I haven’t found too many reviews for this mount online, so, since I did get one, I wanted to post it in a few places to help folks out. This is the same review. About 15 months ago, I bought my first telescope, an Orion Astroview 120ST EQ, a 4.5” refractor. I like my scope, and enjoy using it to look at the easy stuff, bright planets, Andromeda, Orion Nebula, etc. I live in on the border of Red – Orange on NASA’s light pollution map in the suburbs of NYC, which makes seeing the better stuff a bit harder. Now I didn’t buy the computer controlled mount thinking that I should spend more money on the optics and the scope itself. In this time, I’ve learned to star hop, and to find stuff. To be honest, though, I pretty well suck. After a year and change, it still takes me forever, and I just have trouble finding stuff. I’ve upgraded my scope to add a better focuser, and a better star diagonal. My new right angle spotting scope is a must. With all of that, I have gotten a bit better at this stuff. Still, after studying star charts, and trying to make this work, with a commute and all, well, it’s hard. I certainly enjoy stargazing, but I find myself spending an hour or so trying to find anything other than the planets, and staying on them, at fun magnification can be tough when I am showing them to friends or family who don’t have the interest to learn.
So, with all of that, I finally decided to go for a computerized mount. It arrived last night, and putting it together took about half an hour going very slow and watching tv as I was doing it. The truth is that the whole thing was quite easy. I was a bit concerned since the box was pretty beat up, and it was left by the wood colored, hint hint, delivery truck on it’s side for the few hours from delivery to when I got back home from work. Fortunately, nothing was broken. Instructions are good, and are written in proper American English; as opposed to British English or something else. I work with folks in London, their version if English is slightly different, but I digress. So around 11:30PM EST, I took it outside, and with no moon, I gave it a quick try. I should note that it DOES NOT come with the power cord to connect it to a standard wall outlet. For many people, I guess, they don’t use it close enough to their house to use an extension cord, so this makes sense. IT DOES come with a cigarette lighter adapter, which I guess makes more sense. I’m not sure, I mean would you want to risk draining your car battery? Like most folks I think, I plunked down more money for the smaller of the two currently available portable battery / lamps. I’m glad it got here earlier than the mount, as it has some special care and charging requirements, but those weren’t bad.
So, now I have it outside, and have to align it to north. I found this rather hard; took me about 10 to 15 minutes to do with my floating compass; I don’t like the phone one. I have an idea to do it better next time. Adjusting it to my latitude was easy. Next I plugged it into the battery, and turned it on. I used a phone app to tell me my GPS coordinates. That was easy enough as well as putting in the time. There are a few free phone apps to tell you which star is which, so the whole process, after aligning the thing to North, took about 5 minutes, and then I tried for something that I knew where it was; even if it usually takes me a while to find it. Well, in all of 5 seconds, the scope put the Andromeda Galaxy in both the finder and my low mag eyepiece; 600mm FL and I was using a 18mm EP. Now it wasn’t perfect, but neither was my alignment to North, nor is my finder/scope in perfect alignment. I was rushing, so my eyes weren’t as great dark adjusted as they should have been. This was just my first test, so I was on my back porch, with some light from my living room where I had just put it together. I then pointed it at Neptune, and followed with Uranus. I looked at them at lower power, and then dropped in a bit higher 8.8mm EP, and the tracking was still good.
Overall, I am very happy. It worked, and worked well for me. I would recommend this to others. There are a bunch of extra controls for fine tuning the tracking and other stuff like that. Haven’t tried it yet. Out of the box, it was good. You have to buy the cable to connect it to your PC if you don’t have a serial port. I think that is bad on their part. You can, as I did, buy a serial to USB converter for a few bucks online. There is nothing special about the branded one. I have not tried to update it yet, but I probably will the next non-clear night. I don’t see a level on it as my Astroview’s mount had, and that does concern me a bit. My main viewing area on my yard on a slight incline, so usually the legs are not the same length when I setup. I have one in my garage, but I would rather have had this on the thing. That’s the only negative for me so far besides the lack of the USB cable that they want to charge you for. Seriously, that’s just wrong considering it’s a $5 retail item.
Just to add a tiny bit about me. I am an engineer, and I am naturally inclined to do this stuff; lots of mechanics in my family. That being said, you don’t need to be one to set this up nor to use it. It’s really easy for anyone. I definitely recommend this to anyone who doesn’t have the patience to learn how to find stuff well. It seems to me that it should be good from a astrophotography perspective, but I can’t say. I think I would need to fine tune it a bit or align it better for that to enable long exposures. I suspect I will get better with practice. It is built SOLID, and that I find very encouraging.