The Smoktech VMAX variable voltage e-cigarette has been on the market for a little while now. I’ve not paid much attention to the device, but a number of regulars here at the site have asked for my take. At first glance, this device seems to be heavily influenced by the ProVari. There is one significant difference, however, the VMAX uses two batteries to unleash its performance. Let’s review the Smoktech VMAX and see how this device stacks up.
Before we begin, a word about two battery e-cigarette configurations. I consider this type of setup designed strictly for advanced users of the devices. Lithium batteries are notoriously unstable things. It’s not that ecigs using two batteries are inherently unsafe, but two-battery configurations tend to be a little less forgiving.
Before using a stacked battery device, you should have a good understanding of battery safety. This is not intended to be a detailed instruction, but at a minimum, you should always charge your batteries in pairs, occasionally check battery output using a multimeter to make sure batteries are performing normally. But above all, always use the manufacturer’s recommended batteries and never use disposable or unprotected lithium-ion batteries. Always use protected or safe chemistry batteries in electronic cigarettes.
With the battery stuff out of the way, I’m assuming from here are out, you are OK with the idea of a dual battery device. If you’re not, that’s OK, I understand, and there’s plenty of reviews of single battery devices on this site, many of them are quite nice.
As I mentioned in the intro, this device borrows an awful lot of design queues. I’m not outright accusing Smoktech of stealing here, but I would be shocked if someone told me the designer of the VMAX never saw a ProVari.
The VMAX comes in a couple different construction choices. You can elect for a brass model that comes finished in black, silver, or chrome. The version I am reviewing is the stainless steel model.
Naturally, there’s not a lot a designer can do to get away from the general tube shape of these types of e-cigarettes, unless you do something off-the-wall like the VV Gripper. However, the VMAX seems to share some of the same fluting of the standard ProVari along with dimples in the bottom battery cap that can be found in the ProVari extender cap. The battery cap does feature a large safety vent hole.
The indents at the top of the VMAX are round and not tear shaped, and there are fewer of the various fluting and dimples, so there’s that. I also noticed the other versions of the device don’t have the same style battery cap, so they don’t look quite as similar.
There are some bigger differences as well. The VMAX is a single button design, but Smoktech has located the button under the display. I have to give the Smok credit here, I like this display better than the original. The display features 3 digits instead of two and a very nice blue LED display that seems to be a little less harsh than the ProVari’s.
The button is very similar as well, though it seems a touch larger and sticks out further. This is particularly good news because it is one of the better activation buttons out there. The button is clear and illuminated with a blue LED.
The display is capable of displaying certain stats about the device while in use, as well as error warnings such as a very low resistance atomizer (less that 1.3 ohm) and a short circuit condition.
Which brings us to the menu system. This device uses a single button interface to access different features of the device. And yes, it’s like the ProVari’s menu system, only more annoying at times.
According to the manual, to get into the menu system you click the fire button five times. However, it seems to enter the menu system between 3 and 4 clicks most of the time.
Once in the system, many features are what you would expect, the first menu option is to cycle the power up (from 3.0 to 6.0v) the second gives you power down. The third option is for powering the device down and option 4 shows you your battery voltage.
Where things get weird is the 5th option. This lets you select what is displayed when you press the fire button. You can select from atomizer resistance, battery capacity or output voltage (under load). So here’s the weird part. Whatever you set won’t initially show up on the display. For that, you need to go into option 6 to turn the display output on. It’s nice to have those stats available, but sort of a roundabout way to get there if you just want to quickly check your resistance.
Just to make things a little more fun, when you swap batteries, unless you are ninja fast, the whole device resets to factory defaults. At a minimum you’ll need to go back in and reselect your desired voltage.
The last stop of this tour is the low battery portion of the display. It works maybe a little more like an eGo than the ProVari’s sometimes annoying blink. Once the battery voltage reaches a certain threshold, the display blinks and it won’t fire. Sometimes this will happen sporadically before the battery is depleted entirely giving you a little warning, but at other times, it just seems to give up entirely.
Ok, so the VMAX has borrowed some of its design queues, which it’s executed to varying degrees of success. I suppose some of that can be forgiven if it brings something to the table in terms of using the device.
First up is battery life. Since this device uses two smaller capacity batteries to deliver more power, it makes sense that it would have a shorter lifespan than a device that uses a single, larger battery. To some extent, that is true. I am a heavy user and I will generally go through two sets of batteries in a typical day.
