Ecigarettes or personal vaping devices have come along way since their inception. In fact when I look back to 2008 (when I first started) ecigs are unrecognisable from the original products in both performance and looks.
I suppose back then I wanted an ecig to look like a cigarette – it was a comfort to hold something of similar dimensions and see that little orange LED glow each time I took a puff but these things were expensive and didn’t last that long what with the small battery and all. For a heavy smoker I found I was charging batteries via USB every 20 minutes and don’t get me started on those bloody wool filled cartridges!
Fortunately, as time passed improved devices came along and I flittered from the latest gadget to the next. The good thing is that they helped me quit and while some adverts made outrageous claims about “saving money” I reckon I spent more on ecigs during the early years than I ever would have on cigarettes during the same period!
In early 2011 a device called the Lavatube attracted my attention. This sleek and stealthy black tube looked the business and was the first variable voltage mod that fell comfortably into my limited budget.
I picked up a fully featured kit including batteries, charger and all that good stuff. What a revelation – I had never used a variable voltage mod before and was overwhelmed with the performance. For the first time ever I was able to hit that “sweet spot” every time rather than get a mouth full of juice or an indifferent vape. I was hooked on the tube.
As you’ll no doubt know most of these devices hail from China and many sellers market the same/or similar products under different names such as the Lavatube, VTube, Torpedo, Knight Rider and the ThunderVolt (to name but a few).
I was happy with my tube and while it had a few cosmetic issues namely the cheap looking plastic end caps it didn’t distract from the solid vape it consistently delivered. I had read on various forums that if dropped, the plastic battery end cap would fall off and even though it could take a fall and survive (relatively intact!), I kind of wished my tube was a bit more sturdy.
Enter the solid stainless steel VTube!
ApolloEcigs.com had been quietly absorbing all the negative comments about the original tube and in early 2012 commissioned L-Rider Technology Co (the original manufacturer) to make a limited edition solid stainless steel version. Rumours abounded. The ECF forum went into overdrive. Would this ever happen? Would it “really” be stainless steel? Only 1000 would be produced so I quickly got my preorder in. To be honest Apollo had a few teething issues getting these units produced, but sure to their word they did and I received mine a few days after they arrived in the UK during May. I have been using my SS VTube exclusively since then (about six months).
Technically speaking the electronics are the same as in the original, but that’s where the similarities end. The much maligned plastic end caps are gone and the 510 atomizer connector completely overhauled and now incorporates a threaded ego style connection (which doubles as a huge juice well) and the fixed centre connection has been replaced with a novel spring based pin which overcomes issues with ill fitting atomizers not firing. The redesigned top adds 5 millimeters extra length to the “tube” which now measures up at 130mm (minus atomizer/drip tip). Of course its a lot heavier being made from stainless steel (the original was aluminium), but nothing uncomfortable, in fact it adds to the durabilty and overall feel – this is high class workmanship – especially the mirror shine finish.
The air vents (two instead of four) are larger which means the draw is somewhat airy, but this can be overcome with a eGo style cone or plinth. CE4 clearomizers (Stardust) only work with an eGo adaptor.
The battery end cap is a great fit and screws in with little to no resistance. It has a vent hole drilled through the centre should the unexpected happen. Fortunately the VTube uses “safe chemistry” IMR 18650 3.7v 1600mAh batteries so this shouldn’t be a problem but its good to have this additional safety feature all the same.
I purchased the Apollo Regular VTube kit, which at the time, comprised of the tube itself, a user manual, a smart black Apollo branded leatherette carry case, 1 flat top High Drain 18650 rechargeable battery, a battery charger/UK plug adaptor, a top quality stainless steel drip tip and a single 3.0 ohm High Resistance (HR) 510 atomizer. I got a crazy deal on the preorder price so certainly couldn’t complain about the cost, but even now upgrading to stainless steel is still a worthy investment (if their still available? I believe all USA stock is gone, but you may still be lucky in Europe – check out ApolloEcigs.co.uk for more info). You can use coupon code ‘vtube30’ to get 30% discount while stock lasts.
Incidentally, Apollo’s SS VTube has a smaller brother called the Mini VTube. This takes 18350 size batteries and will suit someone that requires a more discreet device (its about 30mm shorter in length).
