Last Updated on February 2, 2018 by Team Spinfuel
A SmokeTech ZMAX Review
Julia Spends 3 Days With A New VV/VW SMOKtech ZMAX from MyVaporStore
Our friends at MyVaporStore sent over a new Smoktech ZMAX early last week so that we could take a long, hard look at this new Variable Voltage, Variable Wattage vaping device. The ZMAX has been a product I’ve been lusting for since I read the official ‘feature list’ so naturally I jumped at the chance to spend a few days with it. This review will cover the feature set, my impressions, and my recommendations.
MyVaporStore, a terrific vendor with the best prices we’ve seen lately, sent over just the device, sans battery, battery charger, case, atty, or anything else that comes in any sort of ‘kit’. Fortunately the lack of a kit package wasn’t an issue since we had a few 18650 High-Drain batteries and an appropriate charger in stock and plenty of cartomizers, clearomizers, and tanks that fit the new ZMAX. Getting up and running was a simple matter.
The ZMAX ‘unit’ is available at MyVaporStore for $116.95 (unit only), and they offer two battery options at a very affordable $12.40 for two (2) efest IMR 1500mAh and $15.30 for two (2) efest IMR 2000mAh batteries. You can also opt to buy a TrustFire Dual Battery Charger for $11.25. It is possible to use two 16350 batteries in the ZMAX instead of the single 18650, but this something I am just not comfortable with so I won’t be covering this aspect in the review. Besides, the standard cap that comes with the device is for the single battery 18650 option. In order to go to dual 18350 batteries you need to pick up the extender cap. Why bother?
(note* Modern devices like the ZMAX, among others, have safety features that make using 2 batteries just as safe as using a single battery, so this is more of a personal ‘comfort’ zone, not a slam against dual battery safety.)
If you have previous experience with a tube-type vaping device you might take notice of the price of the ZMAX before anything else. After all, the great VV device I reviewed some days back, the Lambo 4.0, is much less expensive ($74.25 device only) and features many of the same advances and feature set as the ZMAX. Clearly, if you recently purchased a new Lambo 4 there’s no reason to run out and buy the ZMAX, but if its been a while since you’ve upgraded your older VMAX, VTube, LavaTube, or even the ProVape Provari, or earlier version of the Lambo, it would make a lot of sense to consider the ZMAX.
I can say with some confidence that the ZMAX is clearly the most advanced vaping device in its class. I used it extensively and in a variety of ways, but I can’t anything about how the ZMAX performs with a rebuildable atomizer because we don’t use them here and personally I can’t see the need for one, though I do know some that use them and swear by them. I can imagine that if you are someone that is into the RBA’s you’ll really appreciate the Variable Voltage and Variable Wattage of the ZMAX.
Stainless and Chrome
Both the Brushed Stainless Steel and Chrome versions of the ZMAX are “sexy”. I was very impressed with the chrome version I received while Jon at MyVaporStore seems to favor the Brushed Stainless Steel when it comes to the ‘sexy’. Because I like to have a backup handy, for sharing or for an unexpected happenstance, I will probably pick up the Stainless Steel model within the month.
The Chrome model is gorgeous to look at and a real pleasure to hold and feel. The ZMAX designers stepped up when it came time to design, and when it comes to a device that would feel as great as it works the ZMAX wins hands down. Any Vaper looking for a ‘tube’ style device will fall in love with the ZMAX the first time they pick it up. Be it chrome or brushed stainless steel, the ZMAX is sure to please in the ‘looks’ department alone.
A Word About SMOKtech
SMOKtech has a great reputation in the vaping community in the US and abroad, and rightly so. Many times Smoktech has proved to me that it can build high quality products that are equal to, or greater than, products built right here in the US. I don’t think any other Chinese company can quite reach the level of quality of a SMOKtech product. That’s not the say that everything else is garbage, that would be overstating it, but Smoktech does, in fact, ‘hold a candle’ to any other top tier company, including ProVari. (I know, heresy right?)
One of the best features I’ve found with Smoktech products is the ‘durability factor’. I’ve not used a single Smoktech product that hasn’t produced great results, and maintained its level of quality throughout its lifespan.
In fact, the ZMAX is a perfect example of just how good a Chinese product can be when the goal is quality and durability instead of creating throwaway ‘use-n-toss’ product that so many other Chinese companies specialize in, and I’m not just talking products for the electronic cigarette industry. I’ve no doubt that like the VMAX before it the ZMAX will last years.
I suppose the biggest feature to talk about first would be the ZMAX’s ability to adjust the voltage and the wattage, giving you some serious ways to look for, and find, the ultimate vape no matter what you have attached to it. You can adjust the voltage in 0.1v increments (3.0 to 6.0), as a few other VV tubes do, but in addition you can adjust the wattage (power) from 3 to 15 watts in .5w increments. The wattage adjustment represents the pure power of the ZMAX.
