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The Lil Solid from KT&G – Exclusive Heat not Burn UK review!

Lil Solid

You probably remember that, a couple of months ago, the Heat not Burn UK team were very excited about the Lil from Korean Tobacco & Ginseng. As far as we know we did the first review of the Lil that wasn’t written in Korean, and I have to admit we were impressed by it. Maybe more than any other device we’ve tested, this was a genuine rival to the iQOS. Easy to use and pretty compact, compatible with Heets and delivering both decent battery life and a very good vape, the Lil is a really good package.

What really impressed us, though, was that by the time our Lil arrived a new version was already hitting the shelves in South Korea and racking up impressive sales figures. That’s a pretty quick product life cycle, especially for a major company. Vapers are used to products that come and go in a matter of a few months, because that market’s driven by small and medium independent companies that need to innovate constantly to stay in the game. I expect something similar to happen in the emerging independent HnB sector, with devices getting updated or replaced every few months.

It’s a bit different for the major tobacco companies, though. They have to be more cautious, because unlike a small engineering firm in Shenzhen they’re going to face major blowback if they get it wrong. That’s why products like iQOS and Glo spend a couple of years on sale in limited test markets before they get rolled out globally; the company has time to identify and iron out any issues, while limiting their exposure if there’s a problem.

KT&G don’t seem to be as cautious as other tobacco companies, though. We hadn’t even heard of the Lil until last October, and a few months later I had one in my hand. By that time its replacement was already on sale. KT&G might not be a global player, but they’re still a big company – and for a big company, releasing two generations of a product in less than a year is fast.

Anyway, back to the gadget. We said at the time that we’d get one for review as soon as we could, and now it’s here. In fact it’s been here for a few days, and now it’s been through our intensive Heat not Burn UK testing process. Read on to find out what’s new in South Korean heated tobacco products!

The Review

The new product is called the Lil Solid, and it comes packed in exactly the same neat cardboard box as its older brother. Strip off the plastic wrapping and lift the magnetically-closed side flap, and you’ll find the Lil Plus sitting securely in a plastic tray. That lifts out to reveal an instruction manual (which I didn’t read because a) it’s all in Korean and b) reading the instructions is for girls) and, under that, a flap which covers another tray packed with accessories.

After giving the Lil Solid itself a bit of a double take I pawed through all the extra bits, which are identical to what comes with the original Lil – a USB cable and plug, some alcohol-soaked cleaning sticks and a neat little brush. Everything feels high quality and does its job very well. So, finding no surprises there, I went back to the actual device.

I mentioned that I gave it a double take when I opened the box. That’s because we’d been led to believe the Lil Solid would be smaller and lighter. Well, it isn’t. In fact my first impression was that the only difference between the new Lil Solid and my old Lil was that the new one is blue.

On closer inspection this wasn’t quite the case. The Lil Solid is about an eighth of an inch shorter than its predecessor because the base, which was slightly convex on the Lil, has been flattened. That means you can stand it upright if you want. I was always trying this with the Lil and even succeeded a few times, but it falls over if you look at it funny. The new one is a lot more stable, which I like.

They’re the same size, but the blue one stands up.

Apart from that tiny difference, though, they’re exactly the same size. In fact, just to check, I swapped the top caps around and they fitted perfectly. So if you were hoping for a device that packed the Lil’s performance into a smaller package, this isn’t it. On the other hand that’s not a big deal, because it’s a pretty compact unit anyway.

Once I’d examined the Lil Solid in detail I found a few more small differences. The sliding button that covers the heating chamber is a lot less plasticky, for example. The power button now has a neat metal trim, and the LED indicator in it is hidden until it lights up. Overall it feels like a more polished product. The top plate is still stamped out of some copper-coloured alloy, but it’s neat enough and completely functional.

There’s obviously been some work done inside, too. One of the things I liked about the original Lil was how easy it was to clean (or remove tobacco plugs that had detached themselves when I removed a used stick). All you have to do is pull off the plastic shroud that surrounds the heating chamber, and the tobacco comes out with it. The Solid keeps this neat system, but while the Lil’s shroud will fit in the Solid, the Solid’s won’t fit the Lil. I’m not totally sure what the difference is, but KT&G clearly thought it needed a tweak.

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Testing!

Playing with shiny things is always fun, but the important thing is how it vapes. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect here. We’d heard that the Solid would have an upgraded heating element, but then we’d also heard it would be smaller and lighter; well, you already know how that turned out. Anyway I plugged it in to top up the charge – a full charge takes about an hour – then dug out some sticks and got vaping.

This time I had four packs of KT&G’s own Fiit sticks to play with. Three of them were different varieties of Change Up sticks, which have a breakable flavour capsule embedded in the filter. The names of the flavours were a bit unhelpful – Change Up, Change and Sparky – but I was able to guess what they were. Change is a fresh spearmint, Change Up is a classic menthol and Sparky seems to be a mint/citrus blend that really was very nice. The fourth pack, labelled Match, was a medium tobacco blend that tasted pretty similar to an Amber HEET.

With the battery fully charged and a Match in place, I held down the button until the device vibrated and then started my stopwatch. I was hoping that it would heat up faster than the Lil’s impressive 15 seconds, but it didn’t. In fact it took a couple of seconds longer, but I’m putting that down to my office being a hell of a lot colder than it was on those sweltering days in June when I reviewed the original. Just to verify that I tested the Lil too, and got the same result.

Anyway, 17 seconds after I pressed the button the Lil Solid vibrated again, letting me know it was at running temperature, and I took a vape. How was it? Well, it was exactly the same as the Lil, which is to say it was very good indeed. I’m going to repeat what I said about this device being at least as good as the iQOS. There’s plenty of vapour, and it’s warm, satisfying and richly flavoured. Interestingly, although I was never a fan of menthols when I smoked, I found myself really enjoying the Change Up sticks.

I soon found one change that’s been made to how the device works; while the Lil ran for four minutes or 14 puffs, the Lil Solid shuts down after three and a half minutes. That makes sense; by that time the stick is pretty much done anyway. Like the Lil it gives you a warning buzz ten seconds before it powers down, so you can grab a last dash of nicotine.

Battery life was pretty much exactly the same as the original Lil. A full charge was good for roughly one pack of sticks, which is respectable. Combined with its quick charging time, there’s no reason to be caught short during the day unless you’re a really heavy user. Of course I am a really heavy user, but I was testing it at my desk. Plugging it in for a few minutes between sticks kept the battery fully charged.

Cleaning was as easy as I’d expected. I did find the Solid a little more prone to pulling the tobacco out of used sticks as I removed them, but it’s so easy to clear the residue that I wasn’t really bothered.

Conclusions

After testing the Lil Solid I think I can see how KT&G managed to get it on the market so quickly. This isn’t really a new device; it’s basically the original Lil with the rough edges polished off. So is it worth getting one if you’re in Korea? Definitely! Yes, it’s a slightly tweaked Lil. That’s fine; the Lil is an excellent heat not burn system. The Solid is just as good, a bit more refined, and it’s still compatible with Heets. If for some reason the iQOS 2.4 Plus isn’t for you, this is a great alternative.

I might be the only person in the western world who can do this.
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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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