Vaping Diaries #211: Ahlusion Review IX

It’s Ahlusion review time, once again. This time around, I vaped a trio of juices from this outstanding e-liquid company. Two of them were naturally-extracted tobacco e-liquids rounded out by sweet flavors. The other featured extracted tea accompanied by vanilla. One of the juices floored me after a month of steeping, while I enjoyed the others, but didn’t love them as much as other Ahlusion juices I’ve had in the past. Here are my tasting notes on Shipwreck, Caramel Wild Wood, and Vanilla Black Tea.

Shipwreck: This is one of the most unique naturally-extracted tobacco juices I’ve tried, but it’s not among my favorites from Ahlusion. That said, it’s unique flavor is something I crave every now and then. Shipwreck features a light tobacco base accompanied by coconut and lime. In some ways, the tobacco and coconut combine for a richness that reminds me a bit of Five Pawns’ Castle Long. Of course Castle Long doesn’t feature tobacco, so they’re distinctly different juices. The lime rounds out the blend nicely, giving Shipwreck a citrus top note. The juice is lightly sweet (my personal preference) and the tobacco is, of course, great. Compared to the tobacco e-liquids I see at most retail shops, Shipwreck is a superior juice. Compared to the many outstanding tobacco juices Ahlusion offers, Shipwreck is really enjoyable, but not among my favorites.

Juice Specs: 6mg nicotine, 50/50 PG/VG

Caramel Wild Wood: My favorite e-liquid in this Ahlusion review, Caramel Wild Wood features a medium tobacco base accompanied by a rich caramel flavor. Out of the mail, the caramel was too strong for me; it’s a great flavor that reminded me of Ahlusion’s Gold Member, but I wanted more tobacco out of the juice. After a month of steeping…wow. The tobacco becomes more prominent and the blend is outstanding. There are a lot of caramel tobacco e-liquids on the market, but few of them are in the same league as Caramel Wild Wood. The tobacco is fantastic — more distinct (to my palette) than Ahlusion’s House Blend and Tree River Blend tobaccos — and the caramel is marvelous. This is a juice that I will definitely order again in the future and only in big bottles. If you’re a tobacco fan with a sweet tooth then you’ll love Caramel Wild Wood.

Juice Specs: 6mg nicotine, 50/50 PG/VG

Vanilla Black Tea: This Ahlusion juice is a mix of extracted black tea flavor and the company’s excellent vanilla. On paper, it seemed like a juice I would love. In real life, it’s something I merely liked. Initially, the vanilla was much stronger than what I was hoping for. After a month of steeping, the sweetness backed off and the tea was more pronounced, but still not as much as I’d like. The black tea flavor is excellent — rich and slightly bitter (in that pleasant way). I wanted much more of the black tea flavor out of this juice. Vanilla Black Tea is certainly a very good juice and much better than most of the tea e-liquids on the market, but the balance didn’t quite work for me. I would order this juice again, but make a request to go heavy on the black tea and light on the vanilla.

Juice Specs: 6mg nicotine, 50/50 PG/VG

Ahlusion Caramel Wild Wood Review

Steeping and Review Notes (Updated December 29, 2013)
On the advice of Wlad from Ahlusion, I’ve been trying a new steeping method as of December 27, 2012. When the e-liquids arrive, I leave them uncapped for five minutes. Previously, I left them uncapped for about two days. After the liquids are given a few minutes to oxidize, the caps are put back on.

RPad.TV e-liquid reviews focus on the flavor of the e-liquids, since throat hit and vapor production can be altered by the PG/VG ratio and nicotine level selected. Each juice is vaped over a period of days in a bottom-coil silica atomizer (The Russian and Aqua), various rebuildable dripping atomizers, and a clearomizer.

Vaping Diaries #209: Angelcigs Aqua Clone Review

The Aqua by Footoon from UVO System is one of my favorite atomizers on the market. It’s something I vape on every day and it’s normal for me to have two Aquas at the ready. Since I was mostly impressed with Angelcigs’ Kayfun 3.1 clone, I was curious to see how the Angelcigs’ Aqua clone would compare to the real deal. While it does offer a comparable vape, the Angelcigs Aqua clone’s build quality is rough and it’s prone to leaking.

What’s in the Kit: The Angelcigs Aqua clone comes with the atomizer, a matching drip dip, spare o-rings, and two pre-made coils. The kit is complete and gives newcomers everything they need to start vaping. Experienced vapers will , of course, trash the pre-made coils in favor of their own. The box notes that the product comes with two drip tips and a hybrid adapter for the Origin mod; only one drip tip was included and there wasn’t a hybrid adapter in the box I received. This looks like a case of the company copying the text from the original manufacturer without checking.

Design: Like the original, the Angelcigs Aqua clone is a bottom-coil silica atomizer that’s great for dual-coil setups. It’s not a 1:1 replica, but it’s close. The o-ring positioning is a bit off. The differences in design and workmanship impact performance (more on that later). Aesthetically, the Angelcigs Aqua clone can pass for the authentic model when viewed from afar, but when you see it up close it’s fairly easy to tell that it’s a copy.

Build Quality: While I was generally impressed with the build quality of the Angelcigs Kayfun 3.1 clone (for the price), I found the Angelcigs Aqua clone to be poorly made. The threads on this atomizer are very, very rough. You hear and feel the metal-on-metal grinding whenever you unscrew the atomizer. The tolerances are relatively low too, giving the atomizer a loose feel. Compare that to the authentic model, where everything fits together perfectly and the threads are smooth.

