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Another New Gadget – the NOS Tobacco Vaporizer

NOS Tobacco Vapouriser

When Heat not Burn UK launched, we had a real struggle finding new devices to talk about. There was the iQOS, and then there was . . . OK, there was the iQOS, and that was pretty much it. We looked at a couple of loose leaf vaporizers, which turned out to work pretty well with tobacco if you prepare it the right way, but as far as purpose-made HnB devices went, iQOS was really the only game in town.

That’s changing now. Chinese manufacturers are starting to come up with their own designs and it’s all getting quite exciting. I’ve already tested a couple of new devices from China this year – the iBuddy i1 and EFOS E1 – and recently I got another one to play with. The new toy is the NOS from Shenzhen Huachang Industrial Company, and like the other two it used PMI’s Heets. It also has a couple of interesting features that made me very keen to try it out. I’ve spent the last week giving it the usual HnB UK test, and now I’m going to tell you all about it.

The Review

The NOS comes in a sturdy and attractive cardboard box. The outer box is in two halves that were sealed with a sticker; once I’d cut that and pulled the halves apart a flap was revealed, with the NOS underneath in a little foam nest. Lifting the foam out, I found a warranty card and quick start guide, and under those was another layer of foam holding a USB charger and plug, some cleaning sticks and the heating coil, which needs to be installed before using the device.

Once I’d pawed through everything in the box I took a look at the device itself. The NOS is quite small – a fraction of an inch longer than an iQOS, and a lot less bulky than most  of the others I’ve looked at. Its mostly rectangular body looks like a very small box mod with an oversized iQOS cap attached to the top. Just below the cap the body swells out slightly into a thumb rest with the power button set into it, and below the thumb rest is a small OLED screen and two more buttons. There’s a micro USB charging port in the base, and that’s it in the way of controls.

As well as being small the NOS is also light. The body is all plastic – there are a couple of panels set into the sides with a carbon fibre pattern on them, but those are just for decoration. However, it seems solid and well put together, with an overall quality feel to it. Inside is a built-in 1,100mAh 18500 battery. The top cap can be easily removed to give access to the heating coil; just twist it slightly anticlockwise and a spring will pop it off. That reveals a well that the coil simply screws into; then simply push the cap back down against the spring and twist it clockwise to lock it back into position.

I was impressed right away at the removable coil. Like the iQOS, the NOS uses a blade to heat the tobacco, but in this case the blade is made of ceramic. That should give it a longer life than a steel blade – Huachang say it’s good for more than 5,000 sticks – but does make it a bit more fragile, so don’t twist Heets as you insert or remove them; you could snap the blade off. To protect it, the blade is mostly hidden inside the body of the coil. When you fit the top cap to the device its inner tube pushes down a spring-loaded platform to reveal the blade.

Now let’s talk about that OLED screen and the two buttons below it. You might remember from my review of the EFOS that it has two temperature settings (one of which is hot enough to char the tip of the Heet), but with that exception HnB devices run at a fixed temperature. The NOS is different. It’s the first HnB product with a real temperature control capability. Those two little buttons let you adjust the temperature from 300°C to 400°C in five degree increments, so you can customise your vaping experience to suit your own preferences.

The NOS in action

Obviously I was pretty keen to try that out, so I topped up the battery – it takes less than an hour to put in a full charge – and broke open a pack of Bronze Heets. The first one fitted easily down the end cap, and I fired the NOS up by pressing the power button five times.

This is where I started to get seriously impressed. The screen lit up and a NOS logo briefly appeared, then the word HEATING. Nine seconds after the last press of the button that changed to WORKING – and so it was. The NOS heats up even faster than the Lil, which is rather nice.

As for how it vapes, I had no complaints there either. The taste wasn’t quite as good as the iQOS, and I have no idea why – I was using exactly the same Heets in both devices. There was plenty of vapour, though, and there was nothing wrong with the taste; the iQOS just seems, to me, to have a slight edge there.

Once it’s up and running the NOS will work for four minutes or twelve puffs, whichever comes sooner. You’ll get a warning buzz five seconds before it shuts down, which just gives you time to grab a final puff.

As far as battery life goes, well, it’s OK but not spectacular. A full charge is good for about ten to twelve sessions, and then you’re going to have to plug it in. It’s not as good as either the iQOS’s portable charging case or Lil and iBuddy’s day-long power capacity, but it’s not actively bad – and it lasts as long as the EFOS despite being a much smaller, neater package.

Anyway, let’s go back to the temperature control feature. This is very easy to use. With the NOS powered up, just press one of the buttons to bring up the display. This will be familiar to any vaper; there’s a battery charge icon,  large digits show the current temperature, and smaller numbers tell you the resistance and voltage (3.8V and 1.3Ω, I case you’re interested).

I ran a couple of packs of Heets through it at the default setting it came at, which was 325°C. Then I broke out another pack, set the device to 300°C and started to work through the pack, clicking it up by 5°C after each Heet. My reasoning was that with 20 Heets in a pack and 5° increments, I could test the full temperature range with a single pack and get an idea of how temperature affected the experience.

Well, I didn’t make it all the way. Not even close, in fact. Anything below 320°C was a bit on the weak side for me. Then I hit a sweet spot at 325°C – how it came out the box, in other words. It was even better at 330-335°, but then things started going downhill again. At 340° there was a vaguely unpleasant burned aftertaste, subtly different from the burned taste of an actual cigarette. At 345°C that was much stronger, and I can’t say I was sorry when it switched itself off. I wasn’t looking forward to 350° very much, and I was right – it was pretty horrible. When the NOS v2 comes out, I’d like to see it going from 300 to 340°C in two-degree increments, because a lot of its current range just isn’t going to get used.

Yes, we test these things pretty thoroughly

After my experiment in temperature control I dropped the power back to 330°C for the rest of the test, and confirmed what I already thought – at that sort of temperature the NOS delivers a very enjoyable vape. We do give these products a proper test, by the way. A typical review involves at least 100 Heets over several days, so the device needs to be cleaned and recharged several times. This isn’t just an unboxing and a couple of quick puffs for the camera.

