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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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KT&G Enter The Heat Not Burn Market With The Lil

KT&G Lil and Fiits

Korea Tobacco & Ginseng Corporation, better known as KT&G, are the leading tobacco company in South Korea. It looks like they have seen the light with regards to tobacco harm reduction, because they’ve just launched their very own heat not burn product – the Lil.

The product is more similar in design to the BAT Glo than it is to the PMI iQOS, but it uses an internal spike to heat the processed tobacco rather than having a central heated blade like PMI’s iQos does. The tobacco stick that Lil uses will be called Fiit. It will also be interesting to see if KT&G run into any patent issues in the future from either PMI or BAT, due to the nature of the tobacco sticks.

The device itself will be available in two finishes –  Creamy White and Saffron Blue. KT&G are saying that the unit holds enough charge for 20 Fiits to be used without the need for charging. In the past we’d have been sceptical of a claim like that, but when we reviewed the BAT Glo we found that it did indeed hold enough charge for 20 uses with a fair amount of charge remaining. As the unit is almost the same size as Glo we expect that the Lil’s battery will also be as good as Glo’s is.

Lil is currently on a very limited release in South Korea, but it’s set to gradually roll out to the whole of South Korea.

Will KT&G release it worldwide? That’s a tough one to call, but we doubt that it will. It may well end up in the Asian market but we doubt that it will go as far as Europe or the USA. We would love to be proved wrong though!

As for cost, the Lil has been released at a price that’s similar to Glo and a bit cheaper than iQOS. The Fiit tobacco-filled sticks are going to be priced similar to the Heets and NeoStiks used by its competitors. There is currently a very real possibility of a tax hike going through the South Korean National assembly; that would ramp up the tax on a packet of Fiits, punishing people for having the temerity to switch to a less harmful option –  and, of course, keeping those tobacco taxes rolling in.

Heat Not Burn UK will be trying to get our hands on a Lil so that we can give it a full going over in the near future for one of our extensive reviews. Also if we can get our hands on enough of them we will be selling them right here on this website along with PMI’s iQOS that we are already selling in large numbers.

UPDATE (13th Nov 17) As expected Korea’s national assembly have decided to tax heat not burn products to the same level as regular combustible cigarettes, thereby punishing people for choosing to use a safer alternative to traditional smoking. There’s not a lot else to add other than saying this is an incredibly moronic decision and will do nothing to help reduce South Korea’s smoking prevalence which currently stands at 19.9%. Expect the price of HEETS etc. to rise from next month in South Korea.

UPDATE (11th Dec 17)

According to a new report from Korea Joongang Daily pretty soon there will be a chance that Heat Not Burn refills will cost MORE than conventional cigarettes in South Korea. How on earth can reduced risk products be priced higher than regular cigarettes? How is this going to help reduce the high smoking rate in South Korea? We have a feeling that there’s something dodgy going on here.

This post has been updated to reflect the fact that the Lil uses a spike to heat the processed tobacco rather than being externally heated (like the BAT Glo) as stated in the original post.