Bushnell takes the go-to concept one step further with its Northstar 4.5-inch telescope. This telescope for beginners is unique. It is designed to not only move itself into viewing position for a host of targets, but also to tell you about each one. A recorded human voice will speak to you about the celestial object you are viewing.
This telescope's reputation is not as stellar as some of its targeted objects, but for certain users, the voice-guided feature may be worth the less-than-perfect tracking and locating capabilities. The tripod on this model is known for being a little flimsy, and complaints about the included eyepieces are pretty easy to find. However, this telescope is programmed to offer a guided tour of more than 20,000 astronomical objects. That's an impressive number. Seeing every single one with clarity with this specific equipment is unlikely – there are just too many complicating factors, even on the clearest of nights – but the opportunity to learn about that many objects in the night skies could be a good thing for budding astronomers.
You can opt not to listen to the telescope's voice. Some users might prefer just to read about the planets and other targets on the screen. We like having that option. Another nice feature is the illuminated buttons on the remote control. Astronomy is best in total darkness, so the glowing buttons on this unit are a small thing that makes a difference. You have to be able to see what you are doing.
Set up of this scope will involve at least a little knowledge of the nighttime skies; you will need to align it using two specific stars. This could prove challenging for the true novice. Set up could also involve collimation – aligning the mirrors. That is certainly a skill worth learning – for this scope and any other reflector you own – but it will take some time and patience to get it right.
This particular beginner telescope is really a night owl. It will invert all images so you won't really find it useful for birding, hunting or the like. Not all folks in the market for this type of instrument will mind that, but it is worth noting.
The other drawback to a Bushnell first telescope is the hit-and-miss customer service. The company's unhelpful website is part of the problem. Finding out anything about this telescope beyond the skimpy paragraphs posted on the product page is more difficult than it should be. Investing in your telescope is much too important a choice to make without all the information. If Bushnell is proud of the product, the company should offer more information on its website. The over-the-phone customer service is also pretty skimpy. We spoke with a few folks who were not overly friendly or helpful.
For all its shortcomings, this telescope for beginners is definitely not a toy, and that is very much in its favor. The best telescopes for beginners have to strike a delicate balance between an entry-level price point and quality features. This is a solid instrument with some weaknesses in terms of optics, tracking and stability, but we like the idea of a talking telescope, and we think some users will too.
A talking telescope is a great idea for beginners. It will direct itself to interesting targets and tell you about them.
Some trouble with tracking, magnification and stability is common with this scope.
Though it is not our favorite, this scope has some great features, including a library of more than 20,000 objects and a real recorded voice to tell you about some of them.