ATN OTS XLT 160: Affordable Handheld Thermal

Once upon a time, a viable thermal optic was virtually unattainable unless you were willing to drop a down payment normally reserved for a new car. However, as technologies advanced and thermal became more prolific, prices eased. While top-end thermal optics still exceed $10,000, there are some options below the $1,000 price point. Among those, the ATN OTS XLT 160 2-8x handheld thermal monocular is solidly in the mix.

While I’m not a subject matter expert on thermal or night vision, I’ve had ample opportunity to handle these tools (or toys, depending on perspective). Ultimately, there are certain things worth knowing when shopping around the thermal marketplace. Some brands and options are plain trash. Meanwhile, others are known for reliable and quality products. Ultimately, it begs the question, is an affordable thermal useful? Whether willing or not, the ATN OTS XLT 160 became the guinea pig of this experiment.


While I’d love to pitch a review on a PVS-31 setup with ECOTI, I don’t have $15,000 or more lying around to commit to such a purchase. Either way, few of us do, and we’re looking for sound bang for our buck. Accordingly, why not start with the least expensive option from ATN? The ATN OTS XLT 160 easily fits the bill. At around $600, it’s surprisingly affordable for thermal.

The ATN OTS XLT 160 2-8x thermal monocular is ATN’s budget-savvy thermal. At less than a pound, it’s also handy and compact.

When paying a lower price for thermal, there are accompanying performance limitations. However, the primary concern is whether the product is even useful. After several late-night treks into the woods and spotting some wildlife, the ATN actually impressed me with identifying and locating heat signatures and animals. However, it had some limitations that any knowledgeable thermal user would expect. Nevertheless, it easily tracked its fair share of raccoons, armadillos, cattle, and the occasional chicken that fled from our coop.

Resolution and Refresh Rate

The ATN OTS XLT 160 is a handheld thermal monocular with a 160×120 px sensor at a 50 Hz refresh rate. While this may seem like a lot of technical jargon, it’s extremely important. Refresh rate is how quickly the sensor picks up the thermal signature and relays it to the observer. A higher refresh rate translates to a smoother, cleaner image. A higher refresh rate produces a cleaner image when moving the thermal sensor to track a target or scan an area. The ATN OTS XLT 160 provided a clear image where I identified thermal signatures as far as 100 yards on a raccoon and roughly 200 yards or more with the neighbor’s cattle. However, if tracking an area too quickly, the images blurred, and heat signatures were unrecognizable. Accordingly, I learned to scan and stop over sections while inspecting an area.

The next point worth discussing is resolution. While the produced digital image is 720×540 px, the sensor is a fraction of that at 160×120 px. The resulting image is clear enough to identify objects like trees, cars, and people. However, at distances beyond 50 yards, even under magnification, it was hard to tell if the object was a raccoon, armadillo, or common house cat. While the thermal didn’t provide great identification from smaller heat signatures, it reliably and clearly identified a heat signature was present with identifiable traits on larger targets like cattle, deer, and people.

Color Settings

The ATN OTS XLT features four different color settings. The four settings are fusion (color), white hot, red hot, and black hot. While using the thermal, I tended to prefer the red and black hot settings as thermal signatures tended to be more pronounced. The fusion setting provided a diverse contrast of colors that helped the eye easily identify differing temperatures. However, red and black hot made living heat signatures immediately recognizable. Recently driven vehicles, electrical transformers, and heat signatures from buildings stood out prominently as well.

Thermal settings
Clockwise from top left: Fusion (color), Black hot, Red hot, and white-hot thermal settings. The author estimates these cattle were around 200 yards. The maximum advertised range of the ATN OTS XLT 160 is around 260 yards.

Rangefinder and Settings

ATN advertises that the thermal includes a rangefinder setting. Unfortunately, the rangefinder isn’t as intuitive as most common rangefinders. The user must go into the menu and select from a range of preset sizes (bear, deer, wolf, or custom). They then estimate the object’s height in meters and measure the top and bottom of the signature with the thermal. The result is approximated from the input data and, after some testing, was relatively accurate.

Rubber eyepiece
The thermal’s rubber eyepiece and ocular design projected an almost undetectable amount of light from the lens in dark conditions.