Operation is very simple and intuitive. There are three small buttons below the red backlit LCD screen and a single fire button on the right side (viewed from the front). The red button is the power on/off switch (hold down for 5 seconds to turn the unit on/off) and by pressing 7 times it shows remaining battery voltage – handy for knowing when to switch to a fresh battery. If you forget to check the LCD screen will flash when the battery needs to be recharged, and will stop powering the unit (its over-discharge protected). The – and + buttons adjust voltage in 0.1v increments from 3.0 to 6.0. When you reach 6 volts, it starts back at 3 volts.
As with the original, the SS VTube has a regulated output which in theory keeps the voltage the same with each puff – regardless of the remaining battery power. This has been proven by various vapers to be a myth, however having no specialist test equipment I cannot comment, suffice to say there is a very slight drop off in performance as the battery drains towards 3.5v or so. My advice would be to switch out batteries when they hit 3.6v and under most circumstances this negates any technical limitations.
The activation/fire button has a nice firm feel to it and has a characteristic click. In direct comparison to the original its less clicky more clunky. I believe it’s a plastic button though nicely plated in a metallic coating. The other two silver buttons are also plastic but coated whereas the red one is simply plastic (no coating). To protect atomizers from overheating the activation button is limited to 10 second presses. When it reaches the cut off the unit shuts down. There is no delay however, so you can simply repress and vape away.
The VTube was designed to be used with High Resistance atomizers (namely 3.0 ohms and above) and has short circuit/atomizer protection built in. It can recognize an atomizer with too low of a resistance for the current voltage setting and will drop the voltage to 3.7v to protect both the battery and atomizer. If the atomizer is too low or shorted it will shut off power to the device to protect the VTube from being damaged. In addition, Reverse Battery Protection (RBP) protects the device in case you put the battery in the device the wrong way round.
The Amperage Limit is 2.5 amps which I think is fine for using with HR atomizers. I understand a band of vapers wish this limit was lifted but I have no desire to use LR atomizers so that’s not a problem for me. As it stands any excessive over-current conditions will cause the device to shut down saving a meltdown situation!
I have dabbled with cartomizers and tanks in the past, but prefer to drip, so I always use Apollo’s VTube HR atomizers and a cheap clear plastic drip tip. As a rule I get between 3-4 weeks use out each atomizer before they need changing sometimes more, sometimes less. Apollo’s 3.0 ohm HR atomizers are the same that you get in the kit (the high bridge/metal disc type) and are ideal for dripping. I have used “normal” resistance atomizers (rated at between 2.0-2.5 ohms) but find these get too hot even at 3v.
Vapour production is dependant upon the type of juice used (VG or PG), voltage (high voltages = increased battery consumption) and atomizer/cartomizer/tank/ohms rating. I only use one type of juice (Bestecig’s Flue Cured 24mg VG) and HR attys – this combo gives solid vapour and good throat hit at fairly low voltage 3.7-4.2v (I find the older the atomizer the higher the voltage due to the resistance increasing with atomizer age/crud). You’ll have to experiment to see what works for you and your set-up.
Battery life for me is around 10-12 hours but I vape a lot and always swap out at 3.6v. For an infrequent puffer I’d suggest you could get a good day and a half before changing batteries. Too many variables to give an accurate appraisal of battery life.
The supplied battery charger is preferable to the previous one I had (a Trustfire TR-001) which made too much noise. This one is smaller and silent and while you can only charge one battery at a time its quicker than the Trustfire. Discharged to full in less than 6 hours generally.
Aesthetically the stainless steel Vtube is absolutely gorgeous, especially with a matching eGo cone to tighten the draw (see this link how to cure an airy draw when using DCT’s). The laser etched logo is classy and understated and I must say I’m really pleased with every aspect of it visually and in use.
Right now I have no plans to buy another big battery mod as this one works perfectly. This has got to be the most cost effective and easy to use variable voltage mods around and while it is aimed at the more experienced vaper I just wish they had these back in 2008 – I’d have saved a fortune!
Check out ApolloEcigs.com for the latest deals on VTubes and to browse their complete range and accessories.