SkyWatcher Virtuoso GTi 130P Review
The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 130P is a fantastic beginner or “Grab n’ go” telescope, though we do recommend the larger 150P which only costs a bit more too. Those looking for a simpler or cheaper setup should consider the Heritage 130P or 150P which are identical to their Virtuoso GTi counterparts apart from the lack of GoTo.
The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 130P is an excellent telescope for its price, suitable for both beginners and experienced users. It works as a great “grab n’ go” or travel scope, easily aimed manually around the sky with the added convenience of GoTo and tracking functions that can be operated via your smartphone or tablet. However, if you’re looking to save a little more money, the 150P model isn’t much bigger in size but only slightly more expensive than the 130P. The Virtuoso GTi 130P is essentially an upgraded version of the Heritage 130P; with improved mounting that allows for full GoTo and motorized tracking capabilities – all while remaining lightweight and portable enough to fit in your backpack or luggage. Just bear in mind that it’s best set up on a sturdy surface such as a milk crate or bar stool.
Image by Ed Ting
the optical tube
130mm (5.1”) Aperture
650mm Focal Length
The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 130P is a 5.1” (130mm) f/5 Newtonian reflector with a 650mm focal length, featuring a unique collapsible strut tube for easier storage and portability. It is identical to the Heritage 130P optical tube, and shares its optical configuration with many other 130mm f/5s, including the Celestron 130mm f/5 computerized Newtonians such as the Astro-Fi 130 and 130SLT. Even though an f/5 Newtonian has minor coma at the edges of the field with a wide-angle 2″ ocular, it’s unlikely you’d notice given this model only features a 1.25″ focuser. However, be aware that cheaper eyepieces can also produce aberrations if used on this telescope; so when shopping for extras keep that in mind.
Don’t be deterred by regular collimation of the 130P being necessary as it’s not too difficult of a process! The primary mirror is easily adjusted with hand knobs at the back while the secondary is adjusted with a hex key.
The 1.25” focuser on the Virtuoso GTi 130P is a plastic threaded helical unit – essentially a big hollow screw which you turn to adjust focus. It is designed to be compact and lightweight due to the plastic upper frame of the scope. It is not as easy to get fine focus adjustment as with a good Crayford and the focuser is unable to hold some very heavy wide-angle oculars, but it is no worse than most of the plastic rack-and-pinion focusers sold at this price point.
To attach to its mount, the GTi 130P uses a Vixen-style dovetail rail affixed to the side of the tube. This also allows you to use it on other mounts/tripods if you want, but may put the eyepiece at an awkward angle depending on the orientation of the dovetail saddle on another mount.
mechanics & mount
The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 130P has a tabletop Dobsonian mount based on the Heritage 130P model, with motor drives and clutches added to both axes; these can be unlocked for manual aiming of the GTi 130P or tightened to allow the use of your smartphone or tablet to slew the scope around the sky via the SynScan app or another interface. The mount’s GoTo system is powered by either a small pack of batteries or a rechargeable power supply. With just the press of a button, the telescope can slew around the sky to tens of thousands of possible targets and automatically track whatever you are aiming at. Alignment takes just a few minutes and is not affected should you decide to unlock the clutches and aim manually thanks to the scope’s FreedomFind encoder system. This is in stark contrast to the annoying and complex hand controller system supplied with many GoTo telescopes, which will also require rebooting and re-aligning if the telescope is bumped or aimed manually, as most scopes lack dual encoders like the FreedomFind system.
Should you use the 130P manually, aiming it around the sky is just like any other Dobsonian – just push the scope where you want it to point and let go when you’ve found your object. You can track manually if the scope is powered off; the mount will automatically track targets for you if it is powered up and aligned.
The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 130P comes with two eyepieces; a 25mm with a magnification of 26x, and the 10mm eyepiece has a 65x magnification. Both are based on the Konig design and feature glass lenses, while the exterior is made of plastic. The Super Konig design offers wide-angle viewing and long eye relief, providing an apparent field of view of 55 degrees with good sharpness at the edges. Looking through the 10mm eyepiece in particular is comfortable as it does not require jamming your eye into it like the more commonly provided Kellner and Plossl designs at this focal length would. Additional eyepieces are required for higher magnifications; 100x magnification or above is recommended for optimal planetary views with a 5” telescope like the 130P.
For a finder, the Virtuoso GTi 130P comes with a standard battery-powered red dot sight – more than sufficient for aligning its GoTo system or aiming the scope around the sky by hand thanks to its wide field of view.
What can you see if you look through it?
The Virtuoso GTi 130P’s 5” of aperture and wide field of view makes it ideal for viewing deep-sky objects. Open star clusters are a delight even from a city, as are double stars; dark skies and/or a UHC nebula filter bring out large nebulae like the North America Nebula or the Veil and you can see brighter ones like the Orion Nebula even from a fairly light-polluted locale. The brightest globular star clusters such as M13 can be resolved into individual stars with the 130P at high magnification, and you can also see a few of the brightest planetary nebulae. Galaxies are fuzzy washed-out smudges for the most part, particularly under light-polluted conditions, but the 130P can show you dust lanes in galaxies like M31 or M82 under dark skies along with galaxy groups like the Virgo Cluster and Leo Triplet.
The 130P does a fine job on the Moon and planets, too. Our Moon delights with endless detail, and you can see the phases of Mercury and Venus. Mars show its ice caps and a few dark markings when the planet is close to Earth. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, cloud belts and other atmospheric details can be seen, along with the disks of its four Galilean moons when they transit in front of the planet and cast shadows in their wake. Saturn’s rings show the Cassini division within them on a steady night and the planet has its own cloud belts and a few moons too. Uranus and Neptune remain fuzzy bluish dots; Triton is just barely visible next to Neptune under dark skies while Uranus’ moons remain out of reach. Pluto requires a telescope with at least twice the aperture of the 130P to see at all as a star-like point under dark skies.
The Virtuoso GTi 130P requires a sturdy tabletop surface to ensure optimal viewing comfort and that the GoTo system is properly aligned and stays that way. Thus, attempting to use the telescope on an unsteady table or other surface can disrupt the accuracy of the motors and be extremely annoying for general use. To use the 130P while standing or seated, an ideal low-cost and portable surface for the scope to rest on would be a bar stool or milk crate respectively. Additionally, with basic carpentry tools and materials, one can build a stand for the 130P or any other tabletop telescope at a low cost.
As previously mentioned, the open tube of the 130P does allow light in through the sides as well as moisture, etc. – for most users we would recommend making a foam or plastic shroud to insert into the upper part of the tube assembly to protect the optics, solving this issue.
The Sky-Watcher Virtuoso GTi 130P is an excellent telescope for beginner astronomers and excels in viewing both deep-sky and Solar System objects. Its portability makes it ideal for those looking for a telescope they can travel with to dark skies or store in a small space, too.