2012 E-Cigarette Buyers Guide
2011 was a great year for the electronic cigarette industry. During the year, we saw several great new e-cigarette and cartomizer designs, and many companies moved to decrease their dependence on Chinese-made products, switching to American-made e-liquids. The e-cigarette industry is growing rapidly, and I’ve had great fun being a small part of it. Last year, I wrote an electronic cigarette buyers guide that brought many visitors to eDripping.com. However, that guide is now out of date. Considering the rate at which the industry is changing, I thought it would be useful to write a new electronic cigarette buyers guide for 2012.
Like all of the electronic cigarette reviews that I publish on eDripping.com, these recommendations are for products that I actually own and have enough experience with that I feel comfortable recommending them to others. I hope that you will find my 2012 e-cigarette buyers guide helpful. If you are visiting eDripping.com for the first time, I hope that you’ll take a moment to subscribe to my feed or leave a comment about a product you have tried. If you have any questions about electronic cigarettes, don’t hesitate to ask.
The Best Electronic Cigarettes of 2012
Best Micro E-Cigarette: Envy NirVana ($19.95)
Because I have had some negative experiences with micro e-cigarettes, I have never strongly recommended them. However, the Envy NirVana has incredible battery life and has made me realize that it may yet be possible to get great performance in a small package. The NirVana represents a superb value at a price under $15 after applying my coupon, including one battery, a USB charger and two pre-filled cartomizers. The slightly more expensive NirVana Premium Kit — $37.46 after the discount — includes one battery, USB and wall chargers, a portable battery charging case and five refill cartridges. Both kits include five extra cartomizers and free shipping as a bonus.
The sensitivity of the Envy NirVana’s automatic battery is perfect. With many automatic batteries, you have to be careful; if you inhale too softly, the battery doesn’t turn on. If you inhale too hard, you get plain e-liquid in your mouth instead of vapor. The Envy NirVana doesn’t have this problem; it just works. More importantly, I was able to get an incredible 80 puffs out of the battery each time I charged it; competing “micro” batteries generally last for around 40 puffs. That fact alone makes the Envy Nirvana one of the best e-cigarettes of 2012; no other e-cigarette with a small battery comes close to its performance. Combine that with the low price and free shipping, and you’ve got a real winner.
Buy the Envy NirVana if you:
- Are a light or social smoker who doesn’t need extreme vapor production to be satisfied
- Are looking for a reliable electronic cigarette that looks, feels and works like a real one
- Want a low-cost electronic cigarette that’s high on value
Best Mini E-Cigarette: V2 Cigs ($49.95)
Note: click the link above and use the coupon code edripping15 when checking out for 15% off of your purchase.
V2 Cigs is similar to what IBM was back in the day: a completely reliable purchase. V2 Cigs is such a popular e-cigarette company that, by my estimate, the V2 website receives as much as two thirds of the e-cigarette industry’s total Web traffic. To their credit, V2 has remained an innovative company and completely revamped its website and product line this year with easier navigation, higher-quality accessories, stricter quality control for e-liquids, a lifetime warranty for all products and lower prices across the board.
Compared to the Envy NirVana, the V2 e-cigarette features longer battery life — more than double that of the NirVana with the longest V2 battery — larger refill cartridges and a bigger selection of flavors. The V2 e-cigarette also offers superior vapor production, as its battery delivers 4.2 volts at a full charge rather than the 3.7 volts of the Envy NirVana battery. V2 also offers an incredibly stylish portable storage case that charges dead batteries on the go; the case holds up to three refill cartridges along with a single battery, and it’s simply the best e-cigarette charging case I’ve ever used.
One of the other benefits of buying from V2 is the fact that every component with the exception of refill cartridges includes a lifetime warranty. The warranty covers all of the charging equipment, accessories and batteries. Considering the fact that a lithium ion battery — including the one in the portable charging case — will always fail after a certain number of charges, the lifetime guarantee adds considerably to the V2 starter kit’s value for money.
V2 Cigs also has a quality control feature that I’ve never seen with another e-cigarette company; on the V2 website, you can instantly download the lab report in PDF format for any bottle of e-liquid or package of refill cartridges. When you look at the side of the box, you’ll see a four-letter code such as “VSAA.” The code corresponds to a specific batch of e-liquid. By typing the code into a field at the V2 website, you can see a lab report confirming that your e-liquid was tested and found to be free of toxins and contaminants.
Buy the V2 E-Cigarette if you:
- Want the e-cigarette kit with the biggest selection of refill cartridges and accessories
- Want an e-cigarette with strict quality control for e-liquids
- Want an e-cigarette with a lifetime warranty
Best Large E-Cigarette: Envy Ego-Tank ($49.95)
A small e-cigarette may not be the best choice for a heavier smoker; if you smoke a pack or more of cigarettes per day, you may find that a small e-cigarette fails to deliver enough vapor or hold enough e-liquid to keep you satisfied. If you are a heavier smoker, I suggest the Envy Ego-Tank. Instead of small disposable cartomizers, the Ego-Tank uses a permanent atomizer and disposable e-liquid tanks. When you place the tank inside the atomizer, it creates a small hole in the bottom of the tank allowing e-liquid to drip down to the heating element. Since the drip is caused by the vacuum that you create when puffing on the Ego-Tank, you don’t have to worry about the atomizer flooding or leaking. If you aren’t puffing, the liquid stays in the tank. Between the tank and the small reservoir inside the atomizer, the Ego-Tank holds up to about 1.5 ml of e-liquid at a time.
