Sunday, August 14, 2011

One Week with the Buzz Pro

My first week as solely a VV mod user started on Thursday at about 7PM when I finally got home from work to find a package in the mailbox containing the Buzz Pro from NotCigs.

Pics are coming... I'm just being lazy and have been sitting on this review way too long. Luckily, the review is way to long as well, so...

The company's new banner says "Vape It Like You Stole It."  So, I stole a week of Buzz Pro only action to break the mod in and see if all the buzz about it is true.

See what I did there? That's a pun. I made a funny. You're 'spose to laugh, son.

To say I have been anxiously awaiting this device would be a rash understatement. After ordering the Buzz Pro, my entire vaping world shut down. Every time I started to write a juice review, or thought about loading a new carto, or tried a new atty, or did anything at all having to do with vaping, my mind would back-flip and go "Well yeah, but just wait until the Buzz Pro gets here!" 

Was it worth the anticipation?

Let me put it this way: If you thought I took it to church with my review of the Mad Vapes VV Box Mod, then we're about to have full blown tent revival here, folks.

I do, however, believe that you really can't get a good feel for something until you've let it cook in your brain for awhile. You've got to use it under real conditions, particularly with a device that is multi-functional like the Buzz Pro (BP). So these are my initial impressions over the first week of use.

Perspective

Keep in my that my previous variable voltage PV experience is the Mad Vapes box only. I was impressed with that device for several reasons, but one of the selling points was that it does what it does for only $35. The Buzz Pro does the exact same thing, conceptually, so one of the biggest differences between them is about a hundred and five bucks.  That's a big difference for many of us and a lot of cash to live up to. If it does essentially the same thing, it better do it $105 better.

My experience is also with a little plastic box, a VV circuit, and some hookup wire.  The BP uses much more advanced vaping tech. Comparing the two isn't even remotely fair, but it's something that no reviewer could suppress completely.

Basically, my expectations for the MV box were pretty low and it exceeded my expectation by a huge margin.  Expectations for the BP were, naturally, a lot higher.

Let's have a look. And please try to keep the drool to a minimum.

Ordering, Delivery, and the Company

NotCigs, out of Paso Robles, CA, is a specialty PV shop. At first blush, the web site seems a bit spartan and smallish compared to the mega vaping online stores you see all over now.  They do sell a small selection of batteries, atomizers, accessories, and e-juice. Mainly, though, they seem oriented toward the devices themselves.  As I write this, only the Buzz Pro is available, though a new version of their famous Infinity PV is in the works, as well as a variable voltage, juice feeder PV.


Ordering a Buzz Pro is easy, using a standard web checkout procedure. There are several personalization options, but they not terribly overwhelming. The BP makes a great choice for veteran vapers, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it for new vapers either. So, easy ordering is a big plus.

The BP comes in four color choices; clear, black, blue, and purple. Clear apparently refers to the finish, so the clear one comes out chrome/silver looking. One of the nifty things NotCigs has done with the BP is offer up two different cap color choices (brass or chrome) in just about every major thread type available. The top and end caps are also available separately, if you decide to swap things up a little.  The tubes are not available separately, sans caps, so ordering a whole new Buzz Pro is the only option there.  At this price, though, that's not really a bad deal.


You can order a BP with a charger and one set of batteries for $159, or without either for $139. NotCigs also offers extra batteries for $8.95 a set, and a nifty screw on voltage meter for $10.95 for those that don't have a multimeter handy.  Actually, I may order one up just because I don't have alligator clips for my meter and measuring is a pain in the ass.  Luckily, measuring the voltage on the Buzz Pro isn't necessary (we'll get to that in a minute), but if you want to know, the screw on meter would be handy.

Shipping was super fast and right on time. I ordered mine before they were built, so there was a two week lead time. Now that they've caught up on the initial orders, and are filling them from stock, they should ship even faster. It took 3 days from the time I received the ship notice to the time it arrived at the door. All email notices from order receipt to shipping and tracking were prompt and accurate. Mike from NotCigs updated the initial order status on ECF regularly to keep his anxious fans up to date. Doesn't get any better than that.

I ordered my BP with the charger and extra bats, but alas they got skipped in the packing. When I sent an email to NotCigs about the order discrepancy  it took a whole three minutes for them to get back to me and correct the issue. Yes, three (3) whole minutes. Not a typo. Over achieve much? (Pretty damn awesome, and thank you, Mike.)

The package itself is a pretty simple affair. The BP comes wrapped in a bubble wrap envelope in a Priority Mail box. There's a single sheet instruction manual.  That's about it.


For once, I'm going to say that this is not a bad thing.


I know I've gone on about production values before. Yes, I think they could jazz up the Buzz Pro's packaging a bit. Clearly, NotCigs has elected to focus on the production values of the product itself and not the packaging it comes in.  That focus does have a certain merit.  The single sheet photocopy instruction manual put me off at first, but after looking it over, what more would you put in it?  I'll get into the operation of the device below, but really it's pretty simple. Screw on an atty, push the button, vape. Done.


