An Illustrated Guide to E-cigs
Part 4 (of 6)
Please see Part 1 (the post at the top of this thread) for an explanation of what this six-part series is all about, including a Table of Contents and relevant caveats. [And notice the “style shift” warning at the end of the previous post (Part 3) … although as it turns out, I (unintentionally) “lied” about the cutback in photos. I did decide to include a lot of photos here – of e-cig models, but only one ha-ha picture. And I have included a song.]
Part 4 (as well as the forthcoming Part 5) deals with…
PURCHASING YOUR FIRST E-CIG
Whatever model you choose, ensure that your initial order includes at least 2 atomizers, 2 batteries, 1 battery charger, and 10 cartridges (and/or 30 ml of e-liquid). [For a super-mini, make that at least 3 batteries.] Most “starter kits” include many of these. Supplement with replacement parts and additional cartridges and/or e-liquid as needed.
Recommended are 3 atomizers, 3 batteries, 2 chargers (especially for super-minis), and additional e-liquid. Or, if you just want to “test the water” at the least possible cost (knowing that you quickly will need to order more to continue vaping), just order the most basic starter kit (with one of each of the above, but 5 prefilled cartridges).
The color (of the device and of the LED) is your choice, of course, but I do have a suggestion: Consider not getting white with a tan cartridge/mouthpiece. In today’s anti-smoking world, many of us do not want our e-cig to look too much like an analog.
Discount Coupon Codes
DaBoomVape’s Rule: Never place an order for e-cig hardware or software (or anything else, actually), without first checking to see if there is an applicable discount coupon code (ongoing or time-limited) – for ECF members, or on any other basis. It appears that the “Electronic Cigarette Coupon Code Master List” hasn’t been updated since June (other than a couple appended additions by ECF members), so supplement that with Leaford’s Discount Codes and Affiliates and by checking the relevant Supporting Suppliers sub-forum. Typically these discounts range from 5% to 20% (or are for free shipping). Then just enter that code in the box provided on the supplier’s check-out screen. When in doubt, try the most common: ECF, e-cignews, ecigforum, or LEAFORD, sometimes adding the amount of discount, e.g., ECF5 or ecigforum10. A penny saved is a penny earned. – Poor Richard* (aka Ben Franklin)
Proceed with a lesser degree of caution if contemplating purchasing ecigs that are mass marketed on the Internet or sold on Amazon.com and in mall kiosks, e.g., Smoking Everywhere and NJoy (not to be confused with JOYE). The model they sell is decent (described below in the Super-Minis section), but their prices are inflated (to pay for that advertising) and, I have heard, they provide little to no customer service.
I’ve since modified what had been my negative opinion of these two companies. TANSTAAFL! [Look this one up yourself, not only to discover what words the acronym literally stands for, but to get exposed to some of the ramifications of the expression.] Here I capture only a small portion of its meaning with the very loose translation: You can't get blood from a stone. Those two companies have spent an awful lot of money putting ecigs in the face of millions of people. It is very likely their efforts are responsible for your first exposure to ecigs … and that eventually led you here. Also, because of their corporate size, they’re facing the brunt of the attacks by the FDA and ASH. They’ve been forced (and are more financially able) to be among the leaders in the defense of vaping. [I do not minimize the efforts of the Electronic Cigarette Association and activist members of ECF.]
See also “Buyer Beware! New members please read.”
Selecting the Right Device for You
Before reading further, please re-read the caveats at the beginning of Part 1; they are especially applicable here. I have included here links to specific suppliers – not to help them out, but to help you out – and not because they are the only reliable ones (they are not), but because they seem to have the lowest prices (including shipping charges) and/or wide selections at the time I post this. [FYI: I have absolutely no connection with any supplier (other than as a satisfied customer where applicable) … and I certainly do not receive any kickback or commission (or free products).]
