PROS / The large aperture brings in some great, bright views of the moon and planets as well as deep-sky objects.
CONS / This telescope is difficult to assemble.
VERDICT / The Orion StarBlast 6i's wide-aperture views are nice, but it's complicated to use for a beginner telescope.
The Orion StarBlast 6i IntelliScope has many strong capabilities. Its aperture alone is better than those of most beginner telescopes, and it can tell you how to find the best views, no matter the time of year. The stability of its tripod isn't bad, but it's somewhat shaky at times. You will want to be sure you are familiar with the various knobs on the tripod, because it's easy to inadvertently turn the wrong one and send the scope crashing to the ground. We managed to avoid this, but we had a close call.
This scope is the most difficult to assemble of the ones we tested. We were missing a few parts but luckily had replacements from a previous model we tested. As a result of that and other difficulties, it took nearly an hour to assemble this telescope, despite having multiple testers working on it.
Although this is one of our telescopes for beginners that is not fully go-to capable, the Orion StarBlast 6i is still a good telescope to cut your teeth on. The 6 is important: It refers to the 6-inch aperture, which is a lot of light-gathering capability, especially for a starter scope. We were impressed with the brilliant, wide views of the sky it provided. We found clusters of stars that weren't at all visible to the naked eye, and it beautifully enhanced stars that were extremely dim without the help of this device.
With this much aperture, you can see crisp views of the moon and planets, as well as deep-sky objects such as nebulae, galaxies and star clusters. Also thanks to the aperture, it makes sense that this scope weighs more than other beginner telescopes – 23.5 pounds when fully assembled.
Your adventures with the StarBlast begin with an alignment process. Once the telescope knows where it is in the universe, it illuminates digital arrows in your view through the eyepiece to direct you. You are the one who actually moves the telescope, but the telescope tells you where to move it. It's like playing Marco Polo with the sky.
Orion has built 12 tours of the best objects to view into the system. You just tell the scope's keypad what month you're in, and the StarBlast pushes through a trip around the best objects that are visible in the sky at any given time. You can turn the tables on the computer too – hunt around the sky by eye until you find something interesting and push a key, and the display tells you what you're looking at.
For most beginners, this is not as easy to use as a go-to type of telescope, but the push-to feature at least removes some of the mystery and requires much less battery power. Some go-to telescope users will eventually want to invest in a portable power supply, but the StarBlast never needs more than a 9-volt battery.
The base comes preassembled, but you actually have to take a bit of it apart to add the encoders that make the push-to feature work. This accounts for why it takes more time than the setup of our other telescopes for beginners. Despite the extra aperture, it is still a relatively compact telescope, even when it's fully assembled, so it would be pretty easy for city dwellers to throw it in the front seat of a car and make their way to a place with less light pollution.
Orion's support for this telescope, and all of its products, is helpful. So, if you do get stuck, you can always call the toll-free number, email customer support or jump on the live chat feature.
With the Orion StarBlast 6i IntelliScope, you trade some ease of use for a large aperture. This is not a tradeoff we recommend for everyone, but this scope offers some gorgeous views. It is also more complicated, with more parts than many of the telescopes we tested, but once it's assembled, it provides a brilliant, wide view of the night sky. You may find stars you didn't know were there.