Each of our individual telescope reviews awards the telescope a star rating in four categories:

  • Ease of Use
  • Optical Quality
  • Mount Quality
  • Overall Score

The ratings for each of these are based on the following criteria. A ‘half star’ means the telescope falls somewhere between two measures.

Ease of Use

We award stars for the ‘ease of use’ measure on the following basis:

  • 1 Star – A poor product with no instructions on how to set it up
  • 2 Stars – Limited instructions, especially for more complex telescopes
  • 3 Stars – Instructions are clear but parts don’t fit together well, or fit together in an unusual way that could easily be improved
  • 4 Stars – Easy to set up and use as expected with the instructions provided
  • 5 Stars – Additional support for set up and use is provided online, e.g. videos, and/or there are no obvious improvements

Optical Quality

We award stars for ‘optical quality’ based on the following:

  • 1 Star – Simple optics with no multi coatings and/or general poor quality and stars out of focus. Not useable
  • 2 Stars – Single surface coating and very noticeable aberrations, but useable
  • 3 Stars – Some multi-coating of surfaces. Some aberrations but the center of the field is well focused and delivers good views
  • 4 Stars – Fully multi-coated surfaces where applicable. Few or slight optical aberrations. Flat field almost to the edge of the view
  • 5 Stars – Fully multi-coated surfaces where applicable. Excellent quality optics and a fully flat field

Mount Quality

Mount quality scores depend on whether tracking is included. We score ‘Mount Quality’ on the following basis:

  • 1 Star – Very poor tripod with lots of instability and vibration which render the telescope unusable
  • 2 Stars – Weak legs on the tripod and vibrations that take several seconds to abate
  • 3 Stars – Firmer tripod with vibrations taking less than 8 seconds to dissipate
  • 4 Stars – Strong and sturdy tripod where vibrations die down very quickly
  • 5 Stars – Top end tripod with practically zero vibrations. Very strong and very sturdy


The overall score is an aggregate of the three criteria above and translates as follows:

  • 1 Star – Very poor, don’t buy
  • 2 Stars – Poor. Buy with your eyes open to its weaknesses
  • 3 Stars – Average scope, probably okay if at the cheaper end of the range
  • 3.5 Stars – A good telescope but with some clear weaknesses
  • 4 Stars – A very good telescope that is enjoyable to use
  • 4.5 Stars – A fantastic telescope that is hard to beat in its price/type bracket
  • 5 Stars – Top of the class telescope in its bracket

Different Standards of Telescope

It is not hugely helpful to compare a $100 telescope to one costing $3000. For this reason, we do allow some tolerance in these criteria so that people can compare similar scopes within their budget and get a truer sense of which models are good value and which are less so.

Accordingly, a five-star model costing $3000 is not comparable to a five-star model costing $300. The price alone should tell you that two such scopes are in a different league from each other.

However, a four-star scope costing $500 is going to be poorer than a five-star scope costing $300.

The groups of telescopes that are comparable to each other is set approximately by price, as follows:

  • Below $200
  • $200-$600
  • $600-$1200
  • Above $1200