In our business we get asked all the time, “what is the best thermal for the money?” Our typical first response consists of three questions; what are you using it for? How often? What do you want to spend? After these questions are answered, we give our educated and honest answer. The real truth of the matter is thermal is expensive, and as with anything, there are good buys and there is equipment you can live without.
I will start out by saying that I have no thermal imaging sponsor or a company endorsement of any kind, and after writing this I will not be any closer to a sponsor or endorsement than I was before I began. Marketing is 90% of the hype with most outdoor and shooting gear , but the only real way to compare products is to put them side by side; which we do on a weekly basis, to insure our business is always positively evolving and staying on top of the newest and coolest thermals.
The unit I want to discuss with you today is one of the most inexpensive thermal units you can buy, yet it has features and functions that thermals that cost an additional $500 or even more, can’t offer you. Pulsar is a company that does not spend a lot of money marketing in order to land a spot on TV shows, like other some other companies. Nor does Pulsar cater to guys on an internet forum that have never looked through a Pulsar thermal; they have just read every tech review from every paid affiliate that has a keyboard and an audience. What Pulsar does do however, is produce a top quality product and stand behind it with a great warranty, if you do have any trouble.
The Pulsar Quantum HD19 S blew us away the first time we looked at it. I believe you can find this unit for around $2700 to $2900 retail which makes it just right for those looking to get an awesome thermal unit for under $3000. I will not bore you with a bunch of tech lingo that only makes sense to about 1/3 of the hunting and shooting world. I mean no insult, but 90% of the time I don’t care what is inside of it that is making it work. What I do care about 100% of the time though, is how well it works. So I’m choosing to spare you the breakdown of the internal technologies and skip right to the meat and potatoes of this very effective tool.
The resolution (384×288) is very clear, to an extent. The detection range is 500 meters which is a long way when you think about it but you cannot expect any kind of positive recognition at that distance. It’s optical lens is 19mm which is small and performance restrictive. This is a 1.1X unit with 2.2X digital zoom, so at 200 yards don’t expect to count hairs or ticks. What you can do at that distance, is say, “that’s a pig”, “that’s a calf”, “that’s a coyote” or “that’s someone trespassing on my place”.
With a 30hz refresh rate you are essentially watching live television as you scan around your area. Just for clarification, most other units in this price range have considerably lower refresh rates at 9 to 19 Hz and have a pause or freeze frame in them. Meaning that as you scan for the target, it tries to catch up with your scanning which really is not that big of a deal, but why deal with that if you don’t have to? As you learn more about thermal from your research you will hear about calibration. A simple explanation of calibration would be your VCR (remember those?), when the picture started to become fuzzy and get those static lines running across the screen or some other distortion was obstructing a clear view, you had to adjust the tracking. Calibration is the same type of adjustment for your thermal unit. As you bounce around in the truck or walk around, the image needs to have the “tracking” adjusted. This unit has both automatic and manual calibration. You have two viewing modes, white hot and black hot. The white hot in my experience is the go to mode. White hot is easy on your eyes with adjustable brightness and contrast easily accessible on the front of the unit. Add the adjustable camera like focus on the optic lens and eye piece and you can see your target: crisp, clear, and brilliant white. We use the black hot on humid nights or during the day. On a humid Texas night after a good rain thermal imaging is negatively affected. How you ask? It looks foggy and misty no matter how much you spent on your thermal. Black hot is harder on your eyes as your back ground glows super bright and your target will be a black blob at distance, but as you close the distance the same image clarity you get on white hot is achievable. The HD19 also has video out which is cool if you want to record animal surveys or film your hunts. The down fall to this unit is it has a lot of noise in the recording and can only be edited out with fairly high end video editing software and the know how to use that software. Most people won’t care about this aspect; I just thought it worth mentioning. The unit is powered by 4 AA batteries which last about 3 hours with continuous use. We tried to see if the life could be extended by using different brands and we found that you can combat the short battery life with Lithium batteries, which triple your usage. However, that improvement comes with a price, with Lithium batteries costing almost triple what an alkaline battery cost. Pulsar has an external power supply for this unit but it makes the profile bulky and adds extraneous weight. The equipment that we take into the field with us has to be tough, and the Quantum HD19 is that for sure. The body has a distinctive rubber like feel that makes it easily identifiable at night when you are skimming the truck floor boards to find where it has rolled. It has a very ridged fiberglass body and plastics, where plastics will work wrapped in rubber. We have been using a similar Pulsar unit well over a year 3 to 5 nights a weeks and it as fallen off the high rack of the ranger and smashed on a gravel road, been dropped on the ground as a result of my encounter with an unseen hole, and has been bounced around, in the included soft case, in the truck and ranger bed and still works as good as day one.
In the night hog hunting world the pros definitely outweigh the cons with this unit. Thermals have the potential to change the game when it comes to the sport of hunting and wildlife management, thermal can also be used as part of a great home security plan. We at Boar Gear believe the Quantum HD19 S is a top notch unit at a price that makes it obtainable for most people who are interested in a hand held thermal.
Clear Image- 384X288 Resolution
30 Hz- Fast Refresh
Tough unit- Fiberglass and Rubber
19mm Lens- Quarter sized
Battery Hog- 4AA every 3 or 4 hours.
Bottom line: Boar Gear highly recommends the Pulsar Quantum HD19 for anyone wanting a good thermal. The pros drastically outweigh the cons, the price is right and the performance is there.