Best Tabletop Telescopes to Buy in 2024

by TTB

You might have heard the term “Dobsonian”, which is a pretty famous design among amateur-astronomers. It is a go-to design choice due to its performance per price. Tabletops are dobsonians too, in a smaller form factor.

Tabletops are preferred due to their portability. They provide the price/performance ratio of a Dobsonian, in a small-package. Naturally, they are a widely-preffered telescopes design.

In this article, I will choose a few models that would pretty much be considered go-to choices.

Are Tabletops for beginners?

Definitely. A few reasons for this. Firstly, they budget-friendly. Telescopes are not cheap products. So, a beginner might want to dip their toe in the field while keeping their money in their pockets.

Secondly, ease-of-use is a big deal for beginners. Tabletops are very low-care products. Keeping the primary mirror clean will most of the time be enough.

Thirdly, a small-sized products will be a good trail way towards bigger telescopes, such as 8” or “10 Dobsonians. Start small, as they say.

Reasons not to go for a tabletop

Due to their small-size their optical power is considered pretty modest. An 8” dobsonian would provide 3.3x better image quality than a Z114 telescope. Imagine a the difference between a 360p video and a 1080p video, that is the difference we are talking about. So in the end you have to make choice, lower price and portability, or higher price and some weight-lifting?

Second reason comes from the design itself. These are “tabletop”s after all. You will need a sturdy surface to do your observations. In the case of a dobsonian, a simple chair would suffice. For a refractor, you could do your observations while standing up. Not the case for a tabletop.

Zhumell Z114

The Good

  • GREAT OPTICS
  • STURDY BUILD
  • SIMPLE DESIGN
  • PORTABLE

The Bad

  • LOW POWER
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Z114 is a product I recommend very often due to the reason that it has a parabolic mirror instead of a spherical mirror. Simple fact: Parabolic mirrors are much better than spherical mirrors. They are more difficult to manufacture, more expensive, and simply provide higher-quality images. So, A 114mm primary mirror is among the smallest acceptable quality telescopes you can get.

Zhumell Z130 Review

Zhumell Z130

The Good

  • EASY TO USE
  • PORTABLE
  • WELL-BUILT
  • GREAT OPTICS

The Bad

  • PRICEY
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With 16mm wider aperture than the Z114mm, Z130 is one of the best tabletops telescopes you can buy. It has great build quality for a telescope at its price range. It would be suitable for someone who does not want a collapsible design, which might feel shaky to some.

SkyWatcher Heritage 130P

The Good

  • TOP-NOTCH MIRRORS
  • STURDY BUILD
  • PORTABLE
  • EASY-TO-USE

The Bad

  • WOBBLY FOCUSER
  • NEEDS A LIGHT SHROUD
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This model is one I recommend most of the time. A 130mm primary mirror is a pretty nice beginning. This model is what we call a “collapsible”. The optical tube collapses in half for better portability. It is not the smoothest experience in the world, however useful in many cases where you want to save some space in your car or bag.

SkyWatcher Heritage 150P

The Good

  • 150mm Aperture
  • Compact
  • Simple To Use
  • Decent Included Accessories
  • Surprisingly Low Price Tag
  • Portability

The Bad

  • Needs A Sturdy Surface
  • Needs A Shroud
  • Helical Focuser Sags With Heavy Accessories
  • Can’t Use A Solar Filter

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A 6” mirror that is the same as XT6 or SkyWatcher 6”. So, in terms of optical power, 150P is at the same level of entry-level dobsonians. However, due to its shorter optical tube, image resolution will still be worse than a 6” dob.

Image by Ed Ting

SkyWatcher GTi 130P

The Good

  • Great Optics With Plenty Of Aperture
  • Wide Field Of View
  • Easy-To-Use GoTo Mount Which Can Also Be Aimed Manually
  • Excellent Value For The Money
  • Extremely Portable

The Bad

  • 150P Model Is A Better Deal
  • Needs A Table Top Or Other Steady Surface To Support The Telescope
  • Open Tube Requires A Shroud To Keep Out Stray Light
  • Focuser Is Not The Best, Though Functional
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A tabletop design that is also a “GoTo”, meaning it will point to the object you are observing automatically. These kind of automized mounts are not common in the tabletop design realm, which makes the Virtuoso a unique choice. If you are considering a Virtuoso GTi 130P, I would strongly suggest checking out the 150P version, which would provide much better images due to the larger aperture.

Small Note on SkyWatcher Heritage Collapsible’s

SkyWatcher’s Heritage designs, due to their collapsible form, require a light shroud for better image quality. This is not a big concern, but it will be another thing to keep in mind.

Honorable Mention: Orion SkyScanner 100

The Good

  • GREAT OPTICS
  • STURDY BUILD
  • PORTABLE
  • LOW PRICE

The Bad

  • LOW APERTURE
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SkyScanner 100 is unique in the sense that many 100mm tabletop telescopes come with low-quality spherical mirrors, while SkyScanner 100mm does not. So, it is one of the few models that provide a high quality image at the 100mm aperture range. The optical power is pretty low, so I would suggest going for this model in rare case, for example for your kid, or if your budget can go up to this model only. But, SkyScanner 100 deserves some recognition.

Conclusion

This is my list for best tabletop telescopes for 2024. Other people may have different opinions, but I am pretty confident that you wouldn’t be unhappy with one of these models. Tabletop telescopes are grab-and-go, meaning you can pick one up with a single hand, go outside and gaze at the stars for a while, which is pretty convenient in many cases.