The o-ring material is different and the placement is slightly off. When you combine that with the poor threading, the Angelcigs Aqua clone doesn’t feel nearly as secure as the original. For a complex atomizer like the Aqua, precision workmanship is vital for a great vaping experience. I rarely have leaking issues with the real Aqua and when I do, it’s almost always my fault. With the Angelcigs Aqua clone, I experienced a lot more leaking due to the atomizer’s inferior workmanship and manufacturing shortcuts.

Performance: On a more positive note, the Angelcigs Aqua clone produces a vape that’s similar to what the real deal offers. That wasn’t surprising, since the design is straight-up copied. That being said, it’s not a precision copy. This replica can be a bit more finicky than the authentic model. You have to be more careful with your builds and how you screw the atomizer together in order to compensate for the inferior workmanship. Getting a great vape out of a real Aqua is fairly mindless, while a bit more care is required to get the same experience out of the Angelcigs Aqua clone.

Angelcigs Aqua Clone Review

Verdict: Considering the positive experience I had with the Angelcigs Kayfun 3.1 clone, my experience with the Angelcigs Aqua clone was disappointing. The build quality and construction aren’t very good, the unit is prone to leaking, and it just feels cheap. The good news is that it only costs $22, while an authentic Aqua costs around $175 and the well-regarded Hcigar Aqua clone costs around $40.

If you’re curious about what the Aqua offers then the Angelcigs Aqua clone is an inexpensive way to dip your toe in the water and see what all the fuss is about. If you dig it, then you can either buy an authentic model or a superior clone. If you’re looking for an identical experience to the Aqua for a fraction of the price then you’ll want to look elsewhere. While the Angelcigs Aqua clone is very cheap, its build quality and workmanship are also cheap.

Random Thoughts on Godzilla 2014

Last night I attended a screening of Godzilla. Here are some random and spoiler-free thoughts on the movie.

Godzilla 2014 Movie Review

Growing up as an Asian-American kid in New York, Godzilla was one of my role models. The Toho monster was pretty much the coolest thing on television. I’ve enjoyed the evolution of Godzilla over the years…until that crap Matthew Broderick movie happened. It left me thinking, “This is why white people Americans should never make a Godzilla movie.” When I first heard about Godzilla 2014, I was excited and scared. A Godzilla film with a big Hollywood budget and modern special effects was tantalizing…but would American moviemakers get it right this time? Last night I was absolutely thrilled by Godzilla 2014. The movie is 123 minutes of brilliant special effects, breathtaking monster battles, epic destruction, and surprisingly good acting.

First thing’s first — the CGI in Godzilla 2014 is some of the best I’ve ever seen. The monsters and collateral damage are stunning. I saw the movie in IMAX 3D and while the 3D didn’t do much for me, I was beyond happy that I witnessed it on an IMAX screen accompanied by killer sound. If you’re on the fence about Godzilla 2014, I highly recommend giving it a shot in theaters. Even if you don’t end up liking it as a film, I guarantee that you’ll be dazzled by the CGI (appreciate of giant monsters is required, naturally).

As for the film itself, it delivered everything I want from a Godzilla movie and more. The battles are appropriately epic and it was great fun watching the kaiju destroy various parts of the world. While I was sad that my favorite bar in the universe got trampled on, I was giddy that Waikiki was destroyed. That place is awful — like the dullest parts of Irvine and Las Vegas mashed up. It was interesting to see that the movie followed the trend of visiting locations around the world in order to appeal to a broader audience. In this movie, you’ll get to go to Japan (duh), the Philippines, Hawaii, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. Perhaps some European cities will be demolished in Godzilla 2016 (I’m hoping for Helsinki).

Godzilla 2014 movie review

The latest incarnation of Godzilla is the biggest yet, at a shade over 100 meters tall. While some longtime fans of the Japanese movies believe that this Godzilla is “fat,” I loved the way he looked. It’s a modern and more realistic take on the monster. He looks believable and familiar at the same time. Visually, it made the battles and destruction more impactful. Through advancements in filmmaking, the directors and CGI crews were able to create a breathtaking sense of scale.

The element of Godzilla 2014 that surprised me the most were the humans. Most Godzilla movies go something like this:

Boring human stuff, boring human stuff, AWESOME MONSTER FIGHT!!! Boring human stuff, boring human stuff, AWESOME MONSTER FIGHT!!! Boring human stuff.

One of the most impressive things about Godzilla 2014 is that a lot of the human stuff is really good. Sure, there are some overly dramatic scenes and a few instances of ridiculous anthropomorphism, but a good chunk of the story is very good. There were a few moments where I was so caught up in the drama that I forgot I was at the theater primarily for glorious monster battles.

That isn’t to say that all the acting was great and all the story elements were winners. The first half of the movie was far better than the second half as far as plot goes. Godzilla 2014 is initially driven by the excellent Bryan Cranston. He brings so much to the film. You feel his sense of loss, the pressure he feels for being viewed as a conspiracy nut, and how empty his life has become. The second half of the film is driven by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass) and while he does have pretty blue eyes, they’re no substitute for the acting chops that Cranston brought to the film. Elizabeth Olsen is just hot. I melted a bit every time she was onscreen. Ken Watanabe was decent, but I’m still waiting for him to have a performance as great as the one he pulled off in The Last Samurai.

