With its sleek looks and tactile design, the Pax from Pax Labs (previously called Ploom) proved to be an aesthetic and technical landmark in vaping-on-the-go when it launched in 2012. Despite criticisms of its performance, the Pax has gone on to sell around 500,000 units, permanently raising the bar in terms of vape design, intelligence and desirability as a consumer product.
EVOLUTION NOT REVOLUTION
Now in early 2015, the successor Pax2 is hitting the shelves. The original Pax will be phased out and is currently selling for 80 bucks less than its replacement.
Is the Pax2 worth the extra outlay? On looks alone, absolutely. Whether Charcoal, Platinum, Topaz or Flare, the Pax2 could not be any sexier if it arrived in stockings and suspenders brandishing a can of whipped cream! (Say whaaaaaat!!)
Beyond the skin deep, Pax Labs have listened to its users and by-and-large fixed the problems with the original (sticky mouthpiece, poor draw, short battery life), but kept the basic look and feel of the original, while improving it in every way.
Since when Ploom started (now Pax Labs) they always appreciated that the appeal of a desirable consumer good begins outside the box and the Pax2 packaging is Apple-perfect; elegant and minimalist with some clever touches.
Opening the box produces a small sigh of admiration for the immediate appeal of the Pax2. It demands to be picked up and caressed, and the transverse brushed anodized aluminium body looks even better and feels even silkier than the original Pax.
Its smooth looks are maintained by the interface, a delicate four petal integrated LED light that indicates state of charge, temperature and readiness to use.
POWER & EFFICIENCY
The Pax2 is 25% smaller and 10% lighter than its predecessor. But thanks to a more efficient battery (30% improvement) and intelligent heating and cooling systems to optimize usage, the newbie is also more powerful, yet more power efficient.
GETTING IT ON
Pax Labs have gone with a cradle charger rather than a direct USB port, which adds to the sleekness of the exterior. Even the on-off button – the Pax2’s only moving part – is hidden under the mouthpiece.
Charging took about 2 hours initially, each glowing petal indicating 25% charge. The contacts are flush not raised or pin, which look better but charging needs to be on a flat surface.
The magnetic oven lid pops out easily (better than the Pax) and I filled it to the brim with around 0.2g of fine-ground herb; you can use the lid to tamp it down.
Pressing the On button briefly activates heat up, and holding the button down enters the device into temperature mode.
You can further press to cycle through 4 temperature settings; these are 360°F, 380°F, 400°F and 42°0F. The original Pax only went as high as 410°F. Two (yellow) petals (400F) seemed like a good place to start. Heat up was excellent; just under a minute. The petals flash purple when heating up, green when you’re good to go.
QUICK ON THE DRAW
The oven is actually 9% smaller but 20% deeper, and the new screen has tiny ‘legs’ under it to keep the metal raised above the heating surface, which is supposed to prevent it sticking when being cleaned.
It also has more vents around it to improve the air throughput when drawing. The combined result is a more consistent draw (fixing a big criticism of the original).
So the Pax’s retractable plastic mouthpiece that tended to stick with use has been replaced by a choice of 2 silicone mouthpieces that clip on and off.
I started with the raised mouthpiece as it is the one most like the original in form, and I liked that.
Ergonomically redesigned, PaxLabs say the mouthpieces sense the presence of your lips for added power management.
My first reaction was: ‘ow, shit, it burned my ****ing lip! Despite all that clever power management, the vapor exited the mouthpiece way too hot. I had to moderate my draw to a trickle.
I switched to the flat mouthpiece that fits flush with the device top, leaving a small crack for the vapor to emerge and requiring that your lips make a seal around the metal edge. I hadn’t originally fancied this – but it was much better than the raised mouthpiece. Cooler vapor and a nice sipping technique.
Draw is still not brilliant if you’re a cloud chaser. It can be argued however that some resistance is beneficial when using a conduction oven to get a more even vapor extraction. But the Pax2 is definitely a sipper not a ripper, so modify your draw accordingly.
The Pax2 supposedly adjusts the temp of the oven based on how much you are inhaling on each draw, since the act of drawing also cools the materials. Great for power management, but I resolve to contact them with my hot lip problem…
The Pax2 features motion sensing to toggle through 4 battery levels and 4 heat levels. In addition, put it down for 30 secs and it starts to cool, then heats up again when picked up.
If lip sensing is not detected for 20 seconds the Pax 2 starts to cool, so as to not over cook the herb. Leave the device unused for 3 minutes and it powers down.
Other smart extras such as a party mode and hidden ‘Easter egg’ games are activated by turns and shake combos, including several flashing LED modes, a Simon game, and some even play a hidden song. To not spoil the hunt, I’ll leave you to find them out for yourself (or look online).
CLEAN UP TIME
Cleaning was a breeze and I suspect won’t be needed nearly as much, what with the one moving part.
A cleaning kit of textured pipe cleaners and a bottle of ISO arrives in the box.
Dip the tip of the cleaner in the ISO, remove the mouthpiece and slide the cleaner down the air path, popping the screen out of the oven at the other end. Soak mouthpieces and screen in ISO, dry well and replace.
I have seen a report from one early adopter that found the screen stuck fast and it bent when being popped out for cleaning. Keep in mind that herbal vapor gunk is like glue when cold; heat the device to its lowest setting, switch off and clean while it’s still warm.
Replace the screen ‘legs’ downwards. This is rather fiddly…
CONCLUSION: A BIG YES
From the perfect packaging down to the near perfect design (thanks to the choice of mouthpiece the one big flaw is not serious), the Pax2 is certainly the best-looking vape to date. Everything is minimal except the performance!
The popup mouthpiece is gone and the temperature setting button is gone. A major criticism of the original was the way it lost flavour because it cooked the load while you weren’t hitting it. PaxLabs has done something about that as well, successfully: taste quality has been improved as well as draw.
EXPECT A LONG LIFE
With a 10-year warranty we can assume Pax Labs takes its’ engineering seriously – which is why the company has aggressively tackled the problem of counterfeit (original) Paxes with crap battery life and heat control. Fakes have been identified in various US cities and across Europe, and distributors fined up to $350,000.