SkyQuest XT6 is a solid performer, but it is not the best 6″ Dobsonian.
SkyQuest XT6 gets close to being the perfect beginner scope if not for its one weakness, and that is its 1.25″ focuser. You might think of it as the Achilleus Heel of the SkyQuest XT6.
I will delve into the focuser subject in the accessories section, but before that it needs to be said that XT6 is one of the best beginner telescopes you can get. The optical power is more than enough for a beginner, the mount is solid, it has balance adjustments, and it doesn’t come with useless accessories.
The problem is there is a better model and that is SkyWatcher 6″ Dob. It comes with a 2″ focuser, which is a vast improvement in terms of the eyepieces you are able to use with the scope.
Don’t buy this great telescope.
The optical design of XT6 lean more towards planetary performance with its 6″ aperture and 1200mm optical tube. Such a combination will provide an f/8 focal ratio, which is why it leans towards planetary detail. Focusing and getting detail will be easier compared to other Dobs with the SkyQuest XT6. But it sacrifices deep space performance while doing that. The 1.25″ focuser combined with the f/8 focal ratio provides a rather narrow field view.
Planetary and Lunar Performance
Planetary detail is SkyQuest XT6’s strong suit. It easily extracts detail from Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Venus and the Moon.
Jupiter’s The Great Red Spot, 4 Galilean Moon’s and its many stripes are easily visible with Orion SkyQuest XT6.
Rings of Saturn are also easy to see with its Cassini Division, and many moons of Saturn are visible, including its largest moon Titan, which appears as a yellowish dot.
Some surface detail on Mars is visible as black stains and its Polar Ice Caps are noticable as white stains.
Uranus and Neptune will apear as blueis dots, and Neptune’s largest moon Triton will be visible.
Phases of Venus are easy to observe with the SkyQuest XT6.
A 6mm Goldline eyepiece will improve planetary performance drastically.
The images will look vastly better in real life, but this might give you and idea.
Deep Space Performance
Deep space performance is not the best a 6″ Dob would provide, and this is due to the 1.25″ focuser. The field view it provides is narrow, and it makes it harder to observe larger deep space objects. The brightness and sharpness level is the same as any 2″ focuser would provide with a 6″ telescope, but a wider-field view is a vital improvement for deep space observations. The narrow field view also makes locating objects harder.
But still, SkyWatcher 6″ Dobsonian’s deep space performance is better than any refractor or tripod model you would find at this price range.
Do not forget that this is a Dobsonian, which are made for optical performance and nothing else.
The brighter Messier Catalog objects are easy targets for Orion SkyQuest XT6. The Andromeda, Orion, Hercules, and the Pleiades are among the mesmerizing objects you can observe. You can get a glimpse of Whirlpool Galaxy and the Crab Nebula, but their extensions appear rather ghostly.
Is it worth it to improve to an 8″? Yes, absolutely. The reason is that an 8″ would collect %77 more light, improving the image quality by almost two-fold. The difference is almost ridiculous. If you can, you should get an 8″ Dobsonian. But a 6″ will, without a doubt, mesmerize a beginner. So don’t get sad if your budget is not enough for an 8”.
The mount is the same as other 6″ Dob mounts. Due to its weight and bulky nature it is rock-solid, so you won’t have any “stability” problems. The attachments between the optical tube and the mount are rather small, but they won’t be problematic with a 6″ Dobsonian. They are more of a problem at the 10″-12″ range.
The base is rock-solid with adequate smoothness.
The Nylon pads that provide the smooth motion are not a premium material. Teflon, is the ultimate, butter smooth material, and I don’t understand why Orion uses Nylon. In terms of functionality Nylon pads don’t create any problems, but they feel cheap.
The base is particleboard, which is also a cheap material. But I don’t mind it for two reasons. Firstly, it is not an important part of the telescope. Secondly, it is made of particle board with even 1500$ Dobsonian’s, so this makes it impossible to complain.
Tension Adjuster Springs
Tension Adjuster Springs provide additional friction by holding the optical tube down. They are not the smartest design, but they work properly.
25mm – 10mm Plössl Eyepieces
I admire Orion for not including a 10mm Plössl eyepiece. Most people stop using it after a few months since they provide a dim, narrow image. It should be excluded from every telescope package to drive the price down.
Since there is no small eyepiece that comes with the telescope, I recommend getting a 6mm Goldline. It will be great for planetary detail, providing 200x magnification.
The 25mm Plössl eyepiece is decent. It provides 48x magnification with a wide-field view. It is suitable for deep space observations.
EZ II Red Dot Finder
The red dot finder that comes with the telescope is cheap but functional. It is a simple device. It helps to focus by projecting a red dot on a screen. I think it is better than slightly more expensive scope type finders, 6×30, for example.
The 1.25″ focuser choice is disappointing. A f/8 telescope such as the XT6 has a slightly narrow field view, which makes it ideal for planetary detail, but unideal for deep space observations. A 2″ focuser would counteract the narrow field view, but Orion doesn’t send one. Upgrading the focuser adds to the cost and additional effort.
Unfortunately, this amazing telescope gets pulled down by its focuser.
The 1.25″ focuser is the biggest drawback. It should have been a 2″. The focuser also deems the tension adjuster springs useless.
The smooth-motion bearings are Nylon instead of Teflon.
SkyQuest XT6 is not a bad model by any means. In fact, it is one of the best starter telescopes you can get in the whole astronomy world. But, it is not future-proof. You will have to change the focuser eventually, and this will add to the cost.
Until Orion sends a 2″ focuser with the XT6, you should get the SkyWatcher 6″.