January 12, 2014

Vaping Hardware – How Much Would You Spend?

Where Do You See The Value In Vaping Hardware?
Vaping Hardware – How Much Would You Spend?

Where Do You See Value In Vaping Hardware?

 Julia Hartley-Barnes

I had an interesting discussion yesterday with a friend of mine that has recently taken up vaping. She is a fairly wealthy woman in her early thirties, and she is always in pursuit of owning the best of everything. From expensive purses to jewelry and beyond, she must have the best, or nothing at all.

She is, I am sorry to say, a person who cares more about ‘brand’ than she does value. My friend will willingly admit this quirk about herself; so saying it here will not alienate her or make her angry. She grew up as poor as a church mouse and the success she has today was accomplished all on her own, with no help from anyone. She is proud of herself, and I am proud of her as well.

The discussion we had, however passionate, opened my eyes to the fact that my friend believes that the more money you spend on vaping hardware the better vaping experience you’ll get. I had never known that about her before yesterday. She has been vaping for about a month, and having never smoked cigarettes before she enjoys it as a leisure activity. Without nicotine, she just enjoys sitting around and inhaling the delicious eLiquids she buys from several vendors.

When she told me that she wanted to start vaping, “with zero nicotine juice” she emphasized, I didn’t tell her to go for it, and I didn’t tell not to. When she asked me what the best hardware was, because she didn’t want to fall into the trap of buying new hardware all the time, I sent her straight to ProVape.Com. “Get the ProVari and get it over with. You’ll be happy forever.” And so she did, and she has been. Now however, she wants to, in her words, “move up”.

Where do you move up from there?

That statement she made, that the more you spend on hardware the better the vape, is patently false… up to a point. She was hopelessly misguided, and maybe part of the blame falls on me for telling her to drop $179 on a ProVari the first time at bat. Maybe I should have suggested something else, something under $100. Maybe even under $50 like a Halo Triton.

Anyway, I thought I would tell you about it here in hopes that she, and others, will realize there is a valid ‘diminishing return’ aspect to this kind of thinking, especially with vaping hardware. For the sake of brevity I’m going to keep the subject aimed squarely at vaping hardware too, although I imagine it can applied to just about anything.

Value…up to a point

I believe that the electronic cigarette hardware available to Vapers everywhere is divided up into three or four distinct categories; mediocre, decent, and excellent. The one other level will be discussed too, but let’s discuss the others first…

Mediocre

The term itself means that whatever hardware falls into this category is barely adequate to completely useless. Hundreds of brands of cig-a-likes fall into the mediocre category. They work, but they just barely work, and they do not work for long.

These cig-a-like brands are manufactured to break down after only moderate use. They are made of cheap materials without regard to performance or longevity. Buy a mediocre starter kit and you’ll replace your first battery within 90 days. More often than those brands want to admit, their batteries arrive DOA to the customer. The vapor output with this level of hardware is just poor, flavor from any eLiquid is also poor, and whatever atomizer is chosen for use in the prefilled cartomizers are chosen not for performance but for price. The accuracy of the stated ohms is usually off +/- .5ohms, sometimes more. I recently bought this dandy meter that has a 510-connection thread on it, and you can test the voltage of batteries and the ohms of cartomizers with it, the disparity between the hardware should read and what it actually reads is huge.

The worst characteristic of hardware at this level is that it is extremely overpriced. This is the hardware used by brands for which we write Scam Alerts.  While the value of the hardware is next to nil, and performance is awful, the price of single battery starter kit can be more than a hundred dollars. Companies behind brands like this purchase starter kits from Chinese manufactures for less than $5 per kit.

Decent

Decent hardware is hardware that has been manufactured to perform strictly as stated. The accuracy of the voltage, wattage, or ohms is within .1 of the stated value. Cig-a-like brands in this category will sell batteries that last a year or more, cartomizers put out a decent amount of vapor and deliver an accurate flavor profile.

When you get into the ‘decent’ APV (iTaste devices, ZMAX, Lambo, Kanger, and JoyeTech and Vision eGo’s and Spinners) hardware you can expect to get a good vape for many months and up to a couple of years. Although decent hardware is made with planned obsolesce in mind, while it does work it works well. Complaints are minimal, satisfaction is common, and most Vapers are quite happy with ‘decent’ quality hardware. 90% of my hardware falls into this category.

