Best Computerized GoTo Telescopes [2021]

With Computerized Telescopes, you can find stars, planets, galaxies, and more at the press of a button.

These telescopes are also known as GoTo or Computer-Controlled and with them you do not have to manually locate objects in space. This is much easier and saves you time.

We have examined here the Best Computerized Telescopes in 2021 taking account of availability in this time of telescope shortages. We recommend three of the best models depending on your focus.

See the quick links in the table below or read on for more detail.

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Best Computerized Telescopes

Celestron Nexstar 90 SLT – Best Budget & Beginners Computerized Telescope

celestron nexstar 90 star locating telescope

The Celestron Nexstar 90SLT is a compact computerized telescope that is perfect for those on a budget.

The “SLT” in the name stands for Star Locating Telescope which refers to the in-built GOTO technology that allows you to locate over 40,000 objects in space. The “90” in the name stands for the aperture in millimeters.

It is operated by a hand controller. With this you simply scroll through and select which sights are available to you in the night sky where you are located and the telescope moves to point at what you have selected.

You can see it (and others in the SLT range) in operation in this video from Celestron:

It is a Maksutov-Cassegrain (Catadioptric/Compound) telescope, if you’ve not heard those terms before don’t worry, all it means is that it is a small, light, compact – but quality – telescope.

It comes as a full package with the telescope, mount, tripod, and accessories including a finderscope and two eyepieces (25 mm and 9 mm).

Pros

The positives for this telescope are:

  • Computerized/GOTO Technology: This makes it a breeze to locate objects in space.
  • Light and compact: Makes it easy to store at home but also to pack up and take out in the field or on trips.
  • Ease-of-use: Everything you need is in the package and requires to tools to set it up. So you can get going quickly and easily.
  • Price: Cheap and great value for a computerized telescope.

Cons

The downsides are:

  • Viewing capacity: One downside is the slightly limited power of this telescope. The best measure of this is the 3.5-inch aperture and this relatively small and may limit your capacity to clearly see certain objects in space – especially faint ones and/or if you are in a big town or city with light pollution. It this is an issue for you, you can consider some of the other telescopes in the SLT range outlined below, or even those in the SE range (also outlined below).
  • Astrophotography: It has a limited capacity to take photographs with due to the type of mount and aperture size. You would be able to capture images of the moon and maybe some of the planets but not deep sky objects.
  • Power source: It can be run on AA batteries – which is great if you want to take it out on trips – however, it eats these up pretty quick and so you will probably want to buy the extra AC adapter or possibly an external power tank.

Overall, this is the perfect computerized telescope for beginners due to its ease of use. For this reason, it would also suit teenagers or even some younger children with supervision.

It is also perfect for those on a budget as it is probably the cheapest GOTO telescope available from a respected manufacturer.

Key specifications

  • Type: Maksutov-Cassegrain (Catadioptric) Computerized Telescope
  • Mount: Alt-Azimuth
  • Aperture: 3.5-inch (90 mm)
  • Focal length: 1250 mm (49-inch)
  • Focal ratio: F/14
  • Assembled weight: 12 lbs (5.4 kg)

Other Celestron Star Locating Telescopes (SLT)

Also available are the three other telescopes in the same Celestron SLT range. These are:

  • Celestron Nexstar 102 SLT: This is Refractor telescope which means it is slightly more traditional looking with a longer tube. Slightly more viewing capacity than the model covered above.
  • Celestron Nexstar 127 SLT: This is very similar to the 90 SLT above in that it is Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope. Therefore it boasts the same positives but with more power. The downside is that it is heavier and will generally cost more, but you can check the live prices at different retailers by clicking the links here.
  • Celestron Nexstar 130 SLT: This is the most powerful of the range but is a Reflector telescope which means that it is bigger, bulkier and heavier.

The number in the name refers to the aperture in millimeters, so you can see that these are all larger than the 90SLT above and so more powerful, but generally more expensive.

These are all great telescopes for beginners and in a similar price range. The 90, 102 and 127 are all pretty small and portable, but the 130 is bulkier – although the most powerful.


Celestron NexStar 6SE – Best Computerized Telescope for Astrophotography

celestron nexstar 6se computerized telescope

The Celestron NexStar 6SE is a great computerized telescope that works for beginners or intermediate users.

With this, you will be able to take advantage of GoTo technology to automatically locate planets, stars and other objects at a press of a button from the database of 40,000 objects.

It is great for a beginner astronomer or just for someone keen to spend more time viewing and less time hunting those objects in space.

Like the model above, it is a compound telescope. Meaning it is compact, whilst offering great viewing capacity.

It has an aperture of 6-inches (that is the “6” in the name) and a focal length of 59 inches (1500 mm). In spite of it being very powerful, it also benefits from being smaller and easier to move and store.

