I’m getting quite used to product reviews now. I have to admit, when I started writing for Heat not Burn UK it was a real struggle to find new material. There weren’t many devices around, they were mostly on sale only in restricted test markets, and they were as rare as rocking horse turds anyway.
Well, that’s all changed now. Over the last few months we’ve had a string of reviews, mostly on new HEET-based systems from China, and they’re still coming. I have two different devices on their way to me now – one HnB gadget and the latest Vype pod mod from BAT – so they’ll be getting tested over the next few weeks, but actually I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here. Let’s focus on what’s sitting on my desk right now.
For the last few days I’ve been testing the Switch, a brand new HnB device from China. This is a very interesting little vaporiser, and I like it a lot. Like most of the ones I’ve tested so far it uses Philip Morris’s HEET tobacco sticks, which were developed for their own iQOS but now seem to have become the standard. That’s good news for anyone that fancies a Switch, of course; if you decide to get one, the consumables you need are now widely available.
Anyway, without further ado, let’s have a look at the thing and see what it’s like!
The Switch comes in the usual cardboard box. There’s a flap at one side secured by a couple of magnets, and lifting that and the top reveals the Switch. The device is fitted snugly in a moulded plastic tray; lift that out and there’s a box of accessories tucked inside it. In there you’ll find a pack of cotton buds for cleaning, a brush and a charging cable. All the accessories seem to be decent quality; the brush isn’t as nice as the ones that come with the iQOS or Lil, but it’s perfectly functional – and, let’s be honest; how often are you going to pull it out in the pub and say “Hey, look at my tiny brush!”? Yes, exactly.
Moving to the device itself, the Switch looks a bit like a long, slim lipstick holder. It has a squarish cross section and while it’s a good bit chunkier than the iQOS holder it’s only about half an inch longer. It isn’t much heavier either, which I like. I suspect pretty much the whole thing is plastic, but it feels pretty sturdy. Everything is nicely moulded and the body and top cap fit together well. It’s also very light, which with a device this small is a real plus for reasons I’ll get to later.
The Switch is a simple device. The body has a top cap that slides off for cleaning; a plastic cage inside this holds the HEET, and of course there’s a hole in the top. Inside, there’s a spike-shaped ceramic heating element. There’s only one control on the body – a square power button with an LED-illuminated surround. A micro-USB charging port on the base, and a nice Switch logo, complete the package. As I said, simple. Overall, after poking around in the box and playing with the Switch, I was pretty impressed and very keen to try it out.
Vaping the Switch
I have no idea about the Switch’s battery capacity but obviously, given the size of the device, it wasn’t going to be enormous. The benefit of that is a quick charging time; a full charge takes less than 45 minutes. Once the red light behind the power button changed to blue, I broke open a pack of my favourite Bronze HEETs and slotted one into the hole at the top.
To activate the Switch you just need to hold down the power button; after three seconds the device vibrates and the button lights up with a nice pulsing glow. It took bang on 20 seconds to heat up to operating temperature, which is nothing special compared to the Lil or NOS but definitely acceptable; when it gets there it lets you know by vibrating again, and the pulsing button changes to a steady glow.
The Switch has a two-level temperature control function. Any time it’s powered up you can switch between modes with two rapid presses on the power button. When it’s in normal temperature mode the button glows blue; switch to high temperature and it changes to purple.
Anyway, how does it vape? Pretty well! I tried it in both temperature modes. At the standard setting there was plenty of vapour and the flavour was excellent. It isn’t quite as good as the iQOS, but it’s very close. The vapour is also warm, and both quantity and flavour hold up well until the end of the session – the Switch shuts off automatically after four minutes or (I think) twelve puffs, with a warning vibration when you have 20 seconds or two puffs to go.
Changing up to the high temperature setting, I personally found the vape more satisfying, although I did smoke fearsome high-tar German cigarettes. On the down side both flavour and quantity of vapour started to fall off noticeably towards the end of each session, so I’d suggest that for most people the standard mode is the way to go.
I mentioned that I liked the Switch’s small size and light weight. I’m a writer, and I can write a lot faster and more accurately when I have both hands free. That means I have a slight problem with larger devices, in that I can either try to type one-handed until I’ve finished a HEET, or I can put the device down between puffs. The problem with putting it down is that, at least half the time, I promptly get caught up in what I’m doing and forget about it until a buzz reminds me that I’ve just wasted most of a HEET. That’s one reason I love the iQOS so much; I can leave it dangling from my lip like a real cigarette and puff away freely while I write.
Well, the Switch is just small and light enough that I can do the same with it. A couple of times the device ended up in my lap while the HEET stayed in my mouth, but in general it worked pretty well. As of now, if iQOS disappeared from the face of the Earth tomorrow the Switch would probably become my main HnB device.
On the down side, that small size comes with a major penalty – battery capacity. iQOS gets round this by using the PCC to recharge between sessions, but with Switch you need to plug it in. Unfortunately you’re going to have to do that pretty often, because the battery only holds enough juice for nine HEETs before the power button turns red. It does recharge quickly though, so carrying a small power bank and topping up from that between HEETs should get you through the day.
Apart from recharging, care of the Switch was pretty easy. Because the element is a spike rather than a blade you can give used HEETs a twist then pull them out; alternatively just slide the top cap off and the HEET will come with it. Cleaning was easy, thanks to the nice big heating chamber, and the supplied brush worked well.
Overall I was very impressed with the Switch. Its big drawback is the short battery life, but that’s only to be expected from a device this compact. There’s a direct correlation between battery capacity and size, and if you want a small device you have to settle for a small battery. Apart from that, though, it’s great. The vape is good, it seems well-made and durable, and the complete package is by far the most compact HnB device I’ve seen yet. Yes, the iQOS holder is smaller, but it lives in the PCC. The Switch is a standalone device that isn’t much bigger than an iQOS holder, and I think that alone makes it an attractive option.