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That’s not as easy with smoking or edibles, or when vaporizing stronger concentrates like extracts or oils. A vaporizer doesn’t eliminate the harmful effects of cannabis use, but research points to harm reduction compared with smoking it. In four years of research, we’ve considered about 50 vaporizers, mostly based on input from experts at sites like The Vape Critic and VaporizerWizard.com and from customers in enthusiast forums and sites. We’ve panel-tested two dozen over the years to get an idea of how people with different comfort levels and cannabis experience think about vaporizers and the experience that goes along with them. We didn’t consider vaporizers for oils, extracts, wax, cartridges, pens, or other concentrates for this guide.

Although these products are quickly gaining popularity, they can be hard to find in states where cannabis isn’t legal. We also didn’t consider e-cigarettes or other products for tobacco or nicotine use. The devices that use these substances are broadly called vaporizers, which is confusing. What we’re covering here is limited to “flower vaporizers” for old-fashioned buds—we feel this is the best entry point for most people because it gives you a lot of options in terms of flavors, effects, and potency. As we tested and retested eight models this year, here’s what we considered important: Easy to use. We sought clear, intuitive controls to start up the device, see when it was ready, adjust the temperature, and check the battery life. We wanted it to be easy to load, quick to heat up, and unlikely to burn material if you forget it’s on.

We wanted good enough vapor that you wouldn’t consider smoking instead. That meant we dismissed vaporizers that produced unpleasant flavors (like burnt popcorn, for example) or harsh or uncomfortably hot vapor, and any that tended to clog or presented unusual difficulty inhaling. The truly great ones taste good, don’t burn, and feel like drinking from a straw. Cleaning has proven to be an important factor when living with these things long-term, because they all need it, and the best ones can reliably be returned to near-mint condition with minimal effort. The worst ones have parts that need replacement, areas you can’t fully clean, or a cumbersome disassembly process. We avoided long, skinny airways that you ream out with pipe cleaners—too hard to get truly clean. The best portable vaporizers have universal charging ports like Micro-USB or USB-C that won't leave you searching for a specialized charger or cradle. The best vaporizers use common charging ports like Micro-USB or USB-C, which work with cables you have already. A proprietary charger (like a dock, or a unique cable) is not as convenient, but we didn’t dismiss models for this alone. We’ve found battery life on most good vaporizers lasts about four bowls’ worth, without a ton of differentiation between models. We appreciate vaporizers that have user-replaceable rechargeable batteries, but that’s not crucial. A good vaporizer has materials that look and feel nice, a body durable enough to survive a drop, and a simple and effective mouthpiece that feels natural on your lips—and doesn’t burn them. Subtle additions like concealed cleaning tools or aligned magnetic closures also go a long way toward making a satisfying experience. Many vaporizers put all the necessary info and functions on the body of the unit, so for simplicity we prefer the vaporizer to be controllable without a smartphone application—but we didn’t dismiss any based on that. Satisfying to use, intuitive to newcomers, and easier to live with than competitors, the AirVape X provides richer, smoother vapor than anything else in its price range. We like the AirVape X because it’s easy to use, load, and clean, with rich vapor that tastes great. Small, thoughtful touches—like the magnetic lid and standby timer—stood out in our testing and had us reaching for the X even after our tests were done. The AirVape X is easier to set up than other vaporizers. Its mouthpiece attaches securely by a magnet to a chamber below. Loading the AirVape makes less of a mess than with several other good vaporizers, like the Grasshopper, because the AirVape’s chamber’s concave rim helps funnel material inside. Our picks are all intuitive and easy to use, but the Airvape’s basic controls and clear display make it the simplest to use of any. Three taps of the power button turn it on, and a large display on the side shows the temperature and battery life. It takes about 30 seconds to heat up to 380 °F, which is an average temperature that produces good vapor with most flowers. The onboard directional arrows can toggle from 200 ºF to 428 °F as you fine-tune the vapor to your preferences and favorite strains. The AirVape doesn’t require a smartphone app to check battery life.

The AirVape’s vapor tastes clearly different from one flower type to another, and it’s very smooth and full—like with the best vaporizers we tried and better than anything else in this price range. Neither the vapor nor the mouthpiece got uncomfortably hot, though the top portion around the heating chamber gets warm to the touch. Occasionally disassembling the mouthpiece and soaking the parts in alcohol (which is not as hard as it sounds) removes buildup and returns the AirVape to near-new condition. The AirVape’s oven has funnel-like slope to its sides that makes loading ground material easier than with most other vaporizers. Occasionally disassembling the mouthpiece and soaking the parts in alcohol (which is not as hard as it sounds) removes buildup and returns the AirVape to near-new condition.

The AirVape’s oven has funnel-like slope to its sides that makes loading ground material easier than with most other vaporizers. The AirVape is among the easiest vaporizers to clean, which is a huge mark in its favor when living with it long term.

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