The Quick and Dirty Approach
I’m about to suggest that you conduct some further research and investigation and then ponder your choice, using parameters I’ll be providing. If that sounds just a bit too analytical and time-consuming (you are more the “executive” type), go buy a 510 – it’s the most popular model among ECF members today and one of the most respected. It is not that much longer than a 100s analog and it scores well on all the evaluation factors (other than puffs per battery charge). The odds are very good that you’ll be happy with the 510. [And if you actually are an executive, you’ll easily afford purchasing a different model later.]
Add in a PCC (Personal Charging Case) shown on the left, for carrying an extra atomizer and two cartridges and for charging your backup battery on the go), some extra prefilled cartridges and/or e-liquid, and you’re off and running. If you spend more time at a computer than away from it, you might choose to purchase a USB Passthrough (shown on the right) instead of the PCC. We’ll talk more about PCCs and passthroughs in Part 6.
[FYI: Any personal bias I might have does not influence this recommendation; my own preferences lie elsewhere. The particular supplier in the links happens to have the lowest prices I’ve been able to find for the items specified and provides excellent service.]
A More Thorough Approach
What follows are some guidelines for deciding on the hardware and liquid (and supplier) that would provide you the most successful (and least expensive) entry into the world of vaping. After (or during) reading Parts 4 and 5: explore the links in the Great Info for new members! thread, research the device(s) and liquids you are considering, converse with other vapers, and…
STOP THE PRESSES: This just in...
I have just “discovered” (with a little help from lordmage) a wonderful new post by rum aficionado Stottes: Choosing an E-Cig - my process, with hindsight. He shares his recent journey as a newbie into this exciting, strange and often bewildering world of vaping and what he has learned (usually by trial and error) about e-cigs … and about himself (i.e., what he, in fact, likes and doesn’t like in an e-cig – often not what he thought it would be). I’m sure you will appreciate (as I did) many aspects of the process he went through, his groping, and his insights (although your insights – and mine – will not be exactly the same as his).
One of the many valuable aspects of his post is the contrast between his wife’s preferences and his. It is further testimony to the truism that there is no one best e-cig or accessory or juice. Don’t take his observations (or mine, by the way) as ultimate truth, but as an example of what one person has learned … and how he learned it.… and view instructional and review videos (strongly recommended), including the following two.
[Introductory note to these two videos: Just as e-cigs come in all shapes, sizes, and styles … so do the people who vape them. Be assured that some vapers dress quite conservatively (and some, i.e., yours truly, dress sloppily) and have dogs or cats as pets. Goth attire or myna birds are optional.]
And for a two-part overview (by another of my mentors) of some of the very best models:
[Don’t pass up that second Leaford video, thinking you just want “the best.” Remember what we learned from Scottes’ post: there is no “best” (for everyone). And that second video includes his recommended model for first-time users.]
Leaford’s ranking doesn’t speak for every vaper, but he clearly describes each model’s pros and cons and explains his rationale, enabling you to do your own ranking. [Comparing Leaford’s feelings about vapor production with Scottes’ is interesting: Leaford is gaga for vapor; whereas vapor leaves Scottes … lukewarm. I suspect that many vapers fall somewhere between those two poles; I know I do.]
And take a look at the primary devices* used by ECF members. Although I’m not really a lemming person (following the madding crowd), this is a pretty e-cig-savvy “crowd” here. It’s safe to say that the most-used devices must have something going for them (although that “something” may not be right for you and such a poll necessarily shortchanges the virtues of the newest devices).
* This industry and subculture changes rapidly, e.g., look at the results of a similar poll from just a few months ago.
You may want to refer to the fairly comprehensive list of non-hybrid models at VapeAtron (to which I was recently steered by Jim Davis). It can help you wade through the alphabet-numeric soup of DSE’s, JOYE’s, KR’s, M’s, Njoy’s (not to be confused with Joye’s), RN’s, and virtually every 3-digit number from 103 to 901 … and their aliases. [My head still spins with all this stuff.]
Steeped in all that information (or as much of it as you can absorb), step back and reflect on what is most important to you in a first e-cig (and on your budget). [And remember what Scottes learned.] Then consider these suggestions (presented in order of e-cig size, not quality rating).
