This is a review of the Pulsar Talion XQ35 Pro Thermal Imaging Riflescope. This is a compact, lightweight thermal imaging hunting riflescope available at a reasonable price. Its fairly small size in combination with various possible mounting solutions makes it suitable for a large number of platforms, like ARs, semi-autos and bolt-action rifles.
Pulsar Vision @ TFB:
We’ve had the Talion XQ35 Pro over the summer to play with, and it’s time to wrap things up and share our conclusion. About a year ago, we reviewed the Pulsar Talion XQ38, and there are a few improvements like the design of the battery compartment and an even sharper image quality thanks to a more sensitive thermal sensor. Remember that the Talion XG35 with 640×480 pixels is also available if you’re looking for an even more competent thermal.
First Impressions and Ergonomics
When you get the Pulsar Talion in your hands, the first impression is that it’s very sleek and has no obvious moving parts. You can of course turn the ocular to adjust the image to your eyes, you can open a hidden battery compartment and you can change the focus ring. Apart from the blue on and off button, all controls are placed on the top panel of the eyepiece, with a hidden scroll wheel. This works well in many aspects. It’s convenient for both right- and left-handed users and you have the controls close to your eyes. I wish future Pulsar riflescopes all get this feature, as it’s better than the scroll wheel on the more expensive Thermion models for instance.
Overall, the Talion feels very robust and well-built. You don’t really get the impression that anything would break easily. All of the controls are rubberized and have a good tactile feel. The Talion is made of magnesium alloy and the total weight is 0.7 kg. The firmware was extremely stable, no issues.
Technical Specifications – Pulsar Talion XQ35 Pro
The thermal sensor is made by Lyndred in France and has 384×288 pixels @ 17 µm, 50 Hz frame rate. As this is a ”Pro” model, the NETD is <25 mK (the lower the better), instead of <40 mK on the normal XQ38 model. The objective lens is now F35 / 1.0, compared to F38 /1.2 on the XQ38.
As you browse various thermal imaging manufacturers’ websites, it seems that they “forget” to specify their NETD values on a lot of their devices. However this is a very important aspect of the image quality, and I don’t think you should accept this as a customer. Ask before you buy.
The magnification on this riflescope goes from 2.5 to 10 (x4 digital zoom).
Below: Talion XQ35 Pro on the Heckler & Koch MR223. The setup welcomes rain as you can see, but the photographer (me) prefers sunshine and short pants.
The Talion has a ”shark fin” focus ring at the front. When the fin is aligned, you have a focus at 70 m (76 yards), which is a normal night-time shooting distance for a lot of hunters. This allows you to focus your image without looking at the riflescope, and it’s also easy to know if you want a focus closer or further away and pre-set the scope before you look into the ocular.
Below: The rain is pouring down. Note the Pulsar Merger thermal binoculars hanging around the neck of our TFB model during this review. He is from Ukraine, by the way.
It rains, but the Talion XQ35 doesn’t care. The housing is Waterproof, IPX7 rated.
Below: If you can you should. Here’s the Talion on a suppressed and customized B&T APC9, Glock lower. Using an Apple USB-C cable to charge the thermal. I kind of wish the magazine could be charged the same way! The battery is said to run up to 9 hours per charge.
Below: A red deer with nice antlers in a wildlife park. Distance about 40 meters. So far the Pulsar Talion XQ35 Pro does its job, and the more sensitive thermal sensor helps to put a ”greyscale” on the animal, not just white or black. This will help you to identify details. Note that we get a good image both on the animals and the background. The fences don’t help, but it’s still possible to see the trees in the background.
And an image from “reality”, but with a wider field of view.
In The Field
As the fog rose over the field and started to cover everything, I did some more testing. This is quite often the same time as the sun starts to set, and the animals get more active.
From the Pulsar Telos review (which is a handheld monocular), to compare image quality for those who like.
iPhone image. Yes, there’s a roe buck out there, at about 160 meters out, disappearing more and more as the fog increases.
Eventually, it was impossible to see the animal with the naked eye, he completely disappeared in the white-gray. Thanks to the thermal sensor in the Talion XQ35 Pro, I could track his every step. The image is taken free-handed, and as usual, this appears much better live than with processed images like this. Time is around the Golden Hour, so the sun is setting very soon.
Below: A medium-sized bird on a field at about 180 meters (daytime).
Below: That shed is about 320 meters away.
Fallow deer on a field. I don’t remember the details of this occasion, but I think the distance is about 150 meters. A 380x pixels (or thereabouts) thermal sensor will only take you so far. If you need more, better, further you have to dig deeper into your pockets and look at the Pulsar Thermion 2 lineup, which also comes with a laser rangefinder and a Ballistic App on certain models.
There’s also the Talion XG35, with a 640×480 @ 12 µm (NETD <40 mK) sensor, if you like the size of the Talion line.
Comparing The Performance
To see what kind of image quality the Talion XQ35 Pro is up to, I took still images from about 35 meters. Some of the images are taken in perfect conditions, in full sunlight on a summer day. Some others are the day after when it rained.
