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SMOK “Pioneer” e-Pipe – $49.99
Pipe mods aren’t for everybody. Let’s just get that understood right out of the gate. The other thing to understand, right out of the gate, is that because pipe mods aren’t for everybody, there aren’t a lot of them out there, at least not in the same mass-market penetration as most other mods.
Because pipe mods in demand by — and are therefore created for — such a slim sub-section of the vaping market, those which do exist tend to fall into one of two categories: ultra-expensive hand-crafted pieces and… well, until recently, that was about it.
However, SMOK now has two renditions of this rare type of mechanical. The rather self-explanatory “e-Pipe” and now the “Pioneer e-Pipe.” Today, we’ll be looking at the latter device.
In my testing of the Pioneer, I used a multitude of clearomizers, as well as direct dripping atomizers from Kidney Puncher, and the XL size Kangertech cartomizers. Testing primarily occurred in my home office, but there was also a goodly amount of “out and about” testing around the downtown Tempe area.
The SMOK Pioneer was graciously provided by the fine folks at Vaporetti for the purpose of this review.
The thing about the Pioneer is that it’s a visually striking device, and the box it arrives in makes that bold visual statement right up front. Comprised of very thick, laminated paper (I’m not sure that it’s cardboard, it feels stronger yet smoother than that) the exterior of the box bears a faux-wood-grain texture and finish in keeping with the “Pioneer” theme.
Interestingly — and uniquely for a piece of vaping hardware — the box is also emblazoned with a quote from Albert Einstein: “I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs.” Nice.
Inside the rustic-themed box, we find the Pioneer e-pipe itself resting in black foam. Additionally, we find something else resting in the foam beside it — a 7-amp safety fuse. Unfortunately, what I didn’t find in the box was anything like a manual — or, really, just a double-sided sheet of illustrations to demonstrate things like battery installation, safety fuse installation, and use of the locking ring.
Features & Specs
Did I just mention a locking ring? I did. Borrowing from SMOK mechanicals like the Magneto and Galileo, the Pioneer employs a locking ring to prevent unintentional discharge of the battery while the mod is resting in a pocket. The nice thing about the locking ring on the Pioneer, as compared to those on the other two devices mentioned, is that it features a sort of “knobby” texture around its outer edge.
In addition to the locking ring, the Pioneer features a full 510/eGo connection that allows the use of eGo-threaded clearomizers. Finally, the inclusion of the safety fuse, although it isn’t integrated into the mod itself, is a welcome feature that provides a good deal of confidence.
On the question of power, the Pioneer can accommodate an 18350 battery with or without the safety fuse. Beyond that, there isn’t a great deal to say about the Pioneer, feature-wise. While these feature additions are a welcome step forward from SMOK’s original e-Pipe, features aren’t where a mechanical mod’s make-or-break question is answered. So let’s move on to…
Build Quality & Ergonomics
This is where the Pioneer marks itself as a device with the potential to really bring the pipe configuration into the mainstream of vaping. As with the original SMOK e-pipe, the “bowl” is where the battery compartment is located. Unlike that previous effort, however, SMOK really went the extra mile to make the Pioneer a device that’s stylish, comfortable to hold and use and, yes, classy.
These touches begin with the size and shape of the “bowl” of the Pioneer. It’s nice and large, and really feels substantial without being too large or too heavy. Remember that this is still, of course, an 18350-powered mechanical. If an 18500-powered version (with a commensurately larger handful) should ever appear, you’d never find me with anything else in hand.
The finish applied to the bowl is of a type I’ve never seen on any PV before with the possible exception of the Mod Powerkit — it’s that same soft-touch rubber, in smooth, satiny black. Out on the 510/eGo connection, we have a brushed metal that gives a somewhat muted, somewhat understated look that just contributes to that overall impression of class.
Up top, the battery cover is a grid-textured, polished metal, while the locking ring is similarly polished but features the aforementioned “knobby” grip around its edge. The firing button, meanwhile, echoes the brushed finish of the connection housing.
Finally, flipping the Pioneer over, we find that the bottom of the bowl sports four holes for battery venting, although I have to say that if your battery does vent while you’re holding the device like a pipe — and how else would you hold it? — that venting is going to be directed into your hand. Probably not the brightest design choice ever, but then I suppose I have to ask myself where else they would have put the vent holes.
Those vent holes, by the way, surround another nice, classy touch — the SMOK brand in a radial-textured silvery metal badge. Again, the Pioneer scores a perfect 10 on looks.
