3-in-1 thermal review: HIK Micro Ultimate Thunder (spotter, scope & clip-on)

The Ultimate Thunder three-in-one thermal device

You're definitely not short of options when it comes to the Ultimate Thunder - Credit: Archant

Paul Austin reviews the latest thermal imaging release from HIK Micro – the Ultimate Thunder is a spotter, scope and a clip-on all rolled into one! 

HIK Micro may not have the shooting pedigree of Pulsar, but it’s a big organisation worth over 10 billion and the world’s largest manufacturer of CCTV equipment, alongside all manner of other electronic tech. They’ve clearly spotted there’s money to be made in the thermal market and, just like IRay before them, are now hell bent on securing their piece of the pie.

Appearing less than 18 months ago, they’ve made serious inroads with a very consumer-savvy, price-conscious approach, targeting the mid-market with a combination of functionality and affordability.

Enter the Thunder, a product that continues in that vein bringing all three thermal genres together into a single modular unit. The main body can accept a regular screw-in eyepiece for spotting or use as a dedicated thermal scope and it can become a front-mounted clip-on, courtesy of a locking scope collar which can sit permanently on your day scope with an accompanying adapter screwed into the Thunder (which is automatically recognised by the unit) which then updates the menu system and functionality accordingly.

The HIK Micro Ultimate Thunder thermal imager mounted on a rifle

On the gun and ready to go in dedicated thermal mode - Credit: Archant

There are few flavours in the Thunder family with different config options for each. With the Ultimate version, you get it all: spotter, scope and clip-on. If you’re running in spotter mode, a sustained press of the zoom button disables the crosshairs with shorter presses upping the mag from 1x to 8x. If you’re running the unit as a dedicated scope, the same long press brings back the crosshairs and the all-important options within the menu to adjust their position for zeroing.

The unit itself is nicely made with a hard polymer body combined with a soft rubberised finish on the control panel and accompanying buttons. It’s lightweight and feels well constructed with smooth adjustment for both the dioptre and focus ring.

It ships in a very posh box which contains an equally impressive carrying case and all-in-all it’s a very nicely put together package. In terms of quick changes, the most likely will be the swap from spotter to clip-on, as the sled used to connect the Thunder to a Picatinny rail (in standalone thermal scope mode) is bolted to the unit, so not exactly an easy switch in the field.

On the subject of the ‘clip-on mode’ we come to the scope mount and accompanying adapter. To fit it, you simply screw out the eyepiece, replacing it with a clip-on section, which has a push and twist spigot to lock it into the adapter. It clicks into place reassuringly and tightens down with an external threaded ring. All very well thought out and well designed.
The only aspect of the package I’m not particularly keen on is the supplied shims, which are rubberised strips that you’re meant to stick on the inside of the adapter to create a solid connection with the scope.

The problem is once stuck in place they’ll be difficult to remove without damage and will also make it very tricky to use/adjust for a different scope. Simple plastic inserts would have been a much more flexible solution. A simple workaround is to stick the inserts to cling film and then trim the cling film down to size.

The only other slight bug in the overall design on the clip-on side is the lack of multiple rifle profiles. If you use the Thunder on a different scope you’ll need to make a note of the x/y figures when zeroing and punch in the appropriate figures when you swap over. A simple scope profile option would make life a lot easier. Hopefully, that something that can be fixed with a software/firmware update.

The HIK Micro Ultimate Thunder thermal mounted on a rifle

An all round quality build with 3 year warrenty thrown in for good measure - Credit: Archant

Zeroing the HIK Micro Ultimate Thunder
If you plan to run the Thunder as a standalone thermal scope on the supplied rail, you will have to zero it in the usual way, with a sub-menu item offering the usual x/y adjustment to correctly place the reticle.

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When it comes to zeroing the clip-on, it’s slightly more complicated. Firstly, you zero your day scope in the normal manner, then once the clip-on is in place you take a shot and use the image calibration option to put the crosshairs over the impact point.  At this point, both the day scope and the Thunder should be aligned and will share the same zero as the day scope. 

Close up of HIK Micro Ultimate Thunder in hunter's hand

The Thunder in spotter mode with smooth zoom up to 8x - Credit: Archant

Ultimate Thunder Image quality
When it comes to image quality, the Thunder is right up there with the competition in the 384x288 sensor range, and in fact it’s better than most. The image is sharp and crisp, gradients are smooth and the <35mk NETD means it should hold up well in poor weather.

There isn’t a massive amount of eye relief when running the Thunder as a sled mounted thermal, so I definitely wouldn’t recommend anything heavier than a .243 and even that might be a bit too close for comfort.

Just like IRay, HIK Micro are still a generation behind Pulsar in terms of software, however both suppliers do provide all the core features and that gap is closing fast, so if you do buy a Thunder keep an eye out for firmware and app updates. 

Close up of the clip-on adaptor on the HIK Micro Ultimate Thunder thermal unit

It's always a good idea with any clip-on to mark the scope and adapter with a pencil or tape to ensure correct alignment when remounting - Credit: Archant

Ultimate Thunder design & function
There are no complaints about the overall feature set with 16GB of internal storage for pics and video recording, a PIP option, four colour palettes and a nice smooth zoom when you’re spotting plus wifi connectivity to the accompanying T-Vision app.

The 384x288 sensor means it’s not in the same league as the Krypton or the IRay CH50 but it’s certainly on a par with any over 384 clip-on device on the market in terms of image quality. Add in the recording functions and connectivity and in terms of functionality it out guns IRay’s Clip CL42, which is a great device, but it’s more expensive and offers fewer features. 

Close up of the HIK Micro Ultimate Thunder thermal unit mounted on a rifle

Nice design, loads of flexibility and solid construction. There's a lot to like about the Thunder - Credit: Archant

Pros

  • Great value for money 
  • Unrivalled flexibility 
  • Impressive image quality 

Cons 

  • A 640 version would be nice 
  • Clip on mode would benefit from separate scope profiles 
  • The CR123 batteries don’t offer a huge runtime 

Verdict 

  • As an overall package I can’t fault it. Spotter, thermal scope, clip-on all in one and nicely package and presented at a very reasonable price. What’s not to like? 

Tech specs
Sensor: 384×288px @ 17µm 
Objective Lens (Focal Length): 35 mm / F1.0 
Magnification (optical): 1x 
Sensor resolution: 384 × 288 
Pixel pitch, um: 17µm 
Frame rate: Hz: 50 Hz 
NETD: <35mK 
Magnification (Digital): 1x, 2x, 4x, 8x 
Field of view: 10.0° × 8° (H × V) 
Display: 9.9 mm LCOS 
Resolution: 748 x 561 
Colour Palettes: Black Hot, White Hot, Red Hot, Fusion 
Video recording: Yes 
Picture snapshot: Yes 
Built-in memory, GB: 16 
Hot tracking: Yes 
WIKI Hot spot: Yes 
T-Vision App support: Yes 
Recoil resistance: 6750 J 
Degree of protection: IPX7 
Dimensions, mm: 187.2 mm × 62.5 mm × 59.2 mm 
Weight, Kg: 0.41 kg 
Operating time on battery (WIFI & Hot tracking disabled): 4.5 hours continuous running 
Charging interface: USB-C 
Battery type: Replaceable CR123A 
Warranty: Main Unit: 3 Years 

Supplier: Elite Optical 
Web: www.eliteoptical.co.uk 
RRP: £2,499.00