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New Balance Q Speed Fuel Jacquard Review

Highly effective for intense physical activity but see-through and lacking some quality features
New Balance Q Speed Fuel Jacquard
Credit: New Balance
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Price:  $45 List | $33.71 at Amazon
Pros:  Highly breathable, good fit
Cons:  Plastic feel against the skin, perforated and seethrough
Manufacturer:   New Balance
By Jeff Colt ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 28, 2021
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
69
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 16
  • Comfort - 30% 6.0
  • Breathability - 30% 9.0
  • Drying Speed - 20% 7.0
  • Features & Versatility - 20% 5.0

Our Verdict

With an angular perforated pattern throughout the polyester weave, the New Balance Q Speed stands out in the line-up. This design permits maximum breathability but comes at the cost of offering less in the way of comfort and protection. Overlock seams are stitched with abrasive thread that we could feel from the first wear and never got used to. While the fit of the shirt is nice, the fabric and seams diminish the comfort significantly. It's clear to us that this shirt was designed with breathability in mind and not much else.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Top Pick Award Best Buy Award   
Price $45 List
$33.71 at Amazon
$52 List$35 List
Check Price at REI
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$19.00 List
$19.99 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Highly breathable, good fitUltra lightweight, insanely breathable, super fast dryingVersatile, recycled materials, wide range of colors, great priceDurable, versatile, comfortableInexpensive, comfortable stretch, durable, 360º reflective banding
Cons Plastic feel against the skin, perforated and seethroughLess durable, minimal thermal regulationHigh water absorption, longer drying timeHeavy, slow to dryHeavy, not very breathable
Bottom Line Highly effective for intense physical activity but see-through and lacking some quality featuresIf you often find yourself in extremely hot conditions this is the shirt for you due to its insane breathability and fast drying timeProvides great comfort and versatility for a great price with plenty of great colors to choose fromA do-it-all adventure shirt that is casual when you're relaxing but can ramp up the octane when you're on the moveA comfortable running shirt with a full feature set for a fraction of the price
Rating Categories New Balance Q Speed... HOKA Glide Patagonia Capilene... REI Co-op Active Pu... Baleaf Quick Dry
Comfort (30%)
6.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
Breathability (30%)
9.0
10.0
7.0
6.0
5.0
Drying Speed (20%)
7.0
10.0
6.0
5.0
6.0
Features & Versatility (20%)
5.0
5.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
Specs New Balance Q Speed... HOKA Glide Patagonia Capilene... REI Co-op Active Pu... Baleaf Quick Dry
Weight (size medium) 4.5 oz 2.72 oz 4.13 oz 4.9 oz 4.8 oz
Material 73% polyester, 27% spandex 100% polyester 100% polyester Polyester 90% polyester, 10% spandex
Reflective Areas? Yes - 2 Yes - 2 No Yes - 1 Yes - 4
Seam Type Overlock Flatlock Overlock Flatlock Flatlock and Overlock
UPF? Not Stated Not Stated Not Stated Not Stated Not Stated
Odor Control? No Yes - anti-bacterial grid texture Yes - HeiQ Pure No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Q Speed Fuel breathes running but doesn't have the versatility to reach far beyond being in motion. Utilizing a highly perforated mesh fabric throughout the shirt, air flows easily through the material, but so does light, making it quite see-through. Lower quality seams and a plastic feel to the fabric are a couple of reasons we don't love the comfort, but the fit is great for running. On most runs, we felt that it performed at or above average but we took it off before we finished or right when we finished running, which is also telling.

Performance Comparison


New Balance Q Speed Fuel Jacquard running shirt - on long hot days we could rely on the breathability of this shirt...
On long hot days we could rely on the breathability of this shirt, but didn't love how it felt with a pack.
Credit: Jeff Colt

Comfort


Let's take a close look at the material of the Q Speed. The 73% polyester 27% spandex fabric is more spandex than any other shirt we tested, resulting in a consistent four-way stretch that has great rebound and returns to its original shape. Jacquard means perforations, and the thousands of perforations on this shirt are positioned in an angular pattern. Some combination of the pattern, fabric, and stitching feels coarse and plastic-like, causing little points of discomfort on the insides of the upper arm and neck.

New Balance Q Speed Fuel Jacquard running shirt - the jacquard fabric is short of fishnet stockings but far past any...
The jacquard fabric is short of fishnet stockings but far past any other breathable weave.
Credit: Jeff Colt

This fit is dialed for a medium and it feels great while standing and in motion. The length comes down past the waistline enough that it never feels like a belly shirt and it hangs loosely across the chest instead of hugging it. We had no issues with bunching or tightness during high output activities like hill repeats or pick-up soccer.

