You can’t visit any forum on growing without seeing HLG LED grow lights mentioned, and usually in glowing terms.
But how much of the hype is real? And how much is just good marketing?
Here’s the truth: the reason you keep hearing and reading about them is mostly down to marketing.
When they first came out, HLG made sure there was a constant conversation about their lights, and the very cleverly picked “quantum board” term.
Does that mean these lights are not worth it?
No, definitely not. They are great lights and they perform exceptionally well. But they are not the second coming, as much of the hype would have you believe. There are definitely some things you should be aware of.
We’ll cover it all in the review below.
The review will be focused on the Horticulture Lighting Group 550 V2 RSpec LED grow light, since that is their flagship fixture. But everything said (apart from specific numbers) goes for the other quantum board lights as well.
Let’s begin by taking a look at the most popular HLG quantum board lights and seeing how they compare. Then we’ll cover the 550 V2 RSpec in detail.
Horticulture Lighting Group Quantum Board Panels Comparison Table
All the links below go to Amazon, but you should also check out Grow Light Central. They carry the DIY kits, which Amazon doesn’t have. Plus I know the owner.
Shoot him an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let him know I sent you (Steven from GLI) and he’ll give you a bit of a discount. It won’t be huge, because there’s not much room to play with on these lights, but he promised he’d be able to do something. And every little bit helps.
|HLG 65 V2|
|2' x 2' Veg|
1' x 2' Bloom
|HLG 100 V2 3000KCheck Price||Weight:|
|3' x 3' Veg|
2' x 2' Bloom
|HLG 300 V2 RSPEC|
up to 270 watts
|3' x 5' Veg|
2' x 4' Bloom
|HLG 550 V2 RSPEC|
240 - 480 watts
|6' x 6' Veg|
4.5' x 4.5' Bloom
|HLG 300 V2 BSPEC|
up to 270 watts
|4' x 4'|
3' x 5' Veg
|HLG 550 V2 BSPEC|
240 - 480 watts
|6' x 6' Veg||PPF:|
up to 630 watts
|5' x 5'|
7' x 7' Veg
HLG 550 V2 RSpec LED Grow Light Review
As mentioned, this review focuses on the HLG 550 V2 Spec for the specific numbers, but everything written here goes for the other quantum board lights as well. Reviews of those would simply repeat everything said here. For the specs on the other fixtures, see the table above.
Horticulture Lighting Group 550 V2 RSpec Features
- Uses 480 watts — save over 50% on your electric bill over HID lights
- Dimmable to 240 watts — save even more when you don’t need the full output
- Incredible output — PPF of 1257 μmol/s is an amazing output for only 480 watts of power consumption
- Equivalent to a 1000 watt HID system — but costs far less to operate and generates far less heat, too
- Perfect spectrum for plants — 3500K white light plus 660 nm deep red
- 4.5 by 4.5 foot core coverage — with an even light spread, due to the diodes being spread out over the large fixture
- QB-288 quantum boards — with Samsung LM301B 3500K white and Osram top-bin 660 nm deep red diodes
- Meanwell driver — best driver on the market, dimmable to 50% intensity
- 2.6 μmol/joule (and 168 Lm/W) — one of the most efficient lights on the market
- Daisy chain — connect several lights together and run them from a single outlet
- 3 year warranty — from the manufacturer
The biggest advantage of the Horticulture Lighting Group fixtures are the quality components. Chief among them are the Samsung and Osram LEDs and the Meanwell drivers.
These high quality components are extremely efficient, delivering a high output, while consuming less power and generating less heat than almost every other light on the market.
The other major advantage of HLG fixtures is the form factor. The large panel makes for a more even light distribution. Let’s take a closer look at the primary advantages of this light.
The Samsung LM301B LEDs emit a full-spectrum white light with a color temperature of 3500K. That is a warm white (i.e. containing a lot of red-spectrum light) that is great for flowering, but also works well for vegging.
The additional Osram LEDs add a 660 nm deep red light that give plants a huge boost during the bloom stage. It results in bigger and more potent yields.
The light emitted by the HLG 550 V2 RSpec is ideal for full cycle plant growth and is especially powerful for flowering.
