We get a lot of questions here on TVF about "which mod/RDA/tank should I buy?" so I wanted to make this thread in hopes of answering some questions for people who are new to vaping or just want to upgrade their equipment.
Let me start by saying that I am by no means an expert. I'd guess I've been vaping for about three years now (I don't recall when I bought my first ecig), and in that time I've used a lot of different mods, juices, RDAs and tanks. I've learned a lot about what works and what doesn't, which brands to trust or avoid, and how to get a good vape. But I don't know everything, not even close. If anyone else wants to contribute to this list, then by all means send me a PM to talk about it. I'll update this list as often as I can since new and better gear is being released all the time, but I'm just one man and I can't afford to test everything, so if you like a particular mod or something and would like me to add it, definitely PM me. Also let me just say that this list is my own opinion, not necessarily that of everyone at TVF, because everyone is different and what works for me might not work for everyone.
A note about cell safety - many of my mod recommendations will be mods that take 18650 cells, rather than having built-in batteries. If you're new to vaping, or haven't used 18650s before, be sure to check out our FAQ post "Which battery should I use?"
where I talked about the best 18650 cells available. Also check out the post "What the heck is Ohm's Law?"
where I described in more detail how to use math to figure out if your build is safe. Cell safety is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing about vaping, and is too often overlooked, so do yourself a favor and read those so you know how to keep from blowing your face off.
Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let's get to the good stuff:
For this post, I'm going to divide my recommendations into several categories:
- Beginning Vapers
- Mouth-to-Lung Vapers
- Lung Inhaling Vapers
- Upgrading On a Budget
- Upgrading, With No Budget
- Mechanical Mods
- Accessories for Rebuilding
For each category, I'll list a few options that I believe are fitting choices for that kind of vaper. Here we go!
If you smoke cigarettes, you're likely a "mouth-to-lung" inhaler, meaning you first suck the smoke into your mouth, then inhale. To get the same sensation from vaping, you'll need a lower power mod and a higher resistance tank with restrictive airflow.
For someone who wants to perfectly replicate the feel of smoking, my best recommendation is the Juul. It's a cigalike, which means it's a small device that feels very similar to a cigarette, and it's by far the best cigalike on the market and the only one I would ever recommend. It hits hard and fast, and it's extremely simple: all you have to do is plug a refill pod into the battery and use it like you would a cigarette. I would definitely recommend getting two of them if you are a heavy smoker, since it's quite small and thus has a small battery so it's good to have two so you can use one while the other is charging. But it charges fast and has a high level of nicotine, so probably only heavy smokers will need an extra.
For a mod, my top recommendation is the Releaux 75W. Several of our forum members use this mod for MTL vaping, and I trust their judgements. From my own personal experience, the MVP 2.0 is a great device, but it's old and hard to find these days.
For a tank, my top recommendation goes to the Nautilus Mini. The flavor is excellent, and it produces nice clouds while giving a similar feel to a cigarette puff. A good second choice is Kanger's ProTank line. The ProTank 2 was my favorite tank for a long time before I started using RDAs, and the ProTank 3 is also a good option.
If you're wanting to blow big clouds, things might be different for you. Some smokers who pick up vaping want to blow big clouds and get a lot of flavor. For that, you'll need a higher power device with a lower resistance tank to get big lung inhales (meaning you inhale directly to your lungs like breathing, rather than mouth-to-lung).
In this case, the Balrog Starter Kit is my best recommendation. The Balrog takes a single 18650, and can be used in temp control or power mode. The tank that comes with it is pretty good, and has options for TC coils, MTL coils, or sub-ohm. It's also a very small mod so it's easy to put in a pocket or purse.
Another good option is the eGo One kit. The eGo One is a tube-style mod with a slim profile so it's easy to fit in a pocket (or smaller hands) and it uses a built-in battery so you don't need to buy a separate charger. The tank is similar to the Balrog, and can be used for either mouth-to-lung hits or lung inhales, whichever you prefer.