This is all part of the the Buzz factor, as it were.  Simple, high quality, and functional personal vaporizers. I get the impression that NotCigs and their fans like the no fluff, just good products line the company takes.  I suspect that by minimizing the sparkly packaging, NotCigs keeps their costs down quite a bit, as well, which is clearly reflected in the price of this PV.  You're getting as quality (or better) a device as you would from many PVs that cost $50 to $150 more.

What I like about this approach is that it's clear and the company is focused on this concept. There's nothing half-assed about it.  NotCigs is expecting their product to speak for itself.  It does.


Still, an option on this front would be welcome. Gift packaging for an extra ten bucks? Sure, I'd take that if I were ordering one for someone else. Offer a high quality, customized carrying case?  I'd drop an extra $25-$50 on something like that, yup. I'd also print the manual in color.


Regardless, the PV is sent nice and secure, and well packed. The Buzz Pro doesn't need a fancy manual, and it certainly doesn't need a pretty box. It comes to the party as is, and makes its statement with personality.

Getting a Feel


A sigh is really the only thing I remember about holding the Buzz Pro for the first time. Even without batteries it has a slight heft to it. The finish is a silky smooth satin. The dimensions are just right. It feels perfect in hand and I guarantee that's one of the big reasons this PV has made such an impression on me.  With the batteries in it, it picks up some weight and settles in quite nicely. If they had handed me four of them at different weights and dimensions and said "which one ya like?" I'd have picked the one they sent.


The center tube doesn't give at all and is a smoothly machined one piece affair. The end caps screw on smoothly and tightly without any effort. If you select the brass cap option, get some brass polisher. After a week of use I had to buff it up a bit. Expected, of course, but if you're not familiar with brass, be advised.

The Buzz Pro takes two protected 16340 3.6V (IRC123A) Li-ion rechargeable batteries. NotCigs sells the gray Trustfire 880mAh batteries. On one set of batteries I get no rattle at all. On the second set I can feel them move a tiny bit. Be aware that these types of batteries can vary in size every so slightly, so it is possible you could get a little rattle. If that happens, it's easily fixed by sticking a piece of card-stock in there to act as a spacer. 

Basically, the whole device is machined to a high degree of exactness.  It's... dare I say... perfect?  I took it apart and I haven't found any flaws yet.

The Looks

I ordered the Buzz Pro with a black tube, brass end caps, with the 808 connection (of course). It just looks... classic. Simple, stylish and rugged, all at the same time. For 808 fans, I'll point out the the BP is one of the few high end mods that can be configured with an 808 connection in its native state. No adapter required.



I said the finish is silky smooth, and it is. Almost slippery, in fact, but still grippable. The BP isn't going to go squirting out of your hand. But it does have a smoothness to it that makes you want to take a good hold of it.


That's fine because when you see it, you want to hold it. You know how when you see Ginger, you just want to enjoy having a good look, but when you see Mary Ann you want to grab her and hold her?  Like that. Both are sexy. Ginger is nice to look at.  Mary Ann is nice to look at and you want to do stuff with her.  The Buzz Pro is definitely Mary Ann.


The Buzz Factor is all over this thing.  That is to say, there's nothing all over this thing. The serial number is printed in bold, white lettering vertically at the bottom of the tube... and that's it. No other markings at all. I expected, at the very least, there would be a NotCigs or Buzz Pro logo somewhere. But nope. Nada.


Having the device in my hand, that's the best thing they could have done. From my perspective, if you're going for a look, stick with it. No decorations on the outside reaffirms that NotCigs has a firm grasp on what they wanted to do (simple), without mucking it up with logos and self promoting slogans printed all over the thing.  This is device that makes people go "Oooh! What's that?" when they see it.  I like that.


I wouldn't mind seeing them take it even further, though, if the urge should strike. The fire button is a dark yellowish gold.  It should be solid black.  They also painted yellow, red and green marks on the variable voltage wheel. That's fine, but an option to order it without the marks would be welcome for those of us that don't need them.

I do hope they'll do different tube designs at some point, as well. As much as I love the black and brass look, I'm already contemplating the chrome end caps and a blue tube. The options that NotCigs offers are great, and I'd enjoy seeing them go further with it. That sexy plain tube is like a canvas just waiting for someone to pimp the crap out of it. [Note: As I finish writing this, NotCigs released the Buzz Pro Woody with what appears to be a gorgeous wrap-around wood veneer on it. Want!]


In the end, the Buzz Pro's visual appeal subtly screams the philosophy behind its design.


Just as it should.

Working It

So, enough of that. "How's it vape, you fool?" you ask?

Well, you really don't think I'm going to just go right into it without pontificating a bit, do you?

