“Quantum boards are the best thing ever!”
“If your (sic) using anything else, your (sic) an idiot!”
If you’ve spent any time on growing forums in the past year or two, you’ve undoubtedly come across plenty of posts like that.
People jump on trends and get pretty obsessed. And few things are as trendy in the cannabis growing community as quantum board LED grow lights.
But what are they exactly?
And perhaps more importantly, are they as good as they say?
And if they are, which brand is best?
We’ll tackle all those questions and more. By the time you get to the bottom of this page, you will know everything you need to know about quantum boards, and you’ll know whether they are right for you and exactly which one(s) you should get.
Let’s start with the most basic question.
What Is A Quantum Board?
The term “quantum board” was first introduced by Horticulture Lighting Group (HLG for short), a relatively new supplier of LED grow lights. It referred to a new style of light where a large number of small LED diodes are affixed to a flat board.
The diodes are arranged in rows that are run in parallel configurations by a high-powered constant current driver. There are now many different boards available from multiple manufacturers, with varying configurations.
The primary board HLG is currently using is the QB288 V2. It features 288 Samsung LM301H LEDs, which are some of the most efficient LEDs on the market. Two variants of this board replace 16 of the Samsung diodes with deep red Osram diodes, or with blue diodes.
HLG has always used top quality components, like Samsung LED diodes and Meanwell drivers. This focus on quality components is one of the reasons quantum board became so popular.
These days, many brands make quantum boards and some of them use the same components as HLG. Others swap them out for cheaper alternatives, in order to keep costs down. All are still considered quantum boards though. We’ll take a look at each of the primary manufacturers below and see how they compare.
Advantages Of Quantum Board LED Grow Lights
So what’s the big deal with these things?
They look pretty basic and not nearly as well-made as most traditional LED grow lights. Are they really any better?
Generally speaking, yes. Quantum boards have a umber of advantages over regular LED grow lights. In fact, we always recommend either quantum LEDs or COBs (read Quantum Board Vs COB for a comparison of the two) for anyone wanting to get into growing indoors.
The primary advantages of quantum boards are:
Quantum board give you more output while consuming fewer watts. The HLG 550 V2 Rspec, for example, generates 168 lumen per watt or 2.6 umol per joule.
Because the light emanates from many points across a large board, it has a more direct path to the canopy on the outside of the coverage area than a light that comes from a smaller fixture and has to emanate further outward.
This results in less intensity in the middle of the coverage area and more intensity around the outside. In other words: a more even light spread.
The Samsung diodes (and the cheaper alternatives many brands use) emit a full spectrum white light that contains every visible wavelength of light. They are available in several different color temperatures, but all are close to natural sunlight. This makes it an excellent spectrum for plants.
While blue and red LEDs were common in the past, the industry is coming to realize that white LEDs are better for plants, so more and more manufacturers are switching to white. This switch began with HLG and their quantum boards.
These days, quantum boards often have additional diodes mixed in among the white ones, most notably deep red and sometimes UV and IR.
Quantum boards are generally mounted to a to a thin piece of aluminum (or sometimes a heatsink), which suffices to passively cool the diodes. No fans are needed (note that the fixtures do still get hot; see disadvantages below).
On average, quantum board lights cost less than traditional LEDs or COBs that produce a similar output. Yes, there are far cheaper lights, but those lights do not come close to giving you the output of a quantum board.
HLG and some other manufacturers sell DIY kits that make it easy to build your own light and save even more money
Disadvantages Of Quantum Boards
There are no major disadvantages of quantum board lights, when compared to other types of LED grow lights, but there are a few minor ones.
White light penetrates better into the canopy due to the presence of green wavelengths (read more about white light and plant growth), which gives quantum lights an advantage over “blurple” LEDs. But more powerful white LEDs, like COBs, get much deeper penetration than quantum boards.
Quantum boards are very simple. LED diodes are affixed directly to a board. Nothing more. There are no covers or lenses.
The diodes are open and exposed and, in many cases, so are the wires. A few of the manufacturers have recently begun adding plastic covers over the exposed wires, but many still have the wires open. All of this means the components are less protected. But it does keep costs down.
Misconception About Heat
While LED lights run cooler than other types of lighting, they still emit large amounts of heat. And quantum boards are no exception.
There is a misconception that they run cool, because they do not need fans, but the diodes still heat up a lot. In general, you can expect about 30% less heat than the equivalent HID light.
Quantum Board Manufacturers
More and more companies are releasing quantum board style lights, but most of them are not reliable brands. The following manufacturers are the only ones we would consider at the time of writing. They range from HLG down to suppliers that are only available on the Chinese website Alibaba.
If you can afford them, HLG lights are the best choice. If they are a bit out of your budget, Spider Farmer are almost as good and quite a bit cheaper.
If you’re on a strict budget, consider Kingbrite. They are basically the same as HLG, but far cheaper. You have to order them from China, though.
Horticulture Lighting Group
HLG made the first quantum boards and they are still the best company to buy from, if you can afford it. They are by far the most expensive of the brands listed here. Read our full review.
Among the many Chinese brands selling quantum-style lights, Spider Farmer stands out as the best.
They also use Samsung diodes and Meanwell drivers and produce high quality lights. Moreover, they have warehouses and service centers in the US, so you do not have to wait as long for warranty repairs, should your light need them.
Spider Farmer lights cost quite a bit less than HLG, but still considerably more than some of the other brands below. Read our full review for more.
Mars Hydro are probably the best knows Chinese brand. They have been around a long time and have recently jumped on the quantum board bandwagon.
Their lights use lower quality components (though some of them do use Meanwell drivers). They are still pretty good lights, but they are less reliable than the two brands above. Naturally, they are also cheaper. Learn more in our review.
Maxsisun is less known than Mars Hydro, but their lights are a similar quality and sell for a similar price. Learn more here.
Now we’re getting down to the cheapest of all quantum board lights. Despite the low price, Kingbrite lights actually use the same Samsung diodes and Meanwell drivers as HLG. They are virtually the same lights, except Kingbrite has a much larger selection, in terms of adding UV, IR, etc.
So what’s the drawback?
They are only available for purchase direct from China, via Alibaba. This means long shipping times and a bit more hassle than buying from Amazon (Alibaba is not as user friendly). Learn everything you need to know in our full review.
Meiju is basically the same as Kingbrite, except they have a smaller selection. At the time of writing Kingbrite was a bit cheaper, but the prices fluctuate.
It may be worth checking both out and seeing which currently sells what you need for less. Don’t forget to take the shipping charges into account as well. Read all about Meijiu in our review.