Another great feature to the ZMAX is the native ‘eGo-style’ connector that allows you to use Joye eGo cartomizers, atomizers, and clearomizers without the need for an adapter. If you’re moving from a standard eGo device to the ZMAX you won’t have to go out and repurchase any of the above products you might already have. You can now switch over swiftly and neatly without an unattractive adapter that often makes devices like this look a bit ‘odd’.
During my review period I went through lots of attachments, from 510 Dual-Coil Tanks, Totally Wicked’s “Triple Coil cartomizers”, 510 atomizers with cartridges, prefilled 510 cartomizers from Blu Cigs, Johnson Creek Vea Cartomizers, plus eGo and 510 CE4’s and CE5’s. The only thing I didn’t use was the cartomizers we use on 808 batteries. No matter what your preference for your eLiquid ‘containers’ the ZMAX will fit them comfortably, and still allow you to quickly and easily find the sweet spot for every single one of them. By the time I was ready to sit down and write this review I had experienced 3 full days of the utmost pleasures of vaping with numerous attachments, and I came away thinking there is no need to bother with any other hardware moving forward. Naturally, I will use other devices as situations calls for it but if all I had were the ZMAX I’d be set for the duration.
The right battery to use with the ZMAX is an IMR 18650 (standard end cap). The ZMAX will accept either the Flat Top or Bottom Top with the standard end cap that comes with the device. I trust the great people at MyVaporStore so when you order the ZMAX trust that they are selling the right battery for the device. As for the 1500mAh or 2000mAh this is your choice, I opted for the 1500mAh and I’ve not seen any disadvantages with it.
Colors: Chrome or brushed stainless steel
Length: 118 mm
Diameter: 20 mm
Voltage: 3.0 V – 6.0 V
Wattage: 3.0 W – 15.0 W
Batteries: 18650 or 2x 18350
Current: Up to 4 Amps
Display color: blue LED
Using a single button on the side of the ZMAX controls each of the functions. (like the ProVape ProVari). Three (3) button clicks gets you into the menu where you can start customizing your settings. Each additional click after the initial three takes you through the menu options. A 2-second delay locks your choice in, so be careful not to let more than 2 seconds expire between button clicks or you’ll need to start over, something I had to do until I learned the rhythm of the system.
The button is substantially larger than most other button-controlled vaping devices I’ve used, and is smooth to the touch and very comfortable. With respect to the ProVari the button is at least twice the size, but protrudes out about the same). There is no light behind the button so when you press down on it to take a drag of the cartomizer/tank/clearomizer, etc., the LCD panel lights up instead, unless you set it to stay off.
(note* Starting off with the default setting is always wise. Screw in your choice of carto/clearo/tank and begin vaping, then judge where you need to go from there.)
Once you’re in the menu system for the first time click through the menu system and begin to get used to how its laid out and you’ll wind up getting a feel for that 2-second delay.
Changing the Voltage/Wattage: To increase the voltage or wattage; press the button three (3) times until the display shows 1.Uu. Waiting two seconds the currently selected voltage or wattage locks in. To reduce the voltage press the button four (4) times until the display shows 2.Ud. Standby mode is reached by clicking the button five (5) times and the display will show 3.So. Battery Check takes an additional button click, six (6). This menu shows you the charge state of the 18650 batteries: (4.Uc). Clicking seven (7) times gets you to the screen where you can configure what you want to display, the output voltage, the battery voltage or the atty/carto resistance, voltage under load, etc. 5.Ds. Eight (8) clicks of the button will shut the LED off: 6.Lo Nine (9) button clicks allow you to choose between Volts and Wattage. Po: Here you can change the constant voltage operation or constant power (wattage) operation Uo. Trust me, its not complicated with less than an hour of usage.
1. Uu- Voltage up
2. Ud- Voltage down
3. So- Standby / on/off
4. Uc- Battery voltage check
5. Ds- Display change / Resistance Ω/Voltage output/Voltage under load ‘live’
6. Lo- LED on/off
7. Up- Voltage power (Wattage setting)
Po- Constant power operation
Uo- Constant voltage operation
The large(er) blue-lit LED panel shows you the results of those button clicks in clear, unmistaken letters and numbers, though not as intuitive as ProVari. However, it worth noting here that one of the problems I’ve always had with the ProVari is that the LED readout is on the opposite side of the button. The ZMAX LED readout is directly above the button. For me, this is a much better placement.
Since the ZMAX function is a lot like the ProVari I borrowed the company ProVari to compare how each of them handled changing functions and power levels. The clear winner, in my opinion, is the ZMAX. During my tests in changing the voltage I often times overshot the number of clicks in the ProVari and had to either start over or click on through until I got back to where I needed to be. With the ZMAX I found it easier to get to the function I wanted to change, and a tiny bit faster as well. The actual ‘clicks’ made the difference I suppose. The ProVari button ‘click’ is actually more like a ‘push’ whereas the ZMAX button produced a pronounced ‘click’; though barely audible it was more tactile than the ProVari. It was just a better ‘feel’ to the button clicks with the ZMAX, a more accurate feedback to my fingertip when pushing the button.