Conclusions

So anyway, I ran over 100 Heets through the NOS; what do I think of it? Well, I think it’s pretty good! Bigger than the iQOS but smaller than everything else I’ve tried, and with a decent vaping quality, this is a real contender if you’re looking for a safer way to use tobacco. The temperature control feature is its real innovation, and while I don’t think the current setup is perfect it does start to give HnB users the degree of control over the experience that vapers already have. For a price of around $85, the NOS is definitely worth a look.

 

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iQOS vs Glo – Which Is Better?

iQOS vs Glo

If you’ve been following this blog you’ll know that the Heat not Burn UK team have managed to get our hands on a few devices over the last year. This is pretty exciting, because it shows that manufacturers are taking heated tobacco seriously and trying to build a presence in the market. We’ve tried products from Chinese e-cig companies, and the very impressive Lil from KT&G. Right now we have three more HnB products on their way to us, so the reviews are going to keep on coming. As far as we can tell we already have more HnB reviews than any other UK website, and we plan to keep it that way. Read on for our comprehensive iQOS vs Glo comparison.

Being realistic, though, right now two products dominate the HnB market. The punchy new challenger is BAT’s Glo, which we first tested last year and is rolling out across European markets over the next few months. It’s going head to head with Philip Morris’s iQOS, which already holds nearly 15% of the Japanese tobacco market and is the leading product globally.

We’re pretty familiar with both these devices, especially iQOS, but we haven’t talked about them in detail for a while. Now might be a good time to do that, though. Soon they’ll be sitting side by side on shelves across Europe, and millions of people will be wondering which one they should buy. We think we have an answer to that question, so if you want to know what we think, read on!

The Basics

iQOS and Glo both work on the same principle – they generate vapour by heating a stick of processed tobacco, which is inserted into the device. The advantages of this system are that it’s easy to use, easy to clean and the sticks can have a filter that exactly mimics the feel of a cigarette. There are a few differences between them, though. BAT and PMI have taken different approaches to turning the principle into a usable device, and each of them has its plus and minus points.

Shape and size

One look at an iQOS and it’s obvious that PMI put a lot of effort into getting the device as close to the shape and size of a cigarette as possible. It’s still bigger and heavier, but it’s definitely in the right ball park – the iQOS is roughly the size of a smallish cigar, and it’s not too heavy either. I wouldn’t walk around with one hanging out of my mouth, but you can hold it like a cigarette. That’s a big plus for anyone who’s recently switched from smoking, because it makes for a very familiar experience. Of course, making the device so small means compromises, and what’s suffered here is battery capacity. PMI have handled this by providing a very neat portable charging case (PCC), which both tops up the internal battery and protects the iQOS when it’s not in use.

BAT didn’t even try to make Glo resemble a cigarette. Instead they came up with something that resembles a small, very simple box mod. There’s no way you can hold a Glo the same way as a cigarette, which reduces the familiarity a bit. On the other hand it’s still small and light enough to be used comfortably by anyone. The format BAT have chosen does offer one big advantage – there’s plenty room to pack a high-capacity 18650 battery inside.

Overall, though, iQOS wins this round. The actual device is so small and sleek it’s practically unbeatable.

Ease of use

Both devices are as easy to use as it gets. You put a stick in the chamber, press the button, let it heat up, then puff away. They’re also designed to be easily cleaned. So a dead heat on ease of use.

Battery capacity

There’s no getting away from the fact that the iQOS has a small battery. Realistically, you need to put it back in the PCC for a recharge between sticks. It’s not a big deal, because the PCC holds enough power to keep you going all day, but if you’re having a good time at the pub and want to vape three or four Heets in quick succession you’re going to run into problems. PMI were forced to choose between compactness and battery capacity, and they went for compactness.

BAT, obviously, went for battery capacity. I was very impressed when I tested the Glo, because after getting through a full pack of 20 NeoStiks the battery still had half its charge left. You’ll have no problem at all getting a full day’s use from a Glo.

So, on battery capacity there’s really no contest. Glo wins this one hands down.

Vape Quality

Of course, everything else takes second place to the experience of actually vaping the thing. HnB devices are designed to deliver a satisfying vapour that tastes like a cigarette and gives enough nicotine to drive off the cravings, and iQOS does that very well indeed. I’ve talked about my initial doubts before, but once I got my hands on some amber Heets I was very pleased with the vapour I got.

I also liked the vapour from the Glo, but as I said at the time it wasn’t quite as satisfying as the iQOS. I still think that’s because it runs at a significantly lower temperature. I also still think it’s a great device and is going to be satisfying enough for most smokers; the iQOS just has a slight but noticeable edge over it, especially in the density of the vapour.

So, on vape quality, the iQOS wins. This is a pretty subjective thing, of course. I switched to West Red because Marlboro Red were starting to taste weak and bland to me, so I might not be totally representative. If you smoke Silk Cut you might prefer the Glo. But, for me, iQOS is definitely the leader here.

Our Conclusion

iQOS and Glo are both great devices, and they both have their own strengths. The Glo’s main strength – its great battery life – is going to tip the balance for a lot of people, and I understand exactly why it will. On balance, though, the iQOS has enough of an edge in enough departments that, in our opinion, it’s the better choice. That could change as other devices become available (if KT&G decide to sell the Lil 2 globally PMI could have a real fight on their hands) but, for now, iQOS is the winner.

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HnB UK Exclusive Review – the Lil from KT&G

KT&G Lil and Fiits

Last November we posted an article about an interesting new entry into the Heat not Burn market – the Lil, from Korean Tobacco and Ginseng. Since then we’ve dropped a few hints that we were trying to get our hands on one, and more recently that one might actually be on its way to us. Well, that turned out to be a longer process than we expected. In fact, when it comes to getting things out of Korea, it’s probably easier to get your hands on Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear secrets than a Lil. We did it in the end, though; the elusive device arrived last week, along with a supply of sticks for it, and since then I’ve been busy giving it a thorough test.

As you might remember from our first article on Lil – go on, read it; you know you want to – I said it seemed to resemble Glo more than iQOS. I was partly right about that, and partly wrong. It does rely on a fairly beefy internal battery, like Glo, whereas iQOS outsources most of its power storage to the charging case. Where I went wrong is in saying that it heats the sticks externally rather than using a blade like iQOS. In fact it doesn’t have a blade, but it does have a spike, just like the iBuddy i1 I tested a while ago, so it’s much closer to the iQOS in concept here.

