One of the best and one of the cheapest.
Even though we specialize in and sell the Philip Morris iQOS we are essentially a global heat not burn resource so we will also review other heat not burn products too, so on to the review.
When you buy a loose leaf vapouriser it’s very easy to fall into the trap marked ‘PAY MORE, GET MORE’. Though you often discover the rule that scientists have known for years. It’s called the law of diminishing returns.
Explained in simple terms, let us assume that you need a wristwatch. Well, you can go to Poundland and buy a perfectly functional watch for £1.00, or you can go to Geneva and buy a Hublot Big Bang Ayrton Senna Foudroyante for £25,000.00.
The point is that both watches will tell the time. Beyond that, it’s all downhill for the Hublot. The law of diminishing returns kicks in the minute you bore the arse off everyone by demonstrating how the Hublot can calculate F1 lap times to 100th of a second.
Anyway, I digress. So let’s get back to the review of the XMAX VITAL. This is an old piece of kit, first released in 2015. I bought mine in January 2017 for 35 euros. My usual HnB kits are the IQOS and a PAX2. I didn’t get around to opening the XMAX until January this year.
The XMAX comes in a metallic grey box. When you open the box you get your first view of the vapouriser. Below that is another section of the box which contains
- The instruction manual
- Replacement metal mesh screens
- O ring seals
- A cleaning brush
- A micro USB cable and a pair of tweezers
Like a true man, I immediately threw the instruction manual in the bin and set about fetching the thing apart. This was easy. The whole of the insides are held together with 4 Philips head screws. And here’s where it got interesting.
First thing I noticed was the battery. A standard 18650 rated at 3.7V 2600mah battery is more than enough for almost 2 hours solid vaping at full charge and at 240˚C/464˚ F. Impressive for its time.
The Second thing is the size of the ceramic bowl. 1.6cm deep and 1.1cm wide. That’s a hefty load of tobacco. The air feed is from shark gill openings on each side of the vaporiser and then fed into the bottom of the bowl. All of the electronics are in a separate compartment. I will explain why this is so important at the end of this article.
Heat is via a heating element built into the ceramic bowl. This arrangement practically rules out the possibility of electronic shorts ruining your new toy. Very clever.
To start heating, you hold down the power button for 3 seconds and the OLED screen says ‘WELCOME’. It then starts to heat the bowl to the desired temperature.
Temperature control is in Centigrade or Fahrenheit, so it’s BREXIT ready. The temperature is simply selected, after you switch on the power, using the ＋ or － button. The range of temperatures is from 100˚ C to 240˚C which is 212˚ F to 464˚F. You can also increase or decrease the temperature whilst the unit is functioning. You can also choose between a 5 minute and 10 minute heat session.
Heat up time from 15˚C to 180˚ C/356˚ F with a full bowl of tobacco is about 20 seconds. The unit then happily ticks away for 5 or 10 minutes, dependent on the duration you have pre selected.
The heat spread is consistent throughout the bowl, meaning there are no cold spots. I measured a 4˚C difference at 240˚C between the bowl wall and bowl centre. Again this is most impressive. My PAX 2 is far less accurate than the XMAX and has considerable variations in bowl temperature, sometimes in excess of 7˚C.
Getting the most from your Xmax
There are 4 main factors which you need to take into account here. They are as applicable to the Xmax as to other HnB loose leaf vaporisers. So we´ll look at each in some detail.
1.Choice of tobacco
The PH level of tobacco smoke is a determining factor in its acute toxicity. Cigarette tobaccos all vary, but a rise above 6.2 results in increased levels of Tobacco Specific Nitrosamines, Benzene, Cadmium and all of the other nasties contained in tobacco smoke.
Bright, Flue Cured and Virginia tobaccos produce a lower PH value of between 5.2 and 6.00. However, these levels increase as the cigarette is smoked. In any case, and apart from the carcinogens present in tobacco smoke, the main culprit is carbon monoxide. Any combustion of a carbon based substance will produce carbon monoxide.
Pipe tobacco on the other hand with both high and lower sugar content is less acidic than cigarette tobacco, and becomes progressively more alkaline during the course of smoking. This reduces the quantity of ´nasties` produced In the burn process. Apart, that is, from carbon monoxide.
