I think I’ve probably mentioned before that, outside of places like Philip Morris’s research lab in Neuchatel, I might just have the largest collection of Heat not Burn devices in the world. Although I’m mostly a vaper I actually have a lot more tobacco vaporisers than I do e-cigs.
Obviously the reason I have so many HnB gadgets is that people give me them to review, but to be honest I’d probably have started collecting them anyway at some point. By the time I started vaping in 2013 the technology was already pretty mature; within a few weeks of stubbing out my last cigarette I was using a variable-power mod and rebuildable atomiser. There have been a few tweaks since then, but I’m still using evolved versions of those devices.
HnB is still at an earlier stage, though, and manufacturers are experimenting a lot more freely. Some of them are going off in radical new directions; others are drawing inspiration from e-cigs. Over the last week I’ve been playing with an AYI vaporiser, which definitely falls into the second category. If you’ve been using a vape pen-style e-cig, I think the AYI is one you’re going to like. Let’s have a look at it.
The AYI comes in a simple and sturdy cardboard box. Compared to some I’ve seen it’s a very slim, compact package, which is always nice – I tend to hang on to the boxes things come in, often long after I’ve lost or binned the product itself (no, I don’t know why either) and small boxes save space in my cupboards. Anyway, lift off the top and you’ll find the AYI in the usual nest cut into a slab of foam. That can be easily pulled out with a loop of tape; underneath is a rather nicely done user manual and a cardboard cover that hides a very small bag of accessories – just a USB charging cable and a simple but effective cleaning brush.
If you’ve ever owned an Evod battery the AYI itself is going to feel very familiar in your hand. Apart from a few grooves that run its length to improve grip, it’s pretty much an exact match – externally, at least. The innards are a step up, though – according to the label the battery has a 900mAh capacity.
Obviously the top end is a bit different. Instead of a connector there’s a heating chamber covered by a sliding cone with a hole in the end for the HEET. Just below that is a nice big round fire button with an LED-illuminated surround, and that’s it for controls.
The whole thing is surprisingly light. I think the body is fairly thin aluminium, but it seems robust enough. The top cone is plastic, while the heating system is steel. The base is chromed plastic, and has the usual micro-USB port for the charging cable. It’s a comfortable device to hold, especially if you’re used to an eGo or Evod, and just about light enough that you can leave it hanging from your lip (although a couple of times I ended up with the HEET still in my mouth and the AYI in my lap). All the parts fit nicely together and it has a quality feel to it.
Vaping the AYI
Anyway, that’s enough playing around with it; how well does it work? I plugged it in to give it a full charge (which takes under an hour) then scrounged up some Bronze HEETs and got to work.
The AYI needs to be turned on before using it; that’s done with three quick clicks of the button. The button’s surround will blink green a few times to let you know it’s powered up (another three clicks will turn it off again, and trigger a few blinks of red). Once it’s turned on, another two presses will activate the heater and start the green light blinking again. Personally I’d rather have a single long press for this function; out of habit I kept clicking it three times instead of two, and I just told you what happens then.
It takes about 20 seconds for the AYI to reach operating temperature; to let you know, the blinking green ring around the button switches to a steady glow. As soon as that happened I took a puff.
Well, it works! The flavour is good and vapour production is easily good enough. The AYI uses a blade to heat the tobacco, like the iQOS. Some other devices use a spike, and I also have a couple where the walls of the chamber heat up. I’m not a huge fan of those; they seem to give less vapour, and my microscope shows that they’re also prone to burning the HEETs, which isn’t really the aim. So that option’s out, but there’s a debate inside the HnB UK team about the relative merits of blades and spikes. Tony thinks spikes give a better vape; I’m going with blades. So the AYI delivers a satisfying vape because it uses a blade, and if you disagree you’re… oh, you’re my boss. Sorry, Tony.
Once it’s heated, the AYI will run for up to six minutes – the button turns red for the last 30 seconds – or 15 puffs before it automatically shuts down. A full charge is good for around 18 HEETs, which is pretty good considering the device’s light weight. You can take this out with you and, unless you’re a very heavy user, it’s going to be fine until you get home again.
I like this gadget. It’s not as compact as the iQOS holder, which still comes closer to the experience of an actual cigarette than anything else I’ve tried (I’ll be reviewing the iQOS 3 soon, by the way – I already have one) but it’s still a slim, lightweight device. It does the job of delivering tasty vapour as well as you could ask it to, and the removable cone and wide chamber make it easy to keep clean. If you’re looking for a pen-style HnB device this one is a good choice.