When it comes to HLG lights with a spectrum consisting only of 3000K or 4000K white light (which is most of their other fixtures), you lose that extra flowering boost from the deep red light.
The 3000K spectrum is a bit warmer (more reddish) than the 3500K white light in the RSpec, so it is also great for flowering, but you do miss that additional deep red light. The 4000K spectrum works well for flowering, too, but not as well as the RSpec or the 3000K.
4000K is better for vegging though. For that reason, you want to go with the 4000K spectrum if you are vegging only. If you are growing full cycle or flowering only, the RSpec spectrum is the best, with the 3000K spectrum being a close second.
None of the HLG lights emit a significant amount of UV or IR light.
If you want an LED grow light that provides ultraviolet or infrared wavelengths, try the Phlizon series. That said, I usually prefer to just add some fluorescent bulbs for additional UV light, since it only really makes a difference during the last few weeks of flowering. And even that is disputed.
Output and Coverage
As you can see, the coverage is much more even than most LED grow lights. Instead of sky-high PPFD readings in the center of the footprint and minuscule readings in the corners, the difference is not nearly as pronounced. But of course there is still a difference. That is unavoidable.
The reason for the even coverage is something I touched on earlier: the size of the fixture.
With a smaller fixture (like most competitors), light to the corners of the coverage area has to travel further, since it is coming from the center of the area. It loses much of its intensity by the time it reaches the canopy.
With the larger HLG fixture, light does not have to travel nearly as far to reach the corners of the coverage area, since the large size of the fixture brings LED diodes much closer to the far corners. As a result, the light does not lose nearly as much of its intensity by the time it reaches the canopy.
This does mean less power in the center of the coverage area, but much more around the outside. Even with less power in the center, you still get a lot. Plenty for any type of plant.
And the plants on the outside also still get enough light to flower, which is not the case with many lights that focus all of their power into a small area in the center of the coverage area.
You can also see from the PAR footprints that this light has a coverage area of 4 by 4 feet. It is actually listed at 4.5 by 4.5 feet and it can effectively cover that size area, especially if it is in a tent or other enclosure with reflective walls.
Personally, I would use this light to cover a 4 by 4 foot area. That way you ensure that even plants in the corners still get well over 100 umol/s. If the light is used to cover a 4.5 by 4.5 foot area, the corners will barely get 100 umol/s and might get slightly less.
It would work fine, but I prefer to give the plants a bit more light.
When you buy a HLG light, you get a longer warranty than with Chinese brands: a full 3 years. They also have a 30-day money back guarantee, so you can return the light if it is not to your liking. Unfortunately they do charge a 20% restocking fee.
Another great pro is the heat management. The quantum boards run much cooler than other LED panels, so the fixture doesn’t even need fans. Passive cooling is all you need.
Not only does that mean silent operation, it also means a longer lifespan. Fans are usually one of the first components to stop working.
The HLG 550 lights ship with a free set of ratchet hangers, but that is not the case for the other HLG fixtures.
The biggest disadvantage is the company themselves. Horticulture Lighting Group make great lights and most likely, you will be happy with yours. But if you get a bad one, you’re in for some frustration (note: it sounds like they are working hard on improving their customer service – see the email they sent me in response to this review below).
HLG does not do good job with customer service. Yes, they will get you a replacement light, if you end up with a fixture that doesn’t work, but it will take longer than it should and the process will be much more painful that it should be.
They also tend to have more lights break that a company like NextLight. Of course, NextLight’s Mega costs almost twice as much as the comparable HLG 550, but much of that difference goes to better quality control, better build quality and much better customer service and after-sale care.
And honestly, none of this is surprising, when you consider the beginning of HLG. Horticulture Lighting Group was formed from the combination of Johnson Grow Lights and another company, whose name I can’t remember. I tried checking, but HLG seems to have removed this info from their website for some reason.
Johnson was a pretty terrible company, with extremely bad customer service and very prone to mistakes, like shipping out the wrong lights, etc. I don’t think their lights were very good either, but like HLG, they did a great job of marketing (I don’t know why I’m writing “they”, when I’m almost certain Johnson was just one guy).
I remember, there was an episode of Heavy T’s Grow Show (episode #220) where they had the owner (and probably only employee) of Johnson Grow Lights in their studio and agreed to do test grows with one of his lights. They promised photos, follow ups and reports on the progress of this “amazing” light.
