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Best computerized telescopes in 2022: smart telescopes that find objects for you

Best computerized telescopes
(Image credit: Getty images)

The best computerized telescopes can open up a world of awe-inspiring astronomy viewing or astrophotography sessions. You don't have to be learned in the night sky, or really know too much about astronomy at all, to quickly find galaxies, nebulae and star clusters when you have the assistance of a computerised telescope.

Computerized telescopes function by way of a motorised mount that controls the positioning of the telescope as it points towards the night sky. In a bid to reduce vibrations on the instrument itself they often feature a hand-held control to avoid physical touching of the telescope. They can also be aligned using dedicated computer software when hooked up to a laptop. However, increasingly they can connect to apps on a smart device for full control and functionality. 

Whether using an in-built hand-held control or an app, computerised telescopes often come with databases filled with tens of thousands of celestial objects for you to discover. Once properly aligned it takes just a few moments to dial in your desired object and, at the touch of a button, your telescope will slew to it and, in most instances, continue to track it. With a camera attached, this enables astrophotographers to take out-of-this-world long exposures of deep space.

Computerized telescopes can be crazily expensive, but here we've sought out some affordable options for beginners working with a modest budget, and also those with a little more cash to spend who are serious about astronomy. Whether you’ve never used a telescope before or are an experienced astronomy veteran there should be something for you.

Best computerized telescopes in 2022

(Image credit: Celestron)
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1. Celestron NexStar Evolution 8”

An ideal Schmidt Cassegrain for intermediate to advanced users due to its sophisticated design and premium price tag

Specifications

Optical design: Schmidt Cassegrain
Aperture: 200mm
Focal ratio: f/10
Magnifications (with eyepieces supplied): x51 & x156
Finderscope: Red Dot Finder
Mount: Single Fork Arm Altazimuth
Resolving power: 0.69 arc seconds
Highest useful magnification: x480

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent optical system
+
Rechargeable

Reasons to avoid

-
Quite expensive
-
Requires a power supply/ power bank

While this scope isn't ideal for those new to using telescopes, we think it is one of the best optical systems available. With this Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, you'll be able to get a close and clear look at Saturn's rings, and thanks to the fantastic tracking accuracy, you'll be able to take awe-inspiring images of deep-sky objects by attaching your camera.

You don't need batteries or an external power supply for this computerised telescope, just remember to plug it in to charge before your evening of astronomy. A single charge will give you 10 hours of viewing pleasure. It also works as a power bank which you can use to charge up your other devices.

The NexStar Evolution 8" can be controlled wirelessly using your phone or tablet with the Celestron app which features SkyAlign technology. With your location settings turned on it can pinpoint exactly where you are in no time at all and you can use the 'tap and go' interface to quickly find the desired sky object, or search through the database of over 120,000 objects. It has its own Wi-Fi so you don't need another internet connection, either. It also comes with a handset if you'd prefer to use less tech or if your smart device has run out of juice. Additionally, it has several convenient features such as two accessory trays for storing eyepieces, integrated handles, as well as the charging port we've already mentioned.

(Image credit: Celestron)
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2. Celestron NexStar 6SE

A more affordable offering from Celestron, this Schmidt Cassegrain is the ideal telescope for beginners or relative astro newbies

Specifications

Optical design: Schmidt Cassegrain
Aperture: 150mm
Focal length: 1500mm
Focal ratio: f/10
Magnifications (with eyepieces supplied): 60x
Finderscope: Red Dot Finder
Mount: Single Fork Arm Altazimuth
Resolving power: 0.8 arc seconds
Highest useful magnification: 354x

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent build quality
+
Great for astrophotography

Reasons to avoid

-
Batteries drain quickly
-
Not rechargeable

This is a more affordable offering from Celestron (versus the NexStar Evolution 8-inch we discussed above). A small step down in price and complexity, the NexStar 6SE forgoes some of the bells and whistles on the NexStar Evolution 8" to streamline functionality and save on cost, making it more accessible for those new to astronomy or astrophotography.

Bring some spare batteries or a long power lead with you because the 6SE is powered by 8 x AA batteries (or an AC power cord) rather than housing rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The batteries do drain pretty quickly so for back garden sky sweeping we'd recommend purchasing an AC power cord and saving the AAs for when you can't access a power supply.

The 6SE doesn't have built-in Wi-Fi meaning it can't be controlled by your phone, instead it is operated solely using the hand controller. Some people prefer this no-fuss, no bright phone screen method, and it means you're not going to lose connectivity during your session.

It's still quite heavy at 9.53KG but is still far lighter than the Evolution 8-inch's 16.1KG. The build quality is excellent and the optics are flawless, providing clear views without colour fringing as well as an excellent tracking system that doesn't drift off target. This makes it an excellent candidate if you're going to be using your telescope for astrophotography.