[Unless stated otherwise, all models have automatic switch batteries and unexposed atomizers. Most models are available in black or white (sometimes the cartridge is only available in tan). Generally, the more popular a model is, the more color options there will be. Colors of the models shown in the pictures used here are arbitrary, unless clarified otherwise. Pictures are not to scale.]
Specific Recommendations and Supplier Links Based on Your Priorities
– The Little Guys
1. If you want to start with an e-cig as close as possible to the size and shape of an analog and has surprisingly good vapor, flavor and throat hit for something so small (and are willing to cope with frequent battery recharging), consider one of Super-Minis. [BTW, “super” doesn’t mean “wonderful” (not that they aren’t), but “very much so.” The “minis” are smaller than a penstyle (sometimes called the classic, and, therefore, the benchmark). The super-minis are much smaller than the penstyle]:
- If you have already purchased a Smoking Everywhere Gold or an Njoy Npro, you own a 102 mm (or 105 mm?) RN4081, whether you know it or not. If you like it (as some ECF members do), but would rather not pay exorbitant prices for replacement parts, check out Heaven Gifts in China. [Do not hesitate to order from them. They, and most China-based suppliers, have low prices and high shipping costs (~$16-$20) – works out well on larger orders.] RN4081 parts appear to be available only in white with tan cartridge. [Njoy does have different colored batteries, but not cartridges.] For more information, explore the RN 4081 *Super Mini* model-specific sub-forum. You saw a cross-section of the RN4081 atomizer in Part 2; here is the whole e-cig:
- The similar-sized 103 mm DSE103 is not that common a model. I’ve read that its atomizer and battery are fully compatible with the above RN4081 (those atomizers sure look different though). The cartridges are not compatible, however. It can be ordered from BestEcig or Heaven Gifts in China, both reputable suppliers. I have been unable to locate a western supplier. There is no ECF forum for it, but you can search for a few posts about it. Notice that (unlike the previous model) the 103 has an exposed wick atomizer (good for dipping).
- The 98 mm JOYE306* (aka Janty Mini Fogger) and M402 are both well-regarded models. The JOYE306 is compatible with the smaller JOY306a and larger JOYE501**; the M402 is compatible with the M403 and M401. If you want an e-cig close in size to a 100s analog, get either of these. And explore the respective Joye 306 and M-401/402 "Mini" & M403 Super Mini model-specific sub-forums. Both models are available in black or white.
* The 306 currently (9/19/09) is out of stock at that linked low-priced supplier. It is in stock at these higher-priced suppliers in the US and UK.
** Clarification: The 306/306a atomizer works with the 510 battery and the 306 battery works with 510 accessories (the 306a described next is too small for the 510’s PCC), but the 510 model has its own, different atomizer.
Shown below are the Joye306 and the M400 series (with the M402 highlighted) with their respective exposed wick atomizers. Notice that they are virtually identical (but not compatible with each other); although alibaba.com (whose imprint is blocking the top M403 model) claims that the M402 is 96 mm. 96 … 98: big deal! [You take the 6 road and I’ll take the 8 road and I’ll get to throat hit before ye… Gosh! I did it again. Sorry … especially to Scottish ECF members.]
I couldn’t find a Joye306/306a/510 photo comparable to the M400 series photo, but I did find that above left component-breakdown picture with annotations (in Czechoslovakian, I believe). Know, however, that the Joye306/306a/510 size comparisons are similar to their Smoore* counterparts.
* Smoore is the manufacturer of the M-series e-cigs (including the M201 penstyle), not this delicious campfire treat:
- The 89 mm JOYE306a (only parts for sale in link) and M403. The 306 and 306a are essentially the same devices, just with different length batteries. The atomizers and cartridges are identical. The same is true of the 402 and 403. [However those two series are not cross compatible, i.e., you can’t mix JOYE3xx with M4xx.] If you want an e-cig close in size to a king-sized analog, get either of these (but puffs per battery charge are less than their 98 mm brothers). [You might want to purchase a 98 mm starting kit and an extra battery for the 89 mm size.] Both are available in black or white. Shown here is the M400 series previously displayed but with the M403 highlighted (sorry about that “ibaba.co” blocking the photo, but you can see the relative length). I couldn’t find a good photo of the 306a (nor could I find a full kit), but it looks identical.
