Apollo’s Stainless Steel Lavatube (sorry, VTube, the Lavatube name belongs to Volcano eCigs) is a somewhat unique device in a rapidly growing field. One of the runaway successes of the advanced e-cigarette world has to be the Lavatube. It seems like every vendor carries one version or another of this device. After several delays, Apollo Electronic Cigarettes finally released their anticipated stainless steel VTube. We’ll take a look at the shiny new offering in this review.
Who’s it For?
- Users looking for an advanced variable voltage device at a lower price
- People interested in the original Lavatube but seeking a little more refinement
- Over-enthusiastic drippers (this thing has a huge drip well)
What’s in the box:
The Stainless Steel VTube is offered up by Apollo in starter kit format. The kit contains the following:
- 1 Full size or mini VTube advanced personal vaporizer (APV)
- 2 Batteries (18650 or 18350)
- Battery charger
- 3.0Ω atomizer
- Steel drip tip
- Soft-sided zippered carry case
- Printed instruction manual
The Stainless Steel VTube Design
Before I get started, I plan on making some comparisons to the original Lavatube. If you’re not familiar with the first generation Lavatube, you can check out my original review.
Now, about this particular stainless steel Lavatube (inspired?) offering from Apollo. The stainless steel model is apparently a custom-commissioned piece. The steel VTube is essentially identical to the chrome models that is sometimes referred to as the factory codename “Lambo.”
Identical except for its being built out of stainless steel. The steel is polished so the looks are very similar (and equally good at attracting fingerprints I imagine).
The regular units are made from brass and chrome plated (and the original were powder coated aluminum). Apollo had a limited run of 1000 of these units made and sold quite a few via preorders. I’m not sure exactly how many remain, but they were still in stock as of this writing.
So what’s the big deal about stainless steel then? Unlike the chrome models, these aren’t coated, they’re solid stainless. This should result in a much more durable finish since chrome plating can peel off depending on how well the plating was done.
I can’t really speak to the chrome models since I don’t have one to compare with the steel version. However, the stainless model has a considerable amount of heft behind it. It feels much more solid than the original Lavatube, which felt incredibly light.
For reference, the steel VTube feels a slightly less heavy in hand than my ProVari with the extender cap.
Moving toward the outside edges, we’ll start with the least interesting part first. The battery end cap. Unlike the original end cap which was mostly plastic, this end cap is made from stainless steel throughout. The radical knurling of the original battery cap is gone, replaced with more traditional ridges.
At the end of the day, it holds the battery in just like the old one. However, the old one did have an issue with the plastic housing falling off the cap. This won’t happen here.
Moving up to the body, the configuration is identical to the original Lavatube. There is a small LCD display with a red backlight. Under the display are two small buttons for adjusting the voltage up and down.
Directly under the voltage buttons is the multi-function power button. Press and hold the button to toggle the power. Press the button 5 times and a row to display the battery’s current charge.
Located to the right and slightly lower than the power button is the activation switch. The button is chrome plated to match the body and is fairly large. The button has a good tactile feel to it. The button is the same as the original, which means that it might be temperamental (though I haven’t experienced that first hand).
Finally, we reach the top of the VTube. This is where the lion’s share of the changes ended up. Gone is that flat top with the funky ridges. In its place is a tapered affair. This end does make the new version slightly taller than the original.
There’s a little more to the top than some better styling. There’s a couple of features that are pretty cool about this design. The first is the humble center pin.
The center pin is the portion of the atomizer connector that makes contact with the center of the cartomizer and serves as the positive power terminal. The center pin in the VTube is spring-loaded and adjusts itself to the depth of the center pin on the cartomizer.
This is a big deal, believe it or not. Mostly because there’s certain design tolerances in 510 hardware (really any hardware). Sometimes the center pin on the carto doesn’t make good contact with the battery and won’t fire. To fix that you have to pull the pin out with a paper clip and hope you don’t break anything.
With a self-adjusting pin, that’s no longer necessary. The VTube will just roll with it.
While you’re looking at that center pin, you’re bound to notice the drip well. It’s positively huge.
This is really handy if you have a bad habit of over dripping like I do. However, I don’t think that was the real point of this design. Rather, that center part is designed to handle those specially designed eGo cartomizers like the Stardust.
Unfortunately, that feature works better as a drip well than a built-in eGo adapter. The well is slightly too shallow to allow eGo cartomizers to screw on. Plus, it lacks eGo cone threads which some cartomizers have instead of standard 510 connectors.
The good news is that a shorty 510-510 adapter is a simple fix. The adapter allows for proper connection while the skirt still tucks into the drip well.
I have to admit, eGo cartos look really nice on the steel VTube. I just wish it would have worked natively. If you have one of those eGo cone threaded cartos, you’ll have to use a true 510-eGo adapter which doesn’t look quite as nice.
Stainless Steel VTube Electronics and Performance
I don’t want to get too involved in this section. For one, I’ve used a whole lot of words in the design section above and want to make sure you’re still awake over there. Secondly, I did a pretty deep dive into this stuff in the original review, so I don’t know how you feel when I repeat myself. Repeat myself.
The steel update runs on the same circuitry as the original Lavatube. This includes the same 2.5 amp circuit limit. Although, I was able to run a 1.5Ω dual coil cartomizer at 4 volts (I measured it) which is closer to 2.7A. Maybe there was a slight upgrade.
The protection circuitry remains the same. The VTube will step down the voltage when you try to push it too hard. For example, if you try to run that dual coil at 5 volts, it will step the load down to the safest level (4v in my test).
It’s not a bad implementation, but it does annoy me that it’s not telling me what it’s up to.
Loaded voltage output is also a little off at times. When the battery is running on a full charge, it holds the loaded (with the cartomizer attached) voltage pretty close, maybe lower by .1v or so.
However, when the battery gets low on juice, the VTube has a hard time holding that voltage. Drops may be closer to .3v or more, which is fairly significant. It seems to me more an issue of the battery cutoff being set too low than anything else.
Performance is naturally relative when you’re talking variable voltage. My opinion is that it doesn’t do so good with dual coil cartomizers as I prefer them closer to 5v which exceeds the amperage limit of the device.
It does fine on higher resistance gear. I run 2Ω cartos around 4v which is a little aggressive, but does fine. Anything 3Ω or above can go all the way up to the 6v max output of the device with no complaints.
Unless you’re a die-hard dual coil fanatic (and you like ’em hot!) the VTube is a competent performer.
Too Long; Didn’t Read
Apollo rolled out it’s exclusive new VTube in stainless steel. Lavatube fans will take notice of the new, elegant design. The adjustable center pin is a clever feature, and the built-in eGo adapter is almost clever if it worked. A quick adapter fix allows the unit to look damn good sporting eGo specific cartomizers. The circuitry is the same as the original Lavatube, which is competent in most situations. You can pick one up at Apollo.
- Solid steel construction
- Adjusting center pin
- Attractive design
- eGo cartomizers look great (adapter required)
- Adapter required for eGo cartomizers
- No indication of protection circuitry activation
- Voltage drops with low battery
- 2.5 am circuit
Product: Stainless Steel VTube
Available from: Apollo Electronic Cigarettes
Price: $104.95 (70.95 for chrome model)
Battery: 18650 or 18350 (regular or mini)
Disclosure: This device was provided for review by Apollo. I feature affiliate links for Apollo Electronic Cigarettes
digibomb(05/28/12 - 5:24 pm)
I can see the finger prints in the pics ;) J live the drip well similliar to a Produgy v3.
I wonder though, for the cost of these vv mods is it worth anymore considering from what I've heard and seen about the eGo C Twist.
Steve K(05/28/12 - 5:59 pm)
You should see the grill I bought yesterday :) Stainless loves fingerprints, and therefore I have no business having it. Anyway, I think that the eGo-C Twist and stuff like the Lavatube each have their place. The Twist is a more simple device that performs great, while these bigger devices have more granular control and a wider range, plus the longer battery life you get with a big battery.
Errol(05/28/12 - 6:16 pm)
The eGo C Twist is a great little unit for the price and will probably serve the average vapor as well as anything they could buy for low demand vaping and it does appear to be 2.5amp, same as the V1 LT. That being said there's a lot to be said for VV mods where you can have spare batteries and an easier volt changing method.
I have some Lavatubes and they have been bullet proof for me but if I were just starting out I would take a close look at the "Ovale V8 Incremental VV Body" for about the same price as the Twist. It has just about every thing one could need in a VV unit and no voltage drop with two 18350 batteries though as with any 2.5amp unit it isn't going to vape LR DC cartos. :) http://www.discountvapers.com/ovale-v8-incrementa…
Steve K(05/28/12 - 9:27 pm)
Interesting, I definitely think that one will attract a different vaper than an eGo-C or even the Lavatube just because of the form factor.
Errol(05/29/12 - 5:48 pm)
It used to be that the most reasonable starting point for a beginner wanting to try a VV unit was the MadVapes VV Box Mod for a reasonable priced and dependable though homely and a nuisance to adjust the voltage it was a great beginners tool.
Given the new arrivals that choice has been expanded in the same price range, lightweight, attractive, comfortable in the hand, long battery life and very easy to adjust the voltage, at least on the VariStack and Ovali V8. New units to give the beginners a feel for VV units without busting the bank and I personally feel the Ovali V8 leads the pack with the Twist in a close second.
Errol(05/29/12 - 6:13 pm)
One final thought for the day, for the beginner on a tight budget this close out sale on the VariStack for $20 might be of interest. It remains one of my favorite low demand PVs due to it's comfort and convenience. http://www.electronicstix.com/VariStack-Variable-…
Steve K(05/29/12 - 6:15 pm)
Several good choices there. You're getting to be a regular ecig sommelier :)
Errol(05/30/12 - 2:51 pm)
I like that "sommelier is a trained and knowledgeable E-Cig professional". :)
Street Trash(05/30/12 - 11:19 pm)
I have a chrome "lava tube" purchased locally at Salt Lake Vapors. It has ego threads built in, and has no trouble at all fitting, and firing ego attys. I wonder why the stainless version differs?
Steve K(05/31/12 - 5:59 am)
I'm not sure, it's the tiniest bit too short, maybe the difference in materials or something.
Patti(10/15/12 - 11:05 am)
I purchased (preorder) the SS Apollo vtube when they first announced they were being built. I loved it however in a rather short period of time it became a pretty knick knack. The unit still works, but the fire button no longer does making it worthless. Color me sad, but I can't see risking that much $ on the possibility it could happen again.