Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Smoking is out, and vaping is in. As we continue to prioritize the health of our lungs, herbal vaporizers have sprung onto the scene as a new way to get your ganja fix without actually combusting any plant matter. While tabletop vaporizers have long dominated this market, handheld vaporizers continue to get smaller, lighter, and more powerful.
We’ve compiled a list of the five best handheld vaporizers that we’ve found, and split them up based on who we think each one is best for. Have a look and let us know in the comments of any other vaporizers you’ve found in your own experience to help our readers. Here’s our list.
Why should you buy this: It heats up fast, vapes great, and has a great design.
Who’s it for: Those looking for the best mix of value and function
How much will it cost: $275
Why we picked the Pax 3:
Pax Labs is back once again with the Pax 3, its third-generation iPod-esque vaporizer which like its predecessor gives reliable performance in a fairly affordable price. While other handheld vaporizers might be cheaper, you get what you pay for. With the Pax 3, its feature set justifies the $275 price tag.
The oven heats up in less than 20 seconds – half the time of the previous Pax – and it gets high marks for its solid vapor production. It also feels nice in the hand, and is easy to use even for the most novice of vapers – even though it might be a little tricky to load at first.
What really stands out to us is the device’s 10-year warranty, which should far outlast most owners use of the product. If you want to purchase something that will last you a long time right out of the gate, the Pax 3 is it.
The best cheap vaporizer
Why should you buy this: The Launch Box is the best cheap vaporizer we’ve seen.
Who’s it for: Price conscious buyers who are still looking for quality
How much will it cost: $120
Why we picked the Magic Flight Launch Box:
For it’s price tag, we were blown away by the vapor production of the Magic Flight Launch Box. While its nothing like our top picks, for those just getting into vaporizing or those looking for a small device this might be it.
Now, some might be turned off by the external battery design and we understand that. However, it makes for a shorter wait before the vaporizer is ready for use. While other brands focused on creating more vapor from the same amount of herb, the team at Magic Flight worked on optimizing airflow from the convection chamber to the user, effectively narrowing the performance gap.
Don’t think for one minute that its rock bottom price means you’ll have to worry about it breaking later. Magic Flight is standing by its product, 100 percent: look no further than the MFLB’s lifetime warranty as evidence that you’ll have nothing to worry about.
The best vaporizer with long battery life
Why should you buy this: A 3.5 hour battery life keeps your session going longer.
Who’s it for: Those who like to share without worry of a dead battery
How much will it cost: $200
Why we picked the Davinci Ascent:
For many of us, social smoking is what we prefer, and going to vaping presents a problem there. You don’t want it to conk out in the middle of a session, so something with good battery life is paramount. Davinci’s Ascent is definitely it – with a 3.5 hour battery life, it is one of the longest-lasting vaporizers we know of.
Heating times are around 10 seconds, and its vapor production is solid for its price. If you use concentrate, you don’t have to spend the extra $120 for the Firefly 2. The Ascent has this capability at a great price.
Ascent backs up its product with a two-year warranty, which is about average for quality vaporizers. Its all-glass vapor path is also a nice touch, too.
The best vaporizer if you vape alone
Why should you buy this: It is close to the Pax 3 in size, but at a much lower price.
Who’s it for: Price conscious buyers who are still looking for quality
How much will it cost: $170
Why we picked the G Pen Elite:
Vaporizers in general are expensive, so if you can’t recover from the sticker shock from other recommendations on our list, the G Pen should rate high on your list. It doesn’t offer the option to switch between flower and concentrate like the Firefly 2 offers, nor does it have the peace of mind that Pax 3’s 10-year warranty gives, but if you’re new to vaporizers, it might be a good place to start.
Heat up times are a bit on the slow side compared to others on this list at 30 seconds, but that is average for your standard herbal vaporizer. We do like the fact the G Pen Elite has a full LED display versus the app based system of the Firefly 2 and Pax 3, and vapor production does seem solid compared to its pricier competitors.
As an added bonus, Grenco includes both a grinder card – good for grinding flower down to get the best possible vape – and a pipe cleaner to ensure your oven stays clean and tidy for the next session. While it only has a one year warranty, we’d expect many to want to upgrade to bigger and better vaporizers so that shouldn’t pose too much of a problem.
The best vaporizer if price is no object
Why should you buy this: It has the best vapor production and is concentrate compatible.