The Ego-Tank is economical and convenient; tanks cost $14.95 per five-pack and can be refilled many times with whatever e-liquid you prefer. The constant flow of e-liquid from the tank to the heating element contributes to consistently high vapor production and the large 1000 mAh and 650 mAh batteries will last even a heavy user several hours between charges.
The Ego-Tank Premium Kit costs $49.95 and includes two batteries, two atomizers, USB and wall chargers, two button covers, ten filled tanks and a carrying case. A less expensive Economy Starter Kit is also available for $34.95. The Economy Starter Kit includes one 650 mAh battery, one atomizer, ten filled tanks, one button cover, USB and wall chargers and a carrying case. I suggest getting the Premium Kit because the combined value of the 1000 mAh battery and second atomizer is greater than the $15 price difference between the two kits.
Buy the Envy Ego-Tank if you:
- Are a heavier smoker and want an e-cigarette with high e-liquid capacity and vapor production
- Don’t mind using a slightly larger electronic cigarette
- Want a battery that lasts all day
Best Larger E-Cigarette: Volcano Lavatube ($99.99)
The Lavatube is part of a new breed of electronic cigarettes called “mods” — electronic cigarettes that don’t resemble real cigarettes at all. This particular mod is shaped like a mini flashlight and has the ability to vary its power level between 3.0 and 6.0 volts. All of the electronic cigarettes previously mentioned in this article operate at 3.7 volts; raising the power level to 6.0 volts translates to drastically increased power, flavor and vapor production. The Lavatube e-cigarette has a very simple control scheme; one button turns the power on and off and two buttons raise and lower the voltage, while the LED display shows the current voltage each time you press a button. Thanks to the high-capacity 1600 mAh battery, I have no problem using the Lavatube for more than a day between battery charges, even at 6.0 volts.
The Lavatube is compatible with any cartomizer or atomizer that uses “510” or “306” threading, which means you can use it with virtually every attachment on the market. If you love the convenience of cartomizers but wish they produced more vapor, the Lavatube is just the ticket. If you prefer “dripping,” or placing a mouthpiece on an atomizer and dripping e-liquid from a bottle, you’re in for a treat; you haven’t truly experienced how great dripping can be unless you’ve done it at 6.0 volts. No other electronic cigarette on the market can give you more vapor and flavor at this price point.
The Lavatube e-cigarette starter kit includes the Lavatube e-cigarette body, one removable 1600 mAh battery, a two-terminal battery charger, a carrying case, a Lavatube atomizer and a drip tip. Complete your purchase by adding a bottle of e-liquid — I strongly suggest the Menthol Burst flavor — and an extra battery.
Buy the Volcano Lavatube if you:
- Want the electronic cigarette with the best combination of price and performance
- Are a very heavy smoker and are concerned that you will have difficulty switching to e-cigarettes
- Want full control over the power level of your e-cigarette
Best E-Cigarette Mod of 2012:
ProVape ProVari V2 ($211.95)
The Volcano Lavatube was the best electronic cigarette I had ever used, until I tried the ProVape ProVari. If the Lavatube is the Cadillac of electronic cigarettes, the ProVari is the Rolls-Royce. The Lavatube and ProVari are functionally similar, which may make it difficult to understand why anyone would want to spend $112 more to get the ProVari. When I took the ProVari out of the package, I finally got it. In terms of the “little details,” the ProVari is superior to the Lavatube in almost every way.
The ProVari is one of the few electronic cigarettes on the market designed and built entirely in the United States, including the brushed stainless steel body and the internal logic board. The emphasis on quality really shows; the ProVari has incredible fit and finish. The atomizer threading is completely straight, the body has no scratches or blemishes and the end cap is properly lubricated and doesn’t squeak. The ProVari is beautiful, built solidly and really feels like a luxury product. I have no doubt that it will continue working for years.
Like the Lavatube, the ProVari has the ability to make voltage adjustments in .1-volt increments up to 6.0 volts. The one-button menu system requires you to press the button until the screen shows the two-letter abbreviation for the function you want, then press the button again until the screen shows the value you want. It’s a bit more complicated than the control system for the Lavatube, but it also has a function that the Lavatube doesn’t: the ability to determine the resistance of the atomizer or cartomizer connected to the ProVari. Since atomizers — even of the same make and model — can vary slightly in resistance, I have found this feature quite useful.
An additional feature of the ProVari V2 is the fact that it has a higher over-current cutoff point than the Lavatube: 3.5 amps versus the 2.5 amp cutoff point of the Lavatube. This means that if you like dual-coil cartomizers — cartomizers with two heating coils working in tandem — you can use them with the ProVari at up to about 5.0 volts. With the Lavatube, you can only use dual-coil hardware at up to around 4.0 volts.
The ProVape ProVari starter kit includes the ProVari e-cigarette body, a two-terminal battery charger, two 1100 mAh batteries, a pack of five cartomizers and a stainless steel drip tip. The ProVari also supports longer 1600 mAh batteries for increased capacity; an extension end cap ($19.95) is required for this.
Buy the ProVape ProVari V2 if you:
- Want the best electronic cigarette on the market
- Prefer to support companies that manufacture their products in the United States
- Want the electronic cigarette most likely to hold up after years of use
- Want to use dual-coil cartomizers at power levels higher than 4.0 volts