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Pod Mod review – the new iQOS Mesh

Pod Mod review

A few weeks ago I talked about pod mods, the new generation of ultra-convenient e-cigarettes that are popping up on shelves all over the place. Although we’re mainly interested in Heat not Burn devices here we think pod mods are pretty cool too – they’re much easier to use than conventional e-cigs, which is ideal if you want something that’s as simple as a cigarette. We’re also now selling one, the new iQOS Mesh from PMI, so I thought it would be a good idea if I checked one out to see what it was like. A Mesh was duly ordered, and turned up late last week along with a supply of the VEEV pods it eats.

Before I go any further it’s time for a quick confession. In my previous article on pod mods I said I already had a Mesh. Well, that turned out to be only partly true. Last year I “borrowed” a PMI Mesh from Dick Puddlecote, and at the time I was quite impressed with it. However the new iQOS-branded Mesh is a very different animal. It shares the same design philosophy, but every part of the device and its pods is bang up to date. So, if you’ve read anything about the old Mesh, forget it; the iQOS version is a brand-new product. Let’s have a look at it.

First impressions

The Mesh in its box.

The new Mesh comes in a neat cardboard box; pull the top off and there’s the device itself, nestled in the usual plastic tray. It didn’t take long to start spotting differences. The new Mesh is much longer and slimmer than the old one, and also has a higher quality feel. My old Mesh has a rubberized plastic body, quite short and with a flattened oval cross section; the new one is aluminium except for the plastic end cap, and it’s round. One nice touch is that there’s a flat strip down one side to help stop it rolling away if you lay it on the table. Two-thirds of the body has a nice satin finish; the hollow top end is highly polished.

This is a very simple device. There’s a single power button which turns the Mesh on or off when pressed for three seconds. On the end cap is a micro-USB charging port and an LED indicator that tells you it’s charging. The other end is open; that’s where you plug in the VEEV pod.

Overall the iQOS Mesh feels very solid, but it’s also remarkably light. It’s a much bigger device than a JUUL or MyBlu, roughly the size of a large cigar, but every time I pick it up I’m surprised by how little it weighs. It’s pretty impressive, considering the all-metal body and the fact there’s a 900mAh battery packed away in there.

Apart from the mod itself, there isn’t a huge amount in the box. Lift out the tray and open the cardboard lid underneath, and you’ll find a charging cable and a UK plug adapter for it; that’s all.

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The review

Anyway, I don’t believe in messing about, so after playing with my new toy for not very long I plugged it in and topped up the battery. It was pretty well charged straight out the box, so the next time I looked away from my screen for a minute it was ready to go (a full charge takes about an hour, and it has a passthrough feature, so you can vape while it charges).

Old (left) and new Mesh pods. They both hold 2ml of liquid.

With the battery fully charged I dug out a Tobacco Harmony-flavoured VEEV pod and unwrapped it. These are also very different from the old Mesh pods. For a start, they’re a whole lot smaller. The old pods clipped over the end of the battery, and had a lot of empty space inside; the new ones plug into the hollow cone at the top of the mod, so they can be a lot more compact for a similar liquid capacity (I can’t remember how much the old ones held, but they were TPD-compliant, so no more than 2ml; the new ones contain 2ml of 6mg, 11mg or 18mg liquid). The actual heating element is the same idea, though; instead of a coil it’s a small square of fine wire mesh which seems to double as a wick, so there’s no risk of anything burning. In fact the Mesh is actually a temperature control device; it regulates the power going to the wick to prevent overheating and the dreaded “dry puff”.

To stop liquid moving around inside unused pods and dribbling out the mouthpiece there’s a small rubber seal fitted to each pod. Once you’ve unwrapped the pod all you have to do is pull out the seal and plug the pod into the end of the device. They fit either way up; just don’t use any force to insert it. If it’s not going in just twist it gently until it does.

With a VEEV loaded, all you have to do is press the button for a couple of seconds until it lights up, then take a puff. It’s not a fire button; the Mesh has an automatic switch that heats up when you puff. The button is purely an off/on switch. If you don’t take a puff for three minutes the Mesh will automatically power down again.

As for the actual vaping experience, I was impressed! I’ve read one review that said the vapour production and throat hit were disappointing. Well, all I can say is they must have been doing it wrong, because I get plenty of vapour out of mine. Is the throat hit the same as I get from my usual combo of a Rouleaux RX200 and Limitless RDTA loaded with 24mg liquid? Of course not. Then again you could put the Rouleaux in a sock and beat rhinos to death with it, and it dribbles like a senile dog. The Mesh is slim, light and compact, and it never leaks. At all.

My Mesh came with two flavours – Tobacco Harmony is a rich tobacco blend, and Cool Peppermint; you can probably guess what that one tastes of. Both flavours were excellent; although I never liked menthol cigarettes I really got to like the peppermint, in particular. For the average user a VEEV pod should last about a day, making it roughly equivalent to a pack of cigarettes – and, at £2.99 for a pack of two, a lot cheaper. The battery holds enough charge to get through a whole pod and part of the next one, but I tended to recharge it between pods anyway.

The point to keep in mind is that the Mesh wasn’t designed to replace your favourite mod and dripper. It’s an easy to use, but very effective, device aimed at people who just want a simple alternative to cigarettes. I think it’s ideal for that – and it’s a great choice if you want some thing compact and non-dribbly to take to the pub, as well. In short, it does exactly what a pod mod is supposed to do, and it does it very well.

Verdict

I liked the original Mesh when I tried it last year, and I like the new, improved version even more. PMI have taken a good basic concept and made it even better, producing a very well-made pod mod that’s simple, effective and great value. If you’re looking for an e-cig that just works, with no messing around with refill bottles or coil changes, the iQOS Mesh is an excellent choice.

To see our entire iQOS Mesh and VEEV collection please click here.

IQOS Mesh Logo

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So What’s A Pod Mod?

Pod mod

When I started writing about Heat not Burn I didn’t think it was going to be controversial. Well, I was wrong. The thing is, I’m a vaping advocate and my name isn’t exactly unknown in the e-cigarette debate. As far as I was concerned, HnB was all part of the same concept – a safer alternative to cigarettes that has the potential to save the lives of smokers.

Unfortunately, it seems not all vapers agree. Over the last couple of months there’s been an astonishing string of attacks on HnB by some people who, even if they’re just YouTube reviewers, really should know better.

The actual arguments these people use are silly, with a bit of ignorance sprinkled on top – did you know a Heet was just a cigarette that’s been dipped in PG? I sure didn’t, and I’ve watched them being made. There’s also a lot of conspiracy theory rubbish about how PMI are trying to take over vape shops by asking them if they want to sell iQOS. PMI have enough money that, if they wanted to take over vape shops, there’s a much simpler way to do it – just buy them.

Anyway, after a few conversations, I’ve worked out that what really annoys them is they think HnB is the “wrong” way to use nicotine. Part of that is that it that they use tobacco. It’s amazing how completely some vapers have swallowed the line that tobacco itself is bad, when in fact it’s just the smoke you should avoid. The involvement of the tobacco companies seems to cause a lot of tears, too; some vapers sound scarily like Deborah Arnott of ASH when they get onto the subject of PMI, BAT and all the other companies whose products they were happy enough to buy for decades. Lastly, some of them just seem to be vape snobs. If you’re not getting your nicotine from a boutique liquid, vaporised by hand-built coils powered by the latest high-end mod, you’re no better than a filthy smoker.

Well, I don’t care about any of this. I’m fine with tobacco, I’m too adult to blame the tobacco industry for all the cigarettes I freely chose to buy from them, and I’m not a snob. If someone couldn’t care less about fancy mods and liquids, and just wants a nice simple device they can pick up at Tesco’s tobacco counter, I’m fine with that. And this brings us, finally, to pod mods.

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What’s a pod mod?

The first thing I should say about pod mods (also known as pod vapes) is that they’re not really mods; the name seems to have stuck to them because it’s sort of snappy and it rhymes. What they really are is the latest incarnation of the old-style cigalikes a lot of us started vaping with. The difference is that while cigalikes were awful, pod mods are actually rather good.

If you’ve already seen a pod mod you’re probably thinking that they don’t actually look very much like cigalikes. You’re right; they don’t. The basic concept is pretty much the same, though. They have a compact battery with an automatic switch, no controls, and the liquid is contained in a disposable cartridge (the pod) that snaps on to one end. There are three main differences, though:

  • Abandoning the cigarette shape lets them pack in a lot more battery capacity while staying slim and compact enough to be held like a cigarette.
  • The coils are a lot more powerful and efficient than a traditional cigalike
  • Using sealed pods, rather than wick-stuffed open cartridges, leaves space for a lot more liquid

So that’s the advantages of a pod mod over cigalikes; how do they compare to the typical devices used by experienced vapers like myself? Well, this is where things get subjective. I like my big, heavy, leaky devices. I spend most of the day at my desk writing articles and blog posts for you, so the fact my mod is stuffed with multiple 18650 batteries and is about the size of a half brick doesn’t bother me at all. All my tanks are a bit dribbly, and my favourite RDTAs tend to dump their entire contents if you tip them too far, but when they’re sitting on my desk that isn’t a problem.

On the other hand, when I actually have to go outside for some reason the e-cig I always reach for is my Vype Pro Tank, which is small, light and never leaks (and it’s sold by a tobacco company, if anyone cares). If I had an even smaller device that was still capable of delivering a decent vape, I’d take that. I’ve actually had some experience of this, thanks to a couple of pod mods I was given to test last year; I wouldn’t use them at home, but for going out and about they’re excellent. Here are some of the leading pod mods:

 

JUUL

JUUL starter kit

The pod mod everybody’s talking about right now (although mostly for the wrong reasons) is the JUUL. This ultra-slim device was only available in the USA and Israel, but it’s now available in the UK and the company, in between arguing with idiots who’re imagining an epidemic of teenage “JUULing”, is planning to roll it out around the rest of the world over the next couple of years.

JUUL is a tiny rectangular device with a USB port at one end, so it can be plugged directly into a laptop to charge. It’s fed on tiny leakproof pods that hold 0.7ml of liquid; the liquid itself is a bit special, and part of the reason for JUUL’s amazing success – it currently makes up 70% of e-cig sales in US convenience stores. Instead of the usual freebase nicotine it contains nicotine salts, which deliver a faster, cigarette-like hit, and it’s also very strong at 5% nicotine (although this has to be cut to 2% for the European market, thanks to the ridiculous EU TPD).

Heat Not Burn UK being all about harm reduction has a sister website that may well start selling the JUUL here  in the UK in the very near future, so watch this space!

MyBlu

MyBlu starter kit

Previously sold as the Von Erl until Fontem Ventures (part of Imperial Tobacco) bought the brand, MyBlu is about the same size as JUUL but has a more rounded shape. It’s also generally more conventional – it uses standard e-liquid at 1.6% concentration.

Mesh

IQOS Mesh

PMI’s Mesh is much larger than the JUUL or MyBlu (so it also has better battery life), but it’s exactly the same concept – you just plug disposable pods onto the end of the battery. I have one of these and it’s very good. It also produces more vapour than the other pod mods, so it might be a better option for anyone who’s used to conventional e-cigs. We have also done a full review of this device.

Heat Not Burn UK are now selling the Mesh pod mod along with VEEV flavour caps right here on this website!

iFuse

BAT iFuse

About the same size as the Mesh, BAT’s iFuse is a sort of hybrid – its pods contain a layer of finely shredded tobacco which is supposed to give the vapour a tobacco flavour as it passes through. It’s a great idea, but we’re not sure how well this pod mod actually works.

Pebble

BAT Vype Pebble

BAT’s Pebble is the most unconventional-looking of the pod mods. It’s shaped like the sort of flat stone you’d skip across a pond, and while it looks odd it’s also very comfortable to hold. There’s a nice big battery in there too.

 

So there are already a few pod mods to choose from, but the runaway success of JUUL means we can probably expect to see a lot more options appearing soon, as manufacturers jump on the bandwagon. Overall that’s great news, because pod mods are exactly what a lot of smokers are looking for – a reduced harm option that’s smaller and simpler than a conventional e-cig.

EDIT: Just as we predicted more options are indeed entering the market, including the Vype ePen 3 from British American Tobacco. In November 2018 we did a full review of the device.

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