Excellent

In the excellent quality level of hardware the number of brands are sadly small. They include brands like ProVape; brands that are made to last for years and deliver a high quality vape throughout its entire lifespan. I own a ProVari, and it is a lot like owning a Volvo (which I also own). My Volvo is 14 years old and it looks and drives like it’s almost new.

As the marketplace matures and Vapers become wiser about the hardware, the level of quality is moving in a positive direction. More brands than ever are shooting for the “excellent” status, designing hardware to deliver better results, to last even longer, to feel better in your hands, and to satisfy more often than not.

While I still believe ProVape’s ProVari stands alone at the top of ‘quality’ mountain others are beginning to get within striking range. Innokin, for instance, is quickly moving in that direction. Both the iTaste 134 and the iTaste MVP are two products that are within easy striking distance of the ProVari. If Innokin continues on this path toward excellence I expect the new iTaste 134 Mini to be a real contender for ProVari, where the real difference will be that one offers variable voltage and the other offers variable wattage, two sides of the same coin. The build quality of the iTaste 134 cannot be seriously criticized. You may not like the size or the fact that it is variable wattage only, but you cannot in good faith say that the quality is lacking.

The Absurd Lastly, there is the level I call the The Absurd.

This is the level that my friend has shown interest in lately, and for the life of me I cannot understand why. I think anyone that seriously entertains buying any hardware at this level, without being an expert Vaper, is being wasteful, or is simply buying into the brand or the myth, more than the performance or longevity.

For instance, why would anyone spend $200 and more for a mechanical mod? Well, I can see a few people wanting to do this because they have become severely obsessed with impossibly precise voltage and ohms performance that money is less a factor than being able to vape within .001-anything of whatever they desire, be it ohms, wattage or voltage.

My friend has been shopping around for an expensive mechanical mod not because she wants something that can be impossibly precise or allow the use of sub-ohm coils. All she is interested in is being able to tell other Vapers that she owns an X, or Y, mod, and uses strictly X or Y rebuildable atomizers with it. (Which our mutual friend Nicole builds the coils for and gives them to her every week.)

Most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, can’t tell the difference between the quality of nearly every “decent” or “excellent” level of hardware when it comes to actually vaping with them.  Vape a while with an iTaste SVD, hands free and blind-folded (you’ll need help with this exercise), and then switch to a ProVape ProVari and you’ll notice little, or no difference in flavor or vapor. The quality of a vape depends more on both the atomizer/tank/clearomizer/cartomizer and somewhat less on the battery. I would put the estimate at about 65% for the atomizer and 35% for the battery. Naturally the eJuice counts too, we’re assuming the exercise uses identical eLiquid.

If you use an excellent atomizer/tank setup atop a ProVari or SVD there won’t be any difference in flavor or vapor if the settings are correct. Use the same atomizer/tank atop a SMOK Magneto or a $3000 mechanical mod and an average Vaper won’t notice a difference in the vape. That’s the truth.

Now, of course, there are always exceptions, and I’m not going to say that every single Vaper in the world is blind to the performance of some very expensive mods, or would fail a taste-test between a ‘decent’ piece of hardware and an ‘excellent’ one, or even an Absurd level one, but for the vast majority of Vapers I cannot see any reason whatsoever for spending more than the cost of a ProVari FOR a ProVari. Spending $200 or more for a mechanical mod that will match the performance of the $50 SMOK Magneto is just, well, a vanity purchase, pure and simple.

But Wait…

I don’t have any problem with anyone wanting to spend $200 or more on a simple mechanical mod (I owned one, then gave it to Tom), even if they are incapable of telling the difference in performance when compared to a much less expensive one. This is America and if you have the money to spend and you want to spend it on a $200+ mod then go right ahead, you have my blessing. But let’s call it what it is, vanity purchases.

By the time my friend and I ended our friendly discussion I understood her more than ever, and she understood that her desire to own an expensive mod is based more on vanity than anything else. She’s okay with that, and I’m okay with that. At least she’s honest about it now and I won’t have to listen to her go on and on about how her X mod is so much better than the $50 Magneto I use once and a while. But please, unless you are an expert, someone that has an uncanny ability to tell the difference between the minute differences between a moderately priced mechanical and a absurdly priced mechanical, don’t walk around telling everyone yours is better…It’s just more expensive.

So where do you stand on the expense of hardware? Do you think its makes a difference to the average Vaper? If you were an average Vaper would you spend more than $200 on any electronic cigarette? If so, which one, and why?

Julia Hartley-Barnes

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