There once was a time when mod stood for modified flashlight.
Those days are ancient history, even though they were less than a decade ago. Technology advances fast and vaping is no longer in its infancy. The industry is growing up and the selection of mods is jaw dropping.
With thousands of mods on the market, it can be difficult to find the perfect one for you. It helps to narrow them down by type, and that’s just what this article is going to do for you.
Regulated vs Unregulated
The broadest way to categorize vaporizers is by their electrical design. Regulated and unregulated mods have a distinctly different internal design which also results in two totally different vaping experiences. This is a good place to start if you’re looking to pick up your first mod.
By learning the difference between these two types of mods, you’ll be able to narrow down your search and make a more educated decision.
A regulated mod is a vaporizer that has a chip (think microchip). The chip adds tons of features and functionality to the mod. It allows your mod to have an LED screen that displays a plethora of information. The addition of a screen opens up the door for a lot of other features that we enjoy while vaping on a regulated mod.
Features like variable wattage, temperature control, customized curve of wattage, customized curve of temperature, memory, bypass mode, and many more would not be possible without the advanced chips in these devices. The chip works similarly to a microchip in your smart phone or laptop, but a little less complicated.
The most important thing regulated mods bring to the table is a host of reliable safety features. If it came down to it, and I could only keep one subset of features from my regulated device, it would, without question, be the safety features.
The safety features greatly reduce the risk of harming yourself while vaping. You’d have to be a special kind of stupid to screw up a regulated mod. All you have to do is make sure your battery is the right amperage and your tank is compatible. Other than that, just use common sense and you should be okay.
It’s a good idea to look up the best safety practices just to be extra safe. But with features like short circuit protection, reverse polarity protection, over charge protection, over discharge protection, over current protection, and temperature protection, you have a lot less to worry about when using a regulated device. Checkout the best vaporizer pen that includes these safety features and is under $50.
Unregulated (Mech Mods)
An unregulated or mechanical mod differs greatly from a regulated mod.
The biggest difference you’ll notice while vaping between the two is the power. We don’t recommend mechanical mods unless you’re an advanced vaper, well versed on vaping and battery safety. These are definitely not beginner vape devices.
An unregulated mod does not regulate the battery. That means when the battery is fully charged, it will vape at, say, 80W. As the battery gets a little weaker, it’ll vape at 67W. When the battery gets even weaker, it’ll vape at 42W, and so on until there’s no juice left. The battery simply gives its all for every rip until it’s exhausted.
Mechanical mods do the exact opposite. If you set a regulated mod at 80W, it’ll vape at 80W consistently until the batteries give out. That is the quintessential difference between a regulated mod and an unregulated mod.
There are a lot of other difference, but that is the main one that you will experience while vaping.
Another huge difference between regulated mods and mechanical mods are the safety features.
As mentioned above, regulated mods have goo gobs of safety features that protect you and your battery. Unregulated mods don’t have any safety features at all.
They’re usually composed of a tube with a battery in it or a box mod with a battery sled and a few wires hooking it up to the power button. That’s it.
There’s no chipset in a truly unregulated mod. Without the chipset, you will not have features like variable wattage and temperature control. You also won’t have an LED screen that displays your atomizer information or wattage. Unregulated devices provide more of a bare bones experience.
If you think you might like the way unregulated mods vape (decreasing wattage strength), then there is a way you can try it safely. There are some devices on the market that don’t regulate the battery power, but they do have safety features that protect you. These mods don’t regulate the battery power, but they are not truly unregulated because the electrical flow is still regulated to provide safety features.
Nonetheless, they provide a great unregulated vaping experience and are much safer than mechanical mods.
2 Main Shapes: Rectangular and Cylindrical
Once you’ve decided on whether you want a mechanical mod or a regulated mod, the next step is to decide which type of unregulated or regulated mod you would like to use.
This is a lot easier to do when you are clear about why you want to buy a mod. Are you buying it to assist you in quitting smoking or are you just looking to chunk some clouds. Being specific on why you want a mod will help you tremendously in your search.