Speaking of settings, the ATN OTS XLT has numerous features for adjusting brightness, contrast, and environment. I would like to use this thermal for some winter predator hunting and was initially concerned about the digital image illuminating me. After using it for a few minutes on a particularly dark country night, those concerns were assuaged. The ocular and its rubber eyepiece barely projected any light despite providing a bright image. ATN definitely had some foresight on that point.

Magnification, Battery Life, Photos, and Videos

While the thermal is advertised at 2x to 8x magnification, the projected digital image is a little confusing. The screen displays battery life, magnification, and how much you’ve used of the eight-gigabyte internal memory. The displayed magnification settings are 1x, 2x, and 4x. This was a little confusing at first, but it wasn’t long for me to recognize those settings were actually 2x, 4x, and 8x. I messed around with magnified imaging some, but the image wasn’t particularly clear. While it may be user error, I suspect the poor image quality is more a limitation of the thermal sensor’s resolution.

Charging port and tripod mount
The USB-C charging port is at the bottom of the monocular. The threaded tripod mount is offset to not interfere with the charging port if equipped with a tripod adapter.

ATN advertises the OTS XLT with a 10-plus-hour battery life. After using the thermal for over an hour, the battery status reading hadn’t budged and still showed full. Thus far, battery life has been impressive. If you want to charge the monocular, a provided USB-C charging cable plugs into a USB-C charging port at the bottom of the monocular.

The OTS XLT is capable of taking photographs and videos. This feature is very intuitive. Take a photo with a single press of the picture button. For videos, a long press of the photo button starts and stops recording. Since the images and videos aren’t exceptionally high resolution, the internal memory card can store quite a few images and videos before you need to download them. Transferring images and video is as simple as plugging the thermal into a computer via its USB-C port and transferring the files like any other modern digital camera.

The ATN OTS XLT 160 in the Field

The OTS XLT came ready to go out of the box. With a quick charge, it was ready for work. The OTS XLT includes a wrist lanyard loop that securely fastens to the wrist. Since no thermal is truly cheap, it was assuring to have a secure connection to the thermal. The thermal sensor is protected by a rubber cap. When not in use, you definitely want to cover the sensor to prevent inadvertent damage.

ATN OTS XLT lanyard and diopter focusing ring
The diopter focusing ring and included lanyard. Trust me, use the lanyard. It’s a lifesaver when a 100-pound puppy body slams you while using it.

A tripod mount, which I used for long-distance photography and observation of thermal signatures, is conveniently located near the charging port but isn’t obstructed with a mounting plate attached. The monocular has two focusing rings: diopter and objective. The diopter focusing ring adjusts the digital image’s focus, while the objective focusing ring adjusts the thermal sensor’s image. For those with eyeglasses, the diopter adjustment is very convenient.

Control panel buttons
Operating buttons are intuitive and easy to use. Once you know which finger to use, manipulating the thermal’s settings is simple.

The thermal’s controls are conveniently and intuitively placed in a row on top of the monocular’s body. After some practice, changing settings or taking photos and video were a breeze and intuitive. After a few minutes, I spotted a raccoon visiting a nearby pond at approximately 100 yards. While I hadn’t focused the objective lens, it still produced an image with an identifiable heat signature.

Is a budget thermal worth the price of admission?

Cost and quality are the two biggest issues with thermal. Accordingly, any buyer must strike a balance between their budget and needs. The ATN OTS XLT 160 definitely has some limitations. Motion, resolution, and range are the biggest shortcomings of this thermal monocular. However, with it currently offered on GunMagWarehouse for $599.99, it’s a great deal for a viable thermal monocular. As someone knee-deep in country living, this thermal has already served its purpose with identifying scurrying noises in the tree line along with finding misplaced chickens. Ultimately, the ATN OTS XLT 160 is an affordable and useful handheld thermal that works great at identifying normally unseen four- and two-legged creatures.

Tom Stilson began his firearms career in 2012 working a gun store counter. He progressed to conducting appraisals for fine and collectible firearms before working as the firearms compliance merchant for a major outdoor retailer. In 2015, he entered public service and began his law enforcement career. Tom has a range of experience working for big and small as well as urban and rural agencies. Among his qualifications, Tom is certified as a firearms instructor, field trainer, and in special weapons and tactics. If not on his backyard range, he spends his time with family or spreading his passion for firearms and law enforcement.

Sign Up for Newsletter

Let us know what topics you would be interested:
© 2024 GunMag Warehouse. All Rights Reserved.
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap