Pax from Ploom: is it love or just an infatuation?
At the risk of damning the Pax with praise, this is the hipster gadget of the year.
My eyes fell on her as she emerged from her box, and g-doy-oy-ying! The world went into slow motion, cherubs circled overhead, celestial harps tinkled, my heart pumped out of my chest like a cartoon wolf sighting a cartoon lady wolf. “Oh Pax from Ploom, you’re…you’re…beautiful,” I stammered.
Immediately my wary inner skeptic kicked in: was this merely superficial beauty, anodized-skin deep only? Could I dare hope her internal specs would pan out as stunningly as her looks? Is she a keeper, finally a portable vape I would be proud to take home to meet my parents? Or a high-class hookah; svelte and chic, who knows how to treat me right but will inevitably disappoint?
In short, like the guy sang: “Is it love, is it lust, is it something else?”
Pax is undoubtedly a looker.
OK, putting analogies to one side for the moment, in case you haven’t seen the Pax from Ploom yet, it’s a real looker whether in black, cobalt blue or amethyst purple. This is important, if you hope the vape industry is going to enter the mainstream (I know, there are complex arguments for and against this eventuality), and if you want to look cool in public rather than like a furtive, bottle-sucking weirdo.
Designed in San Francisco and built (like most modern wanna-have gizmos) in China, the device, its 95 grams wrapped in a vibrant, aluminium outer shell, combines genuine pocket portability with a satisfying heft. It just feels like quality; in fact, I guarantee you’ll find yourself caressing it in a most unseemly manner.
The power and the glory
It’s built-in 2600 mAh lithium ion cell charges on a base station amazingly quickly. I found 90 minutes was about average (from completely flat). This powers a hot stream of air, which heats the herb sample by convection in a proprietary – and deuced fast – technique.
The Pax has three temperature settings, changeable by removing the mouthpiece and using the white button inside the chamber to cycle through them. A cute star-shaped LED indicator on its side shows what temperature the device is at:
Yellow, or low = 370° F (188° C)
Orange, or medium = 390° F (199° C)
Red, or high = 410° F (210° C)
Piece pops out, piece pops in, piece pops out… We-hee!
This mouthpiece is housed inside the case to leave a safe and discrete profile when not in use, and emerges when pressing down on it, while the action also turns the heating element on. Mmmm, elegant as well as sexy.
The weed is loaded into the device’s base, where a magnetized cover is easily prized off to reveal the chamber – or oven as Ploom call it.
Heads up, fumble fingers.
A quick word of warning about this ease of removal; don’t be a butter fingers like one of our VapeBusters who fumbled with her lid, it fell, bounced and fell into the canal. An Amsterdam problem? Sure, but the message remains: careful with your lid or be prepared to piss $20 up the wall for a new one.
Same goes for dropping it in a dark concert hall. Ping! Off it goes. There’s nothing stealthy about scrambling around on your knees looking for the lid (ahem, believe me). On a more positive note: Pax survived the fall, unlike some vapes would’ve.
Star of the silver screen.
Besides the niftyness of the magnet (its losability notwithstanding), the perforated screen through which the hot air is delivered is another unique feature.
The makers suggest you pack the oven tightly to get the best usage; a good full pack being around 0.3 grams. Personally, I found this impeded the draw and meant tipping out the herb to churn before re-packing. Fill the oven 1/3 or half full and shaking is enough to mix things up without the need to tip it all out.
Your mileage may vary.
As with many of the variables of any vape device, much depends on the quality of your weed (expect between 15 and 30 good draws from one full-ish oven), how finely ground it is, personal drawing style and preference.
But in general Pax works best with slow draws or micro-hits (the so called cigar technique). The hit is not massive, if that’s what you’re looking for, and the potency is only above average. Playing around with the temperature settings, packing tightness and so on can bump this up with experience. And the quality of vapor and the taste are both excellent.
Stealthy, discrete and tactile. Sooo tactile.
As you’ll be suspecting, this is one stealthy MF. Stealthy to carry, fill and use. In more relaxed company though, its very good looks will draw attention but not in a bad way. In the couple of weeks I’ve been using one, two mates have bought one as well after just one look, fondle and try out of mine.
One other cool feature: put it down for more than 20 seconds and it will go into sleep mode to save energy, and heat up in seconds when you pick it up again.
A couple of fairly neutral-but-if-you-like-that-kind-of-thing, neat features: a hidden ‘party mode’ sets the LEDs blinking in sequence, activated by shaking the Pax in a circular motion. A different shake will tell you how much battery is left (if red, you might want to think about heading home).
Oh why do you always have to be so picky?
So stepping back a little, what are the drawbacks, if any? Can I trust myself to see objectively? With a little help from user forums, yes.
For a start, if I can return to my hot chick analogy, she is a bit high maintenance, bit needy of attention. If like me you take a certain fetishistic Zen-like pleasure from hot Q-tipping and pipe-cleanering action, this is not a problem. But you’ll certainly have to spend more time cleaning than say, a WISPR or your standard desktop clunker (sorry big vapes, don’t mean to disrespect you).
Cleaning & Maintenance
It is recommendable to clean Pax after each use with a dry Q-tip and a dry pipe cleaner (supplies enclosed with the device) while the unit is still hot to prevent a build up of sticky gunk.
Sticky gunk will always be the bane of all vapes, and sticky gunk and high design/micro electronics especially don’t mix well. Ploom have done a pretty good job of dealing with this basic fact of physics by supplying the proper cleaning tools with your Pax. So I suggest you better use them.
Some users have reported the mouthpiece sticking in or not clicking back into place once residues have built up. Ploom says they’ve fixed this problem. One simple habit to develop is to ‘work’ the mouthpiece, as in pop it in and out a few times while it’s still warm. And clean all metal contacts regularly.
The main thing to take into consideration when cleaning the Pax is cleaning not only the inside of the vapor path, but the outside of the stainless steel vapor path as well. That is where the residue gets built up from the decompressed mouthpiece.
But I’m starting to feel like the photo editor of a trashy celeb magazine, poring over HD pics of a glamorous star to find the pimple or stretch mark I can blow up. A bit dirty.
Easy on that ISO
Don’t soak the oven lid in ISO (using a small amount of ISO on Q-tip or wipe is okay). A good tip for keeping the oven screen clean: bend an ‘L’ into a paperclip and use it to scrape clean carefully. I tried it and it works a treat. Just be careful when doing this.
A new vaping benchmark
Make no mistake, this beauty is a landmark consumer device. After its launch in August 2012 Pax picked up glowing reviews from the likes of Wired, Gizmodo and even Business Insider, suggesting it may be the Trojan Gadget that breaks out vapes into mainstream consumer awareness. It has certainly set a new benchmark in portable vaping.
Is $250 too much? Maybe, but it’s pretty relative again. Not if you love to vape on the move and you have $250. And as long as you buy from an authorized reseller you have a – wait for it – 10-year guarantee. 10 years!
A hell of a generous warranty. Too generous?
Well, the Pax warranty covers “defects in materials and workmanship under normal use.” Ploom reserves the right to repair the product defect, exchange for a product that is new or is at least a functionally equivalent, or refund the purchase price. The warranty does not apply to normal performance degradation of batteries or neglecting to adhere to cleaning instructions. Keeping your Pax clean is definitely a must to keep it performing well and trust me it is worth it.
Just get one, our reviewer blurts out
These are issues for the future and like I said, I feel grubby even raising them. By all accounts Vape World have exemplary customer service so really, why beat around the bush playing objective reviewer any longer: get one, alright? Just get one.
Again, like an attractive girlfriend, be prepared for the envious glances; don’t let her out of your sight. And try not to get too obsessive! It is at the end of the day just a vaping device. I do realize that, despite my drooling admiration.
Where to buy Pax vaporizer
To be eligible for the 10 year warranty you’ll have to get Pax from an authorized re-seller The best price for Pax is $249 at http://www.vapeworld.com/pax-vaporizer-by-ploom