Monday, March 01, 2010

2 or 3 part systems?

What should I get, a 2 or 3 part system, and what is the difference?

I guess one might say it depends on what you are looking for, but it goes deeper than that. In this entry I will be discussing the pros and the cons of each, so at least you have an idea on what to get. Well not really. If you are here, unless you came in via one of the Bonsai Forums I participate in, you probably already have a system. On the other hand if you were merely lurking and have stumbled upon this blog, then it might be useful.

In order to chose a personal vaporizer (PV) or electronic cigarette (Ecig), you might want to decide what it will be used for. Is it to become an alternate lifestyle or is it to be used as a smoking cessation device?

There has been a lot of marketing promoting the two part system. I will refrain from quoting them directly, as I believe in free enterprise. There are a lot of folks out there who have jumped on this little band wagon, as the second coming of the gold rush. To the uninformed, the choice is overwhelming, the use of acronyms enough to make your head spin, in turn leading you to total confusion and frustration and out to the garage for a smoke (analog).

The two part system

As seen in the above photo, this is a typical 2 part e-cigarette - it's comprised of a battery and a cartridge, also known as a "cartomizer", because the atomizer (the thing that produces the vapor, is integral with the cartridge, where the liquid (nicotine) filled batting is contained).

A very simple system and set up. You purchase a starter kit that varies in price from $50 - $150. Yup! I've seen them that high. I have seen markup from merchant ranging from 200-800%, and getting away with it. The smart consumer hits the forums first, and asks a bunch a questions. Folks are more than willing to share information especially with regards to the many pitfalls that are out there. Why is this information so free flowing? We are here to help each other out in over coming our own personal addiction. Think of it as a support group.

Most starter kits will come with all you need:
  • usually 2 batteries (some suppliers will actually prime them for you (pre-charge) so you are ready to go when you receive your kit;
  • 1 wall charger and or a USB charger;
  • 5-10 cartridges filled with a nicotine level of your choice, but usually medium 11-16mg and some offer a flavour selection between mild, marlboro and menthol to get you going; and
  • a users manual
Most vendors state that one cartridge is the equivalent of 10-15 cigarettes, some even boast they are equivalent "theirs" to two packs of cigarettes (40 smokes). Regardless of who the vendor is, all pre-filled cartridges fall short of the mark. Many state that it depends on the amount of "puffs" you take, (hits in vaping), but in all fairness most will indeed be equivalent to 10 regular cigarettes. So be prepared to buy extra.

The three part sysytem

In the three part system the atomizer that formed part of the cartridge in the two part system, is separate in this system and therefore not disposable, but with proper care and maintenance can/will last a long time. Although theses cartridges come pre-filled as the two part system, you can order unfilled cartridges, purchase and fill with e-liquid of your choosing, and more often than not at higher nicotine levels and flavours.

A typical starter kit is comprised of:
  • usually 2 batteries (some suppliers will actually prime them for you (pre-charge) so you are ready to go when you receive your kit;
  • one atomizer
  • 1 wall charger and or a USB charger;
  • 5-10 cartridges filled with a nicotine level of your choice, but usually medium 11-16mg and some offer a flavour selection between mild, marlboro and menthol to get you going; and
  • a users manual

... an electronic device

Unlike the other two system, this device (a 3 part system) does not resemble a cigarette, but rather a pen-like device. Most folks who switch over more often than not will chose a device that mimics a cigarette as in the other two pictures. Most serious or seasoned vapers wish do distance themselves as much as they can from the real thing.

Not because they are not comfortable with the fact of vaping on a device that looks like a cigarette, but because they want to make sure that their PV, is not mistaken for a cigarette when vaping in public. Yup! you heard me vaping in public places.

We have been ostracized by the community at large for our addiction, an addiction that was induced in us over time, although I will agree that no one held a gun to our head when we decided to start smoking. Regardless - too many, vaping a cigarette is just taboo, but are inquisitive when you are vaping from a device that produces what appears to be smoke without actually burning or producing the foul stench of a cigarette. These devices produce no smell at all, and the vapor dissipates rather readily in comparison - within a few seconds from exhalation.

