Best computerized telescopes in 2023: 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 computerized telescope.

Computerized telescopes function by way of a motorized mount that controls the positioning of the telescope as it points toward the night sky. In a bid to reduce vibrations on the instrument itself, they often feature a hand-held control to avoid the 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, computerized 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 2023

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(Image credit: Jamie Carter)
Best smart telescope for value

Specifications

Image resolution: 4.8 megapixels (interpolated)
Sensor: Sony IMX224
File formats: PNG
Optical design: reflector
Aperture: 114mm/4.5-inch
Focal length: 450mm (17.7 inches)
Focal ratio: f/4
Magnification: x50
Field of view: 37 x 27 arcminutes
Battery: 10,000 mAh
Battery life: 12 hours
Weight: 19.8 lbs/ 9kg

Reasons to buy

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Enhanced Vision (EV)
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12 hours battery life

Reasons to avoid

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Fiddly to focus
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Field of view too small for Moon

This is one of a new breed of smart telescopes (opens in new tab) - that doesn't have a built-in viewfinder, but instead has a camera that beams images of the night sky to your phone or tablet.

At its core, it’s a 4.5-inch reflector telescope fitted with a Sony IMX224 CMOS image sensor to power its Enhanced Vision (EV) views of galaxies, nebulae, open clusters, and globular clusters. It allows up to 10 smartphones and tablets to connect to its own WiFi network to see and download its images. It’s got 64MB of storage. 

This the budget-priced model in the Unistellar range, which also included the eVscope (opens in new tab) and eVscope 2. The eQuinox has slightly less resolving power than the eVscope 2 (which makes it more difficult to split close double stars), a tighter field of view, less detailed images (its natively 1.2 megapixel images are up-rezzed to 4.8 megapixels using software interpolation) and no electronic eyepiece. Its lack of an eyepiece makes sense from a cost-saving perspective – and it adds two hours of battery life – but it does make it more difficult to focus the eQuinox. Instead, it comes with a Bahtinov mask built into its lens cap that helps get stars really sharp, though it’s a manual process. Since it’s a reflector telescope it will occasionally need collimating (opens in new tab).  

See our full Unistellar eVscope eQuinox review (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Celestron)
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2. 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

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Quite expensive
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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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3. 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

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Excellent build quality
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Great for astrophotography

Reasons to avoid

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Batteries drain quickly
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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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4. 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: 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

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Simple set up
+
Right-side up viewing is possible

Reasons to avoid

-
Quite big
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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: Celestron)
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6. 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

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Initial setup is tricky
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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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7. 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
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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.

Read more:

Astrophotography: How-to guides, tips and videos (opens in new tab)
Astrophotography tools: the best camera, lenses and gear (opens in new tab)
The best lenses for astrophotography (opens in new tab)
The best star tracker camera mounts (opens in new tab)
Best equatorial mounts (opens in new tab)
Best deep-space telescopes (opens in new tab)
Best light pollution filters (opens in new tab)
The best CCD cameras for astrophotography (opens in new tab)
The best spotting scopes (opens in new tab)
The best binoculars (opens in new tab)
The best microscopes (opens in new tab)

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Jason Parnell-Brookes

Jason Parnell-Brookes is an Internationally award-winning photographer,  writer, and an optics specialist. He currently serves as the Channel Editor for Cameras and Skywatching over at Space.com and is the former Technique Editor of N-Photo magazine. He won Gold in the Nikon Photo Contest 2018/19 and was named Digital Photographer of the Year in 2014. Jason is a qualified teacher, Masters graduate and works with many high-profile international clients.