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What are your experiences with WiFi mounts? I've been looking at the Skywatcher az gti mount but remain undecided as I know some people have had issues with various WiFi mounts. 

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Yes, I have issues.

I have the Celestron Cosmos 90 which has a WiFi interface. I (very, very, occasionally) use mine with my Samsung Android tablet, but much prefer the handsets with my (mechanically equivalent) Skywatcher Skymax and Celestron Skyprodigy mounts. I found that the tablet would revert to my home hub, often leaving the mount in an uncontrollable slew, so I added  power "kill" switch to the mount. I also found that, whilst looking through the eyepiece, I could not easily locate the virtual up/down/left/right buttons on the tablet's touch-screen - not a problem on the other 2 mounts with real buttons and the tactile feedback on their dedicated handsets.

There have also been times, during the SkyPortal alignment failed attempts, when I have disagreed with its conclusions, and been very tempted to do my own re-alignment with my 4-pound lump hammer!

Geoff

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3 hours ago, Geoff Lister said:

Yes, I have issues.

I have the Celestron Cosmos 90 which has a WiFi interface. I (very, very, occasionally) use mine with my Samsung Android tablet, but much prefer the handsets with my (mechanically equivalent) Skywatcher Skymax and Celestron Skyprodigy mounts. I found that the tablet would revert to my home hub, often leaving the mount in an uncontrollable slew, so I added  power "kill" switch to the mount. I also found that, whilst looking through the eyepiece, I could not easily locate the virtual up/down/left/right buttons on the tablet's touch-screen - not a problem on the other 2 mounts with real buttons and the tactile feedback on their dedicated handsets.

There have also been times, during the SkyPortal alignment failed attempts, when I have disagreed with its conclusions, and been very tempted to do my own re-alignment with my 4-pound lump hammer!

Geoff

I saw a video on a Celestron astro fi kit. The guy tried for hours to get it to work and ran into multiple issues and eventually gave up. There have been quite a few complaints about that particular range. I was leaning towards a WiFi mount but a handset is the safe option.

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I have considered a wifi mount, either the SW AZ Gti or, for more capacity, the iOptron AZ Pro.

On paper I prefer the idea of these to a full goto and would run the Gti from an iPhone whereas the iOptron does come with a handset, but one issue that immediately crops up is that neither mount can be firmware updated via a MacBook so that's made them more or less unviable for me. These two reports add further doubts, it seems more hassle than just using a simple manual AZ mount and the human eye, depending on the visibility or otherwise of the targets you're aiming for of course.

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I use a Skywatcher Star Discovery wifi enabled mount, with Synscan app running on Android 8.1 (I know, I know). I've never used a handset so I can't compare. I had to do a little detective work in getting it all going, mainly because the instructions were very poor. They now seem to have created a better user guide. The Synscan UI won't win any design awards but it behaves itself reasonably. My biggest complaint is that it shuts itself down after a few minutes of running in background, but I suspect that's down to aggressive power management in Android, and seems to be impervious to any tinkering with settings.

One reason for manufacturers using wifi on cheaper scopes is that it costs less than providing a handset, and I was happy to go along with that. Another reason is the possibility of integration with other apps. I use Sky Safari Plus for creating observing lists and recording observations, and it integrates very smoothly with Synscan, showing me where the scope is pointing on its map and relaying goto instructions and fine adjustments.

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3 hours ago, Zermelo said:

I use a Skywatcher Star Discovery wifi enabled mount, with Synscan app running on Android 8.1 (I know, I know). I've never used a handset so I can't compare. I had to do a little detective work in getting it all going, mainly because the instructions were very poor. They now seem to have created a better user guide. The Synscan UI won't win any design awards but it behaves itself reasonably. My biggest complaint is that it shuts itself down after a few minutes of running in background, but I suspect that's down to aggressive power management in Android, and seems to be impervious to any tinkering with settings.

One reason for manufacturers using wifi on cheaper scopes is that it costs less than providing a handset, and I was happy to go along with that. Another reason is the possibility of integration with other apps. I use Sky Safari Plus for creating observing lists and recording observations, and it integrates very smoothly with Synscan, showing me where the scope is pointing on its map and relaying goto instructions and fine adjustments.

The small issues you've highlighted there are the ones that niggle at me. With the Orion skymax 127 it only costs about £3 more to get the model with the handset. What's sky safari like to use? I've heard a few things here and there about it but I haven't actually learnt about it in depth.

 

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The manual Skywatcher ships with their mounts is pretty useless and not very informative as far as to using synscan.  You need to download the Synscan handset manual to get the full 49 page manual thst tells you in detail how synscan works. Even though it’s the handset manual the app works the same way.

Why Skywatcher doesn't mention in the manuals that come with the mounts that the full manual can be downloaded beats me.

https://inter-static.skywatcher.com/downloads/Synscan_V4_Hand_Control_Manual_SSHCV4-F-161208V1-EN.pdf

Most issues people have had with the WiFi mounts is down to their phone setup. Many phones hide the settings you need to set correctly and can take some digging to find them.

Edited by johninderby
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On 28/02/2021 at 06:41, Aquavit said:

I have considered a wifi mount, either the SW AZ Gti or, for more capacity, the iOptron AZ Pro.