This actually gives it a little better battery life than a larger 18490, for example, where I typically go through three of those. However, it does indeed have less battery life than the 18650. More moderate users should be able to get acceptable battery life out of this thing.
Now, a bit about how this device provides variable voltage. The batteries it uses are of the 3.7v variety, combining two of them gives you 7.4v of power (actually between 8.4 and 7v depending on how charged the battery is).
Therefore, unlike most single battery variable voltage devices that have to both boost and cut the power coming from the batteries, the VMAX just has to reduce the power. It does so by using a pulsing regulator. This lowers the current by rapidly turning the power on and off and a certain frequency.
Pulsing regulators tend to be much more efficient (and pleasant) than other regulators that shed excess current via turning it into heat. The one downside is that the basic on-load volt indicator I use for testing doesn’t work on these types of regulators, so I’m kind of guessing from this point onward.
The VMAX is advertised as having a 5A capacity. Based on that, and that the minimum resistance the device will accept is 1.3 ohm, that says the output is in reality 4.5A, which is less than 5 but not too shabby.
Of course, I didn’t have a scientific way to test this limit without being able to get real under load readings. I will say this, in my testing I took a dual coil cartomizer all the way up to 6v on this thing and it popped one of the coils. That may be a coincidence, but it seems to me that the VMAX can indeed deliver some serious power.
I ran dual coils occasionally at 5.5v and frequently at 5.1 (just because that’s a little higher than my ProVari can go). Obviously it’s subjective, but it seemed to me that the VMAX was indeed delivering that level of power to the cartomizers. It was a pretty solid vape.
The final piece of the puzzle is consistency. Does the device deliver constant levels of power across the life of the battery, or does it sort of drop along with the batteries. This does tend to be more of a single battery issue, since they don’t output that amount of power natively to begin with.
Still, I can’t confirm this one because I can’t monitor the power. But, the batteries themselves have at least 6v of power between them the entire time. About the only thing I did notice was a drop at the very end of the battery life just before the battery warning would kick in.
We’re talking about my best guess here, but I am pretty well impressed with this device. It’s probably the one thing in my collection, other than basic box mods that can deliver more power to my dual coils than I require.
Too Long; Didn’t Read
The Smoktech VMAX Variable Voltage e-cigarette looks to be an unapologetic borrower of ProVari styling. Still, the device is very well constructed. The performance is also very good. However, that performance is the result of the device using dual batteries, which makes this a poor choice for less experienced users. Coupled with that, the befuddling menu system, the VMAX is a better choice for fans of dual coil cartomizers who understand stacked batteries and have been looking for something that will deliver high voltage. You can pick one up at Vapor Alley.
- High performance
- Solid construction
- Available in Stainless Steel
- Uses stacked batteries
- Menu system is a little convoluted
Product: Smoktech VMAX Variable Voltage e-Cigarette
Available From: Vapor Alley
Batteries: 2×18350 IMR flat top 3.7v batteries
Voltage Range: 3.0-6.0 adjustable in .1v increments
Amperage: 5A (advertised, approx 4.5 in practice)
Disclosure: This device was provided for review purposes by Vapor Alley, I feature affiliate links for Vapor Alley.
Errol(09/05/12 - 3:51 pm)
It amuses me to think how far the PV technology has evolved to finally be able to do what a cheap MV VV box mod has been doing for about two years. :)
Steve K(09/05/12 - 6:50 pm)
Hahah that's a good way to put it! It is a whole lot better looking than a box though
Lei(09/06/12 - 10:29 am)
I have this device i call this poor man’s provari what i have is iTube by Denkat they are identical with Vmax Smoktech this only cost 3,400php here in the Philippines
sheena(09/15/12 - 9:13 am)
These look really cool. Another option in the world of e-cigs. Thanks for sharing!
adamdamboise(12/22/12 - 5:50 pm)
i have a vmax and want to know if the low rez cartos or the high rez carto which is better to use i like a big hit
Steve K(12/22/12 - 6:31 pm)
Personally, I think the strongest hit comes from a dual coil cartomizer run at 5v or above. On the VMAX it's better to get a higher resistance carto and run it at higher volts, it tends to be inaccurate at lower voltage.