Until recently, all our roundups of inexpensive telescopes ended up with two 4.5-inch reflectors head and shoulders above the rest: the SkyQuest XT4.5 Classic and the StarBlast 4.5 Astro, both by Orion Telescopes & Binoculars.

Astroscan, StarBlast, XT4.5

The Edmund Astroscan and Orion Telescope & Binoculars's StarBlast 4.5 and XT4.5 (left to right) set the standard of excellence for small, inexpensive, easy-to-use telescopes.

Edmund Scientic / Orion Telescopes & Binoculars

This year we added a third contender to the list, when Edmund Scientific introduced an updated version of its venerable 4.25-inch Astroscan. Edmund left the tried-and-true basic design untouched but added a dew shield, a red-dot finder, and upgraded eyepieces.

Which of these three scopes is best for you? It's not an easy choice! Both the XT4.5 and the StarBlast 4.5 are great general-purpose scopes. The XT4.5 is arguably better for the Moon and planets because of its long focal ratio, which makes it easier to collimate and easier to focus at high magnifications. The StarBlast is arguably better for deep-sky observing because of its fantastic low-power, wide-field capability.

As for the Astroscan, though its optics and focuser aren't quite a match for the other two scopes, its unique ball-and-socket mount gives unparalleled freedom for browsing the night sky.

For more details, click on one of the scopes below to download our review in PDF form:

Orion's 114-mm f/7.9 SkyQuest XT4.5 ($229.95)

Orion's 114-mm f/4.0 StarBlast 4.5 Astro ($199.95)

Edmund's 105-mm f/4.3 Astroscan Plus ($229.00)


Image of Chuck Habenicht

Chuck Habenicht

December 10, 2010 at 2:06 pm

I've owned an Edmond Astroscan since the early '70s and although I have six other telescopes, SCT's, Refractors, NewtonianDobsonian, the 'ol Astroscan is the most convenient scope I have ever used. With it's shoulder strap and plop it anywhere base (which by the way connects to any standard photo tripod) and rugged plastic housing, it is by far THE most grab and go telescope out there. I have gone hiking and camping with it on many occasions, and to just sit down on the ground and nestle it in your arms and slowly scan the sky at 11,000 ft. elevation is a truly inspiring event. As a beginners scope I don't think you could find a better choice. If Edmond has kept its quality up, I am glad to see this reappearing on the scene.

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Image of MIchael Hamburg

MIchael Hamburg

December 10, 2010 at 2:30 pm

I work as a docent at the Rose Center for Earth and Space (which replaced the Hayden Planetarium). Part of what I demonstrate is what one can do with mirrors and lenses using a laser light source. This all leads up to the anatomy of telescopes. I have used the Astroscan as an integral part of my presentation for more than 10 years and wish that I could sell them to the public for their quality, simplicity, and affordability.

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Image of James Lummel

James Lummel

December 10, 2010 at 3:09 pm

These are all nice telescopes for the money, but the best value for a small scope like this goes to Orion's 4" Skyscanner mini-dob for $99. It uses a mount similar to the StarBlast but includes a tripod mount on the bottom. It has a 4" parabolic mirror and a 1.25" focuser. It comes with an Orion EZFinder II red dot finder and 2 eyepieces (20mm & 10mm 3-element, not Plossls but nice starter eyepieces none the less).

I bought one recently as a ultra-portable grab'n'go telescope and have been very happy with it. I have a heavy duty photo tripod that I use with binoculars and can mount this telescope and adjust the tripod to to give me the sweet spot for using it comfortably for the night. Having the tripod mount is very handy as there isn't always a table available (which all the telescope above would also need).


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Image of Russ Drum

Russ Drum

December 10, 2010 at 5:51 pm

I am a proud, field rich, Astroscan owner for over 25 years. One thing not mentioned is that it never needs collimating (thank goodness) since both mirrors are perminately mounted and small scopes might get knocked around a little. Newer models come with Plossel eyepcs (my original Kellners work great). I have had countless "WOW" comments from Star Party attendees who said it was so easy to look through. Seeing the whole Pleaides in one view is wonderful.
Also, it fits easily in overhead airplane compartments with the base attached.
In all, I love my little "bowling ball" and when my fellow club members encourage me to get a BIG scope like theirs, I usually just smile and ask, "when was the last time you used yours. My Grab-n-go goes out a lot!"
I enjoy looking through everyone's scope because of all the differing views and strengths. But, in the long run, mine is a great performer.

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