It has an Alt-Azimuth mount, which is very easy to operate for observing the night sky and a separate piece of equipment (called an equatorial wedge) can be bought so that it can be used for astrophotography and taking photos of far off galaxies and other deep sky objects.

You can see it in action in this video here:

Pros

The reasons to want this telescope are:

  • Computerized/GOTO Technology: This makes it a breeze to locate objects in space.
  • Light and compact: Makes it easy to store at home but also to pack up and take out in the field or on trips.
  • Ease-of-use: Everything you need is in the package and requires to tools to set it up. So you can get going quickly and easily.
  • Power: Cheap and great value for a computerized telescope.
  • Astrophotography: It has a limited capacity to take photographs with due to the type of mount and aperture size. You would be able to capture images of the moon and maybe some of the planets but not deep sky objects.

Cons

Any downsides of this telescope are:

  • Weight: At 30 lbs it’s pretty heavy and can be limiting in terms of being able to move around.
  • Price: More expensive than the SLT range of Celestron telescopes covered above, but you definitely get better quality for what you pay for if you have the budget.
  • Availability: This year it’s been pretty hard to get hold of these telescope due to the impact of the pandemic on supply chains and the popularity of people want to buy telescopes to have at home. Check the live links on this page for availability from different sellers.

Key specifications

  • Type: Schmidt-Cassegrain (Catadioptric) Computerized Telescope
  • Mount: Alt-Azimuth
  • Aperture: 6-inch (152 mm)
  • Focal length: 1500 mm (59-inch)
  • Focal ratio: F/10
  • Assembled weight: 30 lbs (13.6 kg)

Other Celestron NexStar SE models

Also available are the same model telescope at different aperture specifications – check the prices for these telescopes at different retailers here:

The 4SE and 5SE are also great options for beginners in comparison to the SLT range covered above.

The 6SE and 8SE are better if you think you will venture into taking photos through your telescope (astrophotography) as they are compatible with the equatorial wedge for the mount that enables you to take long exposures.


Vaonis Stellina – Best Smart Computerized Telescope

This is something quite different from the above models and is the leading example of a new type of smart telescope that are disrupting the market.

The Stellina is the ultimate in easy-to-use telescopes – think the iPhone of telescopes. You literally unpack it, turn it on and then you operate it from an app on your smartphone.

The bonus is that it has a camera built in, which means it not only locates objects in space like a normal GOTO telescope, but it also takes pictures of them for you.

See a super-quick overview here:

Pros

The reasons to want a Stellina are:

  • Operability: Extremely easy to use. No traditional computerized telescope else really compares.
  • Astrophotography: Built in camera can image deep sky objects and send them direct to your phone for sharing online.
  • Viewing capacity: Not limited in the same way as normal telescopes by light pollution as it builds an image of what you want to see in space over time, allowing you to view it on the screen of your smartphone or tablet.

Cons

The downsides are:

  • Price: Really the only downside and obstacle to buying one is that it is expensive when compared to the other telescopes recommended above.
  • Weight: It is pretty heavy at 29 lbs.

These are amazing inventions and we would say perfect for beginners, but the price would be prohibitive for most people and so we put it here as the best for those with the budget.

Key specifications

  • Type: Smart Hybrid Computerized Telescope
  • Mount: N/A (all-in-one package)
  • Aperture: 80 mm (3.25 inches)
  • Focal Length: 400 mm (16-inch)
  • Focal Ratio: F/5
  • Assembled Weight: 29 lb (13 kg)

Other Smart Computer-Controlled Telescopes

You can read more about the Stellina and similar alternatives in our article on the Best Smart Telescopes.


What are Auto Tracking Telescopes?

Computerized telescopes (also known as Auto Tracking, GoTocomputer-driven, computer-controlled telescopes) have the technology built in to locate planets, galaxies, and other objects for you at the press of a button.

Computerized vs Manual Telescopes – the key differences

This contrasts with a regular telescope where you need to locate the objects manually by operating the mount by hand and attempting to find what you want to see by using a star map.

What are the advantages of computerized telescopes?

  1. Ease-of-use: The one big advantage of GOTO telescopes – they are much quicker and easier to use when compared to a normal, manual telescope. If you are a beginner, a computerized telescope will allow you to locate many more objects much quicker than you could find on your own with a manual telescope. They are relatively simple to operate and you do not need to be an experienced astronomer.
  2. Location: They can also be a great option if you live in a city or under light-polluted skies. This is because if you are locating objects manually you will be using the stars as reference points and this is difficult when you can’t see many stars.

What about the disadvantages of computerized telescopes?

