Pulsar XP vs XQ – Which One Came Out on Top? 

 October 24, 2018

By  Randy Angwin

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Last updated on July 11, 2021

If you’re buying from a well known brand such as Pulsar, there’s no question: Whatever you purchase will be of high quality. But do you simply pick the newest product line added to the market? Or do you consider how a specific item is relevant to you?

Here’s the truth: You can have the latest in modern technology, but your device can have features unrelated to your specific application. That means you’re wasting your money. Let’s prevent that in your next thermal imaging scope purchase. Below we’ll discuss two of Pulsar’s best thermal scopes:

  • Pulsar XP

What are the differences and which one is right for you? As you have heard before the answer depends. Lets start with an overview of Pulsar and their company.

About Pulsar:

First off, perhaps you’re considering to purchase from another brand. When you understand the company behind these products it becomes even more obvious why Pulsar’s products are often found on pro hunters’ shopping lists. 

You also need to source your gear from established manufacturers. This makes it eaiser to obtain replacement parts and to effortlessly use your warranty if needed. The Pulsar brand has shown its value by being a market leader ever since it started in 1994.

At that time it was known under a different name ‘Yukon Advanced Optics Worldwide’. Their focus originally was day optical devices. However, in 1999 night vision was added to their product range. The company moved with the times, added products to their range as consumers found uses for them. They also explored new tech such as laser range finding, thermal imaging and more. 

It was around 2008 that their new trademark ‘Pulsar’ line saw the light and they’ve been growing in leaps & bounds ever since. With activities in over 70 countries and almost 1,000 employees, this brand has turned into a world leader, delivering quality thermal imaging equipment.

Now, should one of these products from a trusted brand not be added to your gear?

XP vs XQ - Key Differences

1. Image Quality:

The main difference relates to image quality.  Here the clear winner is the Pulsar XP. You get a resolution of 640x480, compared to the XQ’s 384x288. This represents the device’s ability to turn its thermal imaging data into a usable, sharp image.  A 640x480 sensor gives also 3 times the amount of pixels on the screen. If you’re looking for improved image clarity, Pulsar XP comes out on top. 

XP - A resolution of 640x480 equals to 307,200 pixels
XQ - A resolution of 384x288 equals to 110,592 pixels

2. Zoom:

To realize this aspect’s value to you, you must understand how every small adjustment you make, affects the overall feedback you get. Yes, you can digitally zoom with these thermal scopes. However, this zoom function will decrease the sharpness of your original image.

Although zooming with both these devices will slightly blur your picture, the XP once again comes out on top. 

Your zoomed image will still be mostly clear, much more than on what you’ll see on the XQ display. The lower resolution obviously plays a role here.

3. Field of View:

The third area where the XP seems to cement its superiority, is in its field of view. When you’re scanning for your target you want to be able to see as much as possible, right?

With the XP38 model you’ll have 28.6 while the XQ38 only allows 21.8

This is an especially important aspect. You’ll already feel limited in your abilities because you’re looking at the world through a scope. In a hunting scenario you also want to be alert to any possible danger, as well as locating your target as soon as possible.  

By giving you a larger field of view the XP model creates more comfortable and effective hunting. 

These differences may hint at the XP being better, but you first have to view the extensive XP and XQ ranges before making your final decision. 

Pulsar Product Line

Pulsar didn’t only create one scope in each category. The brand caters for all possible applications as well as budgets by offering you quite a long list of products. Pulsar allocates unique names to different ranges, as this more accurately describes what they’re used for.

Pulsar Thermion Riflescopes (Sights)

Pulsar also refers to its thermal scopes as ‘sights’. Your list of options include the following and we also list the detection range of each model in meters. This should give you an idea if (while keeping in mind the facts mentioned above) it’s appropriate for your application:

Model No.

Product Preview

Detection Range (m)


Field of View

Pulsar Thermion XM30

Thermion xm30



7.3° x 5.5°

Pulsar Thermion XM38

Thermion xm30



5.8° x 4.3°

Pulsar Thermion XM50

Thermion XM50



4.4° x 3.3°

Pulsar Thermion XP38

Thermion XP38




Pulsar Thermion XP50

Thermion XP50




LRF stands for ‘Laser Range Finder’. This is more proof that Pulsar had become a market leader on various areas of new technology. Through embedded LRF technology, your sight will determine the distance to the target with the help of a laser. 

