Orion SkyQuest XT6 Plus comes with many upgrades, but the most important part is not upgraded.
SkyQuest XT6 doesn’t address the most important issue with its standard version XT6. That issue is the 1.25″, plastic, rack-and-pinion focuser.
It should have been a 2″ focuser like the one that comes with the SkyWatcher 6″, but Orion didn’t upgrade it with the plus version. This is surprising since they have solved all the other problems the XT6 had.
The optical quality of XT6 is expectedly great. A Dobsonian is the most efficient way of obtaining optical power. They are easy to manufacture and there are not many different parts in the overall design.
The primary mirror is a 6″(150mm) parabolic, and the optical tube is 1200mm. Such combination provides f/8 focal ratio, leaning more towards planetary performance.
The f/8 focal ratio has a significant advantage, and that is the ease of collimation. If you don’t know what that is, it is the alignment procedure required when you get a Dob. They get boring after a while since you have to do it regularly.
The collimation screws attached to the front mirror makes the whole process even easier. Although most of the extra accessories are useless, this one is smart and useful.
Deep space performance is not bad, but the 1.25″ focuser problem comes into play in this area. The field-view is an important factor in deep space observations. A 2″ focuser would be a much better choice since it would counteract the narrow field view that comes with an f/8 Dob, but Orion doesn’t send one. Even though this is a “Plus” version.
Planetary and Lunar Performance
I have nothing bad to say about the planetary performance since XT6 Plus is one of the bests in its price range. The most important factor for this is the f/8 focal ratio, instead of f/6 or lower. It is easier to get more detail at high magnifications, and it is also easier to focus the optics.
Jupiter will show its many stripes with the XT6, including its 4 Galilean Moon’s and The Great Red Spot.
Rings of Saturn will be clear, including the gap between its rings, The Cassini Division. You can also observe its largest moon Titan and on ideal conditions, its many moons as tiny dots.
Mars will show some surface detail as black stains and its Polar Ice Caps look like white stains. The “red” color of the surface is clear.
Phases of Venus are easy to observe.
Neptune and Uranus are observable as blueish dots, including Neptune’s largest moon Triton.
The Lunar surface will show a ridiculous amount of craters and mountain ranges with on-point color accuracy.
Overall the planetary performance of XT6 is second-to-none. It is comparable to the more expensive 8″ models due to its f/8 focal ratio. If planetary detail is your priority, XT6 is a no-brainer. BUT, you should also check out SkyWatcher 6″, since it comes with a 2″ focuser, it is more future-proof.
Deep Space Performance
Deep-space performance is not bad, but Orion should have enhanced it with a 2″ focuser. The deep-space performance is comparable to a Zhumell Z130, which is much cheaper and easier to carry around. I am utterly disappointed in this area.
Getting images of the brighter Messier Objects such as Andromeda, Orion, Hercules, and the Pleiades is easy. Although the field view is narrower than most Dobsonians, the amount of detail and brightness is still pretty good. But as I’ve said before, I expect more from a telescope that is being sold at a premium price.
Is an upgrade to an 8″ is worth it over the plus version? Absolutely. The images will become much clearer, and the field view will expand due to the combination of a larger primary mirror and a 2″ focuser. Just get an 8″ Dob if you can, you won’t be disappointed. And don’t worry about portability, there is not much difference between a 6″ and an 8″ in that area.
The most notable improvement in the mount is the Teflon bearings instead of Nylon. It provides smoother motions and is just a better material overall.
Orion doesn’t send a balance adjuster spring with the XT6 Plus, which is absurd. They have removed an important part of the telescope while upgrading it to a Plus version. It is ridiculous. You have to use extra weight attached to the optical tube in case of any imbalance.
The white paint around the base is more ornamental than functional.
The springs attached to the sides provide pretty good friction control. But this is not a difficult thing to achieve.
The base is particleboard, as it is with other Dobsonian models. If the coverings get peeled off, it will get damaged by moisture.
The weight of the base is not a huge problem. It is 22 lbs, which is close to 10 kg. The optical tube weighs around 11.5 lbs, which is around 5.2 kg. You can detach the optical tube and carry it separately.
Although the Teflon is an improvement, the base is disappointing due to the lack of balance control. A “Plus” version should have included it, and it is even more nonsensical that the regular version comes with a spring, and the “Plus” version doesn’t.
Other than these problems, the base performs really well. It is rock-solid on the ground and butter-smooth on all axis’.
The accessories are disappointing. Orion claims that the accessories are what makes this version a “Plus”, but the extra accessories are not worth the extra cost. Let me explain.
The extra, 10mm Plössl is not a good eyepiece. You won’t use it after a few months due to its small lens and short eye relief.
The 2x Barlow is among the accessories that you won’t use after a few months. Getting specialized eyepieces for planetary detail is a much better choice—a 6mm Goldline, for example.
The 25mm eyepiece is usable for a long period of time, but it is nothing impressive. It is average at best in terms of quality.
The focuser is the worst part, which is a plastic, 1.25″ rack-and-pinion. At this price range there are metal, 2″ focusers that come with many models. This is just disappointing. Don’t get me wrong; the focuser is functional. But it doesn’t have fine-tuning, and the motions it provides are not as good as a metal Crayford.
The red dot finder is a cheap, functional device. Although it is a budget choice, I prefer it over more expensive scope finders.
Overall there is nothing impressive among the accessories. I expected more from a “Plus” version.
The extra cost doesn’t go to the important upgrades. A 2″ focuser and a wide-field, 2″, 30mm eyepiece would make this model dreamy. And, they shouldn’t have excluded the spring adjusters while doing that. But Orion chose to improve unnecessary parts.
I don’t recommend getting this telescope. Upgrading to an 8″ Dobsonian would be a vastly better move, or you should look for a 6″ Dob that comes with a 2″ focuser.
But still, if you own an XT6 Plus already, don’t worry. It is better than %90 of the telescope models in its price range.