I haven’t shopped for lights in a few years, but there are certainly some lighting guru’s around here to learn from. I think AC is still kinda new on the lighting scene, but they make good stuff, so wouldn’t doubt their quality. I have read they have good spectrum and components, just not quite strong enough, so need to double up, which might not be cost effective. Dunno…
HLG has been the go to for performance, quality, power and customer service, but you pay for it. There’s a couple of other, smaller brands in that tier that I’m unfamiliar with, so no help with those. Spiderfarmer and Marshydro are in the next tier below HLG, and all the feedback on them are pretty good. They seem to be great “value” lights. A little lower build quality, but proper diodes and plenty of power. Not sure how their drivers are, but haven’t heard anything bad about them. Lots of people grow great stuff with properly sized lights from these makers.
I wouldn’t bother with any of the other Amazon type lights. There’s still a few “dual spectrum” lights and blurples around in the market I think, but nobody that I’ve seen ever recommends any of them and I would steer clear of “too good to be true” specs and wattages from no-name manufacturers. There’s a lot of snakeoil salesmen in the lighting biz.
Some general overall suggestions when starting from scratch, would be to match the tent and light together. Square tent = square light, rectangle tent = rectangle light. Shape determines coverage, and you want it wall to wall.
Also, the light is the single most important AND expensive piece of gear to indoor growing. Nothing else compares, so go big or go home imho. LED lights lose around 5% each year, so buy big for longevity. Height is always an issue in tents, and besides lots of tying, bending and training, the only way to get shorter plants, is more light. Most good lights have dimmers, so you can always dial it back, but if it falls short, you have to upgrade, or buy another and fiddle with fitting extra lights hanging in an otherwise carefully planned out tent setup.
There’s a few general “rules of thumb” that people throw around, I like the “40 watts per square foot” one. It’s a good number that’s at the max end of lighting req’s, and easy to work with. If I ever bought another light for my 2x4, it would probably be something like an HLG 320xl, or 350 Diablo. They each fall on opposite sides of the $500 mark on their website.
Nutes, feeding, watering, temps, humidity, pH, PPM’s… these are enough variables to deal with in a grow, don’t let lighting be another. Buy one and done is my advice fwiw. Have fun shopping, don’t let it stress ya out!