The Review

Lil open box showing unitAnyway, the Lil arrived in a smart cardboard box with a magnetically-closed flip-up lid. Inside the first thing you see is the Lil itself, resting in the usual plastic tray. Lifting that out reveals a cardboard flap; underneath there’s a quick-start card and instruction manual, neither of which I read (not out of laziness – they’re printed in Korean only) and all the bits and pieces you need to get it running and keep it that way. Specifically, there’s a USB cable, a plug for it (presumably South Korean, but I stuck it in a German socket and nothing exploded), a pack of pipe cleaners and a rather neat little cleaning brush.

The Lil itself is quite a bit taller than the Glo, but not as wide. Unlike the iQOS you can’t hold it like a cigarette, which might be a problem for some

Lil plus accessories

people, but I found it fitted nicely in my hand. The body is made of hard plastic and feels rock solid. It’s in two parts; they’re held together by a handy sticker explaining (in Korean) that if you twist a used stick a couple of times in each direction before pulling it out, it won’t leave the tobacco stuck on the spike. I wish I’d known this before trying the iBuddy, but anyway, if you remove the sticker you can pull off the top of the body and partly disassemble the heating chamber for cleaning.

On first handling the Lil I thought the build quality wasn’t up to that of the iQOS and Glo. For example, the top of the body is a piece of copper-coloured metal, and it looks a bit tacky. A slot in it holds a round, very plasticky button which slides back to reveal the heating chamber. After playing with it for a week, though, everything seems solid and reliable; it just isn’t quite as polished as its rivals. The only other features on the body are a micro USB port at the bottom and an LED-illuminated power button on one side. A smart copper-coloured Lil logo on the front completes the design. One minor point is that you can’t stand the Lil on its base, which is slightly convex; if you try it will just fall over.

Testing!

Lil top view showing slider cover

Once I’d finished playing with all the bits in the box, I plugged the Lil in and left it to charge. The LED in the power button changes colour to show the charge level, with a deep blue colour indicating a full charge – which takes about an hour and a half from empty. Once I had the battery fully topped up it was time to start testing it, so I dug out the sticks that came with it and had a look.

KT&G’s sticks are branded as Fiit, and I had two packs of them to play with. One was Fiit Change Up with a name in Korean, and the other was Fiit Change Up with a different name in Korean. Externally a Fiit looks very similar to a Heet – I’ll come back to that – but the Change Up ones I got have a small plastic capsule embedded in the filter. Leave that alone and they’re plain tobacco; crush it by squeezing the filter and they instantly become menthol.

Like its competitors Lil is simplicity itself to use. Just slide the cover back, insert a Fiit into the chamber, then hold the power button down until the device vibrates. After that all you have to do is wait until it heats up to operating temperature. Here’s where I started to get excited; the Lil heats up very fast. In fact I had to time it a few times before I completely believed it; this thing is ready to go less than 15 seconds after you let go the button.

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The Lil Experience

Lil unitWith the Lil warmed up, now came the moment of truth: What does it vape like? Well, I can say that if you like the iQOS, you’re not going to be disappointed with the Lil. It’s at least as good as its better-known rival; there’s plenty of vapour, and it’s rich, warm and satisfying. Once the Lil is at running temperature it will keep going for four minutes or (I think) 14 puffs, whichever comes first. Ten seconds before it powers down you’ll get a warning buzz so you can grab another quick puff from it.

First I tried a couple of Fiits without breaking the capsules. That delivered a very good tobacco flavour, pretty close to an amber Heet. The flavour did tail off a bit over the last few puffs, but I’ve learned to expect that. I crushed the capsules in the next few, and got a very cool, clear menthol vape. Sadly I never actually liked menthol cigarettes very much, so I left the rest of the capsules unsquashed, but at least I tested the concept. I don’t know what temperature Lil runs at, but from the taste and quality of the vapour I suspect it’s similar to the iQOS. I also checked a few sticks after use and didn’t find any signs of charring, like I did with the EFOS E1, so I don’t think there’s any risk of smoke being produced.

Incidentally, when I say I check these things I don’t just glance at them and think, “Yep, that looks OK.” I have a stereomicroscope, and I take sections of the stick and look at them under it. With the iQOS, Glo, iBuddy and Lil there really are no signs of charring. At HnB UK we take science seriously, and we’re happy to do a little of it ourselves.

Keeping the Lil running was also simple. The battery will heat about 20 sticks on a single charge, so if you’re not a heavy user it should get you through the whole day. Cleaning was simple with the supplied brush, and you also have the alcohol-soaked pipe cleaners to apply the finishing touches. A quick clean once a day will keep it in perfect working order.

Conclusions

Overall, despite some initial doubts about the build quality, I would say the Lil is an excellent device. It’s the equal of iQOS, with its higher battery capacity making up for the extra weight and bulk, and in my opinion it has a clear edge over the Glo, iBuddy and EFOS. The big disappointment is that it’s only available in South Korea.

If you do find yourself in South Korea, and you’re contemplating buying a Lil, I would say go for it. Don’t worry about keeping it supplied with Fiits. Remember I said earlier that a Fiit looks very similar to a Heet? It’s also pretty much exactly the same size, and the internal structure is much the same, too. Lil will work just fine with Heets, and I’m not taking a guess about that; I put two packs of Heets through it and they performed flawlessly.

Now here’s some more good news. Just six months after this impressive gadget hit the market, KT&G have already released the Lil 2. This is smaller and lighter, and also features an even easier cleaning system and upgraded heating element. Initial sales figures are impressive; KT&G say it’s sold 150,000 units in its first month, which is three times what the Lil did. With no signs yet of upgrades to its rivals, many Korean HnB users might be tempted to switch to the Lil 2 when their current devices need replaced.

As excited as we are to have been able to review the Lil, Heat not Burn UK are committed to bringing you the latest HnB news. That means brushing off my dinner jacket, ordering a large martini (shaken not stirred), loading my Walther PPK and going in search of the latest heated tobacco technology. As soon as a Lil 2 makes it out of Korea – and we’re already on it – you’ll read all about it on HnB UK.

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EFOS E1 Review

EFOS E1 with HEET inserted

A few weeks ago we looked at the iBuddy i1, a new Heat not Burn device from China that uses the same Heets as Philip Morris’s iQOS. At the time I thought this was a sensible decision for iBuddy, as it saved them having to develop and distribute their own stick design. I also didn’t think PMI would mind too much; they might miss out on a few iQOS sales, but everyone who buys an iBuddy will need to get Heets for it, and PMI are the only people who sell them.

More recently I was sent another Chinese device that’s also designed to work with Heets; this is the EFOS E1, and I’ve spent the last week running several packs of Heets through it. How did it compare to the iBuddy and iQOS? That’s what I wanted to find out – and now I know.

EFOS E1 box

 

Unboxing

The EFOS is, as I’ve come to expect, nicely packaged. The box has an outer sleeve, and once that’s been slid off the top flap hinges open to reveal the device sitting in the usual moulded plastic tray. That lifts out to reveal an instruction manual and, under it, another tray containing a USB cable and a cloth carrying bag for the device. It’s all nicely presented and gives the feel of a quality product.

The quality of the device itself isn’t bad either. The body is plastic, lozenge-shaped and fits nicely in the hand. On each long edge is a black plastic insert; one has four LEDs to show the charge status, and the other is helpfully printed with some basic information about the E1, including its battery capacity – 2,000mAh, in case you’re interested.

At the top you’ll find the only controls – a large button with an illuminated surround, and a sliding cover that can be pushed up to reveal the heating chamber. The heating chamber is interesting; instead of the iQOS’s blade, or the spike of the iBuddy, this is simply a metal chamber with perforated walls and base. It’s also set at an angle. When a Heet is inserted it’s sticking up about 30 degrees off the vertical, which looks a little surprising at first.

EFOS E1 opened box

Overall the EFOS feels well put together for the $60 price. It is mostly plastic, but it seems robust enough and I didn’t manage to break anything while getting through four packs of Heets. The supplied accessories are good quality too, but it’s a pity no cleaning equipment was supplied – to keep it running properly, it’s probably a good idea to clean the heating chamber at least once in every pack of Heets.

 

Trying it out

My EFOS arrived with the battery about half charged, so the first thing I did was plug it in and top it up. This took a pleasantly short amount of time – just over an hour passed before all four LEDs were glowing steadily. Once that was done I opened a pack of Heets, loaded one into the chamber and then, after some initial embarrassment, flicked through the instruction leaflet to figure out how it works.

The other HnB devices I’ve tried so far are switched on by holding the button until it buzzes or flashes at you. The EFOS is slightly different; it takes three rapid presses to activate it. Once you’ve done that it will buzz and vibrate slightly, and the green LED surround of the button begins flashing. Then all you have to do is wait for it to heat up.

Waiting is never my favourite pastime, and I have to admit I was getting a little impatient by the time 30 seconds had passed. It vibrated again not long after that, though, and I took that as a signal that it was ready to use (which it was). So I took a puff, and it was a bit of a surprise.

EFOS E1 unitFirstly I should say that the angled heating chamber is a great idea; it puts the Heet’s filter in a very natural position to vape. Next, the first puff I took was the best I’ve had from any HnB device I’ve tried so far. It was almost exactly like smoking a cigarette, with plenty of warm, well-flavoured vapour. It continued well for about the next eight or nine puffs, and then both flavour and vapour started to fall off sharply. The device will let you take up to 20 puffs from each Heet, vibrating again to warn you after the 18th; if you’re puffing slowly it will vibrate after five and a half minutes, and shut down in just under six. Personally, I think it would be better to limit it to ten or twelve puffs; 20 is just too much for a Heet.

This is just a minor issue, though. A bigger problem might be that the EFOS itself is too much for a Heet. When I took the first one out the chamber and looked at the end I was startled at how black the filling was. On closer examination this didn’t extend all the way up through the rolled tobacco sheet, but the tip of it – where it’s in contact with the heated base of the chamber – was pretty charred. I got a definite impression that the EFOS was great at the “Heat” part, but falling down slightly on the “not Burn” bit.

Some more flicking through the instruction manual revealed that it actually has two temperature modes, and I was running it in the (recommended) high temperature one. I changed to low temperature for a few Heets, by holding the button for three seconds while I waited for it to heat up, but found that performance fell off quite a lot. I did get more puffs from each Heet, but they much less satisfying.

 

Conclusion

The EFOS E1 is a very interesting device, and on high temperature mode it gives a great tobacco vape. Battery life is reasonable but not great; you’ll probably need to top it up after about ten Heets, and unlike iQOS it doesn’t come with a personal charger. The iBuddy i1, despite having a smaller battery capacity (1,800mAh) kept going for much longer between charges.

My real concern with the EFOS, however, is that I have a nasty suspicion the high temperature mode is burning some of the tobacco. That would certainly explain the great flavour, but it might defeat the purpose of using it in the first place. I still doubt it’s anywhere near as harmful as a lit cigarette, but if health is your top priority you might be tempted to go for an iQOS instead.

Blackened HEET
The end of this Heet looks suspiciously blackened…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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XMAX Vital- Cheapest gateway to HnB

Xmax Vital

XMAX VITAL

One of the best and one of the cheapest.

Even though we specialize in and sell the Philip Morris iQOS we are essentially a global heat not burn resource so we will also review other heat not burn products too, so on to the review.

When you buy a loose leaf vapouriser it’s very easy to fall into the trap marked ‘PAY MORE, GET MORE’. Though you often discover the rule that scientists have known for years. It’s called the law of diminishing returns.

Explained in simple terms, let us assume that you need a wristwatch. Well, you can go to Poundland and buy a perfectly functional watch for £1.00, or you can go to Geneva and buy a Hublot Big Bang Ayrton Senna Foudroyante for £25,000.00.

The point is that both watches will tell the time. Beyond that, it’s all downhill for the Hublot. The law of diminishing returns kicks in the minute you bore the arse off everyone by demonstrating how the Hublot can calculate F1 lap times to 100th of a second.

Anyway, I digress. So let’s get back to the review of the XMAX VITAL. This is an old piece of kit, first released in 2015. I bought mine in January 2017 for 35 euros. My usual HnB kits are the IQOS and a PAX2. I didn’t get around to opening the XMAX until January this year.

The XMAX comes in a metallic grey box. When you open the box you get your first view of the vapouriser. Below that is another section of the box which contains

  • The instruction manual
  • Replacement metal mesh screens
  • O ring seals
  • A cleaning brush
  • A micro USB cable and a pair of tweezers

Like a true man, I immediately threw the instruction manual in the bin and set about fetching the thing apart. This was easy. The whole of the insides are held together with 4 Philips head screws. And here’s where it got interesting.

First thing I noticed was the battery. A standard 18650 rated at 3.7V 2600mah battery is more than enough for almost 2 hours solid vaping at full charge and at 240˚C/464˚ F. Impressive for its time.

The Second thing is the size of the ceramic bowl. 1.6cm deep and 1.1cm wide. That’s a hefty load of tobacco. The air feed is from shark gill openings on each side of the vaporiser and then fed into the bottom of the bowl. All of the electronics are in a separate compartment. I will explain why this is so important at the end of this article.

Heat is via a heating element built into the ceramic bowl. This arrangement practically rules out the possibility of electronic shorts ruining your new toy. Very clever.

To start heating, you hold down the power button for 3 seconds and the OLED screen says ‘WELCOME’. It then starts to heat the bowl to the desired temperature.

Temperature control is in Centigrade or Fahrenheit, so it’s BREXIT ready. The temperature is simply selected, after you switch on the power, using the + or - button. The range of temperatures is from 100˚ C to 240˚C which is 212˚ F to 464˚F. You can also increase or decrease the temperature whilst the unit is functioning. You can also choose between a 5 minute and 10 minute heat session.

Heat up time from 15˚C to 180˚ C/356˚ F with a full bowl of tobacco is about 20 seconds. The unit then happily ticks away for 5 or 10 minutes, dependent on the duration you have pre selected.

The heat spread is consistent throughout the bowl, meaning there are no cold spots. I measured a 4˚C difference at 240˚C between the bowl wall and bowl centre. Again this is most impressive. My PAX 2 is far less accurate than the XMAX and has considerable variations in bowl temperature, sometimes in excess of 7˚C.

Getting the most from your Xmax

There are 4 main factors which you need to take into account here. They are as applicable to the Xmax as to other HnB loose leaf vaporisers. So we´ll look at each in some detail.

 

1.Choice of tobacco

The PH level of tobacco smoke is a determining factor in its acute toxicity. Cigarette tobaccos all vary, but a rise above 6.2 results in increased levels of Tobacco Specific Nitrosamines, Benzene, Cadmium and all of the other nasties contained in tobacco smoke.

Bright, Flue Cured and Virginia tobaccos produce a lower PH value of between 5.2 and 6.00. However, these levels increase as the cigarette is smoked. In any case, and apart from the carcinogens present in tobacco smoke, the main culprit is carbon monoxide. Any combustion of a carbon based substance will produce carbon monoxide.

Pipe tobacco on the other hand with both high and lower sugar content is less acidic than cigarette tobacco, and becomes progressively more alkaline during the course of smoking. This reduces the quantity of ´nasties` produced In the burn process. Apart, that is, from carbon monoxide.

As every smoker knows, pipe tobaccos are simply too irritating to be inhaled when burned. This is mainly due to the high alkaline content of the smoke. It also probably explains why pipe and cigar smokers suffer lower levels of lung cancer than cigarette smokers.

HnB circumvents almost all of these issues because the tobacco isn´t burned. There is no carbon monoxide and the levels of all known carcinogens are reduced either to practically zero or a figure so low that it is insignificant. As an example PMI have published open data science which concludes that their IQOS reduces toxic and carcinogenic produce by 90% to 95% when compared with the CR34 standard test cigarette. Those figures are about the same as e cigs.

So, you load up your XMAX with some Marlboro Red or Aromatic pipe tobacco, switch on your heating chamber and start to inhale. The first two or three puffs are OK, but suddenly the quantity of vape is reduced to a whisp and the flavour disappears.

 

2. In order to use any watch you need to be able to tell the time

Your first reaction to the above scenario is to turn up the heat. The XMAX in this regard is like some early Magnox Nuclear Reactor. So you crank up the heat to 464˚ F/ 240˚C and normal service is restored. Success? No. Why? Because tobacco combusts at 451˚F/232˚C.

You have to remember that temperature is the average energy of molecules in a system. If you need to know more about this have a look at the Maxwell Boltzmann Distribution Theory. Or get a life.

On the other hand, all that you really need to know is that even at 430˚ F/ 221˚C some tobacco will start to combust and you do not want that to happen, because once combustion starts you will be inhaling all of the same carcinogens found in a regular cigarette.

So stay away from high temperatures.

 

3. This is too complicated for me….

Bring on the Propylene Glycol PG. If you you use an ecig, or HEETS you are inhaling PG. It’s safe.

Most Vape shops sell PG and 500ml is less than a fiver. PG is used in ecigs and HEETS to replicate the “throat hit” you get when you smoke a normal cigarette.

Vape grade PG is about 80%PG and 20% water. It has a boiling point of about 250˚F or 121˚C .

If you like clouds of vapour, then bring on the Vegetable Glycerin VG which has the same boiling point as PG. Most good vape shops will sell this too, for about the same price as PG.

The only drawback to to VG is that it is used as a sweetener, so I recommend using more PG than VG. If you can’t get your PG / VG from your vape shop, then go to a chemist and get the Pharma grade stuff. Just remember to dilute it with water. Distilled is best.

4. Important.

Pharma grade PG and VG have a boiling point of 290˚C/554˚F. Such heat will burn all of your tobacco, your vaporiser, your house, you and the entire neighbourhood. And in the present political climate, should you have the misfortune to survive, you can expect to spend the rest of your days at GTMO in Cuba, learning advanced Arabic. So add 20% water.

You might want to increase the nicotine yield in your HnB aerosol. If so, splash out on a bottle of 50%VG 50% nicotine solution.

Oh, finally you will need a pipette or a syringe used for refilling ink cartridges. You can carefully discard the blunt needle.

None of this stuff is expensive and you are only going to be using small quantities anyway.

The Recipe

  1. Open your 30g pouch of tobacco.
  2. Extract 30ml of PG using your pipette or syringe.
  3. Layer the PG evenly across the top of your tobacco.
  4. Extract 20ml of VG using your pipette or syringe.
  5. Layer the VG evenly across the top of your tobacco.
  6. Wait 5 minutes, then finger mix the tobacco, PG and VG together for about 2 minutes.
  7. If adding nicotine do so in 5ml stages. Wait 5mins then finger mix.
  8. Wash your hands.

The first thing you will notice is that your tobacco pouch will be bulging at the seams. You are now ready to go. Half fill your bowl with the mixture. Switch on your XMAX, set your temperature and inhale.

The quantity of aerosol is more than adequate. The flavour of the tobacco is pronounced and well satisfying. Oh, the shark gills.Yes I nearly forgot. Any crud that has fallen out of the bottom of the bowl can be cleaned out by just blowing through the shark gills.

And this is where the XMAX scores. It scores because:

  • It is cheap, really cheap.
  • Whilst it doesn’t produce the same volume of aerosol as a PAX 2, its enough.
  • There is no connection between the electronic gizzards and the airflow.
  • Any excess moisture or dribble will not touch the delicate electronics.
  • It is easy and simple to use.
  • It produces better results than loose leaf vapourisers costing 10 times more than the XMAX

 

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PAX3 – A better life through science

Pax3

PAX3 IT IS GOOD, BUT CAN YOU MAKE IT BETTER?

Los cojones del perro

When I bought my PAX3 I really didn’t know what to expect. Every review I’d read rated it as the best thing since, since……anything ever invented by man since the wheel.

I have always tried to dismissed hype. After all, advertising is just propaganda by another name. There are good advertisements and rubbish advertisements. There is great propaganda and bloody awful propaganda.

So, I eyed the contents of my PAX3 box with a great deal of scepticism. Is this really going to better than my PAX2? After all, 250 quid is a lot to spend on a vapouriser.

Ah well, in for a penny….And when I did open the box and emptied its contents over my table I was totally puzzled. I have never seen so many bits and pieces all together on one box. This is what I found.

  • The battery and heating unit.
  • Two mouthpieces (one raised and one flat).
  • A base plate (to seal the heating bowl)
  • A base plate combined with a half bowl space
  • A wax oven which fits on the base plate
  • A case
  • A magnetic charger
  • A manual

First of all I should explain that the PAX3 comes in two versions. I bought the most expensive one, and so far as I know, you don’t get all of the accessories with the base model which costs about £200.

 

RTFM

As most of my readers know, I usually throw the manual in the bin and immediately start to disassemble the kit inside the box. However, I didn’t do this on this occasion. Two reasons. First, my bin isn’t big enough to hold the manual. Secondly, the contents of the manual were written in plain and simple English. How many times have you bought something made in China and opened the manual to read something like this….

 

BENCH DRILL

OPERATE INSTRUCTION

PRODUCT INFORMATIC

It is of novel design. Small and exquisite bulk, handy carry. It adopts single phase series motor with high rotable speed. The cent of the product has no class to adjust soon with single kind soon two kinds. The operation please before the manual read……….and so on.

Well, you know how it is. So I was well pleased to be able to make sense of the manual. What´s more, you really should read the PAX3 manual, because to get the best out of a PAX3 you have to make some effort. If you are already the owner of a PAX3, then read on. If you want to read a full review then click here to read Fergus’s review. Then come back later.

 

A BETTER LIFE THROUGH SCIENCE

You have probably forgotten the difference between conduction and convection heating. There is no reason why you should have had to remember it after leaving school. But, to get the best out of your PAX 3 we are going to take you back in time. Way back. You are a 14 year old kid. Last two periods on a Friday afternoon. You are looking forward to getting home and watching the tele. Trouble is, there`s this old fart banging on about convection and conduction and you can hardly keep your eyes open.

Conduction and convection describe heat transfer. Conduction is motionless, like a hot dry iron. Convection needs liquid or gas to move the energy, like a steam iron, or a steam train.

All I´m going to say about this is that the PAX3 is a conduction vapouriser. That is to say, it heats your tobacco with radiant heat from the hot oven walls. Other Vapourisers heat your tobacco with super heated air and that is convection heating.

Both methods have their plus and minus points, but so far as we are concerned there are only 2 issues that matter.

  • Heat up time
  • Even temperature throughout the oven.

The heat up time with the PAX3 is fast for a conduction vapouriser, so that’s not a problem.

The variations in temperature inside the oven are miniscule. The PAX3 is outstanding in this regard. The older PAX2 was not so good. Temperature variations were above 5C, meaning you were forever having to stir your tobacco to get a decent vape. It also meant that there were hotspots inside the oven causing some of the tobacco to start combusting, whilst some remained “cold”. The PAX3 has sorted this out. This makes the PAX3 ideal for what follows.

 

A veces el remedio es peor que la dolencia 

However, sometimes the remedy is worse than the ailment. And in the case of the PAX3 the only problem is the size of the oven. It holds 0.3g which is not very much, and although the quantity is small it does produce a good vape, for a short while. So, how can we make it better?

If we could slow down the vapourising process, without affecting the flavour that would be perfect and it can be done. Here´s how.

PG and VG

Bring on the Propylene Glycol PG. If you you use an ecig, or HEETS you are inhaling PG. It’s safe.

Most Vape shops sell PG and 500ml is less than a fiver. PG is used in ecigs and HEETS to replicate the “throat hit” you get when you smoke a normal cigarette.

Vape grade PG is about 80%PG and 20% water. It has a boiling point of about 250˚F or 121˚C .

If you like clouds of vapour, then bring on the Vegetable Glycerin VG which has the same boiling point as PG. Most good vape shops will sell this too, for about the same price as PG.

The only drawback to to VG is that it is used as a sweetener, so I recommend using more PG than VG. If you can’t get your PG / VG from your vape shop, then go to a chemist and get the Pharma grade stuff. Just remember to dilute it with water. Distilled is best.

