You ever notice all the variable voltage electronic cigarettes these days tend to be tube shaped? From the ProVari and Lavatube to the smaller eGos, all the same shape. The new Variable Voltage Gripper by Smoktech aims to change all that. Boasting more of a box-like shape, the vari-volt device doesn’t much bear resemblance to the traditional mainstays, nor even the original Gripper. On paper, the Gripper checks all the boxes (no pun intended), but does it deliver?
What’s in the Box
The variable voltage Smoktech Gripper is available at MadVapes and comes both ala carte and as a starter kit. Opt for the starter kit version and you’ll get:
- 1 Variable Voltage Gripper
- 2 18650 IMR batteries
- 2 – 3.5ml dual coil carto tanks with 1.5 ohm dual coil cartomizers
- 2 Additional 1.5 ohm dual coil cartomizers
- 1 Battery charger
- 1 Drip tip
The Gripper Vari-Volt’s Design
As I alluded to in the intro, this gripper is neither a tube, nor does it resemble the original gripper with its recessed cartomizer section. This model is also larger since it is home to a battery twice the size. This version is more like, for lack of a better description, a box mod.
The device isn’t quite boxy, the corners and sides are rounded, and there is the finger grips as well. The side opposite the grip also features a concave slope to provide a better hand hold.
The whole affair is constructed of ABS plastic and has that rubberized finish to make it feel a little more comfortable as well. In general, I find the Gripper reminiscent of the Boge Revolution V2.
A seam runs around the parameter of the whole body as a result of the device’s two-piece assembly. At the top is a flush mounted 510 connector mounted to the left had side as you view the ecig from the front. To the right on the top is a large, rounded activation button.
I did find the button had a habit of sticking that seemed to progress the more I used it. A quick second press of the button would disengage it. I found that I could eliminate the sticking for a time by firmly squeezing the front and back halves together, apparently the seam widened a little with use causing the stick.
While I haven’t tried it, I’m just going to assume dripping isn’t a good idea with this model. Overdripping would surely result in liquid running into the seam and the internal components of the VV Gripper.
Moving along to the interesting part of the device now. The front features a small LCD screen and a trio of buttons. Two buttons are for adjusting the voltage. The third is a multi-function button that activates the five-click on/off feature and the display (more on this stuff in a bit).
The multi-function button and screen are illuminated with a blue back light.
The back of the device features a very large circular safety vent. The vent reminds me of a speaker, I keep expecting this thing to beep when I have e-mail or something.
Finally, the bottom of the device features a sliding battery door for the IMR 18650 battery that powers this device. A nice feature is that the door is captive, so no need to worry about the door going missing (I’m lookin’ at you, Boge Revolution).
Using the Variable Voltage Gripper
While we’re on the subject of batteries… The Gripper is very forgiving in terms of batteries. I don’t suggest using protected Lithium batteries, stick with IMRs because they can handle bigger loads. However, which type of IMR doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue. I had no problems using either flat-top or button-top batteries.
Here’s a quirk related to batteries. When you replace the battery, it basically resets the unit. The display will flash to indicate a new battery is ready to go, but the device will be off.
There appears to be a delay before the Gripper will respond to the five clicks to turn it back on. For a while I thought mine was broken because it wouldn’t turn on. Just be patient, wait a few seconds before giving it the five clicks to start things up.
Which brings me to another oddity. You’d better be quick. The power button has to be pressed rapidly, much faster than any other electronic cigarette I’ve seen with a multi-click on/off feature.
Now that you’ve managed to turn the thing on, press the power/display button to view the system information. The display will first show the resistance of the attached cartomizer then switch to the current battery charge in volts. I really like the simplicty of this design.
Adjusting the voltage is as simple as can be as well using the + and 1 buttons doesn’t get much easier. The unit ranges from 3.0 to 6.0v in .1 volt increments. If you pass 3.0 or 6.0 it will wrap around (from 6 to 3 and 3 to 6).
The question is how true is the Gripper to those voltage settings. The unit is billed as having a 4 amp circuit, higher than pretty much anything out there, including the ProVari.
If this doesn’t mean much to you, that’s OK. Basically, the one use I’ve found for this is the ability to push dual coil cartomizers at voltages above 4.0v. Dual coils are odd birds in that they vape like freight trains between 4 and 6volts. Lower amp devices simply can’t deliver enough current for that kind of insane power.
Naturally, I was excited about the prospect and loaded up a dual coil tank. I cranked the voltage up to 5 and at first blush, it seemed to perform remarkably well, better than the devices I’ve tried with 2.5amp capacity.
To see what it was doing, I put an inline voltage meter in place to see the voltage it was outputing with the cartomizer in place. Playing around with the meter I found something interesting. The Gripper uses pulse regulation at voltages lower than the current battery’s charge, but boosts the voltage when it’s above the battery level. Apparently, it uses two different circuits to regulate voltage instead of a boost/buck circuit like the ProVari.
The results of the dual cartomizer test were sadly a little bit of a letdown. I found that set at 5v, the device was delivering 4.5v to the cartomizer. In fact, every setting from 4.5v to 6v was delivering 4.5v. For the record, a 3 ohm atomizer ran at 6v without issue.
It seems, therefore, that there is some sort of hardcoded limit that restricts the amperage to 3A. Slightly disappointing but not the end of the world. The vapor at 4.5v was still very good, and 3A is still more power than most other devices in this price range can deliver.
I just wish these things would stop lying to me. If the device is limiting the current, do something to let me know. I know it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but it makes me feel better.
The second test for this device was how consistant was its power output as the battery drained. Very few inexpensive variable voltage e-cigarettes, save for the eGo Twist do a good job with this. Most devices deliver reduced voltage as the battery’s charge wains.
Sadly, this device appears to be the same as most others in this regard. Starting around 3.9v the voltage tends to drop below the set 4.5 I had going. Once the voltage gets to 3.7 and below, things start to get pretty anemic, just like the others.
This doesn’t make the device bad since it’s comparable to other devices like the Lavatube.
Too Long; Didn’t Read
The Variable Voltage Gripper departs from the original gripper quite a bit. The device boasts a nice display, easy navigation and a 4 amp circuit, but in practice delivers around 3a. Better than the lavatube but not quite the blockbuster it could have been, though the Lavatube and its variants have the Gripper beat from a sturdiness angle. If you’re looking for something a little different than your average variable voltage tube that won’t empty your pockets, this might fight the bill. You can grab one from MadVapes.
- Better than average performance
- Easy control
- Good looking display
- Comfortable Grip
- A little unusual
- Single battery
- Can use button or flat-top IMR batteries
- Not as pocketable as the original
- Plastic construction
- Button occasionally sticks
- Limited to 3A despite being advertised at 4A
- Voltage drops as battery drains
Product name: Variable Volt Gripper
Available from: MadVapes
Price: $59 (device only) $99 (full kit)
Voltage: 3.0 to 6.0 in .1v increments
Amperage: 4A (advertised, 3A in practice)
Disclosure: I feature affiliate links for MadVapes