Really though, the human parts of the movie are all about context. As I enjoyed the human scenes in Godzilla 2014, I couldn’t help but think about Pacific Rim. When I reviewed the movie last year, only some of its human elements bothered me. Since it’s been on cable rotation, Pacific Rim seems dumber and dumber each time I watch it (the Honest Trailer didn’t help). Obviously some suspension of disbelief is required with Godzilla 2014, but it doesn’t have the nonsensical human elements of Pacific Rim that make it hard to rewatch (the robot vs. kaiju battles are still awesome). More importantly, the actors and writing in Godzilla 2014 are just superior to what Pacific Rim served up.

Godzilla 2014 Movie Review

A few random bits:

  • There were times when I wanted to call the movie Kick-Ass, The Last Samurai, and the Hottest Olsen Sibling Watch Godzilla Destroy Stuff.
  • Kick-Ass’ character’s name is Ford. I found that a bit distracting. There were times I wondered, “Is his middle name Pinto?” and, “Why didn’t his father name him after a better car company?”
  • I found every scene with Sally Hawkins completely distracting. The way her hair and makeup were done, she looked like a human version of Sarah from Team America. That was just weird.

At the end of the night, I left the theater as the Asian-American kid that gleefully watched Godzilla movies on a black-and-white television in the kitchen. That’s to say that I very much enjoyed Godzilla 2014. It left me more than satisfied, relieved that American moviemakers finally got it right, and anxious for a sequel. The special effects were better than I dreamed they would be and in between the glorious monster skirmishes, there’s some nice acting (mostly Bryan Cranston) and writing. If you find monster battles and wanton destruction the least bit entertaining then you’ll absolutely love Godzilla 2014.

[For another take on Godzilla 2014, be sure to check out PaulSemel.com’s review.]

Kingston HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset Review

Millions of consumers know Kingston for its memory products. Most of you have probably purchased PC RAM or a memory card from the company. Kingston is trying to make a name for itself in the gaming world and one of the company’s latest gaming-focused products is the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset. I’ve been using a pair for the last few weeks and while it’s not the best gaming headset I’ve used, the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset offers a lot for a sub-$100 set of cans.

What’s in the Box: A rebranded version of the QPad QH-90, the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset comes with the unit, two sets of ear pads (one leatherette, one velour), a detachable microphone, an audio control box, and a carrying pouch. The packing and presentation are handled in a classy fashion — much more elaborate than what you see with most competing headsets in this price range.

Construction and Build Quality: The HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset’s body is made primarily from aluminum. The aluminum construction allows the headset to be strong and light. The unit is very well made, with build quality that surpasses many competitors in the sub-$100 price range. Many European gamers I know rave about QPad’s build quality, but the brand is uncommon in America, so I haven’t had any experience with the company’s headsets. After using the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset, I see what all the fuss is about. It “feels” more expensive than a $99 headset.

The one minor complaint I had with the unit’s construction was with the rubber cover for the microphone port. It comes off completely from the headset and I can see many gamers eventually losing it. It’s not a big deal at all, just a tiny annoyance.

Comfort: The most outstanding feature of the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset is its comfort. You can wear these babies comfortably for hours and hours. The combination of a light frame and great padding (headband and ear cups) works fabulously. I’ve worn this headset for several three-hour sessions and didn’t feel any stress on my ears. After using it for six hours straight, the strain was minimal. The velour pads are more comfortable, as long as you don’t sweat a lot or use this headset in a hot room. While I generally abhor leatherette (made from the menacing Naugasaurus Rex), it was my preferred choice; it was more comfortable for longer play sessions and the sound it shaped was a little bit better than what the velour cups produced.

Kingston HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset Review Front

Sound Quality: To help break the headphones in, I left the headset on for a little more than two days playing a looped playlist. After the break-in period, I was able to get a better idea of the headset’s sound production. Mid-range tones are the strength of the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset. The bass is good, but not overly emphasized (see Beats by Dre). The highs could have been better. Generally, I preferred the leatherette ear cups, as they helped produce a more detailed sound than what the velour cups offered.

For sound quality, it really depends on the application. Obviously this set is meant primarily for gamers, so in that respect I was happy with the output. This headset worked quite well with the various PC and console games I played. While it doesn’t give you as much separation as a 5.1 or 7.1 gaming headset, the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset does a very good job with positional audio. I had no problems in shooters or stealth-action games with this unit. Directional sound was reasonably reproduced.

The headset works well for most movies too, though for action movies you’ll want to turn up the bass on the EQ. For music, I found the headset lacking, though this is a subjective area. I prefer a flat response for listening to music (see Etymotic) and wasn’t pleased by how the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset performed. The lackluster highs were more obvious with music than other applications. EQ can help compensate, but it can be tricky to get great musical sound out of the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset. This wasn’t a big deal to me, as it’s a gaming headset first and foremost.

Microphone: The mic quality is good, but shy of great. Most of the people I played online games with said that I sounded clear and the voice reproduction was solid. There were a few instances when my online gaming companions said that my voice had a little bit of echo or some tinniness, but those instances were infrequent and there were other variables that could have caused those problems.

For other reference points, I used the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset for an hour of Skype calls. In these cases, the people I chatted with said that I sounded good. None of the friends I spoke with reported any echo or tinniness.

The microphone isn’t noise-canceling, so it will pick up some background noise in busy environments. Overall, the voice production of the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset is very good. I wouldn’t use it to record a podcast or anything, but for the price range and what it’s meant for, this headset delivers.

