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Meade Instruments’ LX65 Series

The LX65 catadioptric telescope launched late last year and marked Meade’s entry into the popular, mid-range, single-arm, alt/azimuth computerized telescope category.  Today, we’re reviewing the 8” ACF version, which is the largest optical tube available in the LX65 series. Aside from the 8” ACF, the LX65 series is available in three additional configurations: a 6” ACF, a 6” Maksutov-Cassegrain, and a 5” Maksutov-Cassegrain.  Later in this review, we’ll get to the optical differences between these models.

 

The Basics:

Similar to other telescopes in the single arm, alt/azimuth category, the LX65 is portable! The complete telescope system, fully assembled, weighs in at around 37 lb. and can be easily transported because the main components can be broken down quickly into three manageable parts: the optical tube, the mount head, and the tripod. Overall, there isn’t a single component that weighs in at more than 19 lb.
Ultimately, you may feel that 37 lb. is too heavy for you to transport. Please note, however, that the total weight savings between a 5” LX65 package, the smallest option, and an 8” LX65, the largest option, is only 4.9 lb., with the difference in weight attributed to the size of the optical tube assembly.

In addition, each option comes standard with a Red-Dot Finder, a 1.25” Diagonal, and a basic 26 mm Plossl Eyepiece. Overall, we are a bit underwhelmed by the accessories included with this scope because they do not match the exceptional quality of the of the telescope optics, but they do give you enough to use your scope for the first time.

The reality is that this can be said about most of Meade’s competition. Manufacturers typically include the bare minimum when it comes time to accessories, in order to keep the base price of the telescope low. So, for the sake of being fair, we won’t hold it against them.

The Mount

I’m going to spend most of this review on the telescope mount because the it is brand new design from Meade. It represents the brains of this computerized telescope system.

The first thing that stands out about the LX65 alt/azimuth mount is the quality of the build which provides a sturdy platform for you to observe and do some basic astro-photography.  There are a few features that set it apart from the competition, most notably is the secondary dovetail saddle and its adjustment ability. Positioned on the outer side of the alt/azimuth fork arm, the secondary mounting saddle can hold up to 7lbs of additional telescope weight, according to Meade.  This gives you the option to add a small refractor or camera system on the opposite side of the main optical tube, giving you the ability to take quick snap shots of the night sky, if desired.  

Along with the secondary dovetail saddle, Meade added an alignment system which helps you ensure that both of your optical instruments are properly aligned on the same point in the night sky.

Adjusting the vertical and horizontal positioning was a highlight but pay close attention to the vertical adjustment as it can be easy to loosen your scope, and if you’re not careful, it could slip. To Meade’s credit, they did a good job warning you of this on page fourteen of the manual. So, we suggest taking your time with these adjustments. In addition, the mount has a well thought out handle and altitude clutch knob which keeps the mount portable and easy to use.

As with other Meade mounts, the LX65 includes the famed Audiostar hand controller which has a database of 38,000 objects and Meade’s Easy Align technology.  The mount automatically chooses two objects for you to center and align the telescope system.

One of our favorite features about Meade’s Audiostar alignment system is the extent to which it’s interactive. It has a built-in speaker that talks to you about the most popular celestial objects in the night sky. Furthermore, it can take you on guided tours and show you the best objects on any given night.

One disadvantage of this hand controller is that the sun is not part of the database. Now, we realize that this is nit-picking here, but we feel that it should at least be something that could be turned on within the utilities, as is common with other brands. But in all honesty, if we were looking for a solar telescope, an 8” ACF would not be our first choice. So, we’re definitely pleased that Meade included the Audiostar hand controller with this telescope series.

Overall, we found the LX65 to be just as accurate as other Meade systems, but like all telescope mounts, its accuracy is only as good as the initial centering of the stars during the alignment that occurs when you first turn the telescope on.

The LX65 uses eight C-Style batteries in the mount’s base compartment, which are not included. While this is a good option, we strongly suggest investing in either the Meade AC power supply or some sort of portable 12V power source.

 

The Optics:

The Meade LX65 is available with 4 different size optical tubes spanning two optical configurations. The telescope we tested is Meade’s best in class 8” ACF, or advanced coma free optical design. With the advanced coma free optics, you can expect pinpoint stars free of optical aberrations, a flatter field, and with the 8” aperture, a very bright image. Available in a 6” as well, the ACF optical design really sets the bar high whether you’re viewing or imaging the night sky!

In addition to the ACF optical design, Meade offers a 6” and a 5” Maksutov-Cassegrain. These optical designs allow for higher contrast and longer focal ratio’s while being incredibly rugged with little to no maintenance required. Great for star clusters, higher power planetary viewing, and splitting double stars, the Mak-Cass optical design is a favorite among first time telescope users and avid visual astronomers.

With both ACF and Maksutov-Cassegrain designs being offer, you won’t be disappointed in any of the options available in this series, but aperture does rule, so if you can treat yourself to an 8” ACF, you’ll certainly be pleased.

Final Thoughts:

Meade has been very thoughtful about their entry into the single arm, computerized telescope category, and it shows.  We really appreciate the attention to detail and the build quality of the LX65 Mount.  It’s new, it’s different, and it gives consumers another option that performs incredibly well.

While we mentioned that the included accessories are underwhelming, if you invest in an upgraded 2” diagonal and a few higher quality eyepieces, you’ll just scratch the surface of what this series of telescope can do!

Ultimately, whether you’re just getting into the hobby and looking for your first telescope or upgrading into something with a bit more versatility, you’ll find that the Meade LX65 series alt/azimuth mount is well worth the investment.

Clear Skies,
High Point Scientific