In tests, we got in the habit of just leaving it on the charging dock and topping off battery life betweeen uses—a method that reduces frustration whether you frequently check the battery life on the app, or if you’re stuck without an app at all. The Firefly’s convection oven sits at the opposite end of the mouthpiece, and the concave lid shape lets air travel down the entire body of the device—it’s very easy to wipe clean. But the thing that makes these compromises worth tolerating is the vapor quality, which was the best of all the vaporizers we tested: easy to draw, smooth, and remarkably cool, with a delightful hint of citrus. It’s also surprisingly potent—the Firefly uses convection heating, like the Grasshopper, which tends to produce more intense effects per puff than conduction vaporizers like the AirVape.
The large oven heats up only when you’re pressing the buttons, which prevents the flower from continuing to burn between puffs. This combination of potency, efficiency, and the high capacity of its bowl makes it perfect for puffing and passing the device in a group of more than two people. A full battery lasted through about two bowls, each of which would have been enough for two to four people to share. Given the Firefly’s efficiency at burning material, we didn’t need to inhale as much as with other vaporizers we tested. We found that after we stopped getting vapor, mixing the flower around in the chamber gave us a few extra puffs before we needed to refill. The Firefly is easy to wipe free of residue with an alcohol wipe once you’re done and you’ve emptied the chamber. The Firefly’s charging dock is bulky and inconvenient, but you can swap in a charged second battery for use on the go. The Firefly has a greater learning curve compared with the other vaporizers we tested, because it doesn’t have an on-device display or any clear indicators.
If you want to change what the Firefly’s two buttons do, you can do so within the app, but we found that the capacitive nature of the buttons made any configuration tricky to get the hang of. The Grenco Science G Pen Elite is a little cheaper and a little worse than the AirVape. It’s a nice vaporizer overall, with simple controls, vapor that our testers enjoyed, convenient charging, decent battery life, and a sleek design that’s portable and functional. The lower price is appropriate, as the Elite is a touch below the AirVape in several ways, including vapor quality, ease of cleaning, and other design details. This was formerly a budget pick in this guide, but in long term tests, we found we consistently preferred our other picks over it. In a battle for great vapor flavor, the Storz & Bickel Crafty, Arizer ArGo, and DaVinci IQ would all rank very close to one another. All three had rich flavor that made our taste buds sing. The ArGo also had particularly smooth vapor, though the IQ and Crafty weren’t far behind. But all three devices are expensive, and the flavor is the only real advantage. Each one had other disadvantages too—cleaning problems with the Crafty, durability concerns when traveling with the ArGo, and a combination of cleaning and interface flaws with the IQ. We liked it for its digital temperature controls, easy-to-load chamber, and accessible price. But the G Pen Elite often hovers around the same price and offers higher quality vapor, a better display, and an overall better experience. The DaVinci Miqro has a pleasant aesthetic and it’s compact enough to take on the go, but its preset temperatures make it a more limited choice than our picks. Its deep chamber also makes the DaVinci tougher to load than our picks, and its mouthpiece gets hot quickly. The Linx Gaia requires a cap to protect its glass stem and the vapor quality is just so-so. If you’re looking solely for vapor quality on a budget, the Arizer Air does a better job than any other but that’s its only bright point. We disliked the color-coded LED control scheme, and the DC-input charger means you’d need to carry a special charger instead of a convenient Micro-USB cable. Plus, the polarizing design, with its conspicuous glass stem, isn’t something most people will want to tote around. The Pax 3 corrects most of the problems of its predecessor, the Pax 2, with a cooler mouthpiece, better vapor production, and the ability to vaporize dry herbs or concentrates. But even the improved Pax 3 doesn’t strike us as worth the price with so many great picks available for less. The charging cradle is inconvenient, as is the need to use the smartphone app for the full range of controls. The Grenco Science G Pro is just one variation on the same device that’s also marketed as the X Pen Pro. It’s the epitome of a generic vaporizer, with none of the nice touches that the Grenco G-Pen Elite offers. Shaped like a small flashlight, the G Pro’s plastic body matches its plastic mouthpiece. It also matches its taste: The vapor was thin and plasticky on every setting. The whole device is controlled by a single button and gives feedback with just a single light. Although cannabis has long been considered safer than tobacco, that’s about as helpful as saying that spa treatments are safer than being on fire. And though state laws in the US have changed considerably in the past few years, federal law still prohibits any sale, use, or even possession of marijuana, if for questionable reasons. Using a vaporizer generally set between 370 °F and 410 °F supposedly skips the nasties generated from joints and pipes.
You need at least 356 °F (PDF) to convert the naturally occurring acids in cannabis, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDa) into their active, neutral forms, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). (Say that five times fast.) Scientists think these are the two main compounds that will give the desired psychotropic and medical effects. A study backed by NORML (which, granted, exists to promote the legalization of marijuana) found that 95 percent of the vapor coming through a Volcano vaporizer was either THC or CBN (another cannabinoid). A pipe spit out smoke that was 88 percent non-cannabinoids, including several known polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). Another study, funded by the Marijuana Policy Project, says that people who switched to smoking vapes said they had a decrease in their respiratory problems, but the study included only 20 people.
The literature answers with a resounding “maybe.” Portable vaporizers are legal, though—unless you use them with a substance that some combination of federal and local laws says is illegal.