- The 88 mm blu is a beautifully branded L88 (exposed wick atomizer), as is the Hawaii-based Volcano. They’re sold with their own PCC.
blu holds a rather special (albeit strange) place in my heart. It was the first e-cig I was really attracted to … but upon researching it (for example here on ECF) I came to realize that it was not right for me (it might be for you, however). What a tension between the inner child and the sensible adult! I still have wistful feelings about the blu, kind of like those for that pretty cheerleader I was too timid to ask out in high school. [I wonder what ever became of her. Probably shrewish and fat, on her third husband, and her kids never call her. Ain’t sour grapes grand?]
- The 84 mm DSE084 (or 8084) is the very smallest e-cig and (based on a couple ECF reviews I’ve read, such as this one by Nikko Daniels, with his characteristic crystal clear photos) does quite well (considering its size). Expect to recharge batteries very frequently: puff, recharge, puff, recharge – well maybe not quite that frequently. You saw a breakdown of the 084 in black at the beginning of Part 2; here it is again on the left, in all white. As you can see, the wick is exposed. On the right is the 084 lined up next to the blu.
They really should create a special category for this one. If 103 mm devices are super-minis, this 84 mm one is a super-super-mini. [This doesn’t mean that the 084 is wonderful-wonderful, just that it is very-very small.]
2. If you want an e-cig widely (although not universally) regarded as having better performance and providing a few more puffs per battery charge than the above and are the most popular (and you are comfortable with it being somewhat longer thanan analog), consider one of Minis. The first two models discussed have unexposed wick atomizers; the atomizers for the last two are exposed wick.
[Batteries for most of the models are primarily automatic switch. However, during the past few months manual switch batteries have been introduced for the first three models presented here (most recently for the M401). They’ve only gained a firm foothold, however, with the 501 (it is now difficult to find an automatic 501 battery). The effectiveness and popularity of the manual 401 battery remains to be seen. The manual 901 (and the manual 801 to be discussed in our next installment) have had problems. Many dealers seem to be offering the manual 901 battery as a spare part, but not including it in the starting kit.]
The tried and true 118 mm DSE901 (or the virtually identical RN4075) gets the job done, very well … and is the model recommended by Leaford for new vapers. Most of the hybrids (e.g., Prodigy and Janty Stick) are designed to work with the 901 atomizer (and with a couple others). Many different colors are available. [If you would like a pink 901, check out these leads.] For more information, explore the DSE 901/b *Mini* and RN 4075 *Mini" model-specific sub-forums.
The 112 mm JOYE510 (aka Dura, Yeti, Titan, or simply 510) is the most popular model among ECF members today and one of the most respected. [However, if you read Scottes’ post, you saw that he does not like the 510, although his wife does.] It scores well on all the evaluation factors (other than puffs per battery charge). The 510 was one of the first e-cigs (following the blu and GreenCig) to have a nifty PCC (Personal Charging Case, for carrying an extra atomizer and two cartridges and for charging your backup battery on the go), which helps make up for a quickly tiring battery. The 510 atomizer also will work with many of the hybrids. As you can see, myriad color options are available (although the cartridge/mouthpiece is always black or white). You can get a 510 with a Blackhawk imprint here. [Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), Totally Wicked omitted their trademark devil’s head from their TECC Titan 510.] Read what the large 510 user community has to say about their e-cig in the Joye 510 model-specific sub-forum.
The 108 mm M401 (aka Pilot, Evo, or Dragon) is the “Mini” version (in this case meaning larger than) of the M402/403, i.e., all three have the same (exposed wick) atomizer; what differs is their battery size. It appeared at the bottom of the three-model comparison photos previously shown for those models. Like its smaller brothers, the M401 is highly regarded. It is not quite as popular as the 510 (but that doesn’t mean it’s not right for you, e.g., you might prefer its automatic switch battery and/or exposed wick atomizer). [NOTE: I see that EastMall is selling a manual battery version of the M401, that they call EM4.] If you are intrigued by this series, consider getting the M-4xx Ultimate GOLD EDITION Starter Kit (containing all three batteries) – change your e-cig size, depending on mood or circumstance. As shown below, you can get it with or without a nifty gold design … or dragon design (not shown).
