There are three main classes of e-cigarette: mini, mid-size and APV.
Each has its advantages and disadvantages, which are briefly outlined here.
A mini or regular-size ecigarette is usually the newcomer's first choice, because these models look and feel similar to a cigarette. A mini is a good way to try out the system at minimum cost.
Although they have a million brand names, they are all in fact models with a recognised series number that distinguishes them from others by their thread type and fit. In other words a 'Whizzocig' will turn out to be a KR808 or whatever. If you know the model series then you can mix 'n match parts from other vendors since they will almost certainly fit - there are no proprietary models despite what the makers may claim; all have a model number. For example, the V2Cig and V4L are KR808 models. Of course, individual manufacturers try to improve their own products' performance over others of the same type, and there are a multitude of ways to do this.
These are called 1st-generation models as they were the first to be invented. Originally all these models used the 3-piece system, with a battery-atomizer-cartridge. Now about 95% use the 2-piece system of battery-cartomizer. A cartomizer combines the atomizer and liquid reservoir in one unit.
Polls tell us that about 8% of forum members continue to use these models frequently, although many more keep one as a back-up or loan model. The batteries range from 125mAh size up to about 280mAh.
A mini is a good choice for discreet use, and as an initiation to the ecig concept. If a model is chosen that looks exactly like a cigarette - white with a red LED tip - then it can be used where you would smoke a cigarette; but don't try using it indoors because people will assume you are smoking and no amount of explanation will fix it as there is bound to be confusion or resentment from some. Instead, get a black one with a blue or green tip, it will create less problems because it is harder to confuse with a tobacco cigarette.
The models include the 510, 901, M401 and KR808 (often shortened to KR8).
- Looks and feels like a cigarette
- Small and discreet
- Auto and manual models
- Cheapest way to get started
- Parts can be re-used if you know the model type
- Ideal for light smokers or occasional smokers
- Batteries do not last long in use - from 45 minutes to 2 hours for some users
- The other two physically larger classes have better performance
- Will probably not provide sufficient performance for heavy smokers or full-flavor smokers
- The auto batteries can be destroyed by liquid leaking due to over-enthusiastic refilling
- Cannot use LR heads - minimum resistance is about 2 ohms (this limits vapor production).
The mid-size ecig is the #1 rated model type because it suits most vapers, either as the main device or the main back-up. The common names are eGo, Riva, Tornado, kGo and others.
The Mid-Size e-cigarette is now the benchmark model. They are about the size of a cigar.
These 2nd-generation models have a much larger battery size of at least 650mAh. This has three important results:
- The batteries last longer in use;
- They produce more vapor than a mini;
- They can use a much wider range of heads. All kinds of tanks and other exotic heads can be used (the liquid reservoir, atomizer and mouthpiece arrangements).
- Crucially, they can use the LR low resistance type, which produce more vapor.
Most of these models are based on the 510 range although some use the KR8 thread.
This is the type upon which all ecig measurements and values should be based: it is the average in all respects - probably about three-quarters of forum members either use one as their main device or keep one as a back-up.
- Not too expensive to get started - maybe 50% more than a mini
- The 510 series threading most used has a huge range of heads
- The small, 650mAh battery is reasonably small for those who want it discreet
- Looks and feels like a cigar, so it's not too big
- Double the performance of any mini - double the vapor and battery life
- Batteries last well in use, the bigger batteries around 1,000mAh can last up to 8 hours for some vapers
- Should provide sufficient performance for most smokers, especially newcomers
- The #1 rated type of ecig for good reason - suits more users than any other type
- Almost exclusively these are manual ecigs - a disadvantage to newcomers although an advantage to experienced users
- May feel too large for beginners
- Slightly more expensive to start out with
- Ultimate performance is not possible as the battery power/voltage is not sufficient
Advanced personal vaporizers (aka 'mods') are the logical progression and development of the ecig concept for those who want ultimate performance. They can be defined simply as any model that employs user-replaceable generic batteries and/or has a function not normally available in a mini or mid-size e-cigarette. There are two main classes of APV: the tubular shaped tubemods and the box shaped boxmods, and three sub-types: mechanical, basic electrical or electronic.
They do not normally suit newcomers because they are too big, or weird-looking, or too fiddly to use; plus all are manual-switch models. These are 2nd-gen or 3rd-generation devices. Almost all have a hugely extended battery life over the minis, and they mostly use generic 3.7 volt lithium ion cells, a type of rechargeable battery that can be bought from many sources. An APV will normally look like a fat tube reminiscent of a flashlight with a mouthpiece (a tubemod), or a box the size of a pack of cigarettes with a mouthpiece (a boxmod).