 

Important.

Pharma grade PG and VG have a boiling point of 290˚C/554˚F. Such heat will burn all of your tobacco, your vaporiser, your house, you and the entire neighbourhood. And in the present political climate, should you have the misfortune to survive, you can expect to spend the rest of your days at GITMO in Cuba, learning advanced Arabic. So add 20% water.

You might want to increase the nicotine yield in your HnB aerosol. If so, splash out on a bottle of 50%VG 50% nicotine solution.

Oh, finally you will need a pipette or a syringe used for refilling ink cartridges. You can carefully discard the blunt needle.

None of this stuff is expensive and you are only going to be using small quantities anyway.

The Recipe

  1. Open your 30g pouch of tobacco.
  2. Extract 30ml of PG using your pipette or syringe.
  3. Layer the PG evenly across the top of your tobacco.
  4. Extract 20ml of VG using your pipette or syringe.
  5. Layer the VG evenly across the top of your tobacco.
  6. Wait 5 minutes, then finger mix the tobacco, PG and VG together for about 2 minutes.
  7. If adding nicotine do so in 5ml stages. Wait 5mins then finger mix.
  8. Wash your hands.

The first thing you will notice is that your tobacco pouch will be bulging at the seams. You are now ready to go. Half fill your bowl with the mixture. Switch on your PAX3, set your temperature and inhale.

Let us know what you think.

 

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IQOS – The view of a vaper

iQOS logo

Back in 2015, I had the opportunity to try an early iteration of a heat-not-burn device. It wasn’t particularly good, but the technology intrigued me. Being a vaper, I wasn’t sure how I would view the product itself, but I know that vaping isn’t for everyone so having another alternative can only be a good thing, right?

Nifty box

I’m not entirely sure if PMI chose the name (IQOS) out of deference to Apple but, they did make sure that the presentation was good.

The IQOS all snug inside its box

What’s in the Box?

All the handy bits and pieces

Tucked under the product tray containing the IQOS pocket charger and the holder are the accessories. Mains adaptor for the USB charging cable, a cleaning device and a bunch of cleaning sticks. Oh, and a manual; which isn’t particularly clear on certain points which I’ll come back to.

Out of the box the pocket charger has approximately 50% charge which means you can get cracking immediately – if, like me, you’re the impatient sort.

Unfortunately, my very first try wasn’t all that successful. Partly because I’m impatient, but mostly because I was an idiot bloke that didn’t read the manual. You see I popped the HEET stick into the holder, pressed the button and waited for it to be ready. I took a few puffs and accidentally hit the button again essentially turning the device off.

This caused a minor problem as the device wouldn’t turn on again. I then didn’t take the HEET out correctly which left the plug of tobacco impaled on the heating blade. I later learned – through ‘reading’ the manual – that removal of a HEET requires the upper part of the holder to be pulled up, thereby lifting the entire HEET (tobacco plug included) off the heating blade.

The sleek IQOS holder and a HEET

The HEETS are, essentially, mini cigarettes. Unlike cigarettes, they don’t contain a lot of tobacco, which is, in fact, entirely the point. Unlike a cigarette, HEETS aren’t meant to be set on fire. The whole idea is that the special tobacco plug is heated to a specific temperature to give the user the taste and sensation of smoking, but without all the other stuff that comes from setting tobacco on fire.

IQOS in all its glory. Covered with grubby fingerprints too.

Using the device felt a little strange at first as I was inclined to try and hold it like a traditional cigarette; which you can’t. Not quite anyway.

Is it any good?

IQOS HEETS, Amber and Turquoise

I was lucky enough to be able to sample two of the HEETS ‘flavours’ – Yellow (roughly equivalent to Marlboro Light) and Turquoise (Menthol) and both tasted as I expected. The Yellow HEETS were smooth and full flavoured, while the Turquoise HEETS weren’t overpoweringly menthol (like some traditional cigarettes can be).

Both offered a warm tobacco taste which left a mild ‘just smoked’ aftertaste which wasn’t unpleasant.

During use, there is a mild tobacco scent which I found to be rather agreeable. However, I did notice a one thing missing. When smoking, there is a faintly audible cue when taking a puff, this isn’t present when using the IQOS. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is just something I noticed. After all, IQOS isn’t meant to be an exact like-for-like to smoking, it is an alternative to smoking.

Final Thoughts

A few points to make here. During use, the flavour of the HEET does diminish after half a dozen puffs (give or take), and in some cases, it did taste slightly odd towards the end of the 6 minute (or 14 puff) cycle. This sensation seemed to become more prevalent the more HEET sticks used from a single pack of 20. With a freshly cleaned (or brand new) device, the taste lasts a lot longer.

With smoking, there is a necessity to set aside time to smoke a whole cigarette. The time taken does, of course, vary between individuals. With the IQOS, there’s a set limit of 6 minutes (or 14 puffs whichever comes first). Some smokers take longer than 6 minutes; especially when smoking roll-your-own tobacco which, when left unattended in the ashtray, goes out after a while – unlike a pre-made cigarette which just burns down to the filter.

The battery life of the pocket charger is very good. I managed to get three days of continual use from mine before I had to put it on charge. Sadly, a full charge for the pocket charger takes about 90 minutes. But that is offset by the fact that a full charge can last a few days – dependant on the use pattern.

Cleaning the IQOS holder is a bit of a faff. There are two options – the cleaning brush or the cleaning solution soaked q-tip. I found that using the brush followed by a q-tip rather than one or the other, gave me a better experience post-clean. It is recommended that the holder is cleaned after 20 HEETS are used, and there is a notification LED on the pocket charger to remind you to clean it.

The IQOS does a very good job of mimicking smoking in more ways than one. The slight smell during use, the taste and the sensation all contribute to a solid experience. Some may find cleaning the holder a pain, but it is, unfortunately, necessary to maintain the experience.

A surprisingly good experience at that.

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iBuddy i1 Review – Heat not Burn UK Exclusive!

iBuddy heat not burn

Reviewing new Heat not Burn products isn’t exactly a high-pressure job. It’s not like e-cigs, where there are dozens of new devices and liquids every week. In fact there are only a handful of mainstream HnB systems right now, although the number is slowly growing as the technology becomes more popular. Still, it’s an exciting event when something new appears, so I was pleasantly surprised when an iBuddy i1 turned up in my mail last week.