This technology is based on measuring how long it takes for your target to reflect the laser back to your sight. It is important to know this technology may not be 100% accurate. The rise and fall of the laser as well as the receiver itself, determine how correct that reading will be. It may be a few mm off. However, for hunting purposes this tool is more than sufficient.

On most of these models you enjoy the benefits of smart technology, embedded in compact, user friendly products:

  • Frequency: High image frequency, up to 50Hz, even if you move rapidly.
  • Recoil resistance: Recoil resistance, up to .375-cal, which means you can use this even on high powered fire arms.
  • Save preferences: You can save zeroing profiles on the device for easy swapping between guns.
  • Reticles: Pick your preferred reticle from a total of 10 electronic options. There are also different color and brightness options, so you can customize your shooting experience, simply by purchasing a sight from this impressive brand.
  • Record video: You can record video footage of your activities.
  • Unique modes: You can view a magnified picture of your reticle area. This will appear at the top of your display.
  • Connectivity: You can download your footage easily to a computer via Wi-Fi or use a wired connection.
  • Durability: Not only do they have great battery life, but they work in conditions of -25°C - +50°C. They’re also waterproof, most with ratings of IPX7.

Pulsar thermal scopes bring technology to hunting experiences that optimize your abilities and enhance your day. 

Pulsar Axion & Pulsar Thermal Monoculars (Scopes)

Of course, you don’t have to fix this technology to your gun. Pulsar adds a handy alternative to its products with the handheld, thermal monoculars. Pulsar used "scope" as the name for this category. 

The thermal monoculars still provide you with quality imagery, as discussed above, but are carried differently to the sights. They can have hand straps on the sides to ensure you don’t drop yours.

Their capabilities do differ slightly from the XP and XQ models found in the ‘sights’ category, as you have a different optics selection here. Pick the best thermal imaging scope wisely by matching the capabilities with your needs. Once again we list their detection ranges too, to help you find the most appropriate one:

Model No.

Product Preview

Detection Range (m)


Field of View

Pulsar Axion XM30

Axion XM30



7.3° x 5.5°

Pulsar Axion XM38

Axion XM38



5.8° x 4.3°

Pulsar Axion Key XM30

Axion XM30



7.3° x 5.5°

Pulsar Helion XQ38F

Pulsar Helion XQ38F



9.8° x 7.4°

Pulsar Helion XQ50F

Pulsar Helion XQ50F



7.5° x 5.6°

Pulsar Helion XP38

Pulsar Helion XP38



16.3° x 12.3°

Pulsar Helion XP50

Pulsar Helion XP50



12.4° x 9.3°

Despite their smaller designs, Pulsar thermal monoculars present many of the same features you’ll find on the sights. This includes communication with you SmartPhone, being Wi-Fi enabled and working in very low or high temperatures. 

Last Thoughts and Our Recommendation:

Now you can pick your ideal option. As stated at the start of this article: The answer isn’t necessarily as obvious as you think. Here are some thoughts to help you make your decision.

If your first priority is to enjoy sharp image capabilities and you want that large scan area, the XP line is usually the way to go for many customers. Also, if you know you’ll often make use of digital zoom, it’s best to buy one of the XP models. 

However, not everyone wants or needs the same things for their hunting adventures. The XQ line provides you with bigger optics and you’ll pay a little less for them. If you know you won’t use digital zoom often, it makes sense to save some money and invest it elsewhere in your gear. Because Pulsar’s products are high quality, you’ll still benefit from this range. 

Now, all you have to do is list your priorities and then order your Pulsar scope. 

About the author 

Randy Angwin

Randy Angwin holds a master of science degree from University of Florida. He is an expert in infrared and night vision technology. His knowledge helps us staying on top of the latest trends in the thermal industry. When not working, Randy likes to hunt and spend time with his two German shepherds.

  • Hard to believe the XP50 comes out on top of the XQ50F when zoomed in, clarity-wise. I’ve been told even at ~4x zoom on the XP, it still beats the base magnification of the XQ’s 4.1. Where I live only one place locally sells these optics, but they have no show room so I can’t go test them for myself. I feel like I can’t truly make an informed purchase unless I know exactly what I’m getting! What to do what to do.

    • This line is going to be discontinued soon, like in August. Wait a couple of months and go for one of the new Pulsar Thermion scopes. They are the same price and offer more features.

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