There are two main shapes of mods: cylindrical and rectangular. Mods that have a cylindrical shape are called pen mods while rectangular ones are called box mods. They each come with their own set of pros and cons, so it’s up to you to decide which one is best for you. I’ll try to be as unbiased as possible.
2 Types of Pen Mods
This category of mods is very loosely defined.
Side Note: You’ll find ambiguous terminology to be a common thread in vaping. There’s no one authoritative body that regulates vaping terminology, so sometimes it can be a bit confusing. Different manufacturers make up acronyms and terms and so do people in the vaping community.
The broadest way to define a mod is simply this, any vaping device that isn’t an e-cig or cig-a-like is a mod. The rationale being that every device after the original cig-a-like design is a modification of that design. With defining mods in this way, even starter vape pens are considered pen mods. To give you to broadest scope of knowledge, we’re going to use this definition.
The most basic upgrade from a cig-a-like is an eGo style pen.
It’s often the next step for many ex-smokers who quit using e-cigs. Some ex smokers skipped the e-cig phase and went straight to eGo pens because they have a more satisfying hit. They bring a lot to the table and definitely deserve your consideration.
Pros and Cons
- Tank, battery, and charging cable
- Easy to use
- Highly Portable
- Smaller tanks
- Can’t vape high VG liquids
- Limited battery life
- Not very versatile
- Limited features
Battery and Tank
These pens have smaller batteries, between 450mAh and 1300mAh, and smaller tanks (1-2.5mL).
The tanks are designed for the battery and they are sold as a pair. While it is possible to switch the tank out with another tank, it’s not very practical.
The tanks are pretty basic and usually don’t even have their own name. The whole setup is sold as a kit and the kit is what is named.
Size, Performance, and Price
An eGo pen is very portable due to its small size. They can easily slide in your pants pocket, purse, coat, or even a chest pocket if that’s your style. These devices are just slightly bigger than ink pens, roughly the size of a think permenant market. They do vary in size a bit and can get a little girthier as the batteries and tanks get bigger.
These little pens perform a lot better than e-cigs. They pack a lot more power and are able to give off a better vapor quality. The vapor production will vary greatly, depending on the quality of the pen. Vaping is much like any other industry, you generally get what you pay for with the exception of a few steals.
A good eGo pen can be purchased for as little as $15 but I haven’t found one cheaper that I like. As you get closer to the $25 range, you can find some really stellar pens.
If you are looking to upgrade from an e-cig or to quit smoking cigarettes, then an eGo pen would be a solid option.
Intermediate Pen Mods
Intermediate pens are what I personally consider vape pen mods. With the ambiguity in vape terminology, eGo pens can be defined as a mod which is why I covered them.
My rule of thumb is, if the tank doesn’t have a name, it ain’t a mod. Now of course you can put a no name tank on any device, but that’s not a common occurrence. Only a real ______ (fill in the blank) would use an eGo tank on a mod for their daily vape.
Vape pen mods, to me, are characterized by their power and versatility. A true pen mod should be able to power up a variety of tanks, even if it comes in a kit with a tank that was designed for it.
Pros and Cons
- Great vapor production
- More power than eGo pens
- Versatile (robust tanks)
- Good battery life
- Easy to use and consistent
- Variable voltage (often)
- Tank, battery (internal), and charging cable included
- Vape any e-liquid
- Bigger than eGo devices
- Less features than box mods
- Mid-range pricing
Tank and Batteries
The tanks on these mods are a lot better than eGo tanks. By a lot, I mean it’s night and day. If you had your eyes closed an had to take a hit off of an eGo pen and a pen mod, you’d instantly know the difference.
These tanks are actually designed to stand alone and hold their own weight. Ego tanks are designed to go with a whole set that is really affordable. Performance is not the main motive of eGo tanks. The tanks on these mods will range from 2mL on the smaller side, all the way up to 5mL on the larger side. You may even find a 6mL tank every now and then.
