Lavatube Variable Voltage e-Cigarette: Impressions

Advanced variable voltage electronic cigarettes just got a lot more mainstream.  VolcanoEcigs announced their new Lavatube e-cigarette which is one of the most affordable variable voltage “tube” style devices on the market.  Volcano’s device is also the first adjustable voltage models offered by a mass market electronic cigarette company. Let’s get started with the Lavatube review and see what this gizmo is made of.

Update: If you’re curious to see how the Lavatube stacks up against the king of the e-cigarettes, check out the new Lavatube vs. ProVari comparison review!
Update 2: For the latest in Lavatube goodness, check out the latest and greatest with my Stainless Steel VTube Review

volcano lavatube e-cigarette review kit image

Picture an atomizer instead

What’s in the Box
The Lavatube is available in both starter kit format as well as a stand alone device only.  Opt for the kit and here’s what you’ll get:

1 Lavatube body
1 High-drain 18650 battery
1 Trustfire universal 3.7v battery charger
1 Lavatube 3.0Ω atomizer
1 Drip tip
1 Carrying case

For some reason, the review version of the device I received from Volcano lacked the atomizer, so I won’t be able to comment on the atty’s performance.  I’m not a big atomizer user as it is, so I generally briefly test them for the reviews before swapping out for a cartomizer or tank for the rest of my testing time.

Design
The Lavatube is as the name implies a “tube” style e-cigarette.  The Lavatube is a very tall device, even when compared to other e-cigarettes that use the same, large battery.  I wouldn’t go so far as calling it big because the tube is fairly thin in comparison to other devices.

volcano lavatube review comparison image

Lavatube, ProVari (w/extended cap), ego 650mAh

Perhaps the most striking thing about the Lavatube is that it is surprisingly light for its size.  The weight makes the device somehow feel smaller when being held.  The tube’s aluminum construction is the primary reason behind the light weight of the device.

On either end of the tube are knurled end-caps.  The top cap which houses the 510 connection is fixed, while the bottom cap unscrews for battery replacement.  The patterns of the top and bottom caps are mirrors of each other with the bottom cap having small protrusions while the top cap has indentations that run along the edge.  I have to admit that design reminds me of a certain other device.

The bottom end cap’s bumps make it easy to loosen and tighten the cap, but I found they were uncomfortable to hold in certain positions when using the device. Speaking of end caps, I also found the action of opening or closing the cap to be rough in some spots.  This may eventually settle down as the metal on the threads wears a little with use.

I have the black version of the Lavatube (it is also available in chrome).  The color is a flat black and is textured.  The texture is great for keeping a grip on the device.  I noticed a couple of spots where the finish appears to have chipped slightly, leaving tiny white specks sprinkled throughout the finish.  I tried to scape the spots with a fingernail to get them to flake, but they wouldn’t.  These may be spots where the finish coat is slightly thin rather than flaking off.

lavatube ecig by volcano review button image

On the tube is a red Lavatube logo.  Above the logo, near the top of the device is the small LCD screen and three buttons arranged in an inverted triangle pattern.  We’ll take a closer look at those in the next section.  To the side of the cluster and about 1/3 of the way down the tube is the activation button.

The button is made of plastic, however it very closely matches the finish of the tube.  When engaging the button, there is a satisfying, tactile click. The plastic appears to be of solid quality. However there is a gap between the button edge and the cutout in the tube that slightly takes away from the solid feel of the design.

I would say that the Lavatube is fairly good quality. It doesn’t feel flimsy or cheaply built. It lacks the overall polish of some of the higher-end devices I’ve reviewed before.  This is to be somewhat expected considering the Lavatube’s price point.

Lavatube review display image

Display is actually red

The Tech
While the tech features on the Lavatube aren’t quite as extensive as other advanced variable voltage devices, they are certainly impressive for a sub $100 device.  The main attraction of course is the variable voltage feature.  The device allows users to adjust voltage from 3.0 to 6.0 volts in increments of 0.1 volts.

Moving around the voltage spectrum is an amazingly simple affair.  The top two of the trio of buttons are a + and – button.  To change voltage, simply press the button that corresponds to where you want to go.  The LED display shows the selected voltage as you go.  A nice feature is that if you overshoot the voltage you want, there’s no need to go “around the horn” just press the – button to go back.

The third button is possibly my favorite.  It’s the on/off button.  A quick press of the button will turn the LCD display on (it shuts off when not adjusting the voltage).  Hold the button for a few seconds and it shuts the device off. No menus, just a power button.

The buttons are quite tiny as is the LCD screen.  However, some thought appears to have gone into their placement and action because I was able to manipulate the buttons without any real issues.  And I have kind of a fat thumb.

Despite having an LCD screen, there are no lights on this device during regular use.  This is kind of a personal choice thing, some people like an indicator light to know when the device is firing, while others either dislike lights or have no opinion.

lavatube e-cigarette review battery image

Aside from the adjustable voltage and LCD display, the Lavatube does also pack some additional features.  For starters, the voltage selection can be locked by pressing and holding both the + and – buttons simultaneously.

This device also features regulated output; as the battery charge drops, the device will keep the voltage at the same levels, until there’s not enough charge left in the battery.

