All vaping devices are generally divided in two groups: regulated and nonregulated. The later better known as “mechs”. What many people don’t know is that smack in the middle, in the cross section where those two groups meet, a third, quite interesting subgroup exists. Yes, we’re talking about Variable Voltage devices, or “VV mods” for short.
You may find “typical” regulated mods too complicated. Especially those latest Temperature Control ones. Who needs fiddling with settings? You should just press a button to vape – and even that’s “more complicated” compared to smoking, for people just getting into vaping. As evidenced by eLeaf using air-activated motion sensors in some of their starter, simpler devices.
You may find mechs need too much attention on your part to vape safely on them: clean them, check every connection, spring, other metal thingy, your resistance on a different device / Ohm meter, your battery level, your battery sag. Plus, build in specific ways, within specific limits, depending on batteries, device, maybe even the weather. It ends up being as much fuss as regulated mods, but in a different way.
You may ask yourself, “how do I work this”, and you may tell yourself “this is not as simple as I thought”. Sung over “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads. And that’s when you may turn your gaze towards Variable Voltage devices.
But… What are they?
Variable Voltage devices, to which we’ll refer as “VV” from now on… well… to understand what they are and how they work, you have to understand how mechs and regulated devices work. A simple way to explain it would be that we’re talking about regulated devices that, in actual use, feel more like mechs. But they’re regulated. Nah, it’s not confusing. Let’s dive into a longer but easier to digest explanation.
Mech mods are simple devices: an enclosure for one or more batteries, a button that connects the batteries to a connector and that’s it. You screw an atomizer into the connector, you place a battery in the mech mod, you press its button, the battery’s positive and negative poles connect to the positive and negative posts of the atomizer, where a coil with a wick heats up. Hey presto: vapor.
There’s nothing to “adjust” on mechs. All the “adjusting” depends on the coils you’re using in your atomizer, in conjunction with the batteries used. High-drain 20 Amp batteries with a 0.25 Ohm build? Lots of hot vapor (and we hope you know what you’re doing). Over-Ohm builds? Significant battery life but only wisps of vapor. That’s all the “adjusting” you can do. The mech mod, as a device, only offers a singular button: you press it to vape. And you release it when you don’t. That’s it.
A tiny weeny minuscule problem with mechs is carelessness, of user error: if you don’t take proper care of everything, your battery may short. And that’s when, in the worst case scenarios, a device can explode. The explosions you may have heard about? Usually badly-maintained mechs, with dangerous builds (that push the batteries too much), in inexperienced user hands. That’s why most of the vaping world has moved to regulated devices.
The simple way to understand how regulated mods work is by imagining a chip getting between the batteries, the buttons of the device and the atomizer. When the button is pressed, the batteries don’t connect directly to the atomizer. Instead, the chip “pulls” electrical current from them and “pushes” it to the atomizer, according to the user’s settings.
This brings some layers of safety into vaping, since the chip can detect shorts and won’t push the batteries over their limits. And it also brings easier adjustability, allowing the user to “tune” the amount of power “pulled” from the batteries and “pushed” to the atomizer’s coil(s), or, in the case of Temperature Control supporting devices, also set a preferred Temperature he’d like to vape at and let the mod auto-regulate its power. The power you’re using in regulated mods isn’t depended on the build itself or the charge level of the batteries.
For the user to adjust the level of power, regulated mods usually complement their main fire button with two more buttons, for increasing and decreasing the Wattage. And for getting into menus. And the more complex the menus get, the more you need to use button combinations, or click some buttons a number of times. And try to read a small font in a tiny non-lit screen under the sun. As we mentioned before, it can get complicated.
VV mods solve this problem by throwing away all the bells and whistles and keeping just the basics. They are regulated mods but, like mechs, you theoretically only use one button to use them: press it to vape. Practically, though, since they are adjustable, you have to do the whole “adjusting” in some way. To keep it (arguably) simpler than regulated mods, most VV devices implement some type of rotating dial. Left for less power. Right for more power. Press fire to vape.
And why is that simpler or better than regulated mods?
A realist / pessimist would say that VV mods don’t actually make the whole process any simpler than “proper” regulated mods: you still have an “Up-Down-Fire triad”. You only miss the screen. But that’s the whole point.