At the same size is the DSE108, about which I know very little, but which received a very positive review by Nikko Daniels recently (including his great photos) – especially for its easy draw. Nikko’s post also links to two other reviews of this model. Shown below is the e-cig with extra battery and the 108 exposed wick atomizer.
3. If you want the simplest, easiest to use e-cig (which is the same size as a Mini) and more puffs per battery charge (tie with the Penstyle, but short of a Hybrid), consider the KR808D-1 (or the more expensive GreenCig mentioned below): the 2-part e-cig, cartomizer concept. You can just plug the disposable cartomizer into the battery and start vaping. No juice dripping or cart filling required (although you may want to do so to save money – those cartomizers can get expensive). It delivers strong flavor and throat hit and adequate vapor. [NOTE: My personal experience is different from most; I found the flavor harsh and the mouthpiece/cart/atomizer unpleasantly hot.]
BTW, I’ve read that KR808D-1 cartomizers fit the DSE901 batteries (and the 901 adapters for hybrids such as the Prodigy and Janty Stick). As we saw in Part 2, myriad color choices are available for the KR808D-1. [Uh oh! You know what happened the last time I talked about these colors! Don’t worry; limit of one song per installment. (There should be an emoticon for “Whew!”)] Recently a PCC, shown below, has been made available. [To me, it looks like a homebrew mod based on one of the ubiquitous $5 metal carrying cases (available for virtually all non-hybrid models).]
This supplier has the lowest KR808D-1 prices I’ve found (and I can vouch for his good service), but I’m going to break my pattern to also suggest, by name, a slightly more expensive supplier:
Vapor4Life: Their Vapor King brand name is the best known for the KR808D-1. [And wow, I see they now also sell a manual battery version – a first for this model! Notice my restraint in not commenting (or worse) about an obvious attribute of the units displayed in this photo.]
But the reason I single them out is that they represented us (the vaping community) so well in an NBC evening news story, when we really needed it: the day the FDA report came out. I’ve read commendations of their contribution from even their competitors. Vapor4Life and this supplier also carry the somewhat similar GreenCig, the starter kit and parts for which are much more expensive (I’m not sure why). [The GreenCig cartomizer is longer than the KR808D-1’s, but the battery is shorter. Total size: about the same.] Leaford ranks this device #1, because of its unparalleled vapor production, while acknowledging its diminished flavor. You might want to consider ordering some of the GreenCig cartomizers (which also fit the KR808D-1 battery) to check it out. However, those carts are almost twice the price of KR808D-1 carts; not sure if they’re twice as good, haven’t tried them. Unlike their country cousins, color choices are limited to black or white … or black and white, as shown in the photo on the left. Shown on the right is the very expensive deluxe kit, which includes a very elegant looking PCC.
At this point, you may have become excited about one or more models and are chafing at the bit to place an order. But wait! The “best” e-cigs (that is, my two favorites) – as well as many other really good models – are yet to come!
Specific recommendations – with the same fact-filled style [But maybe, just maybe, I’ll sing again.] … and useful, but humorless photos – to be continued in…
Part 5 – Purchasing Your First E-cig – Big Guys and Juice
- Specific Recommendations and Supplier Links continued
4. One of the Penstyles
5. Cigars and Pipes
6. The Hybrids
How to decide – Tobacco or sweet-tooth / SamplersSame bat-time, same bat-channel!*
Suppliers – Your first hardware vendor / Generalists / Juice Specialists
* No more hand-holding of young whippersnappers – look this one up for yourself. [I will give you a link to my intended common-usage meaning of ‘whippersnapper’; the official dictionary definition is derogatory and not intended.]
And remember to post your questions and comments – the good, the bad, and the better informed than I – not here, but in this thread. The positive feedback brightens my day; the constructive feedback nudges me to do better in the remaining installments.]