Kingston HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset Review Microphone

Conclusion: The Kingston HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset offers a lot for a sub-$100 unit. I was impressed by the build quality and comfort. The sound quality was good for gaming, but not the best for music. The microphone was solid too. In this space, I’d also consider the Razer Kraken 7.1. It’s not as comfortable as the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset, it’s made primarily from plastic, and the default balance is ridiculously bass heavy, but it offers better sound separation in the same price range. If sound separation isn’t a big priority for you then you’ll probably appreciate the aluminum construction, great comfort, and solid audio quality of the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset.

Vaping Diaries #208: Vapor Jam Review

Vapor Jam is an e-liquid company that was started by a gentleman that worked as an executive chef for two luxury hotels. Prior to his career as a chef, the owner was a touring rock-and-roll musician. He combined his passions and expertise to form Vapor Jam. The company’s line of “Rockin’ Flavors” features e-liquids with names like Stairway to Vapin, Beatle Juice, and Bohemian Raspberry. As a fan of rock and puns, these flavors caught my attention.

Several months ago, I vaped three Vapor Jam e-liquids: Comfortably Plum, One Louder, and Stairway to Vapin. I appreciated the distinctness of these flavors and it was apparent from the juices’ layers that they were made by someone with a culinary background. The juices vaped cleanly and are suitable for all kinds of atomizers.

Unusually, these juices are available at nicotine levels of 0mg, 12mg, 18mg, and 24mg. For sub-ohm vapers that are used to vaping 3mg and 6mg e-liquids (i.e. SoCal vapers), these Vapor Jam juices might pack too much of a nicotine punch. That’s unfortunate, because vapers that prefer lower nicotine levels will miss out on some unique juice. On a positive note, Vapor Jam e-liquids are inexpensive at $3.99 for 10ml bottle and $9.99 for a 30ml bottle. As for the flavors themselves, here are my tasting notes.

Comfortably Plum: As you’ve probably figured out from this juice’s name, plum is the primary flavor of this e-liquid. The fruit is complemented by honey and vanilla notes. The flavors come together marvelously, especially for vapers that appreciate subtle background notes. Plum is a fairly uncommon flavor and I think Vapor Jam rocked (get it?!?) this juice. It’s a great blend of sweet, sour, and tangy. While the plum makes this juice stand out, the layered taste made it my favorite of the three juices covered in this review.

Juice Specs: 12mg nicotine, 0/100 PG/VG

One Louder: There are a ton of coffee juices on the market, but I haven’t come across too many Irish coffee e-liquids. That’s exactly what One Louder is — a unique concoction of coffee and whiskey, with a touch of nuttiness. I found the coffee flavor to be very good, but just shy of great (though to be fair, I’m a total coffee nerd and what I think of as coffee flavor is different from what most people expect). Although the whiskey and nut notes are background players, they really make this juice stand out; these flavors give One Louder layers and a nice kick. If you’re a fan of Irish coffee then you should definitely give this Vapor Jam juice a shot. Although I liked Comfortably Plum a little bit better, I would certainly pick up One Louder again.

Juice Specs: 12mg nicotine, 0/100 PG/VG

Stairway to Vapin: While I really enjoyed the first two Vapor Jam e-liquids covered in this review, I wasn’t as impressed with Stairway to Vapin. It’s certainly a unique tobacco juice, with a touch of walnut that helps it stand out from most other e-liquids made with tobacco absolute. The tobacco absolute used in this juice is an original blend, not the common Bulgarian mix many tobacco juices use. It’s definitely one of the better ones I’ve tried, but it’s still tobacco absolute. As a huge fan of juices made with naturally-extracted tobacco, the tobacco flavor of this juice just doesn’t compare. While I appreciate that Vapor Jam did something original with this juice and it’s not bad by any means, I greatly prefer tobacco e-liquids made with naturally-extracted tobacco.

Juice Specs: 12mg nicotine, 0/100 PG/VG

Vapor Jam Review Comfortably Plum

Steeping and Review Notes (Updated December 29, 2013)
On the advice of Wlad from Ahlusion, I’ve been trying a new steeping method as of December 27, 2012. When the e-liquids arrive, I leave them uncapped for five minutes. Previously, I left them uncapped for about two days. After the liquids are given a few minutes to oxidize, the caps are put back on.

RPad.TV e-liquid reviews focus on the flavor of the e-liquids, since throat hit and vapor production can be altered by the PG/VG ratio and nicotine level selected. Each juice is vaped over a period of days in a bottom-coil silica atomizer (The Russian and Aqua), various rebuildable dripping atomizers, and a clearomizer.

Vaping Diaries #206: Surefire Vapor Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod Review

Surefire Vapor has been cranking out top-quality American mods since 2013. As a fan of made-in-the-USA mechanical mods, I’ve always been a supporter of the company, but its initial mod wasn’t my cup of tea (hated the “hex nut” look). Since its start, Surefire Vapor has refined and revised its designs. One of its latest devices is the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod. It’s a handsome mechanical mod that features fine craftsmanship and strong performance, but comes at a premium price.

Build Quality and Construction: The Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod is made from a fairly thick cut of brass. It uses copper negative and positive contacts. The brass has a finish that’s being labeled as “dusted,” but most vapers will see it as brushed brass. Whatever the label, the finish is well done. As far as materials go, Surefire Vapor did a nice job with this mod.

The workmanship is high quality too. The threads on all of the tubes are very, very smooth. The knurling on the top and bottom caps is well done. The design of the positive pin is especially impressive. Unlike many telescoping pins on the market, the pin in the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod has tight action and a firmly secure feel. This is great for two reasons — the tight machining helps with conductivity and you don’t have to worry about the pin coming loose and falling out when the mod doesn’t have a battery in it.

