So, with December 21st 2012 only a couple of weeks away, we’ll soon find out which version of the Mayan prophecy turns out to be true. There’s no mention in the historic clay tablets whether they also saw that 2012 would be the Year of the Portable Vaporizer, but that’s what it was from our point of view.
The definition of what portable really means is stretched to the limit by the incredible glass mask created by US artist Banjo, we saw at the recent Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam. Yes, it operates without batteries or main cables but unless you’re a Mayan sun god, it’s best kept safely at home.
Watch out for our exclusive interview with the artist in January.
We recently got hold of all 3 models of this year’s Holy Trinity to put through their paces: the DaVinci, the Pax from Ploom and the Puffit.
As they were passed reluctantly from VapeBuster to VapeBuster, I managed to hang on to all three for a few days. Long enough to make a comparison.
I should first say that in any previous year, any of the three would have been a slam-dunk Vape of the Year. That’s not to say they’re perfect; none of them are by any means.
But they’re all among the best looking and best designed vapes made to date, and each in their own way stamped their mark on the vape market in several respects.
The DaVinci is rugged in build and looks, made of robust aluminium plate and finished with rubberized paint, it looks like a rather manly GPS handset. It’s hefty but fits in a back pocket comfortably and packs 3 lithium batteries inside for a decent single charge vape-span.
Most epoch-making though, is its single-digit accuracy manual temperature control, bringing the whole ‘phyto-inhalation’ therapy aspect of vaping to the portable realm. We’ll be looking more closely at this in the New Year.
And its makers back up their tech making a hugely impressive range of herbal mixes and concentrated herbal oil cartridges (which can be used as well as or even with herbs in their vape) available via their website.
My only real quibble about this baby is its somewhat awkward lid design that I fear may make cleaning an issue over the longer term.
Some users might find it a bit too clunky and heavy (equally, others will find its durability an appeal). The whip mouthpiece will also have its fans and critics; I’m staying out of that argument here, it being the season of goodwill an’ all.
(PUFFit inventor & owner of Discreet Vape – Andrew Miller)
If real top-notch discretion is high on your portable vape agenda, look no further than candidate number 2, the Puffit. It looks and feels like a portable medical inhaler and is operated in similar enough manner to make it genuinely stealthy.
It loads easily, heats up rapidly (as does the DaVinci) and incorporates its power, temperature and on/off functions well.
Its small size makes battery life an issue for some users; but its USB charging is neat and convenient, so this is really a behavioural issue, surely? I only had positive responses to the Puffit when I whipped it out to show people. But I have heard its medical device look is off-putting to some users.
Although the Puffit’s makers changed their silicone parts quality and supplier in response to early users complaints of bad tastes and I did not personally taste anything, straight out of the box, this continues to be a topic of heated discussion in forums.
Personally, of the 3 vapes I used, I had the biggest inhalation issues with our third vape, the Pax vaporizer from Ploom.
It is undoubtedly a spectacular milestone in vapes-as-personal-gadgets design; genuinely drool-worthy, highly tactile, easy to have around, a real conversation starter.
It too heats up in around 30 secs, integrates its on/off and temperature indication elegantly, is easy to load and use.
But the model I received from its previous user, even after I cleaned it thoroughly, was really hard to draw on. It was an effort, and felt awkward as a result
Also, its very elegance can almost work against it. Not to get too Freudian at this time of day, but puckering up (as the mouthpiece requires) and sucking hard on a phallic, electric blue, brushed metal tube in public is not something I felt totally comfortable with. Perhaps this one is more confronting for men and less for ladies?
The design also felt very ‘black-box-y’ in that nothing comes off or out of it or can be inspected let alone cleaned. It comes with a confident guarantee but having to send it back to San Francisco to get the battery changed? Hm. I guess that’s the price we pay for moving vapes out of the homebrew and early industry era and into the Gizmodo/iPhone era. We’ll see…
Like I said, each of these portable vapes is a 5-star vape, when looked at on its own, in any other year. In 2012, with each other as reference points, I’ll give them all a 4-star ranking.
They all have flaws, none of them fatal or insurmountable. All three manufacturers have shown themselves in the first few months of release that they do and will listen to users and make changes.
With these benchmarks for looks, functionality, usability, customer service and rapid design iteration, the evolutionary pressure is on all vape manufacturers, desktop and portable, to really step up and excel in 2013. Half-assed design, shoddy tech and poor usability will no longer cut it with today’s increasingly educated vape user.
No portable of course can yet match the precision and functionality of the original Volcano desktop vaporizer, but these young pretenders are harbingers of things to come. Will 2013 see the king knocked of his throne?
I suspect we’ll see anther great year for customers next year, in many respects. The VaporizerBlog.com is taking the industry pulse as I write, and we look forward to sharing these tantalizing nuggets with you in January.