  1. Price: The main disadvantage is the higher price. Computer-controlled telescopes do cost more than regular telescopes. If you have a set budget, buying a computerized option may mean you get a less powerful telescope, since the more powerful a telescope is the more expensive it will generally be, and so adding the GOTO element further increases the cost.
  2. Education: One other potential disadvantage is that learning how to use a manual telescope and locate objects in the sky yourself is one of the best ways to teach yourself astronomy. That being said, there is no reason that you cannot learn just as much with a computerized telescope, but it’ll be a little easier and so there are some obvious pros and cons to this.
  3. Power supply: Unlike manual telescopes, GOTO ones need to be plugged in or powered with batteries.
  4. Operability: Although finding objects is done for you with a GOTO telescope, taking a manual telescope out and operating it by hand is much simpler. Also something to consider is whether you are comfortable with electronics and computers. There can be software issues and some people might prefer manual options for this reason.

Can you build your own computer-controlled telescope package?

When we talk about computerized vs manual telescopes, what we are really talking about is the mount system that comes with the telescope.

The telescope alone is sometimes referred to as an OTA (Optical Tube Assembly) and can always be used with either manual or GOTO mounts.

The mount is the equipment that sits between the tripod and the telescope (OTA) and allows it to move where it is pointing.

There are two main types of mount both of which can be computerized:

  1. Alt-Azimuth: Generally better for observing the night sky (astronomy) as they are very easy to operate with a handle so you can move it up and down, left and right.
  2. Equatorial: Better for taking photos (astrophotography) as they allow a full range of movement when tracking objects in space and are not restricted by up/down and left/right motions. They are harder to operate though and are also bulkier and heavier.

The Celestron Nexstar 90SLT and Nexstar 6SE both have Alt-Az mounts, which make them easy to operate for beginners (or anyone who wants it easier).

The 6SE can have an extra component added (called a wedge) that effectively turns it into an equatorial mount for the purposes of photographing the night sky.

The Stellina is different completely and is an all-in-one smart package.

Taking this into account then, you can of course buy a telescope and mount separately to build your own setup. See the Best Telescope Mounts for Astrophotography if you want to learn more.

How to choose a GoTo Telescope

Factors to consider when choosing a computer-controlled telescope are:

  • Price: What’s your budget? They range from around $400-500 for the cheapest and into the thousands for more premium models.
  • Size and weight: Consider your home and where you will use and store the telescope. Do you have space for a more powerful, but larger telescope?
  • Type: You shouldn’t get too hung up on it but Catadioptric/Compound telescopes tend to be the smallest but most expensive in terms of price to aperture. Reflectors tend to be the bulkiest but the best value (Dobsonian telescopes are another type of reflector telescope that tend to be huge but provide high aperture). Refractors are usually in the middle.
  • Specifications: You’ll see a lot of factors listed. Aperture is the most important as it is the best measure of a telescope’s viewing capacity. A higher focal length will make it better for viewing planets (see below). A higher focal ratio (as indicated by a lower F-number) indicates it will be better for astrophotography. As discussed above, Alt-Azimuth mounts are easier to use for viewing, Equatorial mounts are trickier and bulkier but better for photography.

Computerized Telescope FAQs

What’s the best computerized telescope under $500?

The Celestron Nexstar 90SLT is a great budget computerized telescope. See the review above.

Others in the Celestron SLT range can also be found for a similar price.

What’s the best computerized telescope for viewing the planets and moon?

For viewing the moon and planets of our solar system you would want to look at a telescope with a longer focal length.

For example, from the Celestron SLT range the 90SLT and 127SLT have much longer focal lengths than the other two models – see Celestron Nexstar: which model to buy? for a detailed breakdown.

A longer focal length indicates that it will zoom in more to a smaller field of view. This is perfect for viewing the moon and planets as they are relatively close to Earth in comparison to far off galaxies, nebulae and other deep space objects where higher aperture is the priority for good viewing.

What’s the most powerful computerized telescope?

Aperture is the best measure of power in a telescope and you can get computerized telescopes of 14-inch and 16-inch aperture from Celestron and Meade Instruments.

See The Most Powerful Telescopes You Can Buy for more information.

Are computerized telescopes good for children?

Yes, although probably only for children who are old enough to be able to take care of it.

See our article on the Best Telescopes for Kids for other options for different age ranges.

Can you connect a telescope to a computer?

Yes, with these telescopes you can bypass the hand controller and instead control it with software like Stellarium. You will just need the correct cable to connect it with.


Overall: What’s the Best Computer Controlled Telescope?

Overall then, our recommendations are:

We hope these fit the bill for you and you can find a good option in stock. Others in the Celestron Nexstar SE and SLT range are also great.

You can find more articles like this in our Astronomy hub.

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