New Balance Q Speed Fuel Jacquard running shirt - the relaxed performance fit was great, but we wouldn't choose this...
The relaxed performance fit was great, but we wouldn't choose this shirt for relaxing or casual occasions.
Credit: Jeff Colt

Breathability


The window doesn't let air in when it is closed, but when it is open and just the screen is in place, air can flow freely into a room. No shirt we tested takes this concept as far as the Q Speed — holes are everywhere. We weren't in love with the design, but it is hard to argue with 100% open ventilation. While many other shirts work to provide some comfort or protection and only use breathable mesh in mapped areas, this shirt commits fully to mesh.

Certain shirts rely on fabrics with special properties to promote breathing. New Balance just poked a ton of little holes in this shirt, and it's hard to knock it when it does effectively breathe. Look up images of Jim Walmsley at the 100 mile Western States ultramarathon, he famously cut big holes in his shirt to promote better breathability. We prefer a body-mapped approach, placing highly breathable fabrics in the areas that typically dump heat, such as the back and armpits. This allows for the use of softer and more comfortable fabrics elsewhere.

New Balance Q Speed Fuel Jacquard running shirt - light and air easily pass through the patterned mesh, allowing for...
Light and air easily pass through the patterned mesh, allowing for unfettered breathability but sacrificing warmth and sun protection.
Credit: Jeff Colt

Drying Speed


For drying speed, the poke holes in the shirt approach wasn't quite as successful. Still, the Q Speed performed right in the middle of the pack, holding 57% of its dry weight when saturated, and drying completely after 20 minutes in the dryer. What's more, the shirt seemed to have held just the right amount of moisture to cool through evaporation. Despite this, we hypothesized that the perforated fabric would fully dry out and be unable to provide any cooling.

Our running field tests showed us that the plastic mesh feel of the jacquard fabric was indeed hot and dry. In our kitchen lab, we tested how fast each shirt could dry. In the outdoor lab, we examined the drying time and evaporative cooling efficacy. The cold silky feeling we were hoping for, indicating evaporative cooling, was mostly absent as airflow through the mesh decreased the efficacy of the fabric to wick moisture and cool. In some ways, the Q Speed performed as if we weren't wearing a shirt all, keeping us hot and explaining why we always wanted to take it off.

New Balance Q Speed Fuel Jacquard running shirt - hot days in an arid climate proved to be demanding on this shirt, as...
Hot days in an arid climate proved to be demanding on this shirt, as the mechanism for breathability was also a shortcoming for functional cooling.
Credit: Jeff Colt

Features & Versatility


This shirt was not our best performer with its limited feature set and a design not fit for casual wear. A large reflective NB logo on the chest and a smaller reflective logo on the lower right hip offer some visibility. In our efforts to capture the reflective ability of the logo on the back while out running, we couldn't get it to show up in photos as it got lost in the patterns and perforations. For reflective banding to work, the accents need to be placed in areas that can be seen. For our tests, we look for 360º reflectivity with accents on the middle or upper back and sleeves.

New Balance Q Speed Fuel Jacquard running shirt - a reflective logo on the chest and by the left hip are the extent of...
A reflective logo on the chest and by the left hip are the extent of reflective features for this shirt. Also detailed is the outside of the overlock stitching up the sides.
Credit: Jeff Colt

A soft sweatband is sewn into the collar, providing some comfort across the back of the neck. Additionally, New Balance printed the tag information instead of sewing in a tag, making small strides toward increased comfort. When we tested the Q Speed with a pack it breathed well. Our only hitch was the stitching and seams on the shoulders, under the arms, and through the ribcage were noticeably coarse, causing irritation. While no odor control agent is mentioned, we couldn't smell any smells after a dozen uses, which we do love.

The shirt still breathes effectively and fits well when paired with...
The shirt still breathes effectively and fits well when paired with a hydration pack.
Overlock seams on the shoulders and sides get pressed tightly...
Overlock seams on the shoulders and sides get pressed tightly against the body when wearing the Q Speed in conjunction with a hydration pack.

Value


We tested a number of shirts in this mid-tier price range. This price point indicates you are purchasing more than a cotton t-shirt and are looking for some technical features. The Q Speed was not our favorite because it lacks versatility and has minor points of discomfort. However, if you are looking for an exercise-specific shirt that stays in your gym locker, this could be a good option as it breathes very well out on the trails and in the gym, and we don't notice any odor.

Conclusion


The New Balance Q Speed Fuel Jacquard craves high output activity and with its perforated jacquard fabric, it will likely breathe better than you can. We did, however, notice some shortcomings in comfort and features. We would like to see some more thought put into the seams so the shirt feels softer, and the addition of more reflective accents considering the design is already tech-oriented. In all, this shirt is a good option for a running shirt if that is the sole factor in your search to get dressed.

Jeff Colt
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