Together with the screen, VV mods “forget” about the rest of the settings that some people never use in their mods: preheat. Temperature Control (and all the baggage that comes with it). Wattage and Temperature Curves. Screen brightness, logos, Flappy Bird clones.
Stuff that isn’t “press the button to vape”.
They keep, though, all the safety additions, while finding a way to offer some basic adjustability to the vaping experience by the addition of a simple dial.
And that’s why they end up offering a vastly simpler experience. The lack of a screen is considered the whole feature and the reason to prefer them. Because they’re only a “turn the dial right to increase power until you find your sweet spot, press fire button to vape, dial it down a bit if it’s too much, leave it there for the rest of the month” affair.
An extra, but significant, bonus of this simplicity is the famous “there’s one less thing to break” feature. You can’t break a non-existing screen. That usually adds a lot to the sturdiness of those devices, making them earn their “built like a brick” characterization when directly compared with typical variable wattage mods.
Sounds good! Any relatively popular suggestions?
Unfortunately, VV mods are a minor and very specific subgroup in the world of vaping. There aren’t as many devices to choose from as mechs or regulated mods. Thankfully, most VV mods are from simply good to truly stellar in doing what they should do: “feeding” electrical current from the batteries to the coils. You pretty much can’t go wrong with any of the following choices.
Tesla Invader III
One of the most popular VV mods, and deservedly so, the Invader III is the very definition of “built like a brick”. Or, rather, like a metal canister. Working with dual 18650 batteries, its chipset can “push” up to 240 Watts to the atomizer, or even exceed that limit when using higher than 20 Amp cells. Its potentiometer adjusts the power fed to the coils from 3.6V to 6.6V and its chipset comes with all the kinds of protections expected from any regulated mod – reverse battery, short, low voltage, over current, high device temperature and a 10 second puff limit.
A premium VV mod, the HexOhm has earned fans all over the world thanks to its build quality and sturdiness. Using it feels like holding a piece of factory equipment, built to outlive you after the coming nuclear apocalypse. Visitors from the future will probably have some in working, mint condition, experiencing first hand how people of the 21st century vaped.
The device can push up to 30 Amps / 180 Watts using two 18650 cells and just like the Invader III comes with the same kinds of protections as well as a master on/off switch.
Charon Adjustable 218
Taking the “we took the screen and buttons off and replaced them with a dial” literally, Smoant released the Charon Adjustable 218. And the world rejoiced. For it was, practically, the same mod as the much more popular Charon 218 TC, with the screen and buttons replaced with a simple, singular, dial. But keeping all the build quality of its bigger brother – and the protections and adjustability that came with its chip.
Since the original Charon 218 TC is a simple mod to use, with the only options in its menu being related to its TC modes, if you’re not interested in TC at all you might skip it altogether and prefer the simpler Adjustable 218. You’ll end up using it exactly like you’d use the Charon and you’ll have one less screen to break.
Dovpo M VV APV
One of the most feature-complete VV mods available, the M VV by Dovpo manages to be even simpler to use than the Invader, HexOhm and Charon. Using a series of LEDs instead of just one, the M VV can instantly show the charge level of the two 18650 cells in it, as well as the state of the mod.
The device can reach 300W and output 8.8V and, as foretold in legends, includes all aforementioned types of protection against Things Going Wrong.
Is there anything else to know?
If a more simple way to vape looks appealing to you, then VV mods are a great option. They’re the closest you can get to the simplicity of mechs while having the safety and adjustability of variable wattage devices. Minus most of the fuss of both. But…
A thing to consider is that this “all the fuss” is, simultaneously, a feature of mechs and variable wattage / Temperature Control devices.
A mech is a purely mechanical device, you can fully take apart and service yourself. And VV mods may feel as sturdy and not have a screen to break, but they do rely on a non-user-serviceable chip.
A variable wattage device offers easier selection of a specific power level you like vaping at and doesn’t force you to carry a screwdriver, search for coils or break a nail trying to adjust it. And if (properly) supporting Temperature Control, it can also constantly offer exactly the vaping experience you’ve tuned in.
Those are the features and the perks coming with each device category. The things that make them worth picking up or ignoring. And that’s why VV devices have their own place in vaping and are worth looking into if you’d like something that could even be described as the bigger, uber-powerful, “pro” version of a starter AIO device.
Just add atomizer, dial in, hit and vape.