Clifford from Third Coast Thermal sent me a Pulsar Trail XP50 for testing and evaluation and I thought I would start this as a progressive thread as I go through and become familiar with, and use the unit, sharing my impressions along the way. I will have video and pictures to come in the future. So far I have had the unit out in the field as a spotting scope once and have otherwise been using it in the back yard to become familiar with all of its operations.
The Trail XP50 is Pulsar's venture into the 640 resolution line of rifle scopes along with the Trail XP38. They have the corresponding Pulsar Helion XP50 and XP38 spotting scopes that are 640 resolution as well. These are 17 micron core, 50 hz scopes.
The Trail line improves upon the popular Apex line (384 resolution, 25 micron, 50 hz) line of scopes with more resolution and by being more compact, having better battery capability, onboard recording, improved menu system, and new Wi-Fi features. Traditionally, Pulsar has not been a higher native magnification line of optics and the Trail line continues this tradition with the XP50 coming in at 1.6x native magnification and the XP38 at 1.2x. However, unlike some other thermal scopes, stepping up the magnification times factor fully (8 times) brings the scope to a digital magnification of 12.8 which yields a very usable image which is quite nice.Battery Life:
The Trail XP50 comes with an 8 hour rechargeable battery and associated charger and cable. It is a 5v, 2a charger as you would find with newer smart phones. I have not extensively tested the battery yet, but found that it ran for over 6.25 hours in the field earlier this week with power to spare, but my hunt was over before the battery was out of juice. I understand that there is (or will be) a 16 hour battery and that there are cassettes for using AA or CR123 batteries. These did not come with the scope and would have to be purchased separately. If I decide to buy one of these scopes, I will purchase these additional cassettes primarily because I figure that AA and CR123 batteries will be made for years to come even if Pulsar moves on with different models and discontinue production of this line somewhere in the future. In the mean time, the onboard rechargeable battery is just plain cool to have and works great.Recording:
Currently, the onboard recording is for video or pictures and currently does not have audio, but that is something Pulsar is working to complete and I understand has promised upgrades to purchasers when the audio come online. The memory system is entirely onboard (no SD card) and video made with the recorder can be downloaded to your phone (via Wi-Fi) or downloaded to your computer via cable. Same for pictures. Video and pictures are made via a single button on the scope (or via Wi-Fi - more on that later). As of this time, I have not tested the video capacity of the onboard memory, but plan to do so.Improved Menu System:
When I initially got to field test the Apex prototype and then the finished version, one thing I found frustrating was that the menu system was symbol-based. Some of the symbols were readily understandable as to what they meant. Other symbols, particularly lesser used features, I could never keep straight in my head and so would have to break out the manual to figure out what they meant. The improved menu system is still symbol based, but has written titles that appear at the top of the screen when you move to a given symbol....so if you can't recall what the symbol signifies control for, the actual word prompt is there for you to reference. Unlike the Apex, I was able to utilize the menu system without referencing the manual for translation. That isn't to say the manual isn't necessary. There is further explanation of all of the functions in the manual that describes what can be accomplished with each setting. A person new to thermal would definitely benefit from using the manual while initially getting familiar with the scope. For folks already familiar with thermal, the manual is really only necessary to clarify some unique aspects of the Trail's operation. And while a hard copy of the manual comes with the scope, I find that using the online (or downloaded) version is much simpler as you can find thing more readily with key word searches - http://www.pulsar-nv.com/upload/iblock/cbf/instr_trail.pdfWi-Fi:
Okay, I am not a Wi-Fi on scopes fan, or wasn't. The Stream Vision app is downloadable from the Play Store or iTunes for free. I am using an Android-based phone and it downloaded readily and worked without any sort of glitches. For those limited situations where you might be hunting with a partner who wants to see what you are seeing, you can turn on the Wi-Fi and the person will see what the scope sees in near real-time. There is a slight delay of maybe a second or less. I plan to use this with my daughter when we hunt from a blind and I want to watch her take her shot. I have also found this feature to be useful in demonstrating/teaching how the scope works to other people. You can control numerous features of the scope from the App, if you so desire, such as magnification, recording, palette, reticle choice, etc. I don't see where the person watching the video feed would need to do this, but it can be done.
The part I really like about the Wi-Fi is being able to download video and pictures from the scope to the phone for review after using the scope. No need to have a portable computer with you to watch the video. No cables are necessary. It may take a few minutes to download a large video, but then again it takes a few minutes to break out the computer, boot it, grab the SD card from the recorder (as I am currently doing) and transferring over the file. So this is pretty neat.
So for my initial impressions of the scope, Pulsar has definitely upped their game from their previously popular Apex line of scopes to the Trail line.
More to come...