(Image credit: Sky-Watcher)
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3. Sky-Watcher 250P GoTo Collapsible 10”

Enjoy the extreme portability of this collapsible tube-style Dobsonian telescope

Specifications

Optical design: Dobsonian reflector
Aperture: 254mm
Focal length: 1200mm
Focal ratio: f/4.7
Magnifications (with eyepieces supplied): 48x, 120x
Finderscope: 8x50 straight through
Mount: SynScan GOTO
Resolving power: 0.5 arc seconds
Highest useful magnification: 500x

Reasons to buy

+
Very portable 
+
Can be used manually

Reasons to avoid

-
Quite expensive
-
Requires a power supply/ power bank

The Sky-Watcher 250P can be assembled in seconds and doesn't need to be disassembled between uses like other truss tube models making it ideal for those that want to take it with them in the car to multiple locations. However, users will need a power supply as there is no option to insert batteries.

Although visually it looks like it wouldn't hold collimation for any sustained length of time, it does, so you don't need to worry about realigning the components during your observation time. It even has 10 different slew speeds (from 1x to 1000x) making it possible to whizz to your favorite celestial objects in no time. Its database contains 42,900 objects and it’s capable of saving up to 25 custom presets, too. The great thing about this computerised telescope is that it can be operated completely manually if you don't want to use the GoTo functionality. You'll find this scope sitting around the $1500 mark which is quite pricey, but we think it’s worth the money because you're paying for the portability and ease of use. 

(Image credit: Sky-Watcher)
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4. Sky-Watcher Star Discovery P150i Wi-Fi Telescope

A capable and affordable all-rounder, the Sky-Watcher Star Discovery P150i is great value given its stacked spec

Specifications

Optical design: 6-inch parabolic primary mirror
Aperture: 150mm
Focal length: 750mm
Focal ratio: f/5
Magnifications (with eyepieces supplied): x30 & x75
Finderscope: Red Dot Finder
Mount: Altazimuth Mount
Resolving power: 0.88 arc seconds
Highest useful magnification: x300

Reasons to buy

+
Good value for money
+
Own Wi-Fi network

Reasons to avoid

-
No hand controller (app-controlled)
-
Not rechargeable

By broadcasting its own Wi-Fi network, Sky-Watcher has given the P150i greater portability with minimal clutter compared with the previous non-Wi-Fi model, which required a dongle in order to operate remotely. To align the telescope with a celestial object, simply punch your coordinates into the SynScan App on a smart device and follow the step-by-step alignment procedure. A red dot finder is included in the box as well as a 25mm and 10mm eyepiece.

The user-friendly app has a database of 10,000+ celestial objects including named dark sky objects, Messier, double stars, 7 planets and more. It’s even possible for users to define custom subjects. Once you've found an object, the mount locks on and tracks it accurately. It has a large 150mm aperture for light gathering so is easily capable of showing you Saturn's rings, polar caps on Mars and Jupiter's large moons.

The app provides full computerised GoTo control, so this telescope doesn't come with a hand controller. The only downside to this is that, as well as powering the telescope (via 8 x AA batteries or a powerpack) you'll also need to make sure your phone has plenty of charge so it doesn't stop working while in use.

(Image credit: Celestron)
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5. Celestron Astro Fi 130

A simple Newtonian reflector aimed at beginners and new astrophotographers

Specifications

Optical design: Newtonian Reflector
Aperture: 130mm
Focal length: 650mm
Focal ratio: f/5
Magnifications (with eyepieces supplied): x26 and x65
Finderscope: Star Pointer red dot finderscope
Mount: Computerised Altitude-Azimuth Single Fork Arm
Resolving power: 0.89 arc seconds
Highest useful magnification: x307

Reasons to buy

+
Simple set up
+
Right-side up viewing is possible

Reasons to avoid

-
Quite big
-
Wi-Fi connection isn't 100% stable

Unpacking and assembling takes approximately 15 minutes and you should be able to get stunning views straight away without the need for collimation, a welcome factor for many. The Celestron Astro Fi 130 is pretty big but still light enough to move without too much difficulty.

You control the telescope on the Celestron SkyPortal app on your phone using the telescope's Wi-Fi. Whilst scanning the sky, the app provides detailed information about the object in view to help astronomers learn during observation. There have been some reports in the community that the WiFi connection isn’t perfectly stable. This shouldn’t be much of an issue except for the fact there’s no hand controller, so operation is limited to the app only. If it stops working that means users have to physically rotate the whole tripod and manually move the telescope up and down to change positions.

However, there is a nifty mount (which doubles as the lens cap) for holding your smartphone in place to take pictures through the telescope. You're never going to get the best quality photo using your phone camera, but you should be able to manage some impressive shots of the moon and brightest stars. Consider this a bonus add-on rather than a key feature.

