I was attracted to the Orion SkyScanner 100mm TableTop Reflector as soon as I saw it. I've always been a huge fan of the Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro, and here, apparently, was a telescope almost exactly half the weight and cost of the StarBlast, yet sporting 88% the aperture, for 77% as much light-gathering power. Could this really be 77% of a StarBlast for half the cost?
The short answer is no — the SkyScanner falls short of the StarBlast in several obvious and not-so-obvious ways. In fact, my expectations were so high that my intial reaction was disappointment.
Then, when I started using the scope again several months later, I started to appreciate the SkyScanner on its own merits. No, it's not 77% of a StarBlast for half the price, but it might well be half of a StarBlast for half the price, and that's still a huge accomplishment.
How is the SkyScanner inferior to the StarBlast, aside from its slightly smaller aperture? First, its mirror isn't diffraction-limited. And the mirror is affixed solidly to the back of the tube instead of being in a standard cell with collimation screws. And there's hardly any clearance between the tube and the light path. That's what makes it possible for the scope to be so small and light, but it also makes its cool-down time much longer.
More subtly, the SkyScanner lacks one of the unusual features of the StarBlast — the ability to rotate the tube in its rings. That makes the StarBlast extraordinarily easy to use on a tabletop; you can always rotate the eyepiece into the ideally comfortable position. Mind you, it's hardly fair to criticize the $100 SkyScanner for lacking a feature that's also lacking in most commercial Dobs — even ones costing thousands!
On the flip side, the SkyScanner can be attached to any standard photo tripod with a detachable head — a very convenient arrangement. The StarBlast isn't threaded for photo tripods, and even if it were, it would be too heavy for all but the most robust (and expensive) professional-caliber tripods. So in practice, the StarBlast requires either a sturdy table or some kind of custom-built support.
But now let's forget about the StarBlast, and compare the SkyScanner instead to a standard commercial 60-mm refractor selling for exactly the same price. The refractor probably does a better job on the planets, but that's the end of its advantages. The SkyScanner gathers fully 2.7 times as much light as a 60-mm refractor, making every star and deep-sky object appear a full magnitude brighter. It's much easier to carry and store. And its mount is a joy to use.
What's the moral? If you want the most aperture possible for $100, or if you want an ultraportable scope that can be attached to a standard photo tripod, by all means buy the SkyScanner. It's a fine scope despite its limitations, and it won't disappoint you. But if you have $200 and don't mind a somewhat heavier and bulkier telescope, you'd definitely do better with the StarBlast, which is a timeless classic.