Meade ETX 80 Observer Telescope Review (205002)


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The Meade ETX series of telescopes are very popular and there are many who own or who have owned one.

The ETX80 is part of the revamped line and would make a great beginner scope for an older child or an amateur adult.

You don’t have to know a lot to start off with the EXT80 as you’ll learn the basics plus some with the affordable sky instrument.

If you absolutely must have GoTo capability, wide fields of view, and you must stay within a budget, this telescope is a must-have.

Zooming in…

✔️ Best Feature: AudioStar GoTo

Worst Feature: Light-duty tripod

👌 Ideal For: Celestial Viewing, Terrestrial Viewing, Stargazing, Lunar & Planetary Observation, Bright DSO Viewing, Beginners

  • Optical Design: Refractor
  • Aperture: 80 mm (3.15”)
  • Focal Length: 400 mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/5
  • Eyepieces Included: 26 mm, 9.7 mm

Our Verdict: Getting GoTo capability for under $500 is a stunning deal. Aimed at the entry-level market, the Meade ETX80 is entry-level in quality, but with AudioStar, multiple mount features, and wide-field viewing, this compact and lightweight telescope is a champ for its budget range.

Who is the Meade ETX 80 Best Suited to?

The ETX 80 is highly recommended for beginners. The AudioStar computerized system is what makes it a joy to use. When you’re an amateur, trying to find objects in the sky is the challenge, and the AudioStar hand controller makes it ridiculously easy. It automatically slews to an object and even provides information about it.

Basic astrophotography is possible with the Meade telescope, so beginners who want to fiddle-daddle with GoTo before they invest in an upgraded, advanced model will find value in the ETX80.

How Does the Meade ETX 80 Perform?

If you’re expecting the ETX80 to provide exceptional performance like that of an APO at more than five times the price, you’ll be more than disappointed. This is a fast, small aperture refractor designed for wide fields of view and good lunar and planetary observation.

If you’re in a light-polluted city, home in on the brightest sky objects like the moon, planets, open clusters, double stars, and bright DSOs. Globular clusters and nebulae may be better seen when viewing from a dark, less light polluted area.

Optically, the ETX80 performs as expected and is a great beginner telescope for an amateur, first-time buyer. The GoTo computerized system makes it especially ideal for new users in locating and identifying objects. This may prove to spark and keep alit the interest in astronomy as they develop skills to eventually justify investing in an advanced upgrade down the road.

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Features & Benefits

AudioStar GoTo

The ETX80 is equipped with the new AudioStar hand controller – the brain of the entire GoTo system. The new hand controller incorporates many of the AutoStar features, but it adds an entirely new and unique software, the Astronomer Inside Digital Audio Software. The control has a speaker that emits up to four hours of pre-recorded descriptions of the objects you slew to.

Other expected features include a 30,000+ object database, guided tours, and nine slew speeds. It’s not as feature-packed as the AudioStar hand controller that comes with Meade’s more expensive LX telescopes, but it allows for basic GoTo capability in alt-azimuth motion. The manual describes a way to mount and use the tube for equatorial movement without the use of a wedge, but reliability may be questionable.

Mounting Options

The mounting options on the ETX80 is worth the buy itself. Obviously, it’s a double-tine fork arm mount with dual DC drives on both axes. The tube is incredibly easy to detach from the mount. Most scopes in this price class don’t allow for easy disassembly or they come preassembled and not intended for disassembly.

Conveniently, the telescope can be mounted to any tripod with ¼” 20 mounting screws, so if you have an equatorial mount on hand and you want to improve your astrophotography skills, that may be the better option. If you wanted to use a completely different tripod, you could do that too.

You could also use the telescope in tabletop form. It’s not necessarily designed to be used this way, but the option is there. Simply remove the mounting bolts that connect the mount to the tripod and voila.

