Since their introduction in the early 2000s, electronic cigarettes have taken the world by storm. Approximately 10 percent of American adults are current users of e-cigarettes, with similar user rates in the UK. Whether you’re a new e-cigarette user, an enthusiast, a smoker looking to quit, or just an interested layperson, knowing more about e-cigarettes can benefit you. This article will outline the characteristics, differences, and pros and cons of two popular categories of e-cigarette mods: mechanical mods and power-regulated mods, and will help you make an informed decision between them.
Pictured at top: Volcano Pele mechanical mod
Components of an Electronic Cigarette
An electronic cigarette is a personal battery-powered vaporizer, is usually used to vaporize nicotine-containing solutions, called e-liquid, and is usually used as an alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes, called vaping. A vaporizer contains two major active components: the atomizer and the power source.
An atomizer is the portion of the vaporizer that vaporizes the e-liquid, and consists of a heating coil and a wicking material. The wicking material draws liquid from a tank or well, and a length of resistance wire that is coiled around the wicking material vaporizes the liquid. The electrical resistance (ohms) of the coil is one of the characteristics that effects the vapor, and lower ohm coils increase the quantity of vapor produced while increasing the risk of fire or battery failure for less knowledgeable users. At the extreme end of the spectrum, sub-ohm coils provide the lowest resistance — and highest vapor production — possible.
The power source of a vaporizer provides power to the resistance coil, and can be of various wattages and voltages. Greater wattage or power to the coil increases the heat of the coil and thus the amount of vapor produced by the vaporizer. The battery portion of a larger vaporizer is commonly called a “mod.” This stems from the fact that the earliest mod creators, unsatisfied with the vapor production of early e-cigarettes, created the first mods out of modified metal tubes. The term “mod” is still used today to describe any e-cigarette not shaped like a real cigarette, even though virtually all mods are now mass-produced.
Our Favorite Mechanical Mod: Volcano Tephra
Price: $84.99 and up (full kit; device only is less)
Features: Stainless steel core, color-changing aluminum sleeves, recessed fire button, copper connections,
Includes: Device, battery, full-sized bottle of e-liquid, Cauldron rebuildable atomizerBuy Now
There are three main categories of e-cigarettes:
- Stick-style or cigalike
- eGo and eGo types
Mods come in two broad categories: power-regulated and mechanical, which will be compared and contrasted in this article.
Power-regulated mods, also called variable wattage/voltage mods or simply regulated mods, consist of an electronic chip between the battery and the coil which can be used to vary the the voltage or power to the coil while vaping, using buttons or a dial. More upscale regulated mods allow direct control of coil temperature, with voltage regulation managed by the chip.
A power-regulated mod often contains an integrated status screen that displays such information as voltage, power, and resistance. A power-regulated mod also frequently contains a variety of integrated safety features for fire prevention and battery protection.
Mechanical mods, also called “mechs,” are a part of the group of mods known as unregulated mods, and are the type of mod most different from regulated mods. Other types of unregulated mods, such as semi-mechanical mods, represent a spectrum between mechanical mods and regulated mods.
Our Favorite Power-Regulated Mod: VaporFi VOX 100 TC
Features: 100 watts maximum power, 4500 mAh battery, heavy stainless steel body, support for standard and temperature control coils
Includes: Device, USB cable, choice of tanks
Coupon: 12% off (automatic; embedded in link)Buy Now
A pure mechanical mod does not contain an electronic chip between the battery and the atomizer for voltage regulation, instead always using the full voltage output of the battery. By the strictest definition, a mechanical mod does not contain any wires or solder at all, making direct contact between the battery and atomizer via a pressure switch. This eliminates the potential for electrical loss to a chip or wires, but it also eliminates the safety features that a chip would have. A mechanical mod relies entirely on you to ensure safe operation.
Mechanical vs. Power-Regulated Mods
What does all of this mean to you, the e-cigarette user? Power-regulated and mechanical mods are very different devices, and they cater to very different sets of users. While it is ultimately up to you to decide what type of mod is best for your unique situation, a number of general points can be used to compare mechanical vs. power-regulated mods.
- Price: The all-important dollar is the bane of many a hobby, and vaping is no exception. As can be expected from a device containing all the bells and whistles, power-regulated mods are often quite a bit more expensive than mechanical mods, which are no slouch themselves in that department. It’s up to you whether the other features are worth the higher price point.
- Safety: One of the biggest selling points of a power-regulated mod — and the largest drawback of a mechanical mod — is safety. Power-regulated mods have integrated circuits that not only allow power adjustments but also ensure those power adjustments are safe. Mechanical mods are much more basic in this regard, and they rely on you knowing what you’re doing.
Alternative Power-Regulated Mod: Halo Reactor
Features: 50 watts maximum power, 4400 mAh battery
Includes: Device, USB cable, wall charger, sub-ohm tank, full-sized bottle of e-liquid
Coupon: VAPE4LESS: 5% offBuy Now
- Vapor Production: Often the biggest reason mech enthusiasts prefer mechanical mods is that their theoretical vapor production is higher than a similar power-regulated mod is capable of reaching. Simply put, without anything else to power, more of the the electrical power of the battery is free to go to the atomizer.
- Versatility: Conversely, power-regulated mods are capable of changing the power to the coil with the touch of a button or dial, while a mechanical mod usually has to be disassembled to do anything more complex than turning the device on or off. Changing the power requires that the coil be swapped as well. It all depends on how involved you want to be in vaping.
- Ease of Use: Power-regulated mods are considerably easier to use, with display screens and the aforementioned adjustment via buttons compared to disassembly and part swapping on the part of mechanical mods.
- Ease of Maintenance: However, ease of use comes with a downside. Power-regulated mods are complex, requiring you to have a good degree of knowledge to service the device in any way beyond battery and liquid replacement. Additionally, parts are often complex and proprietary, and often aren’t available anywhere outside of the original manufacturer. Mechanical mods, on the other hand, are much closer to their roots as user-created modifications, and replacements parts are usually available at your nearest electronics store.
Ultimately, the decision between mechanical vs. power-regulated mods must fit your unique situation. However, some generalizations can be made between the two, both between time and money and on the basis of commitment to vaping as a casual activity or as a hobby. Power-regulated mods, though generally more expensive, are easy to use and don’t require much specialized knowledge, and are the best option for casual use. Mechanical mods, on the other hand, are less user-friendly and less safe, and would take up more of your time in part-swapping and maintenance, but are less expensive overall and allow for a more customized experience for an experienced vaper or vaping hobbyist. The decision is ultimately yours.