I tried to search for follow up shows or any info whatsoever from those test grows and found nothing. That suggests to me that the light was less than “amazing”.
Of course, since they were most certainly paid by Johnson to do those test grows, they couldn’t report bad news, so they just dropped the whole thing entirely. If the light had worked as advertised, you can be sure there would have been follow ups. It also would have been advertised on Johnson’s website.
Of course, all of this is just a guess. The whole point of this little story is simply to say that it is no surprise HLG has issues, when they were formed in part from Johnson Grow Lights, which was a fairly horrible company (and probably nothing more than just the one man himself).
Anyway, if you don’t mind sacrificing some peace of mind and you can accept that you may get a bad light and you may deal with some frustration getting that remedied, then HLG lights are great.
And let’s face it: while they have quality control and customer service issues, they still do both of those things far better than most Chinese brands. At least HLG lights perform as advertised.
If you do want to check out some cheaper Chinese lights that use quantum boards or similar technology, read my review of the Spider Farm SF series, for Mars Hydro’s TS and SP series of lights and my Kingbrite review.
Email From HLG
After publishing this review, I received an email from one of the founders of Horticulture Lighting Group addressing some of the issues I mentioned above. I wasn’t sure what to do with that, but decided the fairest thing would be to paste the email below exactly as received. I did remove an external link and added a comment of my own in parenthesis at one point. I also added missing punctuation (there was a lot of that).
Thanks for your review of our products.
I apologize for issues you had with our products. Around mid this year we were behind by months on emails but now we have 2 staff members for support and warranty and things have changed. Steve me partner is always reachable on phone and helps every customer equally regardless of order size. Our support issues have been resolved and i wish there was a way to prove it to you so you can update your review.
Note we have new Sphere and PAR map reports on website (I have added the PAR reports to this review).
“Horticulture Lighting Group was formed from the combination of Johnson Grow Lights and another company, whose name I can’t remember.” The other company was mine, it was Northern Grow Lights.
Both Northern Grow Lights and Johnson Grow lights were 1 man show each. HLG is now 15+ employees.
HLG 550 is only lamp that had higher failure rates. This is because of Meanwell driver. We have worked with Meanwell to fix this issue. MW now makes all drivers for us in Taiwan instead of China and is better quality. and we now also use inventronics driver that has much less failure rate than MW.
Back in 2017 everyone was using COB or high power LED. We created a new revolution by offering 20% higher efficiency for 1/3 the price, making a DIY lamp would take hours and we made it possible to make a DIY lamp in 10 mins. That is when we got trademark Quantum Board and it is unfortunately that other misuse it all the time.
To be honest it has been all organic growth at HLG. We just started advertising. Everything you see on IG is all me.
Lets connect via email. I would love to know more about you and share our story.
It seems like they are working hard to improve, which is always a great thing to see in a company. And the fact that he took the time to write this email in response to my review also says a lot.
I’m impressed and I do hope they have put the customer service issues behind them. Their lights are a bit more expensive than the Chinese brands, so you expect better customer service and better quality control for your money.
Update April 2020: From what I’ve been hearing, their customer service has been doing MUCH better. It does seem like the issues were just some growing pains and their efforts to improve a weakness have paid off.
HLG Quantum Board LED Grow Light Review: Final Verdict
The Horticulture Lighting Group HLG 550 V2 RSpec LED Grow Light and all other HLG panels, use high quality components to give you one of the most efficient grow lights on the market period.
The high quality Samsung and Osram diodes, deliver huge output, while consuming less power and generating less heat. Your costs go way down and your yields go up.
The large fixtures with diodes spread out over the entire surface ensure a more even coverage and deeper penetration, since the light does not lose nearly as much of its intensity by the time it hits the canopy. Again, yields increase, especially around the outside of the coverage area.
The all-white color spectrum is great for all stages of growing and the addition of deep red in the RSpec fixtures gives a huge boost to flowering. This also results in bigger and higher quality yields.
The internet is littered with grow reports using these lights and the results speak for themselves. Growers are getting incredible yields. For that reason, it should come as no surprise that HLG quantum board lights earned a Grow Light Info rating of 4.8 out of 5.