Words and photos by Arvid Sollom
Once again, we are seeing a race to catch up to the bar set by Evolv. First, what seems like ages ago, it was the Darwin with wattage control. The Darwin was able to step up from mere voltage adjustment to intelligently monitor the atomizer and create a smooth way to control the output based on coil properties. It was quickly imitated; however, the results were less than stellar. Some may alsos remember the Vamo. It was a wattage control device that became commonplace, and few folks really knew what they were missing when using one, versus the chip that inspired it. The Vamo, and others like it, used pulse width modulation (PWM) to approximate wattage output. Essentially, the device pulses its near-full power, and then cuts off repeatedly. The average of the output and cutoff produces approximately the same watts as desired on the device. These devices regulated themselves at 33Hz, which produced a signature “rattlesnake” sound when firing certain coils as they quickly heated and cooled—a sort of “tststststststststs” that became well known. Compared to the Darwin, which produced a perfectly steady output, these devices were a significant step down in experience, but they adequately accomplished the job and continued to watch Evolv for the next step.
More Imitation, Flattery and Falling Behind
Next came temperature control. Again, Evolv focused on highquality, responsive electronics that produced a smooth, accurate experience. Imitators again
turned to PWM, rather than direct control of the voltage output, and managed to achieve a semblance of the same results. Some makers, like Yihi, reached far and managed to come close with their SX350J chip, which was a diamond in the rough patches of rattling PWM chips (the “rough” feel of a PWM vape and also a rough patch in tech development) released, and it demanded a premium price along with it. However, in its cheaper line, Yihi still allowed the pulsing control methods to lead the way. Truth be told, devices like the IPV4 and Sigelei 150TC are capable devices, and do accomplish temperature control in a way that is effective enough to stop burning and add a pleasurable method of control to vaping. They even seem fairly impressive in their own right; while Evolv sat on their 40 watt DNA for what seemed like an eternity in the vape world, the competitors were pushing 60 then up to 100 watts into the realm of temperature control. This allowed many folks who border on cloud chasing to start adopting the technology. An IPV3 Li with a titanium dual coil dripper and 100 watts to drive it, even with PWM limiting the power usage, can be a cloudy, downright warm, experience in the right hands. It started to seem like Evolv had given the cold shoulder to those focused on big vapes. They continued to explain that 40 watts could achieve any temperature needed when built properly, and by and large, they were right. But, it seemed like they were missing the trend of the industry.
The Cost of Truth
Then, the rumors started. Phil Busardo, an industry-known reviewer who has been close to Evolv Vapor, started leaking hints that there was something big coming. Even Brandon Ward, president of Evolv, showed up on a video, saying little and hinting much. If there’s one thing we’ve learned watching the products turned out by this company, it’s that each level is groundbreaking and done with a level of perfection unrivaled in its competitors. The DNA 200 was on the horizon, but it was entering a field already populated by mods claiming high wattage that also offered temperature control. It set itself apart by offering a geek’s world of customization, but quickly landed in a pool of competing 200 watt devices. And it had this quirk: It needed
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three cells (think: batteries) to power it properly. Everyone else seems to be saying the same thing, but only need two 18650s. What makes the DNA 200 so greedy? The Truth. Telling the truth in the power ratings is why they are so greedy. To tell the truth, it COSTS.
I wrote an earlier article, “The Lies Our Mods Tell,” and the 200 watt, two-battery mods are the biggest liars of them all. They are the extra sea foam on the top of the wave, fluffed by theoretical achievements you will never see in the real world—the Snow Wolf 200, the Fuchai, the Sigelei 200, Asolo, Kooper 200, Tesla variants, etc, etc, etc. If it has two 18650 batteries, it will not deliver 200 watts. That’s the long and short of it. Even with the highest-amp rated, least voltage-sagging, brand-new pair of 18650 batteries in the vape market of 2015, with the perfect build for efficiency, none of these devices could do more than dream of a single puff at 200 watts before it starts falling off fast.
Trends of the New Year
The 2016 trend to start the year will be an influx of three 18650 devices, as well as LiPo domination. Hopefully, gone will be the days of quoting wattage statistics that are theoretical possibilities, and the new days will be more realistic—but I’ve hoped that for months. We may also see a solid round of DNA 133s coming along, as the same dominant chip can be used with a two-cell configuration in a smaller package and deliver a staggeringly better temperature-control experience to the existing “high-wattage,” temp-control devices. The likely follow-up to the trend of three-cell devices is the move to higher resistance in non-temperature-controlled setups, utilizing larger coils with generally smaller wires to achieve high power with extreme responsiveness and low heat waste, all thanks to the higher voltages available.
Is It Worth the Money?
So, in the end, is it worth the money to buy a device that costs half the amount of a DNA 200 equivalent, just because it fails to achieve what it claims? That’s a personal decision. If you can afford one of the many, and often fairly reasonably priced, DNAs on the market, it is well worth the premium. If you do opt for a more bargain-priced device, just know that there is still a fairly wide gulf between the reality established by Evolv and the claims made by the majority of other chip manufacturers. Many of the cheaper alternatives can deliver a good vape, but they cannot deliver one of the same class.
Arvid Sollom is a long-time vaper, old school modder and builder, resident tech, safety and temperature control guru living in the southwestern desert. He is a founding member of Tucson Vapers and Clouds of Tucson, as well as assistant manager at Old Pueblo Vapor, the city of Tucson’s original vape shop.