The big advantage is the performance that large batteries deliver, plus the advanced functions and features that are variously available according to the individual model: integral liquid feed, digital readout, variable voltage, full electronic control, solid metal construction, or attractive wooden construction with inlays, and so on.
We suggest that an APV is not purchased as the first model by a newcomer, but instead a mid-size (or mini) is first used to gain familiarity with all the many aspects of vaping. This also has the advantage that there will be a better appreciation of the many issues if choosing an APV later on. There is a very wide choice, and this can be confusing at first; an 'apprenticeship' with the less costly models is generally a good idea.
- Massive performance gains: three times or more than any mini - treble the vapor volume
- Extended battery life
- Solid construction
- Some of the base units may last a lifetime
- The advanced functions are very useful for experienced users
- Full advantage is taken of digital micro-electronics, for power control, readouts, and so on
- Alternatively, simple and rugged units are available that have more reliability than any other type
- Batteries last a very long time in use, the average is 8 hours although some can last for days
- Will provide sufficient performance for any smoker
- Expensive to set up with - some base units are over $200, though there are many far cheaper
- These are all manual models - a disadvantage to newcomers although an advantage to experienced users
- Some care with battery charging is needed, as large lithium ion cells need treating with respect
A fuller description of all these models, with photos, can be found here:
Best E-Cigarette for a New User
Notable sub-types & historic models
- see the E-Cigarette Wiki for examples -
Originally, there were also many micro or 'super-mini' models. These were slightly shorter than a regular mini. Because a regular 510 can also have short batteries, it is not correct to say that the micros were always smaller, although that was the general situation. They suited people who perhaps were reluctant vapers in the early days; these tiny models are no longer popular as the batteries only lasted a few minutes and performance is now light years better.
Penstyles were very popular for several years as they filled the gap between minis and APVs that the mid-size ecig models such as the eGo now occupy very successfully. They got the name because they were almost exactly the size of a fountain pen and some even looked like one, with a characteristic step in the level of the tube near one end that made it look as if it had a pen cap.
Slightly more penstyles were auto models than manual. Their best feature was the 801 thread system that was common, such as on the DSE801, as this is the best thread system ever used on an e-cigarette (as it is slightly larger, stronger, more reliable, and generally more robust). The penstyles used larger atomisers and cartridges than the other models such as the 510 and KR808; but this old-style 3-piece system was notorious for leaking, and this is one of the main reasons the market moved to the 2-piece cartomiser system. No one produced cartos for the 801 thread, and the eGo/mid-size eventually replaced the penstyle. They are still available but are a niche product now, not used much in the West at any rate - the most often seen is the Ruyan V8.
As the penstyles died out, some minis began to come with an XL option. This is most common in the KR808 series. They can be 143mm long, and could be regarded as a way to stay with the KR8 thread system and get a larger battery capacity without going to the mid-size / fat-batt eGo style, which is usually 510-based.
Before VV, and even before 5 volt regulated APVs, custom devices evolved from plain metal tubes with generic lithium batteries. The first was the Screwdriver from the UK, followed by many more. These used one 3.7 volt rechargeable cell. At this time the only head option was the SR atomiser (2.3 ohms) and it did not produce a perfect vape with all refills; there were no LR heads, no RBAs, no clearos even. So to get a stronger vape, two cells were stacked to create the '6 volt mod'. If you do the math you can see that these early APVs actually get 8.4 volts at full charge (4.2 + 4.2 volts). This burns out regular atomisers, so HR atties were then needed: 3.5 / 4 / 4.5 ohm versions were seen. There was a serious elevation of risk for a violent or even explosive battery failure with these devices as it was common to stack two unprotected Li-ion cells, and in a sealed or semi-sealed metal tube the consequences are obvious.
Eventually technology came to the rescue and 5 volt regulated, then VV variable voltage devices, mostly replaced the 6 volt tubemods. Enthusiasts still use them but much safer batteries are available now (Li-Mn and Li-FePo4 cells) instead of the risky unprotected Li-ion cells; the newer cell types can be placed in series ('stacked') without significant risk. Li-FePo4 cells are notably stable, so the main issue at this time is the very high level of battery counterfeiting that means cells can look safe but actually be risky to use.