iOptron CubePro Go-To mount

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Magazine Verdict: 
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iOptron CubePro Go-To mount

Vital Stats

Price: 
£379.00
Mount: 
Vixen-style dovetail
Weight: 
1.8kg (head only)
Supplier: 
Altair Astro
Telephone: 
01263 731505
Website: 
www.altairastro.com

The iOptron CubePro is a compact, battery-operated altaz mount with unique looks and impressive features under the hood. Its portability and host of functions will appeal if you have a lightweight celestial or solar telescope (up to about 5kg load), and are looking for easy access to the night sky.

We were impressed by how straightforward it was to set up. The tripod legs are easy to extend and clamp. The brace, which doubles up as an eyepiece holder, is tightened by a threaded shaft that also centres and secures the head on top. For our tests we attached an ST-80 refractor using the Vixen-style dovetail clamp. At just over 2kg, this setup didn’t require the counterweight or shaft provided.

Once aligned and levelled, it only takes a few seconds for the GPS system to pinpoint your location. You select the time zone and adjustment for daylight-saving using the menu system and the settings are stored in the memory for future sessions.

We initially found that the Go-To function was frustratingly inaccurate, so we decided to double-check the orientation and levelling of the mount. A spirit level revealed that our test mount had a badly-fitted bubble level, which had thrown out the levelling by a few degrees. Once we’d corrected the problem, we carried out a two-star alignment with
a low-power 40mm eyepiece, choosing the stars Castor in the west and Vega in the east from the controller’s suggested list. Our first slew using the Go-To took us straight to Castor’s companion Pollux. After further successful slews around the sky, we selected several non-stellar targets. The Moon and Saturn were both placed nicely inside
the field of our higher power 12mm eyepiece.

We then tested the tracking. Having centred Saturn on the crosshairs of our eyepiece, we watched closely to see if there was any drifting. We were unable to notice any movement after several minutes so we left the mount to see how long it would hold its position. After 50 minutes Saturn was still right on the crosshairs – an impressive achievement. We’re pretty convinced that it would have carried on like this for hours, but we had other tests to carry out and it was time to choose another target.

Selecting our next quarry was no trouble with the  GoToNova’s handset – it has a large and clear LCD screen that is easy to read. The input buttons also glow red, but all illumination switches off to preserve power and darkness when no input has been made for a while. There are plenty of objects to explore in the database but, unfortunately, no tours or information about the targets. The menus, with their up, down, enter, back options are intuitive, but a lack of specifically named shortcut buttons did make some of the operations a touch long-winded. The illuminated rubber buttons are quite soft and we found some of them stuck slightly once pushed, which meant it wasn’t always easy to finely adjust the position of a target in the eyepiece.

There are nine different slew speeds to choose from for precise alignment and numerous fine-tuning features on the handset menu. Some – such as periodic error correction – only function with equatorial mounts, however. Integration with hardware such as electric focusers and support for ASCOM software drivers means that you can control your scope with planetarium software packages.

For some of our tests, we used the supplied AC adaptor and power cable. The mount seemed to slew clockwise more often than anti-clockwise between targets and the cable wrapped round the mount, so care needs to be taken to prevent this.

At full height, the tripod was a little flexible; damping of vibrations at higher powers and with larger loads could have been better. That said, if you want an easy-to-assemble, simple-to-operate, reliable and portable system for a small telescope, then the iOptron CubePro mount is a great choice.


Tracking perfection

As well as its compact size, the most outstanding aspect of this mount was its Go-To and tracking performance. Once we had sorted out the levelling and alignment, this diminutive performer was able to successfully locate and place any of the chosen database objects within our low- and medium-power eyepieces.

A ‘sync to target’ feature allows small adjustments to be made using the controller buttons to centralise subsequent targets in the eyepiece, which further refines the accuracy of future slews.

We were equally impressed with its tracking performance – the iOptron CubePro was able to hold targets perfectly central in the eyepiece for very long periods, even at higher magnifications. This high-performing tracking is particularly useful if you want to indulge in detailed sketching and long observing sessions.

Although an altazimuth setup is not ideal for long-exposure photography, it would certainly be possible to use this mount for short-exposure, wide-field shots and lunar or solar imaging. If you’re eager to get started locating challenging targets with your telescope, the simplicity of setup, accuracy of pointing and reliable tracking all score highly in this mount’s favour.


This review first appeared in the August 2011 issue of Sky at Night Magazine. All prices correct at time of going to press.

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