No one will ever confused this device for anything else than a personal vaporizer.

Two part systems

  • Probably the greatest advantage of a 2 part system is the ease of use. You simply screw a cartridge on the battery, and vape away - nothing could be simpler;
  • Cartridges are disposable and hence do not require re-filling - no maintenance;
  • Great system for the occasional/low consumption consumer;
  • Cartridges normally come pre-filled at various nicotine levels - usually zero, low (6mg), med (11mg) and high (16mg), some offer extra high (18mg) and I even have seen 24mg;
  • They can come in a variety of flavours besides tobacco;
  • Many look like the real thing, or you can have a sleek "designer" style device; and
  • Come in various sizes, some are the actual size of a normal cigarette.
  • Can be quite expensive, depending on the manufacturer;
  • Life (duration) of a cartridge is no where near advertised - much shorter;
  • No control over cartridge quality - some have received dried out cartridges, the price of the cartridges does not justify the shipping expense to return them to the vendor;
  • I have found them to be leaky - the result of condensation build up in the cartridge from heating the vapour. This results in a mouthful of liquid after a couple sessions of smoking "normally" and exacerbated if smoked heavily;
  • Requires more than one unit - if you are a pack a day smoker or more, you will need at least 2 units, 3 is better. The manufacturer will state that the unit needs to rest at least 30 minutes between sessions. This may be alright for the occasional smoker or, someone who only lights up every hour or so. A heavy smoker will require at least 3 units, allowing the e-cig to cool between sessions. So if you smoke a cigarette every 20 minutes or so, each has had a chance to rest for 40 minutes. Regardless of how many units you use in the course of an hour, you will wind up with excessive condensation and a mouthful;
  • Spare cartridges come in limited flavour and nicotine content;
  • Although many have tried and have successfully replenished a spent cartridge, vapour production is often less than original, probably due to the performance of the "disposable" atomizer contained within the cartridge - which was not designed for extended use;
  • Duration of batteries (fully charged) inferior, especially when dealing with the minis and super-minis - require carrying extra batteries to see you through the course of a normal work day; and
  • Once again depending on the vendor, although a safer alternative, can cost as much as smoking cigarettes.

Three part systems

  • Greater user satisfaction;
  • 3 part systems are dependable vapour producing machines;
  • They provide a greater flexibility with regards to variety of flavours offered;
  • They provide a greater variety of nicotine content (when mixing your own liquid);
  • Daily costs far less than using cartomisers;
  • They are relatively inexpensive when compared against 2 part systems;
  • Vapour production and taste outweigh by far any 2 part system out there;
  • A multitude of choice between standard 3.7 volt or high voltage (6Volts) systems; and
  • The cheapest cost/ml of liquid after initial outlay.
  • Unlike 2 part systems with disposable atomizers, atomizer maintenance is required. To some this represents a chore;
  • Greater chances of getting a bad atomizer, or one with a short life (depending on manufacturer), which in turn will increase average daily costs when compared against 2 part systems;
  • Initial setup cost can be higher, especially if you start mixing your own liquids;
  • An individual can go "mod" crazy. e.g. the grass is greener on the other side, on the constant search for a better vaping unit;
  • May result in a greater nicotine intake (greater vapour and flavour) causing individuals to vape more; and
  • Some high voltage systems require the carry of extra batteries.
In conclusion the above discussion pointed out the main differences between the 2 and 3 part systems. The 2 part system offers limited "value" and are in serious decline, hence the heavy marketing strategies from their manufacturers. Many manufacturers have abandoned the 2 part system in favour of meeting clientele demands. Most people having decided that vaping will become their alternate lifestyle will see themselves switch to a 3 part system sooner than later. Their 2 part system becoming their backup system.

The 2 part system still owns a niche among vapers: the unsure newly introduced; folks that want to keep things relatively simple; and the occasional smoker. For the ultimate in satisfaction and pure enjoyment, nothing beats the versatility of a 3 part system.

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