Who’s it for: Those who don’t mind spending a little extra to get the best
How much will it cost: $330
Why we picked the Firefly 2:
While the Pax 3 was our top choice, we’d be remiss to not consider the Firefly 2 a worthy contender. The second generation model builds upon the original, and boasts an amazing heat up time of only five seconds. Out of charge? No fear there either: the Firefly 2 fully charges in just 45 minutes.
For those of us who prefer concentrates, we’d honestly recommend you choose the Firefly 2 over the Pax. The Firefly 2’s quick heat-up times make this possible, and also make it a more all-around versatile device. Keep in mind though that it is larger than the Pax 3, so if size and discreteness are an issue, you might want to look elsewhere.
For the more tech-savvy, the Firefly 2 also comes with an official app for both iOS and Android that allows you to change temperature and various settings with a touch of a finger.
How we test
To help you navigate the wide world of vaping, we test extensively before putting together the most succinct and easily digestible reviews of every ecig that crosses our desks. Here’s how we separate the best from the rest.
For each vaporizer, we run down the specs and noteworthy features. No beating around the bush here — we get right to it and explain what makes a particular vape noteworthy from the competition. Does it have a unique design? Is it more modifiable than most? The standard specs/features we go over include:
- Battery size / charging style
- Chamber/reservoir volume
- Heating element type
- Min/max temperature settings
- Connectivity options
Design and Vapor Quality
After the specs, we dive into an honest assessment of the device’s design. Can it fit in a pocket, or will you need to throw it in your bag? How does it feel in your hand? How does it feel in your mouth? Is it comfortable to hold and take a drag from? Is the button hard to find?
Then we turn to the good stuff: the vapor. What kind of temperature settings does the unit have? How accurate are they? Is the vapor smooth, or harsh? Weak, or flavorful? Does it just taste burnt? There’s no truly objective way to relay this information, so we’ve put together a special testing system that helps us land on a more rounded opinion.
Part one is a vapor comparison performed with a reference vaporizer. We puff on both devices interchangeably and take note of the differences. This side-by-side test helps us tease out the review vape’s strengths and weaknesses and gives us a base for comparison.
Part two is a visual test, where we take a good, long drag from the device in question, then exhale it in front of a plain background. We’ll put together a short, looping video of this, so you can see the thickness, color, and consistency of the exhaled vapor.
Battery Life, and Maintenance
Over the course of our testing process, we keep a close watch on how long the device’s battery lasts, and let you know how our findings align with the specs listed on the box. Nobody wants to charge their vape every day (that’s what the iPhone is for, right?), so we’ll be honest with you about how long you can puff before it dies.
For higher-end vapes, we’ll also provide some notes on repairability. No matter how nice your vape might be, there’s a good chance it’ll stop working properly for some reason or another after you’ve used it for long enough. If you’re using a cheaper vape it’s easier to buy a new one; if you spent over $100, DIY repairs will be a better option. So for the more expensive vapes we test, we’ll assess how difficult it is to clean or replace parts that are most likely to break/malfunction after prolonged use.
Finally, we bring you a TL;DR blurb. We summarize the whole test experience and plainly state our opinion. Here’s what’s cool, here’s what sucks, and here’s why you should or shouldn’t buy it. In a nutshell: Is it perfect for puffing?
Helpful terms to know
- Flower: A short hand term used to describe the part of the marijuana that you actually smoke (or in this case vape). It’s the most common method of consumption.
- Concentrate: Like it sounds, this is the concentrated form of marijuana. It is produced by extracting the resins out of the flower. This results in a much higher potency, so it’s always a good idea to start small. There are several different types: we suggest you go here to learn more.
- Vaporizer: This is the term given to consumption devices that heat flower or concentrate to a certain level, turning it into vapor so you can inhale it. It’s generally accepted that this method puts far less carcinogens into your body that traditional methods, although it doesn’t eliminate any risk.
- Conduction vs. Convection: These are two ways to heat up the flower or concentrate within your vaporizer. Conduction heats the outside walls of the oven to begin to vaporize your material, while convection heats up inside the chamber much like your cooking oven. Conduction allows for simple to use devices that heat up quickly, but risk combusting the material. Convection negates the risk of combustion and allows for more accurate temperature control, but you’ll find these devices much more expensive and slow to heat up.