Design and Ergonomics: Since then end of 2013, several mod makers have chosen to go with minimalistic designs, releasing comparatively short devices. The Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod is not one of those devices. It’s big, bold, and beautiful. Compared to some of the minimalist mods in my collection, the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod is up to an inch taller in 18650 mode. While I didn’t mind the size at all, vapers that prefer shorter mods will want to skip this one.

Taking a step back, this is a modular device that comes with three main tubes. It can be configured to accept 18350 up to 18650 batteries.

Aesthetically, the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod is best described as handsome. Branding is blessedly restrained, with the lion logo on the main tube, the Surefire Vapor logo on the firing button, and the text “Made in the USA” also on the firing button. There are a number of special editions of this mod with additional engraving, such as the #IMPROOF and #LONGLIVETHEKING models. No matter the edition, the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod is a classy device that, in my opinion, is much better looking than the original King Mod.

As far as the caps go, I mentioned in the previous section that I was very impressed by the mod’s positive pin. It’s easy to adjust and very secure. The bottom cap is nicely designed too. The button is recessed (which I prefer) and it has a lock ring (which can be a lifesaver). The firing button has a short throw and medium-light feel.

Performance: I was surprised by how hard the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod hit. I was expecting good performance and relatively low voltage drop due to its brass body and copper pins, but my expectations were exceeded. Generally speaking, modular-tube mods have the potential for more voltage drop than single-tube mods (my personal preference); every time you add a junction, you have more potential for voltage loss. This potential voltage loss can be limited through deft engineering and workmanship, and that’s what Surefire Vapor delivered with this mod.

The mod’s copper contacts are highly conductive, though silver is a more conductive metal. Copper also tarnishes faster than silver and is a bit harder to maintain. To ensure optimum performance with this mod, regular contact maintenance is necessary.

Despite its modular design, the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod is a very strong performer. Again, a brass body and copper contacts are a great combo, but this mod’s performance surprised me a bit and exceeded my expectations. While there are copper mods with silver-plated contacts that hit harder, most vapers will be content with the solid power this mods offers. It hits as hard as some, but certainly not all, of the copper mods in my collection.

Surefire Vapor Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod

Verdict: The Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod is one of the best devices Surefire Vapor has made. It looks great, the craftsmanship is very good, and it hits hard. The only issue I had with it was its price. It’s available for $230 through authorized Surefire Vapor resellers and if you want silver-plated contacts then you’ll have to pay extra. There are many competing mods that cost around $200 and come with silver-plated contacts as a standard feature.

While I was very happy using the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod and certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a quality made-in-the-USA mechanical mod, the recommendation comes with a caveat. It’s a great mod that’s slightly overpriced.

[Special thanks to The Vape Source for letting Johann and me film there!]

Vaping Diaries #205: Bay City Vapor XXIX Review

In a very short period of time, Bay City Vapor has become one of my favorite mod makers. The company’s SurfRider mod was one of my favorite vaping devices of 2013. A couple of months ago, I received the Bay City Vapor XXIX. It features everything that I loved about the SurfRider, one minor change, and beautiful C101 copper. Best of all, it’s made right here in the USA. Let’s take a closer look at killer copper mod.

Build Quality and Construction: The Bay City Vapor XXIX features excellent build quality and materials. As I mentioned in the intro, it’s made from C101 copper. This is an important distinction, as many copper mods are made from lower grades of copper. Using top-quality copper helps the Bay City Vapor XXIX hit harder and last longer than many of its competitors.

Many vaping enthusiasts are aware that performance isn’t based on materials alone. Craftsmanship is an important performance factor and it’s another area where the Bay City Vapor XXIX excels. The threads are well made and engineered wonderfully; you’ll notice the smoothness when you unscrew the mod and appreciate the tight tolerances when you feel its power.

Design and Ergonomics: Fans of minimalistic mods will love the Bay City Vapor XXIX. Physically, it’s a very compact device. The 18650 model I’ve been using is nearly an inch shorter than many of my other 18650 mods.

Aesthetically, the Bay City Vapor XXIX is subtle. It has a small XXIX logo at the bottom of the tube and the Bay City Vapor logo on the bottom cap. If you like flashy mods with lots of knurling or plenty of intricate engravings then this device isn’t for you. If you lean towards subtle and classily understated designs then you’ll dig the looks of the Bay City Vapor XXIX.

The most unique feature of this mod is its hybrid-style top-cap. It’s a smart design that helps keep the mod compact and gives it awesome performance. There’s no 510 connection, as with the vast majority of mods on the market. Instead, the top cap screws directly onto the atomizer, allowing the atty to connect directly to the battery. It’s just a clever design that works well on several levels.

The original SurfRider and XXIX mods had some tricky fits with certain battery and atomizer combinations. One difference between the SurfRider I reviewed and the XXIX I reviewed is an updated switch. The bottom button and firing pad have been updated to accommodate a wider variety of atomizer and battery combos. For my part, I didn’t experience any incompatibilities using Samsung INR 18650 20-R and Sony VTC3 batteries with The Russian, Kayfun 3.1, Aqua, and several dripping atomizers.

The only aspect of the Bay City Vapor XXIX I didn’t love was its button feel, which is a totally subjective area. I prefer buttons with a short throw and light feel. While the firing button definitely has a short throw, the spring is a little stiff for my liking. It loosens up over time, but I still wanted something a bit lighter. Thankfully, the company will be offering magnet upgrades for people that want to go that route. I’m hoping that the magnets will address the one facet of the mod that I merely liked.