Below: Here is an image at the same time of day, in the sunshine (never mind what the time in the device says, the clock wasn’t set on this version). The older Talion XQ38 version does a good job in full sunshine, the differences are there, but not that big. For instance, the lamp is fuzzier. Overall the newer version has a sharper image, so you get what you pay for.
The day after it rained, and below is an image so that you get a sense of how much it was raining. Typically a good quality thermal will not detoriate in image quality as much as a poor one, and that was true on this occasion as well.
Below: Here we have the Talion XQ35 Pro, and it is raining.
Below: The Talion XQ38 during the same conditions. Here the difference is much bigger, with an advantage for the XQ35 Pro. In fact, I see that the setting on the XQ38 is set to a higher sensitivity (Ultra versus High), so the difference might be even bigger in reality. And we all know it rains when we hunt…
We continue with a few more comparisons. These images can also be compared to a few of my previous thermal reviews and upcoming ones. The surface of this garage gets a lot of sunshine in the day, so at 18:37, it’s warmed up pretty well. The boat came out really well.
Below: Talion XQ38 in the rain.
Benchmarking and my overall recommendations for comparing thermals
At the shooting range, to zero and to check the field of view. The image is taken from around 91 meters, so almost exactly 100 yards. Let’s call it an Americanized shooting range somewhere in Europe.
The white-hot mode here, on normal sensitivity. What you should note here, is that you get a good image quality on the target, around the target and also a good detail of what’s going on in the forest (i.e. your real backstop when hunting). The overall image quality is decent for a 384x type of sensor.
As a benchmark, I had a similar-priced thermal riflescope made by a competitor, side-by-side. The specifications between the two are almost identical, at least on paper. I did my best to set up both units to give the best image quality. Looking at the competing unit, the image on the target is perfectly fine, the forest shows almost no detail (either all white or black, depending on mode). Furthermore, as you can see, with the Pulsar you can read the digits 1, 2, 3, etc., which was virtually impossible with the benchmark. The Pulsar also had a much higher field of view, probably in the region of at least 30% more, which is a dramatic difference. No, I’m not going to mention the competitor’s name.
Anyone reading my reviews is welcome to purchase whatever brand they want, it’s your money and your choice! But I really encourage you to find a dealer (or friends) that lets you compare the devices you’re looking at side-by-side, and outdoors. I know this is easier said than done, but it’s the only way.
Below: Here’s what it looks like in an iPhone. It’s interesting how you can see the wet gravel also show up on thermal.
Below: Moose calf in the wild at about 25 meters, tasting a salt stone I’ve put up to help the animals. Conditions are dark, about +8C chilly autumn night. There’s a bird’s house in the tree to the right.
Here’s a bunch of images from a Wildlife park, taken at close distances.
A moose bull in the reed.
Here’s a video from a Wildlife park, looking at various deer at close range. It gives you an idea of what to expect at these distances. The weather was windy, about +10C, sunny with some clouds.
Pulsar Vision did a video with the Pulsar Talion XQ35 Pro, which I think will suit the TFB crowd.
Pulsar have three mounts, check here. I have been using the Weaver USQD, and while it works, keeps the zero and all that it’s supposed to do, I really dislike the QD functionality. It’s the locking mechanism I don’t like, so go for the Weaver U if you intend to keep the scope on your rifle over time. I do a lot of switching between rifles in my reviews, which is probably not considered normal use. The mount feels a lot cheaper (and it is) than the perfection from the Spuhr mounts I’m used to. As the Talion line doesn’t use rings for attachments, you’re in need of any of the mounts in the link provided above.
Price and Availability
The regular sales price for the Pulsar Talion XQ35 Pro seems to be in the region of $2,499. It was available in stores both in the US and EU as of writing this article.
Conclusion – Pulsar Talion XQ35 Pro
If I already owned a Pulsar Talion XQ38 or similar thermal riflescope, I wouldn’t jump on this model. Of course, it would be kind of an upgrade, but not that much better to justify the jump unless you get a really good price for your second hand.
If you’re coming in “hot” (pun intended, we’re discussing thermals), and looking for a good quality, budget-friendly thermal riflescope, I’d have a serious look at this Pulsar Talion XQ35 Pro (384×288 pixels), or the Talion XG35 (640×480 pixels). I would at least put these two on my “wish list” when comparing models. If in doubt, get the XG35 model just to make sure.
I hate when products don’t have any apparent weak points, but I did my best to come up with some criticism. None of them are a big deal or deal-breaking. I did ask a friend who’s been using various Talions for a long time, and he came back saying there are none, it’s perfect.
- A lot of image quality for a 384x thermal sensor. Check that NETD value before you buy a thermal!
- State-of-the-art size, weight and ergonomics.
- Very easy to use. I think it’s superior to Pulsar’s (much) more expensive Thermion 2 line of thermals.
- Doesn’t affect the balance of your firearm (apart from making them more top-heavy).
- (Possible) Battery compartment issues fixed.
- The mounting options work, but I don’t really like the QD mount I’m using (Weaver USQD)
- The rubber seal, protecting the USB-C port, may have a life of its own.
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