We all love pulse lasers, and there are so many reasons to love them: their sound, the feeling of raw damage being inflicted upon your enemy, and their waste heat keeping us warm during those cold, hard matches on Frozen City. But the Small Pulse Laser (SPL) is a bad guy, a hidden backstabber created by an evil genius.
Today I'm going to rant about the Small Pulse Laser. I'm going to call it out for being bad and suboptimal. Some (bad) players will certainly come out of their basements and try to argue that the low beam duration is worth all its bad attributes. I'm not convinced. Nevertheless, I will review all values and angles on this weapon. Even a suboptimal weapon deserves to be looked at after all.
Math Warrioring: Beam Duration, Heat, and Damage
The Small Pulse Laser has the shortest beam duration of all lasers, which makes it easier to place the full damage on a single component or section. The sad fact is that a Medium Laser (ML) is just a hair behind the Small Pulse Laser in that regard. A Medium Laser needs 0.6 seconds to deal the same 3 points of damage that the Small Pulse Laser delivers in 0.5 seconds. This is a rather negligible difference. To add insult to injury, the Medium Laser will fire for another half second after the the Small Pulse Laser has stopped firing, outputting additional damage.
One could argue that the reduced heat generated by the Small Pulse Laser compared with the Medium Laser is a good thing, but apart from the ER PPC (and ER Large Laser), the Small Pulse Laser has the worst heat-to-damage ratio. Coupled with the fast rate of fire, the Small Pulse Laser will build up heat faster than a Medium Laser.
SL: The Little Brother
At half the weight, the Small Laser (SL) is the little brother of the Small Pulse Laser. They are quite easy to compare since they both operate at the same range, deal the same amount of damage, and most importantly share the same beam color. What differentiates them is the beam duration and heat cost: a Small Pulse Laser's 0.25 second reduced beam duration comes with a 50% higher heat cost. Please note that both the Medium Pulse and the Large Pulse Laser deal more damage than their smaller brothers.
ML: The Big Brother
Admittedly, the Medium Laser weighs the same as the Small Pulse Laser, albeit with three times the effective range. Similarities are only to be found in the weight and the space required to fit them. A Small Pulse Laser's only advantage lies in the slightly lower heat cost, but the price for the gain in heat efficiency is high. ML, the big brother, will easily deal more damage than the Small Pulse Laser, even though the SPL deals slightly more damage per 0.1 second of its beam duration. This helps concentrate the fire on a single section. Sadly (for the SPL), the Medium Laser fires for twice as long as the Small Pulse Laser, totally dwarfing the Small Pulse Laser's ability to actually destroy an opponent.
Fitting Choices: Why the SPL Truly Sucks
Most of the time, your mech loadout will be limited by critical slots, tonnage, heat management, or hardpoints. If your tonnage is limited, the Small Laser (SL) is a superior choice to the Small Pulse Laser since it offers the same damage and range for half the weight. If critical slots are the issue, one would either remove Double Heat Sinks (DHS) or mount fewer and more powerful weapons (Medium or Large Lasers). When hardpoints are the limiting factor on your mech, you’ll want to use Medium Lasers to make the utmost of your offensive capabilities. They offer more damage and 3x the range even though the actual difference is only 180 meters. That is enough to have serious implications on how and where you can fight your opponents.
The more complex limit of heat management is best solved by mixing MLs and SLs on a build as the examples with the Jenner-F and the Hunchback-4P show:
Summary: You should combine Medium and Small Lasers on a Jenner-F. This lets you do more damage while having the same heat to deal with. On top of that, you will be able to devote 1.5 tons to other equipment; an anti-missile system would be a sensible option, for example.