The Orion SkyQuest XT6 (link opens a new tab) and XT6 Plus models are top-rated and offer tremendous value for everyone from first-timers to experienced astronomers.
SkyQuest telescopes are well-known for having impressive optics, as we’ve seen in our review of the XT8, and we’re pleased to report the same is true of the XT6 as well.
Read on as we cover everything you’ll need to know in our Orion SkyQuest XT6 Telescope review.
Orion’s XT Range of Telescopes
Orion produces a large range of XT telescopes, with this 8″ model being in the middle of the range, which is why it is one of our best serious telescopes this year.
Their sizes range from the beginner’s 4.5-inch telescope and range through 6”, 8”, 10” (our full review), 12”, 14” and 16”. Technically, the largest two models are XX models, not XT, because they have open truss frames instead of solid OTAs. The 12” is available in XT and XX versions.
To make things a little more complicated, there are also sub-models for many of these sizes. However, they are easy enough to understand:
- ‘PLUS’ – these models have upgrades over the standard base design, including a dual-speed Crayford focuser, adjustable tension in the Dob base, and extra accessories
- ‘g’ – models with a ‘g’ in them, e.g. SkyQuest XT10g, have a go-to motorized computer attached to them with a 42,000 object database
- ‘i’ – this stands for ‘Intelliscope’, e.g. SkyQuest XT10i, which is SkyQuest’s push-to database of 14,000 objects
The 8” and 10” SkyQuests are available as ‘Classic’ (base model), ‘plus’, goto or intelliscope. The 4.5” model only comes with the basic setup, and the 6” model is either ‘classic’ or ‘plus’.
At the top end of the range, the 12” and 14” models are only available with ‘intelliscope’ or ‘goto’ capability, and the 16” only comes with goto.
XT Telescope Pricing
One of the Dobsonian design’s most outstanding characteristics is that they are affordable to produce. These telescopes offer incredible views for a nominal price compared to other telescope types.
At present, the telescopes in the XT range are priced as follows on Telescope.com. Click the links to see today’s prices:
- XT4.5 (read our full review)
- XT8 (see our complete review)
- XT10 (see our complete review)
View the full range at Orion Telescopes (opens a new tab).
The SkyQuest XT6 is a formidable and feature-rich telescope that’s available now for around $350. The Plus model, which includes some notable extras, is still relatively affordable at under $400.
Things to Consider Before Buying
The SkyQuest XT6 is an ideal scope for beginners, and many seasoned astronomers find themselves coming back to their old Dobsonians to enjoy incredible views of the night sky. Ask any fellow stargazer, and they’re likely to tell you that the best telescope is the one that gets used!
Even hardened stargazers with a 14″ beast of a telescope find themselves often leaning on a smaller model, like the XT6, for ease and convenience of a quick night’s viewing. That’s why it’s one of the telescopes we recommend for children and one of our best telescopes overall.
But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect for everyone. Consider the factors below before deciding whether or not it’s wise to add an XT6 to your collection.
The larger scopes in the SkyQuest line are ideal for deep sky viewing, while the XT6 sits in a balanced sweet spot. You’ll enjoy some breathtaking views of nearer objects, but there’s still a reasonably wide field of view and the light gathering capacity that captures many of the showpiece DSOs in vivid detail. The versatility of these Dobs makes them a wise choice for most people.
If you’re a newbie or haven’t amassed a collection of eyepieces yet, the Plus model is well worth the extra few dollars as it includes an additional eyepiece and a handy Barlow lens as well.
There are some caveats when it comes to Dobsonians, though. For one, the Dobsonian base is possibly the easiest for beginners to use. But, there’s no motorization option at this size. That means you’ll have to locate every object you look for yourself. Push-to and go-to options are reserved for models of 8″ aperture and above.
This lack of tracking also makes the XT6 almost entirely useless for astrophotography. You can use this scope for simple Moon images and the like, but you’ll capture nothing more technical than that.
Outside of this small caveat, the XT6 is a wise choice for virtually anybody, and it’s a particularly excellent tool for new astronomers.
Features & Benefits
Whether you’re evaluating a telescope that costs $5,000 or one that costs $50, you’ll always want to assess it based upon the features it offers and the benefits it provides. Here are the areas you’ll want to consider:
- Optical Performance
- Mount Performance
- Included Equipment
- Setup & Use
- What You Can See
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:||96x||133x||240x|
The optical performance of the XT6 is remarkable, considering how affordable this scope is.
The XT6 is built to last with a fit and finish that’s well above average for a sub-$500 telescope. Users are immediately treated to beautiful views, thanks in part to its f/8 focal ratio, which has long been favored by beginners and intermediate astronomers alike because they’re easy to use, there’s a larger sweet spot when collimating the scope, and they provide an excellent view of the sky.
The parabolic primary mirror eliminates spherical aberrations, and coma is hardly apparent. Both the XT6 and XT6 Plus have a secondary mirror obstruction of only 23%, so it’s barely noticeable even to a seasoned eye.