As every smoker knows, pipe tobaccos are simply too irritating to be inhaled when burned. This is mainly due to the high alkaline content of the smoke. It also probably explains why pipe and cigar smokers suffer lower levels of lung cancer than cigarette smokers.
HnB circumvents almost all of these issues because the tobacco isn´t burned. There is no carbon monoxide and the levels of all known carcinogens are reduced either to practically zero or a figure so low that it is insignificant. As an example PMI have published open data science which concludes that their IQOS reduces toxic and carcinogenic produce by 90% to 95% when compared with the CR34 standard test cigarette. Those figures are about the same as e cigs.
So, you load up your XMAX with some Marlboro Red or Aromatic pipe tobacco, switch on your heating chamber and start to inhale. The first two or three puffs are OK, but suddenly the quantity of vape is reduced to a whisp and the flavour disappears.
2. In order to use any watch you need to be able to tell the time
Your first reaction to the above scenario is to turn up the heat. The XMAX in this regard is like some early Magnox Nuclear Reactor. So you crank up the heat to 464˚ F/ 240˚C and normal service is restored. Success? No. Why? Because tobacco combusts at 451˚F/232˚C.
You have to remember that temperature is the average energy of molecules in a system. If you need to know more about this have a look at the Maxwell Boltzmann Distribution Theory. Or get a life.
On the other hand, all that you really need to know is that even at 430˚ F/ 221˚C some tobacco will start to combust and you do not want that to happen, because once combustion starts you will be inhaling all of the same carcinogens found in a regular cigarette.
So stay away from high temperatures.
3. This is too complicated for me….
Bring on the Propylene Glycol PG. If you you use an ecig, or HEETS you are inhaling PG. It’s safe.
Most Vape shops sell PG and 500ml is less than a fiver. PG is used in ecigs and HEETS to replicate the “throat hit” you get when you smoke a normal cigarette.
Vape grade PG is about 80%PG and 20% water. It has a boiling point of about 250˚F or 121˚C .
If you like clouds of vapour, then bring on the Vegetable Glycerin VG which has the same boiling point as PG. Most good vape shops will sell this too, for about the same price as PG.
The only drawback to to VG is that it is used as a sweetener, so I recommend using more PG than VG. If you can’t get your PG / VG from your vape shop, then go to a chemist and get the Pharma grade stuff. Just remember to dilute it with water. Distilled is best.
Pharma grade PG and VG have a boiling point of 290˚C/554˚F. Such heat will burn all of your tobacco, your vaporiser, your house, you and the entire neighbourhood. And in the present political climate, should you have the misfortune to survive, you can expect to spend the rest of your days at GTMO in Cuba, learning advanced Arabic. So add 20% water.
You might want to increase the nicotine yield in your HnB aerosol. If so, splash out on a bottle of 50%VG 50% nicotine solution.
Oh, finally you will need a pipette or a syringe used for refilling ink cartridges. You can carefully discard the blunt needle.
None of this stuff is expensive and you are only going to be using small quantities anyway.
- Open your 30g pouch of tobacco.
- Extract 30ml of PG using your pipette or syringe.
- Layer the PG evenly across the top of your tobacco.
- Extract 20ml of VG using your pipette or syringe.
- Layer the VG evenly across the top of your tobacco.
- Wait 5 minutes, then finger mix the tobacco, PG and VG together for about 2 minutes.
- If adding nicotine do so in 5ml stages. Wait 5mins then finger mix.
- Wash your hands.
The first thing you will notice is that your tobacco pouch will be bulging at the seams. You are now ready to go. Half fill your bowl with the mixture. Switch on your XMAX, set your temperature and inhale.
The quantity of aerosol is more than adequate. The flavour of the tobacco is pronounced and well satisfying. Oh, the shark gills.Yes I nearly forgot. Any crud that has fallen out of the bottom of the bowl can be cleaned out by just blowing through the shark gills.
And this is where the XMAX scores. It scores because:
- It is cheap, really cheap.
- Whilst it doesn’t produce the same volume of aerosol as a PAX 2, its enough.
- There is no connection between the electronic gizzards and the airflow.
- Any excess moisture or dribble will not touch the delicate electronics.
- It is easy and simple to use.
- It produces better results than loose leaf vapourisers costing 10 times more than the XMAX