The iBuddy is a stick-type device, the same concept as iQOS and Glo. Maybe more importantly, it’s also a sign that Chinese companies are taking an interest in HnB. Most of the products we’ve looked at so far are made by the tobacco industry or companies who’ve been making loose leaf vaporisers for a long time, but this one isn’t. iBuddy is a Chinese company based in Shenzhen, the province that’s home to most of the big vaping manufacturers, and so far they’ve mostly made e-cigs. Now they’ve branched out into heated tobacco products.

Earlier iBuddy products look like clones of popular e-cig models, but that’s not the case with the i1. This is an original design, and while the concept is familiar the device is totally new. It doesn’t look anything like either Glo or iQOS, although it has a lot in common with them. Because it’s an independent product it also hasn’t gone through the usual years-long evaluation and test market process that its rivals have; you can simply order one from China and it’ll turn up in the post.

The other interesting thing about this device is the tobacco sticks it uses.  iBuddy have, sensibly, decided not to develop their own sticks. That would cost money, and setting up a distribution network would cost even more. Instead they’ve designed the i1 to use PMI’s Heets, which are already available in many countries. PMI probably won’t be too upset by that, either; if someone buys an iBuddy they’re not buying an iQOS, but they will be buying Heets.

Would anyone actually buy an iBuddy instead of the PMI device, though? Good question! Let’s have a look at it.

The Review

iBuddy i1 open box The iBuddy is nicely presented, in a solid box with two plastic trays inside. The top one contains the device itself. This is a bit longer than an 18650 battery and fits neatly in the hand. It’s very light, and seems to be mostly plastic, but it feels fairly solid. The front and back have a rubberised anti-slip finish that gives the device more of a quality feel. It’s quite simple, too. There’s a metal button on one side, and a plastic slide at the other. A row of three small LEDs on the front show battery charge and heating status, there’s a hole at the top to take a Heet, and a micro-USB charging port at the bottom. According to iBuddy the built-in battery has a 1,800mAh capacity, and its performance suggests it certainly isn’t any lower than that.

Under the device is a comprehensive instruction booklet, and below that is another tray that contains a USB cable, cleaning brush and some alcohol-soaked cotton buds. That’s it for the package contents, but then apart from a box of Heets it’s all you need.

Plugging it in lit up all three LEDs, showing that the battery was already fully charged or close to it. I left it for a while just to top it off, then opened a fresh pack of Amber Heets and started playing.

The first difference I noticed is the way the device is loaded. With both iQOS and Glo – and apparently KT&G’s new Lil, although we haven’t been able to get our hands on one yet – the stick is loaded straight into a fixed chamber. The iBuddy has a removable holder that can be ejected by pushing up the slide on the side of the device. You don’t have to take it out to load or remove a stick, but I’ll come back to that. I found that the easiest way to load a Heet is to leave the holder in place and insert the stick. They go in easily, with just a little resistance for the last half inch.iBuddy i1 with HEET inserted

To use the iBuddy you just have to press the button to wake it from standby, then hold it down for three seconds to start the heating process. The right-hand LED starts blinking red to show that the heater is running; when it stops blinking and glows a steady red, it’s ready to vape. It heats up quickly – I timed several sticks, and they were all ready to go in under twenty seconds.

So, with the tobacco heated, it was time to take a puff. The iBuddy might be a lightweight device, but the heating element and airflow certainly seem to be up to scratch. With Amber Heets it delivered a satisfying amount of vapour; I would say it’s competitive with iQOS and Glo. The heater is controlled by a puff sensor that allows 16 puffs on a Heet, then shuts down; the LEDs blink as a warning that you have a few seconds left to snatch a last puff. Once the heater switches off the iBuddy will quickly go back into standby.

It was at this point that I found out why the iBuddy has a removable Heet holder. When I’d finished the first stick I just pulled it straight out, which works fine with similar devices. A while later I tried to load a new Heet, and it wouldn’t go in. This was a puzzle, but then I happened to notice something odd about the first one. Imagine my surprise when I realised I was holding a filter and empty paper tube. The contents were still in the holder; once I’d ejected it I was able to get the tobacco out by blowing through the hole at the bottom.

Examining the roll of tobacco, and then shining a light into the hole in the device, soon gave an explanation. The iQOS heats the tobacco with a blade that pierces the end of the roll; the iBuddy has a spike. It’s a fairly substantial spike, which probably helps the performance, but it also gets a good grip on the tobacco and doesn’t really want to let go. If you just grab a used Heet by the filter and pull it out, more often than not the tobacco will stay on the spike. Ejecting the holder helps, but it’s not infallible – the tobacco still stays in the holder at least once every five or six sticks. This isn’t a massive issue, but it is a bit annoying – especially when you blow a roll out of the holder and it disintegrates, spraying strands of tobacco all over your keyboard.

iBuddy i1 and a packet of HEETSDespite this problem I was able to give the iBuddy an extensive trial, using it for several days – including one day when I didn’t use anything else – and it does the job. The vapour is satisfying, and battery life is good – better than iQOS, and similar to Glo. After using a full pack of twenty Heets on a single charge, one of the three LEDs was still lit, showing more than 25% charge remaining; I’d say that, unless you’re a very heavy user, you should be able to get a full day’s vaping out of a full battery.

The Verdict

Given the choice, would I personally take the iBuddy over an iQOS? No, probably not. That’s mainly down to the bother of having to clear tobacco out of it every few sticks. It does get irritating, and for me the superior battery life doesn’t quite compensate for that. It also feels a lot less robust overall; it’s so light that I’m pretty sure the whole body is made of plastic, and it just doesn’t have the solidity of its competitors. It’s by no means a bad device though, and it does have another advantage – price.

Officially the iBuddy i1 sells for $69.99, but you can find it online for $45.99 – a bit under £35. An iQOS is going to cost around twice that. If you’re on a tight budget, or want to try Heat not Burn without investing in an iQOS just yet, the iBuddy could be what you’re looking for.

IQOS online special offer