One notable addition to the OTA on the XT6 Plus is easy to adjust thumbscrews for the secondary mirror cell, making collimation even easier (read our guide to collimation – opens a new tab). You’ll also notice that the Plus features an eye-catching blue finish as opposed to the classic black of the XT6.
Compared to the other scopes in the SkyQuest line, the XT6 hits the sweet spot of performance and value. Each telescope in the line offers impressive optical quality, but the smaller XT4.5 doesn’t have the light gathering capacity to bring the deep sky to life the way larger Dobs do. The XT8 and XT10 provide an even more impressive view given their massive light gathering ability, but they are much more expensive and heavy to handle.
The XT6 includes a single 25mm Sirius Plössl eyepiece. It would be nice to see a second magnification included, but at least the 25mm that comes with the telescope offers great clarity and performance.
This Sirius Plossl offers 48x magnification and provides a nice and wide 52-degree apparent FOV, great for viewing deep sky objects, but something with a wider field of view is worth adding to your collection. Adding a few higher magnification eyepieces to your arsenal will allow you to tease out details of the planets and Moon.
As a ready-made package, the XT6 Plus shines because it comes with additional eyepieces. The XT6 Plus includes the 25mm, as well as a 10mm and a 2x Barlow lens.
Dobsonian mounts are the most uncomplicated mount design there is for telescopes, as well as one of the most sturdy and useful. The mount for the XT6 and XT6 Plus is no different, and it offers a sturdy platform for the OTA.
The base is made from heavy-duty particleboard that’s finished with black melamine. You’ll need to exercise caution to protect the mount from chips or dings because if the melamine shell is compromised, it’s easy for the mount to warp should it become damp or wet.
The XT6 includes a spring-tensioned mount that boasts Orion’s CorrecTension system. This system is especially helpful on larger scopes with 2” focusers and heavy eyepieces, but it feels like overkill on this 6” Dob which features a lightweight 1.25” rack-and-pinion style focuser.
The Plus model is virtually identical, although it uses a traditional friction tensioning system which is better suited to this telescope. There are also a few cutouts in the base to lighten it up a bit. Overall, both mounts offer reliable performance and are well-balanced. Whether you prefer the spring tension system or the friction system is a matter of personal taste.
Beyond the OTA and base, most manufacturers include a few extras to help you get started. In the case of the XT6, this telescope also includes a red dot finder scope, collimation, and dust caps, and a copy of the Starry Night Special Edition software.
The included red dot sight is an EZ Finder II, which is a basic model. However, being as how the XT6 is best suited to deep sky viewing, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher why they would include a red dot sight instead of a magnified finderscope, which would be more useful. The obvious answer is to keep costs down – but invest in a decent finderscope as soon as you can.
The included dust cap helps protect your OTA when you aren’t out observing, and the collimation cap allows you to quickly and easily collimate your scope when necessary. There are many more effective tools for collimation, but they aren’t essential, especially with a forgiving f/8 telescope like this one. Our guide to collimation provides all the help you’ll need to quickly and accurately collimate your new scope.
The final addition is a copy of the Starry Night SE software, which is a useful supplement for astronomers, new and old. This software provides a database of thousands of objects, sky simulations, and much more; it’s a fantastic tool for learning more about space.
Setup & Use
Getting started with a new XT6 is straightforward. The base requires some assembly, but it all comes together in five minutes or less, and attaching the OTA is reasonably intuitive and straightforward.
It’s a bit on the large side, with the OTA measuring nearly four feet long. All told, it weighs over 35 pounds fully assembled and with any accessories. So while it’s not the most portable, most astronomers will find it manageable to put in the car and walk a short distance with, especially when done as two separate pieces, the telescope and the base.
Collimating the scope is simple, especially if you opt for the XT6, which offers thumb screw adjustments for the secondary mirror. It also holds collimation well, so adjustments are seldom necessary.
The XT6 is a simple setup that requires you to do all the work of finding objects, which is half the fun of stargazing in our opinion. There’s no software to contend with for the telescope, outside of the Starry Night software that’s perfect for nights with poor seeing.
What You Can See
In many ways, this f/8 reflector is the perfect compromise. This Dob provides a relatively wide field of view to capture deep space objects while also providing exceptional views of our solar system.
The XT6 is a tremendous all-around scope that borders on the slow side, so it’s ideal for planetary observation, as well as enjoying the Moon’s features in vivid detail. From Neptune’s moon Triton to the cloud bands of Saturn, the XT6 reveals them all in exquisite detail when the sky is dark and seeing is good.
It’s also well-suited for many brighter DSOs, including the spiral arms of M51 and hundreds of other distant galaxies. You can also get lost for hours resolving double stars with this powerful and easy-to-use scope.
Unfortunately, Dobsonians like the XT6 aren’t well suited to astrophotography. You can take some very basic shots if you have a simple setup, but it’s not the kind of scope that anyone serious about astrophotography can sink their teeth into.
If you’re interested in astrophotography, there are plenty of small apochromatic refractors that are a much better fit for this purpose.