Performance: The highly conductive C101 copper body, excellent construction, and hybrid-style top-cap add up for stellar performance. I used the Bay City Vapor XXIX with atomizers built from 0.5-ohms to 1.2-ohms and experience zero voltage drop. That’s not a typo — zero voltage drop. If high performance matters to you then you should definitely consider this mod. It’s one of the best performing devices you can buy.

Bay City Vapor XXIX Review

Verdict: The Bay City Vapor XXIX is simply one of the finest copper mods on the market. It hits hard, is extremely well made, and has beautifully understated looks. While design is subjective, performance and workmanship are not. As far as those two categories go, Bay City Vapor has knocked it out of the park.

The single-tube version of the Bay City Vapor XXIX was originally available for a direct-from-manufacturer price of $160. The company is moving to a retail model, so expect to pay a little more at brick-and-mortar and online stores. While I don’t expect the mod to cost too much more, I’m certain that the Bay City Vapor XXIX will be a superior value to competing mods that cost $200 or more. My recommendation: if you see one, snatch it up quickly!

Vaping Diaries #203: Vapor Liq Review and Unboxing

It seems like a new e-liquid subscription service pops up every other week. Like so many other areas of vaping, the space is getting highly competitive. One of the newest juice subscription services is Vapor Liq. It’s also one of the best that I’ve come across. In this review, I’ll go over the many reasons Vapor Liq impressed me.

Like its competitors, Vapor Liq has you start by creating a flavor profile. First, you pick the type of equipment you vape on (cartomizers and clearomizers all the way up to rebuildable atomizers). Next, you select the categories of flavors that you like (desserts, fruits, tobaccos, etc.). From there, the categories are broken down even further, allowing you to select specific flavors you like or dislike. The whole process is handled in an elegant way; it’s simple and highly visual, while also being effective.

After your profile is created, Vapor Liq sends you three 15ml bottles of juice. Excellent packaging is another reason why I enjoyed my Vapor Liq experience. The box has snappy and fun branding. The inside of the box is lined with artificial hay, which looks cool and protects the bottles. The bottles are individually wrapped and sealed with a Vapor Liq sticker. Also included are a welcome card and coupons you can use on your next purchase or give to friends. The flavor descriptions come on a packing label, which seems incongruous with the other elements of the package; I mentioned that to the owners, so perhaps that will change in the future. Sterile packing label aside,  presentation is fun — the box is something that will make you happy when you receive it and something you’ll look forward to the following month.

As for the juices in the box, I received a trio that totally hit my flavor profile. As a huge fan of tobacco e-liquids, I was pleased to find Amber from True Leaf Vapor. Most of the subscription services I’ve come across have tobacco juices, but Vapor Liq and Drip Club are the only ones I know of that have tobacco e-liquids made with naturally-extracted tobacco, rather than tobacco absolute. Considering that naturally-extracted tobacco juices are my favorite types of e-liquids, I really appreciated Amber’s inclusion (hmmmm, should I name my next band Amber’s Inclusion?).

My profile also noted that I was into savory desserts. I received Nirvana Vapor’s Pali Pumpkin, which is a blend of pumpkin, exotic spices, and cream. I also received Lion from Illuminati Vapor. As a Filipino-American with a sweet tooth, I really enjoyed this lovely mix of ube and custard.

As with other subscription services, you receive three new juices every month. If you come across a flavor you absolutely love, you can go to the Vapor Liq web site and have it included with your next subscription box.

Vapor Liq is focusing on the top brands in the business. In addition to the three companies I mentioned earlier, the Vapor Liq lineup includes Alpha Vapes, Cyber Liquids, 7 Drops, and The Vial. There are some other top juice companies that are not listed on the site, which was a decision made by the owners. The company is always on the lookout for more top juice companies. While the current Vapor Liq lineup isn’t as expansive as that of Craft Vapery’s, it’s a strong list of juice makers that should be even better in the future.

Vapor Liq Review and Unboxing

Overall, I was quite happy with my Vapor Liq experience. The web site is intuitive, the packing is fun, and the selection of juices I received was great. As a company, I like what Vapor Liq is trying to do and the direction it’s headed in. At $35.99 a month for three 15ml bottles of juice, Vapor Liq isn’t the cheapest subscription service around, but it’s one of the best I’ve encountered.


Vaping Diaries #202: Angelcigs Kayfun 3.1 Clone Review

Angelcigs is a relatively new company that offers inexpensive vaping products from China that ship from local warehouses. It offers prices similar to the popular Fasttech, but with much faster shipping. The company recently sent me three atomizers to check out. The first one I’m reviewing is the Kayfun 3.1 clone. This $24.99 replica is a great deal. It offers a vaping experience similar to that of an authentic Kayfun 3.1, but for roughly 1/7th of the price. As long as they have reasonable expectations of build quality, many vapers will be happy with what Angelcigs Kayfun 3.1 clone brings to the table.

What’s in the Kit: The Angelcigs Kayfun 3.1 clone comes with the atomizer, one optional stainless steel tank, one optional 510 drip tip adapter, extra o-rings, extra screws, a juice bottle, one pre-made coil, extra silica wick, a keychain tool, and the instruction manual. It’s a complete kit that has everything novices need to get started. Experienced vapers will, of course, want to trash the keychain tool, coil, and wick.