As mentioned above in the "Beginning Vapers" section, the Nautilus Mini is my favorite MTL tank, hands down. However, if you want to build your own coils, there are some other good options. The Lemo 2 is a very good rebuildable tank with excellent flavor and a good adjustable airflow for either mouth-to-lung or lung inhales. If you want to try an RDA, I'd recommend the Veritas or Patriot. The Veritas is the very best flavor RDA I've ever tried, and the airflow can be tightened for MTL hits. The Patriot, on the other hand, is a very good RDA for bigger clouds using dual coil builds. If you're using rebuildable atties, I'd suggest trying a mechanical mod like the Caravela or Nemesis.
However, mouth-to-lung atties are becoming much less popular, as most vapers are switching to cloud chasing atties which require deep lung inhales and a lot more airflow. If you're wanting to upgrade your device, it might be a good idea to try some more powerful atties at a local vape shop. Most shops carry high VG juice, which they often put in sub-ohm tanks so you can try out some new juice while also testing to see if you enjoy lung hitting.
Lung Inhaling Vapers
This is by far the hardest category to nail down, since there are so many mods and atties made for lung inhaling. My personal favorite mod used to be the Sigelei-100W, and it's still a great mod that I use frequently. But now, my favorite is the Panzer DNA200. It has a built-in LiPo battery, so you don't have to worry about balance charging your cells, and the built-in battery lasts most of the day even at high wattage. Another good option is the RX200, which is cheaper and uses 18650s so you can swap out the batteries if you need to. The IPV5 is very popular among our forum's users and I've heard great things about it, so I'd recommend looking into that one as well. There are a lot of great high-power mods out there, so if you find one that looks good, ask us and I'm sure somebody on the forum has used it and can tell you about it.
For lung inhaling vapers, there are also a ton of great atties available. The TFV4 with quad coils is by far the most powerful tank I've owned, easily running up to 100W or more and blowing gigantic clouds. I've heard that the TFV8 is even better, but I haven't had the chance to use it yet myself. The trade-off for their immense power is that these tanks use lots of juice, which can get expensive, and the coils aren't cheap either. The Arctic tank, on the other hand, is also very good at blowing big clouds and giving you a ton of flavor, while using cheaper coils and not using quite as much juice. The Herakles is also a good option, though it's not quite as good as the Arctic in my opinion.
RDAs are where things really get fun for lung inhaling vapers. One of my favorites is the Dark Horse. It has gigantic post holes, so it's really easy to build, and the airflow adjustment is incredible. Fully open, the Dark Horse has so much airflow it's almost just like breathing, but you can also close it down to holes small enough for mouth-to-lung vaping. It also can use either a standard drip tip, or a built-in competition style cap for even more airflow. Another great option is the Phenotype-L, which has recently become my personal favorite. The two-post design allows you to fit enormous coils with ease, and it has more airflow than most people would ever need. There are a lot of great RDAs available, so if you see one that catches your eye be sure to ask around the forum to see what other users think about it.
Rebuildable tanks are getting better all the time. The best one I've used is the Aromamizer, which has a two-post build deck which is easy to work with, and if you've built it well it can handle over 100W or more. Several other members here have the Aromamizer Supreme, and it's supposed to be even better than the original. Unfortunately I haven't had a chance to use one myself just yet, but I'd take their advice and get the Supreme since it's even better. I've also heard good things about the Crius and the Griffin, but once again I haven't used them myself. But for my recommendation, the Aromamizer Supreme is supposed to be the best available.
Upgrading on a Budget
So you've been vaping for a while, and now it's time to upgrade. Maybe you've been using an eGo starter kit and want something with better flavor, or maybe you've gotten used to lung inhaling and want to step up your cloud chasing. Whatever the case, you want something better, but you don't want to pay too much for it.
The best inexpensive way to upgrade is to check local shops for clearance. There are several shops near me that frequently put older model RDAs on clearance for $5-10, and mods up to 50% off their normal price. I've found some great deals simply by going to the shops every now and then to see what's in the clearance bin.