The batteries are also considerably larger and more powerful than eGo batteries. They can easily double, triple, and sometimes even quadruple the capacity of eGo batteries. Even though they are much stronger, they aren’t that much bigger. They are bigger for sure, but not 4x the size.
Size, Performance, and Price
Vape pen mods vary in size. The more advance a subset of devices gets, the more variation you will find. Ego pens don’t have a lot of features and customization so they have a sort of standard size. Intermediate pens have no such thing. Some of them are around the same size of an eGo pen, while others are a lot thicker and a little taller.
The performance of intermediate pen devices is leagues above that of an eGo device. You will get much better nicotine delivery, vapor quality, flavor, and most importantly, consistency. It’s all about consitency when it comes to quitting the cigs. You want consistent and reliable nicotine delivery so you can satisfy your nicotine cravings.
The prices range just as much as the devices do. On the low end, you can pick one up in the $30 range and it’ll blow your e-cig or eGo pen out of the water. On the high end, you could pay around $70 and get more features like temperature control and variable wattage. But if you’re considering paying that much for a pen mod, you should definitely consider getting a box mod first.
If you like what intermediate pens bring to the table, I suggest getting one in the middle range, around $50 or so. When you get up into the 70s, it’s time to start looking at some box mods.
Intermediate pens are perfect for quitting smoking. Studies show that the better quality device you use, the better chance you have of quitting for good. The only reason to start with an eGo pen over a pen mod would be price and uncertainty.
If you’re not sure you really want to quit smoking, then you might not want to drop $50 on a vape pen. But if you’re sure you want to escape from the grasp of big tobacco, then give yourself the best shot at succeeding.
If you’re looking to get the most out of your vaping experience, then box mods might be exactly what you’re looking for.
While eGo pens and intermediate vape pen mods are designed to help you quit smoking, box mods are designed to keep you from going back to tobacco. There’s a big difference in the purposes of these devices, which results in totally different vaping experiences.
The two types of pens mentioned above are designed to be easy to use which is great for anyone looking to transition straight from cigarettes. But with ease, you sacrifice features. You wouldn’t want someone who just wants to put down cigarettes to be bombarded with features, safety protocols, and maintenance.
That’s the difference between box mods and pen mods. Box mods are designed to be feature rich, which requires a longer learning curve and more maintenance. If you’re turning into a vapor aficionado, then it’ll be well worth the extra effort. The richness of vaping with a box mod can help you make cigarettes a distant memory.
Pros and Cons
- Excellent vapor production
- Long battery life
- Wide variety of tank options
- Feature rich (variable wattage, temperature control, etc)
- Interchangeable batteries
- Very reliable and consistent
- Bigger than vape pens
- More maintenance
- More expensive than pens
- Longer learning curve
There is no standard anything when it comes to tanks except the connection. The standard connection for a tank and a mod is a 510 connection. Other than that, it’s the wild wild west as far as tanks go.
That’s part of what’s so beautiful about the vape marketplace right now. It’s a free market, even though the FDA and politicians are trying to muddle it up.
Mods are very versatile and can accept a wide variety of tanks. If you’re a doofus, you could even put your ego tank on a variable wattage mod, as long as it goes low enough to fire the tank. I wouldn’t recommend it though. My point is, mods can fire any tank with a 510 connection that fires within its wattage range.
You will need to buy a box mod if you want to fire up the big name tanks like the SMOK TFV12 or Melo 300. Most vape pens don’t crank out enough power to fire up the big cloud chasing tanks.
Most box mods utilize removable batteries whereas most pens have internal, non-removable batteries.
This could be a pro or a con, depending on your particular style. Removable batteries offer a huge advantage which is not having downtime between charges. If you buy two sets of batteries, you can charge one set while you vape on the other.