Design: As you’d expect, this atomizer is pretty much a 1:1 replica of the Svoe Mesto original. For those of you not familiar with the Kayfun 3.1, it’s a bottom-coil silica atomizer that’s the most popular product in its category. The good news is that this copy looks and feels like a reasonable facsimile of the original. Unfortunately, that also includes the Svoe Mesto logo. I’m not a fan of clones that copy logos, markings, etc.

From afar, it would be fairly easy to mistake the Angelcigs Kayfun 3.1 clone for the real McCoy. When you open up the atomizer, the differences become more apparent.

Build Quality: Obviously this product doesn’t match the build quality of an authentic Kayfun 3.1 or even The Russian atomizer. At a fraction of the price, it would be foolish to expect comparable workmanship. The threads aren’t machined as finely; you can hear and feel the friction whenever you unscrew the tank. The o-ring material is cheaper than that of the original’s too. The threads on the polycarbonate tank felt particularly flimsy (though I didn’t have any leaking issues). The stainless steel tank felt much more secure.

All that said, for a $25 product, the quality is pretty good. While it doesn’t compare to an authentic Kayfun, the Angelcigs Kayfun 3.1 clone is as good or better than most other clones I’ve seen.

Performance: The Angelcigs Kayfun 3.1 clone offers performance that’s comparable to the real deal. You get the great flavor production that many vapers love about the Kayfun, as well as excellent juice capacity. The airflow options aren’t as broad as the original’s, but it’s fairly close. Vapers that prefer a medium to stiff draw will be happy with what this atomizer offers.

Like the authentic model, the Angelcigs Kayfun 3.1 clone is relatively easy to work with and to maintain. Building coils for the atomizer is slightly more involved than building coils for a dripper. Whether you use silica, cotton, kanthal wire, or kanthal ribbon, the atomizer is very accommodating. It’s also easy to maintain, though clumsy people (like me) should be careful when washing it over a sink, as it has several small parts and screws.

Angelcigs Kayfun 3.1 Clone/Replica

Verdict: Out of the three Angelcigs atomizers I’ve been using for the past few weeks, the Angelcigs Kayfun 3.1 clone is the best of the bunch. While it’s not made as well as the original, it vapes similarly and is much easier to acquire. The price is excellent and the product is backed by generous service. It’s a solid deal for newcomers that want to experiment with this type of atomizer and for longtime vapers looking for a good “beater” atty. As long as you don’t have any issues with clones and companies that copy logos, the Angelcigs Kayfun 3.1 is definitely worth a look.

Random Thoughts on Game of Thrones Seasons 4, Episode 2

This week’s episode of Game of Thrones has a few major happenings. Firstly, the episode was written by George RR Martin, the author of the books. Secondly, it has a royal wedding! If you’re a fan of the show then you know that major weddings in Westeros are often dangerous events. The first half of the episode has several location jumps, while the second half is all about the royal wedding. While some fairly important plot points were established in the first half, some of the scenes were dull and full of plot-summary soliloquies. The royal wedding was fun and I’m sure that Game of Thrones fans that hate-watch King Joffrey will love it. Here are some random thoughts on Game of Thrones s4e2. Be sure to turn on your spoiler shields.

Reeking in the North: That bastard Ramsay Snow is hunting a young girl, while the captive formerly known as Theon Greyjoy is now called Reek. This brief scene shows how sadistic Snow is (as if his numerous torture scenes from last season didn’t clue you in) and also shows how low Theon has fallen. Theon has been completely beaten down physically and mentally by Snow. He has no sense of the noble-born human he once was and is now the barely-human Reek. Finally, Snow lets his hounds devour the young girl, as Reek watches.

Brothers’ Breakfast: Meanwhile, back in King’s Landing…the Lannister boys are eating breakfast and speaking in plot summaries. Jaime is still moping over his lost hand, while Tyrion gives a convenient recap of where things stand as of Game of Thrones s4e2. As expected, Tyrion gets in a nice zinger when he refers to his family as, “the dwarf, the cripple, and the mother of madness.”

Jaime confesses that he can no longer fight. He feels empty, as his legendary swordsmanship was a huge part of his identity. In a change from the books, Tyrion tasks his henchman Bronn with teaching Jaime how to fight with his left hand. I’m sure some purists will hate the change, but I’m totally down with it. Bronn owns.

Bolton Family Matters: Back in the North, Roose Bolton has arrived home to Dreadfort. For those of you that don’t remember, Bolton (no relation to Michael) betrayed Robb Stark and helped engineer the infamous “Red Wedding.” Ramsay Snow is Roose’s bastard son and yearns to become a legitimate Bolton. Daddy Bolton scolds his bastard for torturing Theon Greyjoy when he could have been used as leverage.

Snow shows how thoroughly beaten down Reek is by allowing his slave to shave him. It’s pretty ballsy to let a man that you’ve tortured hold a razor to your neck. Snow provides some convenient plot summaries, revealing to Reek that Robb Stark is dead and revealing to Papa Bolton that the other Stark boys are still alive.

99 Problems and a Whore is One: Heading back to the Westerosi capital, spymaster Varys tells Tyrion that Queen Regent Cersei Lannister knows about his whore lover, Shae. The Queen Regent has told their father, Tywin Lannister, who once promised to hang the next whore he found with Tyrion.

In a pre-wedding shindig, guests are presenting gifts to the soon-to-be-married Joffrey Baratheon. Joffrey’s future father-in-law, Mace Tyrell, looks like an ancestor of the Burger King. He gives the boy king a fancy goblet. Tyrion gives his nephew a book and Joffrey feigns gratitude. Tywin gives his grandson a Valyrian steel sword, which Joffrey uses to gleefully chop up the book his uncle gave him. Dick. He then names the sword Widow’s Wail, to “honor” the beheading of Ned Stark. Uber dick.

