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New ETX-90AT, ETX-90PE or ETX-90RA?

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#1 scopeboy42

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 01:34 PM

After years of wanting an ETX-90 but never making the purchase I am now considering one for travel. Looking at the new and used marked I am trying to decide between these 3 models.

The new ETX-90AT Observatory model comes with a hardcase for the OTA/Mount and a softcase for the tripod - a bonus for travel and nicely priced at $469 shipped. On some dealer websites these are still listed as pre-order so I am not 100% sure if they are available yet - I need to ask. Even if they are available there may not be too many out there yet to get a determination of the quality.

For less money I can get a used or refurbished ETX-90PE which seems to be the model with the most features.

And lastly, for a lot less money, the classic ETX-90RA. I like the fact that these were made in the USA and run for a long time on 3 AA batteries. Downside is that it cannot be upgraded to Autostar (w/o upgrading the base/forks) and they do not have UHTC.

Anyone have some opinions they would like to share?

Thanks,

#2 Pingu

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 09:25 PM

While I eventually gravitated to a ETX-105EC, I enjoyed my RA a lot! I really didn't care for the autostar. In fact, if my ETX-105 could be retrofitted with the manual controls like the RA, it would most definitely be preferred. Also, another thing I did notice between the older ETX and the newer, is the clarity of the optics. The views through my three previous 125AT's seemed to have a film. Like the mirror/lens were wiped down with cooking oil. The view were good but not as great as my ETX90RA and the 105.

#3 Frank2

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Posted 09 March 2012 - 01:54 AM

I had the ETX90-EC, which is the same as the AT except the Autostar hand controller is an option on the EC, not included as with the AT. I also have the ETX90-PE. My advice between the two is simple, GET THE ETX-PE!!!

All the computerized non-PE models require you to enter the time and date each time you turn the scope on before use. This is a problem for several reasons. First you have to know the accurate time which means you have to bring your phone or a watch with you to observe. When I open my phone to set the time it blinds me with white light so dark adaptation starts all over plus I have to bring my glasses to see the time. Second, to set the time accurately you have to push the enter button on the scope just as the minute changes to get the time accurate, which is time consuming. Third, entering the time on the Autostar keypad can be tricky, the buttons sometimes take a press or two. If you miss the top of the minute you wait another minute.

Also, to set the "Home" position on the non-PE models (where you position the scope to start the auto-align procedure) you have to turn the scope all the way counter-clockwise till it stops and then back clockwise until the fork arm is over the control panel. For the PE just turn counter-clockwise till it stops.

Finally, for the non-Pe models you have to align the north leg of the tripod toward north and be sure the tripod is level by adjusting the tripod leg lengths until the bubble level in on the tripod is centered.

Oh yes you also have to level the scope tube either by setting an actual level on top before locking the altitude in position, or using the scale on the altitude fork arm if that has previously been accurately calibrated.

Now compare to the PE model. You turn the scope counter-clockwise till it stops and lock it. Turn the scope on and hit enter. That's it! It sets the time, date, levels the scope tube, finds north, and adjusts for tripod tilt all while you start unpacking your eyepieces and filters. The process takes about 2 or 3 minutes which is a lot faster than you can do all this by yourself.

Also, if you bump the tripod, or hit the wrong button on the keypad while observing, which happens, you have to start all over and re-align. Now which scope would you rather own if this happens? In short, you will spend a lot more time observing rather than fiddling with the mount if you get the PE.

In my opinion the PE is a quantum leap improvement over the AT and EC. In fact, it is so good Meade had to discontinue it before bringing out the LightSwitch line of scopes because it essentially does what those scopes do. That is why the AT is still available and the PE is not.

#4 scopeboy42

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 01:20 PM

Thanks for the replies. It sounds like the Autostar AT versions can be a pain to use. I guess that narrows it down to a refurbished/used PE or RA.

Thanks for your input.

#5 Frank2

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 11:45 AM

Good, hope the info helped. For about a year I owned both at the same time so had a lot of opportunity to compare the scopes. Here is a little more information:

Both the EC and PE goto and tracking functioned excellently.

When connected to a laptop runnung Cartes Du Ciel (Skycharts) both interfaced with the computer just as they should.

The PE has periodic error correction, the EC did not, in case that is important to you.

#6 vw195

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 02:29 PM

Hi, all. I bought the new Observatory model , and like it quite a bit. Take what I say with a grain of salt , but it does remember the date and time using the ac adapter. It must have a backup battery in there. Also, the instructions say nothing about rotating counterclockwise until a hard stop, and I haven't done it. I use the 2 star align using approximate north and a level tube and it has worked great.

Edit: we'll the hard stop is there. My mistake.

#7 Gary Z

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Posted 02 February 2013 - 09:44 PM

Hey there, how are things with this telescope? Have you had any issues with it since your last posting?

Thanks,

Gary

#8 Hitech

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Posted 03 February 2013 - 07:38 PM

I owned AT, EC versions and it's not that big of a deal setting up the Autostar. I would agree that the USA made Meade versions seem to get slightly better reports on the optics over the new model that's apparently Asian made. eBay has severay ETX 90 scopes up for bid. Every now and then there's one priced quite low. I bought mine complete in factory box with tripod & eyepieces for a mere $110. Usually they sell used for 2-3 times that amount.






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