Fine. Short version:

It vapes exactly as it should

I'll say more, of course, but that's it in a nutshell.  And that's saying a lot, really.  There are no caveats, no quibbles, no "except whens" or "the only thing is..." 

The Buzz Pro does it exactly what it should do, exactly the way it should. Every. Single. Time.

I honestly can't think of anything I could say that would be more of a compliment to the design and the device itself.  If you just want to push a button and vape, it simply doesn't get any better than this.

But let's talk details, just for the record.

Battery life is outstanding for this type of mod. Early in the week I was using up some LR 808 cartos and was getting about 8 hours.  As I've switched over to standard Kanger 808s I've been getting over 10 hours. I also tried some 510 dual coil cartos (about 6 hours) and a 901 atomizer (over 12 hours).

Those numbers are with the BP surgically attached to my face.

Operation is smooth and simple.  The voltage wheel, or what NotCigs is calling the Variable Hit Wheel, is located near the top of the PV. It's got a solid set to it and doesn't give under pressure. There's a bit of resistance, so that it doesn't turn or flop about under normal use. I did pull the BP out of my pocket a few times and had the wheel end up cranked all the way over one way or the other. But you won't be spinning it unintentionally while you're using it, or if it's sitting in a case.

As mentioned, it has three dots painted on the wheel itself. Measuring the three settings we get: Green 3.64V, Yellow 4.36V, and Red 5.05V.

So with just those three settings, you've got an Ego, an 808, and a 5V mod all in one. Sweet.

Of course you can dial in and "tune" the voltage to exactly what you want. Measuring isn't necessary. Just start low and shift it up until you get the hit you want. With the wheel turned all the way down I measured 3.38V. With it all the way up I get 5.55V.  The range gives you plenty of room to use and experiment with different resistances and find your sweet spot for each juice/atty/carto combination.

And if you're like me and go ape trying out the latest new thing, the BP makes a perfect platform to play.

One of the selling points of the BP, though, is the way it regulates the voltage.  Not being an engineer, and making no pretense to understand how it works, let's just say from a layman's perspective: It does.

The first time I fired up the BP I vaped away on it until, suddenly, it just quit.  And I'm thinking "Aw crap! I got a bad one!"

Nope, it just delivered the exact same voltage, consistently, right up to the end. With a regular battery, you can tell when it's about to give out and it's time for a charge because the hit starts to drop off.  You'll start with a nice strong hit. Then it'll drop a bit and you'll get an acceptable hit. And then after a couple of hours it'll just slowly get less and less.   If I've got it set at my prefered 4.6V, the BP gives me 4.6V right up until the batteries are dry.

Even for the casual vaper, this is a huge win. One of the more frustrating aspects of vaping on an e-cig style device is they tend to give 30 minutes to an hour of decent vaping and then they drop. You can either recharge, grab another, and/or power through until it dies.  Not a terribly consistent experience.  If you never take the BP off one setting, it's well worth it for the consistency alone.

The button is something I tried really hard to hate. Looking at the pictures online, that little yellow nub kept giving me second thoughts. I like the big soft squishy button on my VGos, darnit!

I dunno know how NotCigs pulled it off, but they might have found the only nub-like button I could possible like. It's got an easy, but firm resistance. I thought it would poke and jab my thumb.  It's... how do I say this... Not pokey, at all? Yup, not pokey.

Visual indicators are simple and spartan, like the rest of the device. There's a red LED inside the case that indicates that the BP is getting power. A blue LED lights when you press the fire button. If the light stays red when you fire it, the atty is shorted.

I keep reading vague references that claim the unit can be turned off, but I can't find a way to do it and there's no mention of it on the instruction page or on the web site that I can find. So, the only way to kill the power appears to be to take the batteries out.  I can't imagine why you'd do such a thing, but there it is.

Who Should Buzz

So, who's the Buzz for?

Anyone, really.  I'm always hesitant to recommend an expensive mod to new users, and I certainly would recommend more advance vapers weigh they're options and try different things.

Except when it comes to the Buzz Pro.

Anyone will love this mod. There's no real downside.

That said, what if you would rather have something a little smaller and sleek?  Well, NotCigs has that covered with the Infinity Pro.  What about a juice feeder?  The new VVPV with a top feeder should be along shortly. Both are basically the guts of the Buzz Pro in a different case. 

I'll certainly be giving those a try, but the Buzz Pro is real deal for me.  Your perfect vape, indeed.

Angel's Luck & Electric Dreams,
Capt.

2 comments:

  1. i hear you unscrew the bottom cap till the light inside goes off...that how you turn it off...dont know if ill be doing much of that...but there it is

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  2. Hi VadimGod! It is, indeed. Apparently there was a problem with some of the original brass bottom caps that kept the off feature from working. Not Cigs kindly replaced those caps with new ones that work like a charm. I'll be revisiting the Buzz Pro here shortly with a "at 6 months" review. Thanks for dropping by! - Capt

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