Now that I’ve laid out the finishes — and I admit I’ve glowed a little on them, because in my opinion, they merit it — let’s talk about fit. With or without the safety fuse installed, I hear zero battery rattle from this device. When you combine that with a goodly amount of heft in the hand, as well as the walled connection housing, this device just feels rock solid regardless of what you have screwed onto it.
However. There are a few points where I find myself critical with this design. Part of it is on SMOK’s design decision in one specific area, and part of it is just down to the e-pipe configuration itself, though I believe it’s something which SMOK could have — and ideally should have — thought to include a very simple workaround for with this device.
The first is their design for the 510/eGo connection, which includes an integrated “wall” around the entire connection assembly. Now, while this doesn’t pose any issue whatsoever with 510 threaded devices, I have already had two different eGo-threaded SMOK clearomizers separate tank-from-base while I was trying to unscrew them from the Pioneer.
That’s just unacceptable, and to me there’s no sensible answer for using an integrated wall on a connection like that. The possible answer to that is that a naked eGo connection wouldn’t look good when you use a 510-threaded device on it. To which I would have to answer: Develop a beauty ring that would look good on it.
Second issue is this: Assuming you use the Pioneer with SMOK clearomizers, your performance is going to suffer. Again, this issue sort of isn’t but sort of is SMOK’s fault. It rather isn’t in that the reason why SMOK clearomizers don’t match the performance of their rivals from Innokin and Vision (in the form of the X.Jet and Aspire series) is that SMOK still deploys their clearomizers with Kangertech atomizer heads.
And Kangertech atomizer heads, in my opinion, are behind the curve at this point where performance is concerned. So, somebody has to step up his or her game on this; either Kanger or SMOK. Just my two shiny pennies on that point.
Finally, while the Pioneer is a real thing of beauty, it’s pipe shaped — and that can potentially make actually using it somewhat uncomfortable and awkward looking. Having one’s hand oriented vertically and only an inch or so from one’s own face isn’t exactly the most comfortable thing in the world for a lot of people, and it’s not really how one typically smokes an analog pipe, either. There are two differences between the positions of the hand when using an analog pipe and when using the Pioneer:
First, on an analog pipe, one doesn’t smoke it with one’s thumb at the top of the bowl but, rather, resting on the side of the bowl with the fingers cradling the bowl’s curve.
Second, one typically don’t have to bring an analog pipe that close to one’s face.
Now, two fixes can be made to address these points. I don’t know how hard it would be for SMOK to place the firing button on the side of the bowl so that it can be pressed with either the thumb or a finger. I don’t know that that even can be done.
But the workaround they could easily implement — and if they do they’ll knock the e-Pipe segment out of the park — is to package the Pioneer with a long, curved 510 drip tip. I mention that because, of course, I recommend just such an accessory with this device to increase the comfort of using it.
On the other hand, the build quality on the “controls” is very, very nice. The threads for the battery compartment are clean and smooth, and the locking/unlocking action on the locking ring is likewise. The action on the firing button could be a little more certain, but it’s still perfectly satisfactory.
Performance & Real World Experience
When it comes to performance, the Pioneer certainly isn’t going to blow anyone away, but neither is it a slouch. I get a respectable 2 to 3 hours of steady vaping from the Pioneer. Here’s the thing, though — when it came to real world experience, and this was due to the aforementioned ergonomics issue of the way this device has to be held in order to use it, my estimate of its battery life may be off.
I got 2 to 3 hours of battery life, but only because after 2 to 3 hours of holding this device the way it has to be held, I just couldn’t continue to use it without taking a long break. The real world experience might have turned out very differently if I had a long, curved “pipe stem” style drip tip — but I still couldn’t have overlooked this issue. Unless and until the Pioneer comes with such an accessory, I can’t give them points for a better experience that comes with using a part I had to buy myself to modify the experience.
So who is the Pioneer e-pipe right for, in my opinion? It’s almost something I’d recommend to anybody who wants a compact and extremely stylish mechanical. I can’t overstate this, this device just oozes sophistication.
But at this time, with what the device ships with — or, more to the point, doesn’t ship with — I can only recommend the Pioneer to someone who really, really insists on the pipe configuration and, moreover, is prepared to pick up that one extra part to make this one as comfortable to use as it is handsome to look at.
- Pioneer e-Pipe
- 7-Amp Fuse
Additional Parts Needed:
- EH IMR 18350 Battery
- Trustfire TR-001 Charger