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Limited Astrophotography

The ETX80 can take great photos of both terrestrial and astronomical objects if you’re using the appropriate imaging equipment suited to its capabilities and limitations. Due to the mount having alt-azimuth movement, astro imaging will be limited. It’s also a light-duty mount, so it will struggle with heavy loads and put excess strain on the gears and motors slowing down the system and causing inaccuracies in tracking and imaging quality.

However, many are using the telescope for basic and entry-level astrophotography. Electronically assisted astronomy kits should work with the telescope and webcam-style CCD cameras will too. Short exposures and lunar photographs are realistic.

Even though it’s not set up for long exposures, you will learn the basics with the Meade scope and when you’re ready to upgrade, you’ll look for an equatorial mount.

Lightweight & Portable

The entire setup is ridiculously lightweight and portable. It can easily fit in any space of your small vehicle and can be carried in two pieces or one, preassembled setup. The tube weighs 9 lbs and the tripod weighs 2.75 lbs for a total assembly weight of 12 lbs.

The telescope system is conveniently portable and can be toted to a remote location, gun and archery range, or setup for wildlife observation for spotting scope use. Additionally, the ETX80 also comes with a backpack to store and transport it with ease.

Limitations

Light-Duty Tripod

To provide a compact, backpack-able, and lightweight tripod, it must be light-duty and convenient for travel. However, the compromise is the inability to hold additional weight if you load up the telescope with heavy loads. Bumps, nudges, and strong breezes produce shaking and tremors that will prove to be annoying to users.

You either get used to it or you switch out the tripod. Avoid using heavy loads like astrophotography accessories. Fortunately, both the tube and the mount come with the ability to be placed atop a different tripod. For the price, this setup is still worth the buy.

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Popular Questions

Can you Slew the Meade ETX80 Manually?

You can turn the AudioStar hand controller to Auto Slew Off to gain manual slewing control of the optical tube. This feature must be switched to “Off” and loosen the vertical and horizontal lock knobs to disengage the vertical and horizontal motor drive clutches.

What Power Supplies does the ETX 80 GoTo Telescope Require?

There is a battery compartment on top of the base housing that takes 6x AA batteries that provides approximately 20 hours of use. There is also a 9V power port that accepts 9-12V external power supplies. A Power LED illuminates red when power is supplied to the telescope.

What Eyepieces are Included with the Meade ETX Telescope?

Super Plossl 26 mm and 9.7 mm eyepieces are included with the Meade ETX80 Observer telescope. They’re excellent eyepieces suited for the telescope. They provide 15x and 41x magnification. What can really take viewing to the next level for high magnification views is the integrated 2x Barlow lens. There is a “Flip-Barlow” switch that engages the Barlow and flipping it in the other direction disengages it. How convenient is that?

Can the Meade Telescope be Used for Terrestrial Viewing?

It can be used for terrestrial viewing. The Target selection in the AudioStar allows you to select “Terrestrial” and it turns off the tracking motor. You can also store terrestrial landmarks in the AudioStar database. You must use your low power eyepiece to widen the field of view and get on target. However, you must purchase a 45-degree erecting prism to achieve correct orientated views.

Is the ETX a Good Telescope for Viewing Planets?

With wide fields of view, you can certainly spot planets. To get details of features of planets, it may depend on what time of year and how high they are in the sky. If they’re 20 degrees below the horizon where atmospheric conditions are thick, it will be difficult to get an intimate view.

The ETX would provide decent views of the planets if they’re at least 30 degrees above the horizon. For example, with good atmospheric conditions and excellent seeing, you can push high power above 150x for great views of the planets. However, high power of around 120x may allow for seeing cloud bands and you should be able to see the red spot on Jupiter with 75x.

Conclusion

The Meade ETX80 telescope has excellent value for the money.

It has GoTo capability in alt-azimuth, is easy for beginners to use, and it’s incredibly lightweight.

It comes with a bunch of accessories to make it a complete and portable setup for observing on the go or as a supplement telescope to your observation parties and sessions.

As a low-cost refractor that’s excellent for beginners, it earns two thumbs up.

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