Back in Tyrion’s room, Shae checks on her beloved lion. Tyrion tries to get her to leave for Pentos. He’s concerned for her safety, but acts cruel. He repeatedly calls Shae a whore and tells her that she’s unworthy to have his children. Shae is crushed, Bronn comes in to bring her to a ship, and Tyrion is heartbroken. The scene was short, but powerful.

Burning Man: Over in Dragonstone, the followers of R’hllor are holding a lovely ceremony. They’re burning infidels as an offering to their god. Stannis Baratheon continues to be stubborn, his wife continues to be a zealous believer, and trusted advisor Davos Seaworth continues to be one of the few voices of reason in Stannis’ camp.

Stannis’ daughter, Shireen, is being discussed at a post-sacrifice dinner. Priestess Melisandre visits the girl after dinner. The “Red Woman” tries to educate the lass on the “true” religion. The creepy scene ends in an abruptly creepy way that leaves you worried for Shireen.

Over the Wall: In the far, far, far North, Bran Stark is warging, enjoying life through his wolf’s eyes. His companions warn him that too much warging will make him go blind is dangerous. If he stays in his wolf too long then he’ll lose all sense of himself. This will, of course, ruin their mission to find the three-eyed crow and figure out how to bring peace to Westeros. Considering that the party consists of a bunch of kids and a mentally-disabled half-giant, I don’t have much faith in their plan. It’s like entrusting the Scooby-Doo gang to bring peace to the Ukraine.

Bran uses his mystical powers to communicate with a godswood tree. A trippy scene of flashbacks, future events, and assorted imagery ensues. He gets a completely obvious clue that the gang needs to head north. Well, duh.

A Nice Day For a Dead Wedding: It’s wedding time at King’s Landing! Joffrey weds the sexy (and power hungry) Margaery Tyrell. After the ceremony, Tywin Lannister and Olenna Tyrell trade barbs. Yeah, they’re two of the oldest characters in the cast, but they’re also two of the coolest.

Tyrion and Bronn chat about their plan to send Shae to Pentos. Bronn tries to assure everyone’s favorite dwarf that things went as planned. Tyrion has his doubts and is concerned for his beloved whore. Bronn ends their chat with the wise advice of, “Go drink until it feels like you’ve done the right thing.” Yeah, I love that Bronn has a bigger role in the television series than he does in the books.

Joffrey is acting like a spoiled brat. Unhappy with the entertainment, he cuts off a dull rendition of “The Rains of Castamere” by hurling coins at the musicians. Queen Margaery announces that the leftovers for the wedding will be given to the poorest people in King’s Landing. Yay generosity.

Loras Tyrell and Jaime Lannister have a brief exchange. Jaime is unhappy that his sister/lover Cersei has been promised to Loras. Being not-so-secretly gay, Loras isn’t thrilled with the arrangement either. Jaime threateningly says that Loras will never wed Cersei. Loras blows off the strong statement with, “And neither will you.”

Brienne of Tarth and Queen Regent Cersei have a conversation. Cersei unveils that fact that Brienne is in love with Jaime. This is an interesting change from the books. Brienne’s feelings for Jaime are implied in the books. In the TV show, it’s said outright…which brings me back to this column.

Maester Pycelle, being a dirty old man, is perving on a young lady. He offers to examine her personally in his quarters. I’m going to have to try that line. Cersei cuts off the proposition and instructs Pycelle to give the feast’s leftovers to the hounds. So much for Margaery’s charity.

Oberyn Martell has a brief but effective scene. He confronts Tywin and Cersei Lannister. Digs are made and differences in the treatment of bastards are revealed. Oberyn not-so-subtly hints that he’s still angry about how his sister and her children were murdered, and also suggests that Cersei’s daughter could be in danger in Dorne. This guy is a bad-ass.

Joffrey cuts off the merriment and presents his own entertainment. He has a band of dwarf mummers perform “The War of the Five Kings.” The show pokes fun at Renly Baratheon’s homosexuality, Robb Stark’s trechourous murder, and more. Joffrey is cracking up at his distasteful show, while Tyrion, Sansa, Olenna, and others look on in disgust.

Joffrey wants Tyrion to join the show, while Tyrion wants his nephew to show off his martial prowess (of which he has none). Embarrassed by his uncle’s clever words, Joffrey pours wine over Tyrion’s head. He then has Tyrion serve as his cupbearer. Joffrey drops and kicks away his goblet before Tyrion can fill it. He calls for Tyrion to kneel and things come to a standstill.

Thankfully, the ceremonial pie arrives. Joffrey goes off to slice the pie with Widow’s Wail. Tyrion and Sansa attempt to slip away quietly, but Joffrey calls his uncle back to refill his wine goblet. Mysteriously, Joffrey’s goblet has been infused with poison. He chokes to death, Fool Dontos helps Sansa escape, and Tyrion is blamed for the murder.

While this wedding wasn’t as shocking as the “Red Wedding” from last season, it sets up the rest of the season nicely. Many fans of the show will feel great satisfaction over Joffrey’s death and some will wonder how the goblet got poisoned. Fans of the books will wonder how the showrunners condensed a fairly intricate plot into several minutes of television. While I didn’t enjoy this episode (especially the first half) as much the season premiere, Game of Thrones s4e2 lays the groundwork for future episodes.