Its easy-to-load chamber holds more ground material than most vaporizers; cleaning the wide, open airway is straightforward; and its capacitive heat-up buttons are simple to activate. Although we like the overall design of the Firefly, it lacks the display of the AirVape, and it isn’t as portable, compact, or discreet as other models. Its price is higher than that of most competitors, it has a bulky charging dock, and the lack of an onboard display makes checking its battery life or temperature an unnecessarily complex process in comparison with our other picks.
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. The Grasshopper has thick, potent vapor, quick heat-up times, charming tactile controls, a lifetime warranty, and an inconspicuous design—but it gets quite hot, and its charging setup and battery life aren’t the best. The high-capacity Firefly 2+ quickly produces more intense, tasty vapor than competitors, and it’s attractive and easy to clean—but it’s expensive, and it buries critical info in an app. We took the time to interview more vaporizer experts, read more reviews, and try more products firsthand than most regular shoppers ever get the chance to. Aside from enthusiasts’ comments on popular vaporizer forums, we’ve interviewed two industry experts: Bud, the reviewer at The Vape Critic; and Buzz, the man behind the curtain at VaporizerWizard.com. We discussed industry trends, features, and favorites among the dozens of models they’ve tested and reviewed. Both sites include affiliate links for some products they recommend, as explained in The Vape Critic’s disclosure page and VaporizerWizard.com’s disclosure page. Writer Mark Smirniotis has covered vaporizers for Wirecutter for three years, and he formerly worked for an e-cigarette–liquid manufacturer—exposure that showed the trade-offs necessary to make a good device.
Co-author Jordan McMahon has overseen dozens of updates on Wirecutter guides, and after long-term tests of our existing picks, he oversaw a new round of comparison testing on the best vaporizers available in spring 2019. If you’re completely new to cannabis or have been a casual smoker in the past, a vaporizer is a great way to avoid the byproducts of combustion and skip the sticky, ashy black mess that’s an inevitable part of smoking joints, pipes, and bongs. A portable vaporizer, dressed in a sleek and discreet housing, feels like something you can bring to a dinner party along with a bottle of wine. Compared with smoking cannabis, a vaporizer will give you a cleaner taste, less lingering odor, reduced throat irritation, no tar-like ash to stain your fingers or fabrics, and more efficient use of your material. If you’re a patient looking to use medical marijuana for symptom relief, portable vaporizers offer additional benefits. A vaporizer for ground cannabis flowers can reliably hit a consistent dosage with precision temperature controls, allowing you to control the effects better. 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.