The Pax is with no doubt one of the most anticipated portable vaporizers of 2012. With a review unit finally in our hands, we were very excited to find out whether it is worth all the hype.
The makers of the Pax vaporizer have taken extra special care with the design and appearance of the Pax. The unit looks beautiful, with a brushed, anodised aluminium shell on the outside, and a bright multi-colored coloured LED. It is quite minimalist, but not boring.
The packaging is also very well presented, with a lot of attention to detail. The box is mostly white with a large photo of the Pax on the front, and logos on the sides. Once opened, the Pax is presented in a shaped cardboard tray, on top of the accessories, instruction manual and charger.
The Pax is small enough to be held in a closed fist, so visually it is quite stealthy. It can easily fit into a pocket without being seen. The black model in particular is very inconspicuous, kind of looking like an mp3-player.
It also heats up quickly (less than 1 minute), so would be useful for sneaky hits in public. The only thing I noticed is that the Pax can smell quite strongly of herb while in use, so that is something to be aware of.
Ease of use
The Pax is one of the easiest portable vaporizers I've used. There isn't much to learn to get a good hit - just hold it to your mouth and inhale. Unlike most other portables, there are no special instructions needed, such as holding a battery/switch for a set amount of time, remembering to release it etc. The Pax is a 'smart' vaporizer. It contains a motion sensor, which automatically puts the unit on standby when it is not being moved (e.g. sitting on a table). As soon as you pick up the Pax or move it in any way, it comes back to life. If you are continually using the Pax, passing it around etc, it will stay switched on, as long as it is in motion.
There are no unnecessary switches or dials on the Pax, everything has been minimised and simplified as much as possible. The LED light is used to indicate the status of the unit. For example, a purple LED means the Pax is heating up, green means it is ready to use. Blue means the Pax is on standby mode. There are various other colors to indicate different things such as battery level and temperature. They are pretty easy to learn, and self explanatory. I think ease-of-use was one of the main objectives with the Pax, and it is a big success in this regard.
The only thing that requires some learning curve is the hitting technique. It works best with the 'cigar technique', which is basically just taking a bunch of smaller hits rather than one long, continuous hit. I think this method works better because it allows the heater a little time to warm up in-between each puff. The long, continuous hit brings the temperature down too much, so the vapor isn't as strong.
Vapor Quality and Taste
The vapor produced by the Pax is very flavorful. There is absolutely no unwanted flavours of plastic, metal etc. The makers have used the highest quality materials throughout the design.
The first few hits are always the most potent, usually giving thick visible vapor and intense flavors. After the first 2 or 3 inhales, the amount of vapor/flavor per hit starts to drop off quite fast. But those initial hits are probably the most intense and flavourful vapor I have experienced from a portable unit.
The Pax has three temperature settings (low, medium, high). On the low setting, the vapor is very light, almost undetectable after the first hit. The medium setting gives more reliable vapor, and is usually where I begin a session with the Pax. The high temperature setting makes the first hits very thick indeed, maybe too strong for some users.
The herb is loaded into the Pax via a bowl underneath the unit, called the 'oven'. When loading the unit, it is recommended to compress the herb to the bottom of the chamber, to get the best vapor possible.
When the herb is spent, it comes out a dark brown colour. There is usually a couple of greenish bits around the edges, so the vaporisation is not 100% even. But the Pax does do a surprisingly good job of evenly vaporising the bowl, without necessarily needing mixing. Even on the hottest setting, the herb doesn't combust, it always comes out dark brown and crispy, but not burned.
The Pax seems very durable and feels good in the hand. It has a feeling of high quality, and is very solid. The outer shell is anodised aluminium, and has no protruding parts when the mouthpiece is closed. While closed, its fair to say the Pax could survive a small drop, and is tough enough to be carried loose in a handbag. It also has a 10 year warranty, so I think Ploom is confident in the durability of the Pax. But I would also say that the Pax is a high-end, precision device, and is not meant to be thrown around or dropped regularly. All plastic parts on the Pax are made from medical-grade materials, and are as strong as can be expected from plastic.
The battery life of the Pax is very good, especially compared to other battery-powered vaporisers. I get between 2 and 4 bowls per charge, depending on a few factors (like the type of herb, the temperature chosen and user technique). One fully charged battery is enough for a good mini-session between a couple of people. For an extended session with a group of people, a fully charged battery won't be enough. I don't seem to quite get the 2 hours stated by the manufacturer, but this could also be related to technique. The battery also charges reasonably quickly, around 1 hour is enough.
In my opinion, the Pax is a generation ahead of other portable vaporisers. The simplicity of use, the high quality design with so much attention to detail, the long battery life, are all vastly improved compared to the Pax's competitors.
The Pax looks innocent, but it has the potential to produce very strong vapor. I really like the way you can load the fully-charged Pax before you go out, and it is self contained - it's not necessary to take extras like spare batteries. Later, you can just take out the Pax, extend the mouthpiece, wait 30 seconds and you're good to go. The build quality is also the best of any portable vaporiser I've tested, it just feels good to use.
The price (the Pax retails at $249,99) is about the only negative thing I can say about the Pax. It is the best portable vaporizer I've ever used, but it is also the most expensive. Saying this, I don't think the price is too unreasonable for what you get, but it would scare off most casual or first time users.
The Pax is more for the high-end user who uses a portable every day, and doesn't mind paying a bit more for the extra convenience, simplicity and usability of the Pax.