Pressing the on/off button 7 times reveals the battery charge indicator.  The screen will display battery power in volts ranging from 4.2 at full charge to 3.3 when the battery needs a charge.  The LCD display will also flash when the battery needs to be recharged.

Finally, the Lavatube also features protection circuitry to keep the device from being destroyed by rogue hardware.  If the circuitry detects a short or radically under-voltage condition, the device will shut off.  The circuitry also detects battery under or over charge and will protect the device in those situations as well.

lavatube e-cigarette review voltmeter image

Breaking out the testing gear

The final safety tech feature keeps the device from delivering too much power overloading its 2.5a button capacity.  The unique take here is rather than shutting down when you attempt to run too much voltage through a low-resistance atomizer, it drops the voltage down to around 3.5v.I have somewhat mixed feelings about the concept.

When using the device for the first time I was unaware of this feature. I was running a dual coil cartomizer in a tank.  I was excited at first because it appeared that I could run the dual coils at 5+ volts and it didn’t shut down.  However, I noticed the performance wasn’t that hot.

I tested the voltage under load and saw it was only running at 3.5v.I finally read about the protection circuit, so it made sense, but there’s no visual indication of when this kicks in.  I also found that I couldn’t really get about 3.7v on a dual coil, likely because of the fairly low amperage rating on the switch.  Conversely, the device seemed content to run a 1.7Ω cartomizer at 4.0v.

Performance
When I first used Volcano’s Lavatube, I immediately went with a dual coil cartomizer tank.  My assumption was that this device wasn’t as “smart” as the ProVari, so wouldn’t shut down running the dualies at higher voltage.

volcano lavatube e-cigarette review

Single coil tank

I was easily able to get the device to 6.0v without a shutdown.  But, I noticed the vapor was nothing like I am used to at such high voltages.Out came the volt meter, which said that it was outputting 6v, but under load the voltage dropped to 3.6.

I ran the same test with a different dual coil cartomizer with the same results.  Finally, I learned about the protection circuitry so everything made sense.Pushing higher resistance gear wasn’t an issue with the Lavatube, and the load voltage read within .1v of where it was set under load in most cases.

However, I did have some interesting findings.

When I ran a 3.0Ω atomizer above 5v, the output reading on my meter consistently rang in at 4.9v.  I swapped that atomizer out for a 3.7Ω model, and the device appeared quite happy to truck along at 6v.

Granted, I didn’t get documentation with my review sample, but I’m going to go out on a limb, that the Lavatube has additional fallback settings.  I was able to find another fallback at 4.2v with a 1.9Ω device.  I am uncertain if these are preset or if the Lavatube takes the voltage down to the highest safe voltage for the attached hardware.

volcano lavatube review lavatube and battery image

Yes, the perspective shot

I think the safety fallback is a neat feature, but I am a little bit frustrated that there is no indication when the feature is engaged.  Your only hint is that the device doesn’t feel like it’s performing the way you think it should.

Once I got used to Volcano’s tube trying to protect me from myself, I found that it was a very reliable performer.  Thanks to the regulated output, the performance is consistant until the screen starts blinking at you to tell you it’s time to load up another battery.

The battery being a pretty meaty 18650 battery will keep you trucking along for quite a long time.  I easily got a full day of festivities from my unit.  The Lavatube comes with one battery.

If you want to bring your own, a flat-top battery or an IMR with a low-profile top would probably be in order.  A tall protected battery with a nipple top may be a little bit more than the tube can easily accommodate.  Unfortunately, the 18650s in my collection are all of the low-profile variety so I couldn’t test out that theory.

 

Too Long; Didn’t Read
Volcano’s Lavatube fits in nicely between low-cost but utilitarian vari-volt box mods and high-end devices like the ProVari.  While the device is a lot more stylish than the inexpensive boxes, it is a little less polished than the high-end vaping machines. With easy voltage adjustment and a readout screen, you get a good percentage of the features of the big boys without the extras like resistance meters.There are a couple of features on the Lavatube I wished my ProVari had, like a discrete on/off switch.  I’m still undecided about the step-down protection circuitry, and I’m still on a quest for a full featured variable voltage e-cigarette than is smart, but dumb enough to light up dual coil hardware at high voltages.

Pros:
  • Very attractive price
  • light weight
  • Regulated power output
  • Easy to adjust voltage settings with readout
  • Discrete power button
  • Reasonably attractive design

Cons:

  • No indication when safety voltage decrease is enabled
  • Small LCD screen and function buttons
  • Very tall
  • Could use a little more polish in fit and finish
  • A few functions still require weird button presses
  • Unable to run dual coil hardware at higher voltages
Details:

UPDATE: Volcano does not sell the Lavatube outside the USA.  International customers can purchase the Lavatube from ECig Wizard. Use code SteveVape for a 10% discount at checkout!

Product: Lavatube
Buy it from: VolcanoEcigsPrice: $99.99 kit, Device only $69.99
Also available from: Apollo, Vapor Alley
Discount: 10% off with code volcanoAFFC10 (one time use per customer)
Threading: 510
Battery: IMR 18650
Voltage: 3.0 to 6.0 in 0.1v increments

Disclosure: I feature affiliate links and banners for Volcano eCigs who sent me this unit for review.

 
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