Whether you’re just getting your start as an astronomer, or you’re an experienced stargazer looking for something portable that you can quickly grab and take anywhere, there are several excellent portable scopes on the market, including the Orion StarBlast 6i Intelliscope Telescope (link opens a new tab).
Today, we’re going to break down everything you need to know about this powerful and portable outfit to help you decide if this is the best telescope for you.
The Orion StarBlast 6i is part of their wildly popular StarBlast line, which includes several telescopes aimed towards beginner and novice astronomers. Within the StarBlast line are three perfectly portable tabletop reflectors, making them the ideal companion to travel with or bring on vacation.
(There are also regular telescopes on tripods in the StarBlast range, like this 4.5″ Newtonian Reflector.)
Most importantly, the optical quality is high and the included eyepieces are all decent, so beyond being easy to travel with, the StarBlast scopes all provide breathtaking views of the night sky.
Beyond the 6i Intelliscope, there are two smaller tabletop models available. The StarBlast 114mm model is mounted on Orion’s popular AutoTracker mount while the StarBlast 4.5 model is a manual reflector with a smaller 4.5” aperture.
The entire StarBlast line is quite affordable, with both of these smaller scopes available for well under $300. The showpiece of the line, the StarBlast 6i IntelliScope is still exceptionally affordable. With all its features, it’s still available for just under $600 (check today’s price).
Things to Consider Before Buying
While the Orion StarBlast 6i is an incredible scope that’s one of the most popular instruments they make, there are plenty of factors to consider before you add this telescope to your collection. Here’s what you should consider before deciding if this is the right telescope for you.
Who is This Model For?
The Orion StarBlast 6i Intelliscope is an interesting instrument in the sense that it’s popular with complete beginners as well as astronomers who have been in the hobby for decades.
For beginners, this scope is an affordable and feature-rich performer that’s relatively affordable, easy to transport, and relatively easy to set up and use. Newbies will need to wrap their heads around the PushTo controller, which has a bit of a learning curve, but beyond that, you’ll quickly become comfortable with this telescope.
This StarBlast scope is just as popular among serious astronomers as it is with beginners. You could spend decades collecting telescopes and amass a treasure trove of expensive precision instruments at your disposal, but sometimes all you want is something you can grab quickly and hit the skies with a moment later.
To that end, the StarBlast 6i is the perfect telescope. The optics are strong, the base is sturdy, and its light weight and small size make it an ideal grab-and-go instrument. Sure, there are some limitations, as we’ll discover, but when you consider the benefits it provides, most astronomers find that the good greatly outweighs the bad.
Who Should Not Buy It?
For all the excellent characteristics of this StarBlast model, there are a few small caveats that you need to be aware of before deciding on this outfit, especially if you’re an advanced astronomer.
This f/5 reflector is a relatively fast telescope, which makes it well-suited for viewing deep-sky objects, the Messier catalog, and much more. This telescope shows great lunar and planetary detail but that’s not its primary objective. So, if you want to spend your nights charting lunar rilles and Martian surface features, you may be better off with a slower telescope.
This outfit is equipped with a PushTo controller to make it easier to find and view celestial objects. PushTo identifies where an object is and guides you to manually push the telescope to see the object. But, this isn’t as easy or intuitive as a GoTo controller. If you’re searching for the most convenient and user-friendly experience, a GoTo-equipped telescope might be a better choice for you (but will be more expensive).
If you’re searching for a portable telescope that you can use for astrophotography, this outfit won’t be a good fit for you, either. While the optical quality of this telescope would make it a decent choice for photography if all other conditions were ideal, this kit doesn’t include a motor or a suitable mount for astrophotography.
Features & Benefits
Whether you’re considering the StarBlast 6i as your first telescope, or you’re adding to an already robust collection of instruments, you’ll always want to consider the features and benefits you’re getting in exchange for your hard-earned dollars. Here’s what you’ll want to focus on when evaluating this StarBlast model.
- Optical Performance
- Mount Performance
- Included Equipment
- Setup & Use
- What You Can See
Let’s take a look at each of these in turn.
Standard Magnification Table
The table below shows the magnification levels you’ll achieve with this scope using a 25mm, 18mm, and 10mm eyepiece. The bottom row shows what this would be with a 2x Barlow Lens.
|With 2x Barlow:||60x||84x||150x|
One of the most critical areas to consider is the quality of the optical components that make up the OTA. Orion has a great reputation for producing quality instruments with premium optics, and that holds true in the case of this StarBlast 6i.
At 6”, this reflector draws in enough light to show some incredible views of the deep sky. While it does struggle with fainter objects, brighter DSOs reveal themselves in breathtaking detail through the eyepiece of the StarBlast 6i.
