alternative which scores 8.8 out of 10. The Space Eye 50mm telescope is a great package for beginners which includes eyepieces, finder scope and tripod. This budget friendly telescope under $100 boasts good light gathering capability with a 51x magnification. For those looking for a portable model, the Vixen Space Eye comes in at only 6 pounds making it highly portable.
Telescopes have become one of the most exhilarating products out there that mixes fun with education. These scopes are fit for anyone, and no matter what your skill level is you’re certain to find one from above as this in-depth review addresses the Top 20 Telescopes of 2018. If we’ve left anything out of if you have anything to contribute, be sure to let us know in the comment section below.