Another good way to upgrade on a budget is to buy online. Sites like fasttech.com or banggood.com sell cloned or authentic mods and atties much cheaper than in-store prices, but often they have long shipping times from China. The last time I ordered from FastTech, it took a month and a half for my order to arrive, but once it did arrive, I had a DNA200, two RDAs, and a bunch of other fun stuff, all for about half the price of what I would have paid for them in a vape shop. Some of our supporting vendors here on the forum also have good prices, like Heaven Gifts or Cvapor.
The best cheap MTL tank I've tried is the ProTank 3 mini. I got mine online for about $15, and it's a nice little tank with good flavor. It's not as good as the Nautilus Mini, but at half the price, it's a good secondary tank in case I run out of Nautilus coils or just want a different flavor for a while.
It's harder to find an inexpensive tank for lung hitters, since most of them are around $30-50 and there isn't a lot of price variation. My best suggestion for that is to try to find a sale online, as many sites offer special deals around holidays or put things on clearance when newer models come out.
RDAs can be found cheap fairly easily thanks to clones. "Clones" are mods or RDAs that are not made by the original manufacturer, and are therefore not "authentic" versions. For example, an authentic Patriot RDA costs around $75, while a clone can be purchased for $20. If you buy a clone, be careful to inspect the quality. Since it's not made by the original manufacturer, clones are usually slightly different from the original model and are sometimes built with much lower quality. On the other hand, some clones are even better quality than the authentic version, so it's up to you to figure out if it's a good clone or not. The most important things to look at in a cloned mod are the 510 pin and the build deck. On some clones, the 510 can be poorly threaded, which can cause problems if it snags or strips the threading. Also, I've had clones that had poorly made 510 connections which eventually caused the positive post to break off or move around from the loose connection. I've also had RDAs that had poor quality screws on the posts, which eventually stripped out and rendered the RDA unusable. So make sure that the 510 is threaded well (no snags, and not cheap material) and make sure the build deck is well made with the posts firmly attached and good quality screws.
For mods, upgrading on a budget is somewhat difficult. Generally speaking, cloned mods are not usually as high quality as authentic, so I try to stay away from mod clones, especially for regulated mods. Unfortunately, authentic mods can be quite expensive, often selling for $200 or more in some cases. In the case of mods, I recommend going for quality rather than the cheapest mod you can find. Sure, you might find a dual 18650 regulated mod for $15 on a shady website, but it'd be a much better idea to wait a bit, save a little more money, and spend $60 on a good one. Poorly made mods can be very hazardous, for example if a mod has a bad switch it could autofire and overheat your battery, which could potentially make the battery explode or vent hot gas. So in this case, it's much better to be safe than sorry.
My current recommendation for vapers upgrading on a budget is the RX200 mod (around $50-70), the Phenotype-L RDA ($25), the Arctic tank (around $20), and the Crius RTA (around $15 for a clone).
Upgrading With No Budget
Oh, we can have some fun with this one. If you're the kind of person that says "I want the very best, costs be damned," then this section is for you. This is the "dream on" section, where I get to tell you my ideal mod/atty combo that I would buy if only I had the money.
The best mod I've seen is the VaporShark DNA200. This mod costs $199, runs off of a LiPo battery pack (bigger and safer than 18650s) and can use up to 200W. Another great option is the Panzer DNA200, which uses the same Evolv chip. The Panzer has a larger built-in battery, so it'll last a bit longer. But the VaporShark has a 2A charger, whereas the Panzer has a 1A charger, so the VaporShark can charge twice as quickly. To pair with this, I'd want either a Phenotype-L or a Double Vision. Both RDAs have a two-post design which makes it easy to build any way you like. The main differences: the Phenotype-L has larger airflow, so much that most people wouldn't be able to use it with the air holes fully open. For me, that's a big selling point. But the Double Vision, while costing a bit more, comes with two build decks. Two of them! So you can have two different builds on the two build decks, and to swap them you just put the top cap onto whichever one you want to use. Or buy a new top cap, and suddenly you've got two RDAs.
For a tank, I'd recommend the TFV8. It's the most powerful fog machine available, and the costly coils wouldn't matter if price was no object. For a rebuildable tank, I'd go with the Aromamizer Supreme. From what I've seen, it appears to be the best tank available, with a large build deck to fit basically any coil setup you can think of, and large airflow and good wicking to blow gigantic clouds. Plus it's top-fill, which is awesome.