Compared to the market, the StarBlast 6i holds its own, and its performance is on-par with full-size Newtonians and Dobsonians in this price range (none of which include PushTo controllers, mind you.) As far as the StarBlast line goes, this model is the showpiece of the range.
The internal mirrors are the soda-lime variety, and while they aren’t the most exotic option available, they get the job done admirably. The mirrors are beautifully machined and finished with the latest multi-coatings to ensure high light transmission. While the slightest bit of coma is visible at the edges of the frame, this is to be expected with a reflector like this one.
Orion provides two eyepieces with this kit, 10mm and 25mm Sirius Plössls. These quality eyepieces deliver 75x and 30x magnification, respectively.
Coupled with the relatively fast f/5 focal ratio of this telescope, the two Plössls offer a nice wide field of view that’s ideal for deep sky observation and some wider-field lunar and planetary views as well.
A stable and easy-to-use mount is the bedrock upon which any good telescope outfit is built. A poor-quality mount that suffers from excessive vibration can turn an otherwise promising observation session into a complete drag, and it can sour a beginner on astronomy altogether.
The StarBlast 6i offers a simple alt-az mount that’s quite similar to a Dobsonian base, although this mount uses a single-arm design. The mount couldn’t be any more simple, and setting up your telescope with it is an absolute breeze.
If this were a proper Dobsonian, it would usually be large enough to place on the ground and enjoy a comfortable view through the eyepiece. But, this tabletop model is designed to be perched on a table or similar before it’s used.
Once you’re set up and ready for a viewing session, which includes making sure you have the whole setup leveled, you’ll enjoy an impressive performance from this tiny mount. It’s incredibly sturdy and vibration resistant which translates into a pleasant viewing experience.
Beyond the OTA, eyepieces, and mount, Orion throws in a few extras with this telescope. You’ll also receive an EZ Finder II reflex sight, a collimation cap, and a copy of the Starry Night SE software.
If there’s an area where you can feel frustrated with this offer, it’s the extras they throw in. The EZ Finder II is cheaply made and difficult to use. We’d recommend replacing this with a better finderscope when time allows, perhaps with a 9×50 model or something similar.
The collimation cap is serviceable and gets the job done, but there are more precise ways to collimate your scope when it’s necessary.
The final extra, the Starry Night SE software, is an immersive and interactive tool that beginners and experienced astronomers alike can enjoy. On cloudy nights where you can’t take the telescope out, you’ll be able to explore the skies with the help of the Starry Night software, which offers realistic sky simulations, moon maps, and so much more.
Setup & Use
When it comes to getting set up and ready to observe, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a telescope that’s faster to set up, easier to use, or more convenient to transport than the Orion StarBlast 6i.
In fact, you never even need to break the telescope down for transport in most cases. This model is compact enough to travel with fully assembled by hand or in a vehicle. It also sports a convenient carrying handle on the base so you have a sturdy place to grab it from.
Occasionally, you’ll need to collimate the scope to keep the mirrors in alignment and ensure the instrument remains in top shape. Beginners tend to worry about learning to collimate their scopes, but it’s an easy process for the most part that you’ll be able to master after you’ve done it a few times.
The PushTo controller offers a database of more than 12,000 celestial objects for you to enjoy. It isn’t quite as convenient as a GoTo controller is, which does all the work for you, but the PushTo still makes it incredibly simple to find all of the incredible objects within the night sky.
The video below does a great job of demonstrating the differences between a goto and PushTo telescope.
What Can You See
Once you set your eyes to the sky, you’ll be able to enjoy an incredibly diverse array of celestial bodies with the help of this StarBlast telescope.
The f/5.0 focal ratio of this scope is perfectly suited for deep sky observation, thanks to the wide field of view it provides. With its large 6” aperture and wide field, you’ll be able to enjoy an incredible selection of DSOs, including the entire Messier catalog. Star clusters, double stars, and far-off galaxies and nebulae also reveal themselves in surprising detail.
You’ll have no problems observing, for example, the Wild Duck Cluster, the Lagoon Nebula, and the Globular Cluster M80.
While a scope with an f/5 focal ratio is usually a poor fit for lunar and planetary observation, the StarBlast 6i performs incredibly well in the near-sky, as long as you add a few additional eyepieces to your collection.
A Barlow lens, plus a shorter focal length eyepiece, e.g. 6mm, would be a great place to start if you’re serious about getting the most out of this scope possible within our solar system.
If your primary hobby is astrophotography, the StarBlast 6i isn’t going to be up to the job. While the optics are certainly crisp and clear enough to take some great photographs, the mount isn’t compatible with the stability and tracking which astrophotography requires.