Vape Mod Buying Guide (2016)
What are Mods?
Vape mods are the latest generation of vaping battery technology. They utilize a 510 connection between the battery/mod and the tank and come in various shapes and sizes, but are typically larger (and better performing) than vape pens.
Photo: cigar mod showing battery with female 510 connector (left) and tank with male 510 connector (right)
Vape Mod Technology: Like Smartphones?
While e-cigarette and vape pen technology is fairly stable, the technology picture for vape mods is a different story.
Like smartphones a decade ago (that is, before the iPhone), the vape mod market today is characterized by rapid innovation and high competition. The result is a confusing array of ever changing options for consumers.
Vape Mod Kits: Recommended
There are substantial advantages to buying vape mods and tanks together in a kit. Vape mod kits (often called starter kits) are nearly always cheaper than the the cost of buying each piece of gear in the kit separately.
Additionally, many vape mods have unique shapes and colors. Pairing the battery from one model with the tank of another often results in a visually odd device. This is especially true for cigar mods.
However, consumers interested in vaping with high resistance coils (see below) will find few options since most kits on the market include a sub ohm tank.
Coils, Coils, Coils (Tanks)
The #1 factor that will determine your vape experience is the atomizer coil. And the most important aspect of the coil is its resistance. Each tank is designed to work with only certain coils.
The lower the coil's resistance the hotter it burns. And the hotter the coil burns, the more vapor is produced.
Sub ohm vaping is primarily about inhaling a full breath of vapor whereas the experience of vaping with higher resistance coils (1.5 ohms and up) is geared towards "puffing".
If vapor production is the main priority, then be sure to get a tank for which low-ohm coils are available. Most sub ohm tanks use coils in the 0.5 ohm range and this is sufficient for most users.
For vapers who want maximum vapor production, coils as low as 0.1 ohm are available, but require high wattage mods to fully power.
However, if battery life, portability, and/or eliquid usage is a greater priority (or you just prefer to "puff"), then we recommend getting a tank that uses 1.0-2.0 ohm coils.
Low resistance coils consume eliquid faster (vapor comes from the eliquid after all).
Vape Mods: Most Important Specs
When it comes to battery capacity, bigger is better.
The required battery capacity will depend on individual usage. The more you plan to vape between charges and the lower your coil resistance, the larger the required battery.
Bottom line: A 2000mAh battery/mod will last most vapers a full day, but we recommend buying the largest battery that fits your budget and other requirements.
30 watts is just enough to appropriately power typical sub ohm tanks/atomizers. Vapers planning to use sub-0.5 ohm coils are advised to purchase a device capable of 60 watts or more.
Users who don't plan to vape with low-resistance coils should still get a device capable of at least 30 watts simply for the option of doing so in the future.
Bottom line: 30 watts will sufficiently power a 0.5 ohm coil and is the minimum you should consider.
Vape mod battery issues are often in the news and for good reason. Lithium ion batteries are very dangerous if not handled properly.
Only the most careful and experienced vapers should consider using a mechanical mod (or even a regulated mod with removeable batteries). The risk of injury/damage just isn't worth the marginal benefits.
Photo: popular mods ... Eleaf iStick 50w (left, box mod) and Joyetech eGo ONE (right, cigar mod)
Small Details That (Might) Matter
Previously we've discussed the specs that deserve the highest consideration. Now we'll discuss some small details that can meaningfully impact the user experience and are often overlooked. We list them below:
- Charging port location: if the mUSB charging port is on the side of the mod, it can be charged standing up. If not, the tank must be removed during charging or risk significant eliquid seepage.
- Fire button location: The heat of the atomizer coil is naturally conducted to the rest of the mod meaning users of very low resistance setups and chainvapers risk burning their thumb if the fire button is close to the tank. This is a common issue for cylindrical mods.
- "Software": Changing settings on some mods is very intuitive. Some are ... not.
- Filling aperture: Extremely important if you plan to refill the tank with standard eliquid eye droppers. Many tanks have small apertures making refilling difficult. Plastic squeeze bottles and syringes are common "solutions" to this problem but it's easier just to choose a tank that's easy to refill.
- Top-filling vs bottom-filling: Top-filling tanks are relatively new and allow you to refill the tank without unscrewing it from the mod.
- Airflow: Identical coils can vape fairly differently depending on how much airflow the tank allows. Airflow is adjustable for most tanks but the range of airflow possible varies from tank to tank (unfortunately there is no standard way to measure airflow).
Some of these details are difficult or impossible to determine from photos so good product descriptions are key if firsthand experience isn't possible.
Temperature Control (TC): Worth The Hassle?
One of the newest technologies available for vape mods is temperature control (TC).
Temperature control vaping requires special nickel (Ni) and/or titanium (Ti) coils and a TC-capable mod.
Below we summarize the pros and cons of temperature control vaping:
- No dry hits: TC mods will automatically shut off if the coil is dry.
- Precise control: TC allows vapers to set the coil temperature to the precise degree allowing for a consistent vape experience across different coils/atomizers/tanks.
- Complexity: TC mods are more difficult to use due to the extra modes and settings (some mods have more than 1 TC mode).
- Glitchy: TC mods seem to malfunction at a higher rate than normal regulated mods.
- Expense: TC coils are more expensive than non-TC coils.
Summary: if you don't mind a bit of extra hassle and expense & value shut-off protection and a more precise vaping experience, then temperature control is for you.
Note: TC mods are "backwards" compatible with traditional tanks and coils. Every model of TC tank we've seen also has "normal" sub ohm coils available.
Vape Mod Buying Advice: Summary
- Low resistance (sub ohm) vaping requires a high performance mod.
- Buy a kit (may be harder to find if not interested in sub ohm).
- MINIMUM recommended specs: 30 watts and 2000 mAh.
- Mods with built-in/non-removeable batteries are much safer than mods with replaceable batteries.
- Consider the small design details.
- Temperature control: nice feature but requires extra effort and expense. Can vape "normally" with TC devices.
This guide was updated on May 1, 2016
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