On paper I prefer the idea of these to a full goto and would run the Gti from an iPhone whereas the iOptron does come with a handset, but one issue that immediately crops up is that neither mount can be firmware updated via a MacBook so that's made them more or less unviable for me. These two reports add further doubts, it seems more hassle than just using a simple manual AZ mount and the human eye, depending on the visibility or otherwise of the targets you're aiming for of course.

I have both the SW AZ Gti and the iOptron AZ Pro mounts as well as a selection of manual and goto Alt AZ and EQ Mounts and I love both the AZ GTi and AZ Pro mounts.  

I have had issues with connecting the SW AZ Gti to SkySafari on my Huawei P20 (which I hate), but I believe that this to be a phone specific issue to do with aggressive power saving settings, as I have no problems connecting the same mount to SkySafari using an old iPhone 6 and have had fewer issues since I've found where the Huawei power saving settings are hidden away and have turned them off for the Synscan App and SkySafari.

The AZ Pro on the other hand has worked faultlessly with SkySafari over WiFi since I got it and I love it. 

As with all Alt AZ GoTo mounts the AZ Pro needs to be carefully levelled and balanced, but last night the AZ Pro put every single target I threw at it near the centre of the FOV of a 24mm eyepiece after completing its auto alignment routine and centring the mount chosen alignment star in the FOV.  I was jumping all over the sky last night so did not restrict viewing to the area of the alignment star and had no problems whatsoever.  However, like all mounts it does struggle when the battery starts to run low so remembering to recharge it is important. 

The software buttons on the Synscan App and on SkySafari are a bit of a pain, but I add some of these to the glass screen protector on my phone to give me tactile buttons that I can find and press without needing to keep looking at the screen.  These are non-permanent and easily removed with a fingernail and retained on the original backing paper for future use.

Hope this helps,

Ade

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I've been using an Explore Scientific iEXOS-100 PMC8 for visual for about 6 months now. The mount is default operated by a tablet only app "ExploreStars". While its interface is pretty well polished and the mount WiFi signal is stable, I've switched to a custom solution that I created myself based on astroberry due to limited features and object database of the stock app.

The RPi/astroberry solution offers great flexibility with what app you can choose to control the mount via WiFi. It can be adapted to any mount that is supported by INDI and turn the mount into WiFi capable. If you don't mind doing a bit of diy work, you can take a look at this thread and make one yourself.

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1 hour ago, Spier24 said:

What's sky safari like to use?

I rate it highly. I create observing lists for each session using Sky Safari and Stellarium on a laptop (easier for me to see where objects will be at particular times) and any other sources like Turn Left. You can order the lists any which way (I usually go for RA or rise time), and you can choose to highlight objects in a list on the sky map. So when I'm out, I can either select the objects from the list or just look on the map and see what I've picked out in a particular area of the sky. There is two-way communication beteween Sky Safari and Synscan, so my usual sequence is to select an object, manually slew the OTA with one hand (I always have dual encoders switched on) and guide the pointing direction by looking at Sky Safari (I've set it up with a 7 degree circle to match my finder, or you can have Telrad circles), then possible check with Telrad, then finder (depending on what's visible as guides). I can use Sky Safari to either trigger a goto if I'm feeling lucky, or to operate the motors manually if I need to and watch through Telrad>finder>EP. I believe you can also trigger Synscan PAE actions, but I currently do that in Synscan (just to stop it being killed by Android, for one reason). If it's a target that's new to me, I call up the object info from the database at some point, to check for identifying characteristics.
When I've found the target, I create an observation record and type in some notes. You can also select the equipment being used from a list, if you have previously set it up. These observations are associated with the current session, which itself has details you can later edit and add anything relevant to the whole evening. Everything can be synced to the cloud at Livesky and can be viewed there (I only have the free account as I haven't felt the need to edit the data there).

My only two gripes are:

- the place in the app to record data on observing conditions is with each individual observation rather than the session. True, this is the most flexible way, but I'm never going to be recording different assessments of seeing or limiting magnitude on a per-observation basis. So I just record it once in free-form in the session-level notes. It would be nice if those fields were available at the session level so that they could be recorded there.

- observation records are linked to the session in which they were made (good) but also to the particular observing list that was used to create them in that session. The latter is unfortunate because Sky Safari displays ticks against objects in an observing list to indicate that an observation exists for that object, but only for observations made for that object within that observing list. So if I'm at the scope, looking at a list of 15 items and some don't have ticks, it means only that I haven't gotten aroound to them in that session, not that I haven't seen them at some point before - and I'm already starting to forget which ones are new!

This is all using the "plus" version, which doesn't cost much (and it's often on sale reduced price). I haven't yet seen the need for the "pro" version (with larger object database).

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A very good experience with both my AzGti and AZ EQ 6 wifi operation.  Both mounts are also compatible with a handset.  I use iPhone and the Synscan PRO App which is clever enough to know which mount I'm using and if it's Az or EQ setup.  Make sure you get the pro version of the App not the standard version.  It's very easy to use and I even let the visitors to the obsy use it (particularly the younger ones who can work it instantly!).  There's nothing to be concerned about; if I can work it anybody can.  The only hidden items I know about are for solar tracking (quite rightly).  Once you know where they are it's straightforward.

Edited by Owmuchonomy
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I can recommend the AzGTi as a quite capable mount for its size and price.  It can handle 80-100 refractors and 127 Maks without any problems.  I am also able to use it as a portable astrophoto platform in EQ mode.

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