The fully coated glass optics are great, enabling astronomers to see the rings of Saturn, the Great Red Spot on Jupiter, the Orion Nebular and so on. You can also use the scope in the daytime thanks to the star diagonal providing right-side-up viewing.

(Image credit: Orion)
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6. Orion 27191 StarBlast 6i IntelliScope Reflector Telescope

A nifty tabletop telescope, the 6i IntelliScope can help users locate more than 14,000 celestial objects

Specifications

Optical design: Reflector
Aperture: 150mm
Focal length: 750mm
Focal ratio: f/5
Magnifications (with eyepieces supplied): 50x
Finderscope: 9x50 optical finderscope
Mount: Altitude-Azimuth
Resolving power: 0.8 arc seconds
Highest useful magnification: 300x

Reasons to buy

+
Feels more hands-on
+
Beginner-friendly

Reasons to avoid

-
Quite heavy (17.2KG)
-
Requires regular collimation

Although this is a computerised telescope, it requires a little manual effort known as  'push-to'. Rather than the usual method of slewing to the user's chosen subject, the user is required to push the tube whilst being guided by directional arrows. This is simple enough to do, and this would particularly appeal to those who prefer a hands-on experience rather than a computer doing all the work.

There are just over 14,000 sky objects to explore and this telescope doesn't have any problem gathering enough light to display them pin-sharp and with minimal chromatic aberration across the frame. The wide focal ratio of f/5 means this scope is more suited to wider field views of outer space rather than for detailed planetary observation. Saying that, users will still be able to see well-detailed images of the Moon's craters and view star clusters and galaxies. However, it won’t perform as well as another telescope with a narrower focal ratio. As this telescope has reflector-based optics, you'll need to regularly collimate the mirrors which isn’t to everyone’s taste, but again may be something positive for users who like to get tactile with their telescopes.

(Image credit: Celestron)
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7. Celestron Advanced VX 8 Edge HD

This is a reliable telescope designed for serious amateur astronomers who will use it to enhance their understanding of the night sky

Specifications

Optical design: EdgeHD
Aperture: 203mm
Focal length: 2032mm
Focal ratio: f/10
Magnifications (with eyepieces supplied): 50x
Finderscope: 9x50 optical finderscope
Mount: German equatorial computerised with servo motors
Resolving power: 0.69 arc seconds
Highest useful magnification: 480x

Reasons to buy

+
Amazing optics
+
Three f-stop configurations

Reasons to avoid

-
Initial setup is tricky
-
Needs sturdier mount for long exposures

The Edge HD has wonderful optics, allowing you to easily see all the Messier Objects, Saturn's Rings and clusters as individual stars. EdgeHD is an improved Schmidt-Cassegrain with additional elements. This will be particularly welcome for astrophotographers but it also means the image is sharper when peering down it too.

Astronomers are given maximum flexibility with three different f-stop configurations (f/10, f/7 and f/2) which all give aberration-free pinpoint stars across the width of the sensor. Users can attach a camera to the telescope and it will give awe-inspiring deep-sky images thanks to its excellent tracking, although we'd recommend a sturdier mount if this is going to be the main focus.

Set up is a little different from other scopes on this list, Celestron calls the process 'All-Star Polar Alignment'. Essentially, owners need to use Celestron Software to find and align two stars, not just the North Celestial Pole, which may not always be visible. It requires at least some prior knowledge of how to set up a telescope and the night sky and therefore is not an ideal beginner tool.

(Image credit: Sky-Watcher)
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8. Sky-Watcher Skymax-127 SynScan AZ GoTo Telescope

The best telescope for all-round performance for astrophotography

Specifications

Optical design: Maksutov-Cassegrain
Aperture: 127mm
Focal length: 1500mm
Focal ratio: f/12
Magnifications (with eyepieces supplied): x60, x120, x150 & x300
Finderscope: 6x30 optical finder
Mount: SynScan AZ GoTo
Resolving power: 0.9 arc seconds
Highest useful magnification: x254

Reasons to buy

+
Good all-rounder 
+
Great value for money

Reasons to avoid

-
Not rechargeable
-
There are better options for astrophotography

This telescope is most suited to astronomers who want a reliable all-round, portable performer. This is especially true for those that want to view and photograph the Moon and planets, due to its 1500mm focal length. It can be used for long exposure photography or deep-space objects. If taking deep-space photos is your main reason for wanting a computerised telescope bear in mind that there are more suited options on this list as you'd ideally need a sturdier tripod.

The Sky-Watcher Skymax-127 SynScan AZ is quick and easy to set up, offering a fully computerised mount with accurate and reliable GoTo technology, you can be exploring the solar system in no time at all. The database has over 42,900 objects for you to explore at the touch of a button. It also comes equipped with a hand control instead app or software connectivity, which we like, and it can be powered by either a 12V DC Power Supply or 8 AA batteries.

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