That way when one set dies, just swap them out and continue vaping. With internal batteries, you have to wait for your vape pen to charge before using it again. It’s a minor inconvenience but internal batteries can grow to be a pain.
The most popular battery for a box mod is called an 18650 (eighteen six fifty). They are very powerful batteries and are responsible for mods that can vape up to 350W. You’ll never need to vape that high, but mods like that do exist. Generally speaking, the higher the wattage, the more batteries you’ll need.
Size and Price
With box mods, the size varies just as much as the performance and price. You can get a box mod that’s just as small as a pen mod. Single 18650 mods can get pretty small. The main thing you’ll have to sacrifice with smaller box mods is power or battery life.
Some mods take just one 18650 battery while others take four. If you want, you can even get one with an internal battery.
The price will be determined by the reliability of the brand and the quality of the mod. If it has a deluxe chipset like a YiHi or DNA chipset, it’ll cost over $100 easily. But you can get a box mod for under $30 that performs decently. In the $30 price range, it won’t have much power. Maybe 30W or so. If you spend between $60 and $100, you can get a beastly mod.
Checkout this page to see the best mod starter kits in their respective price range.
Since box mods are usually sold separately from tanks (unless you buy a bundle), it can be harder to rate their performance.
To rate a box mod effectively, you have to weigh a lot of different factors. It’s safe to say that box mods out perform eGo pens and pen mods by a wide margin. Just don’t fall into the trap of thinking that every box mod is better than every vape pen. That’s just not true.
Again, you generally get what you pay for. A $25 box mod probably won’t outperform a $50 vape pen.
The Big Difference
Box mods really excel over pens in two categories: power and features.
Due to the fact that manufacturers have a lot more space to work with, box mods can fit more batteries and the most advanced chipsets in the vaping world. These chips are what make box mods so consistent and feature rich.
I’ve seen box mods with 10x the capacity of pens while only being a little bigger. Other box mods sport features like reverse charging, which allows your mod to charge your phone (or any USB powered device). Almost all box mods have variable wattage capability, and a lot allow you to control the temperature.
Recently some mods have been released that allow you to customize the wattage every half second. This means you can set the mod to start and 45W, then jump up to 80W, and down to 50W automatically while you’re taking a drag. You could pick a different wattage every half second!
Some mods take three 18650 batteries, but will also work with two batteries. I’ve even seen mods with the tank hidden inside the box. All you can see is the drip tip.
There are really too many features to name when it comes to box mods.
My favorite thing about box mods is that they keep people from going back to tobacco. Variety is the spice of life, and these mods provide just that. With vape pens, you could easily get bored and head back to tobacco. But with box mods, it’ll take you a long long long time to get bored.
There’s just too much ground to cover. I honestly don’t think you could master every facet of vaping in one lifetime. The industry has grown in so many different directions, I get excited just thinking about it.
If you are new to vaping and are considering getting a box mod, I would encourage you to get an intermediate pen first if your goal is to quit smoking. But if you’re a cloud or flavor chaser, then going straight to a box mod would be fine for you.
You just want something a little easier to use when you’re quitting smoking. That way you don’t get frustrated with vaping and turn back to the little tar sticks.
A box mod is perfect for the ex-smoker who has successfully transitioned to vaping and is looking for a richer experience. Box mods power up the tanks that give off the best vapor, flavor, and clouds without a doubt.
We covered three specific types of vaping devices that are recommended for the general public.
Mechanical mods are not recommended because they’re dangerous and have been known to cause battery explosions when not handled properly. For that reason, we only recommend regulated devices.
Out of the regulated devices, you can choose from eGo pens, intermediate pen mods, and box mods. They each have their different perks.
eGo Pens: Good for quitting smoking, very cheap, easy to use, gets the job done, great for people who want the fastest learning curve.
Intermediate Pen Mods: Great for quitting smoking, affordable, best bang for buck, easy to use, and good vapor production.
Box Mods: Great for staying smoke-free, endless features, removable batteries, very powerful, and excellent vapor production.