In the interest of honesty, I need to start this section by saying that I prefer regulated mods over mechanical mods. Mechanical mods are basically just pieces of metal that connect the atty directly to the battery, which means it always draws the maximum amount of power it can from the battery. This means that a fully charged battery (or technically the proper term is "cell," but I'll keep calling them batteries for consistency since most people call them that) puts out 4.2 volts. The problem is that as soon as the battery starts getting drained, the voltage goes down as well. Once you've used it a bit, the voltage can go down to 3.7V or so before you need to recharge, and as the voltage goes down the mod will produce less and less vapor. With a regulated mod, you can set the wattage or voltage to whatever you want and it will stay there even as the battery discharges.
If you must use a mechanical mod, there are a few things you should know in choosing a mod. There are so many mech mods available, it's impossible to recommend one in particular. It's best to just choose based on the look that you like and the quality of the build. When you're looking at a mech mod, be sure to check the metal it's made of. Brass and copper will conduct electricity slightly better than steel, but they also get a patina from the oils on your hands, so you'll need to polish them fairly often. Stainless steel is easier to keep clean, and it's only marginally less conductive than brass or copper. The slightly lower conductivity is not enough to be noticeable, so to me it's worth it to have stainless and not have to clean it as often. There are also aluminum mods, which feel very cheap to me, but they're an option if you want. Also check the threading to make sure it's well made. Threading on poorly made mods will have small snags that can make the seams heat up due to inefficient conduction. Also check to make sure to get a mod with an adjustable 510 pin so you can adjust it to make contact with the battery and the atty, and make sure the button works well.
Accessories for Rebuilding
If you're new to rebuilding and skipped over the disclaimer at the beginning of this post, make sure to check out our FAQ section post about Ohm's Law. The biggest thing to remember about rebuilding is to be safe, making sure you're not exceeding the amp limit for your cells. Also check out Almost Jaded's primer to coils and wire in the FAQ section for more information on which wires and builds to use for different kinds of vaping.
There are a few things to look for in a rebuildable atty to make sure it's a good one. First of all, do you want a tank or an RDA? Also make sure the build deck is big enough to use easily. My preferred RDA is the Phenotype-L. It has giant holes in the posts to make it very easy to thread any kind of wire into, the two-post design makes it easy to fit even large coils, and it also has adjustable airflow and a competition-style cap to blow giant clouds.
When you're using rebuildable atties, you'll need several tools to build with. First of all, you'll need wire. Kanthal A1 is the most widely used, although there are other kinds of wire that will work if you want to use temp control (nickel, titanium, or stainless steel wire), or you can use nichrome wire if you want (but kanthal is better in my opinion). You'll also need some kind of wick to get the juice to the coils. For wick, there are several options. I use rayon (also called cellucotton), but many vapers prefer organic cotton. Japanese cotton is very nice as well, and it comes in small pads that are easy to cut and shape. Or you can use silica wick. Rayon or cotton will taste better than silica, but if you dry burn them, they will need replaced, whereas silica can be dry burned and reused.
In addition to the wire and wick, you'll also need some wire cutters, pliers or tweezers, and a screwdriver. I try to get only atties that use phillips or flat head screws, but some require allen keys instead. Flush-cut wire cutters are best, personally I use these Hakko wire cutters from Amazon
which work very well for rebuilding. Ceramic tipped flat pliers like these
are good for rebuilding, since the ceramic doesn't conduct heat as much as metal, and the flat tip lets you pinch your coils without crushing them. They also don't conduct electricity, so if you accidentally fire your mod while you're pinching the coils you won't get a surprise electrocution. And the opposite end of the tweezers can be used to grip a tank that doesn't want to unscrew.
So there you have my recommendations for each category! Of course, if you have any questions or just want to talk about my picks, send me a PM and I'd be more than happy to help, and of course some of the other folks on here have more experience than me in some areas so I'm sure they'd love to help as well.