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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
Photo: New Balance
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Price:  $45 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
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
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69
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 10
  • Comfort - 30% 6
  • Breathability - 30% 9
  • Drying Speed - 20% 7
  • Features & Versatility - 20% 5

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.

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Pros Highly breathable, good fitHighly breathable, comfortable, lightweight, quick dryingLightweight, great fit, excellent ventilationComfortable, fast-drying, breathableInexpensive, comfortable stretch, durable, 360º reflective banding
Cons Plastic feel against the skin, perforated and seethroughTaped seams on shoulders less durable than sewn seamsNot as versatileUnnecessary flap of fabric across the backHeavy, not very breathable
Bottom Line Highly effective for intense physical activity but see-through and lacking some quality featuresExceedingly comfortable and fast drying are the two top attributes for the best running shirt you can buyA performance shirt for the runner logging miles in hot climates or hitting the gymThis shirt outperforms many of the best in terms of comfort and breathability without being cost-prohibitiveA comfortable running shirt with a full feature set for a fraction of the price
Rating Categories Q Speed Fuel Jacquard Patagonia Airchaser Nike Dri-FIT Rise 365 Under Armour UA Str... Baleaf Quick Dry
Comfort (30%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
Breathability (30%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
5.0
Drying Speed (20%)
7.0
10.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
Features & Versatility (20%)
5.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Specs Q Speed Fuel Jacquard Patagonia Airchaser Nike Dri-FIT Rise 365 Under Armour UA Str... Baleaf Quick Dry
Weight (size Medium) 4.5 oz 2.6 oz 3.4 oz 4.4 oz 4.8 oz
Material 73% polyester, 27% spandex Recycled polyester 80% polyester, 20% spandex 93% polyester, 7% elastarell 90% polyester, 10% spandex
Reflective Areas? Yes - 2 Yes - 2 Yes - 2 Yes - 3 Yes - 4
Seam Type Overlock Flatlock and Taped Flatlock and Overlock Flatlock Flatlock and Overlock
UPF? Not Stated Not Stated Not Stated Not Stated Not Stated
Odor Control? No Yes - HeiQ Fresh durable odor control No Yes - Active biocide zinc microbes 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


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.
Photo: 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.

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.
Photo: 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.

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.
Photo: 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.

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.
Photo: 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.

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.
Photo: 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.

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.
Photo: 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.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

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