The manual that comes with the ZMAX is written in English, with plenty of misspellings and grammatical errors due to translation, but still easy enough to understand. After reading the manual and using the ZMAX within a day and half I had every function down pat and could change from voltage to watts, and go up and down the increments with confidence and without referencing the manual. If you’ve never used a device that uses a single button in this manner it might take a little getting used to, but it sure is more convenient than using the plus and minus buttons on the Lambo, LavaTube and VTube units. (I’m not criticizing the plus/minus buttons though; it’s just a different method.)
Error codes: (straight from MyVaporStore)
During the normal use of the ZMAX you may, at times, get an error reading from the display.
LOR—Lower resistance indication; if the resistance is below 1.2ohm,the display will show “Low Load”.
LOU—Lower voltage indication. If one 18650 battery voltage is below 3.4V or 2 18350 batteries Superposition voltage is below 6.4v,the display will show “Low Voltage”.
WSC—Short circuit indication. If cartomizer/atomizer short-circuits the display will show “Warning Short Circuit”.
Low Battery Indicator — When the battery gets low the red-lighted pushbutton will slowly flash indicating that your battery is low.
As you can see in the error codes above, cartomizer resistance can be as low as 1.3ohm. Safety features, low battery, and low voltage warning are clear, concise, and very accurate. The short-circuiting protection is becoming a standard feature in this tier of vaping hardware.
Real World Experience
Reading about all the features, specs, and how to navigate the menu system is interesting and informing, but how does it really perform? Is it worth the premium price over something like the great and powerful Lambo 4 I reviewed last week? Does it do what Smoktech says it does? And most importantly, is the vaping experience “better” than the less expensive devices?
The real world experience of someone who has used the ZMAX for a few days exclusively, which has gone through and used every configuration, vaped with every attachment from a simple 510 carto to a CE5 clearomizer, really tells the tale. So how was it?
In a word, incredible. If you want the best vaping device to date then how do you turn away from the ZMAX if it’s within your budget? Well, that depends on how comfortable you are with this type of device, and as I indicated above, your budgetary restraints. Let me explain.
Everyone on staff here at Spinfuel use different vaping hardware. Not because they have to, but because they choose to. John is never seen without his Johnson Creek Vea, despite the fact that it requires the JC Vea cartomizer and doesn’t work that great with a whole lot of other options. Chelsey loves her mini-ecig batteries and considers Lavatubes, VTube’s, Lambo’s and ZMAX’s as just too much, too heavy, and too bulky. Lisa loves her eGo’s, especially the Twist. Dave isn’t comfortable using anything other than the short 650mAh eGo with a CE4+ Clearo. Everybody’s different. Using the ZMAX is a different experience. To be honest, it’s not a good idea to go from using a mini-ecig battery and prefilled cartos to the ZMAX (or other tube-type units) without the serious dedication to get used to vaping in a whole new way.
Let’s assume for the sake of this review that your history of vaping includes a tube device. You already know that these devices are heavier, more serious, and produce a whole lot more vapor than smaller, less expense devices. You know all this already so does the ZMAX produce a vaping experience that will entice you to drop $120 to replace what you’re using now? Again, that depends.
As for myself, up until the ZMAX arrived I thought I found the device that would be my exclusive (mostly) vaping hardware for at least a year to two. I was/am happy with the Lambo 4, (also from MyVaporStore) and I certainly don’t mind the plus and minus buttons all that much, or the tiny display, or anything else. It’s a damn fine piece of hardware that has incredible advances over previous models, and it provides me a great vaping experience. But having said all that, the ZMAX is a better product.
The large, very tactile button on the ZMAX is so much easier to use than the plus/minus button. The large blue-lit LED display is easier to read than the tiny screen on the Lambo, and the fact that I can use just about any device for eLiquids is huge. Clearomizers, tanks, attys and cartos are all interchangeable in seconds. This is the epitome of choice.
Am I getting more flavor and/or more vapor from the ZMAX over the Lambo 4 or even the ProVari by ProVape? No, not that I can tell. I am able to find the sweet spot for each of the attachments I use with the Lambo and ProVari just fine, but I can find it just a bit faster with the ZMAX if for no other reason than the single-button click-thru. As for finding the sweet spot using a ProVari, the fact that the LED readout is on the opposite side of the button often slows me down. But the vapor and the flavor of the eLiquids I use are about equal with the Lambo, ProVari and the ZMAX. Admittedly, they are all high-end PV’s, and as such there is going to be little to no difference in the vapor and flavor areas. However, I will admit that there might be some veteran Vapers, perhaps vaping “pros” that would be able to fine-tune the ZMAX further than I can and maybe squeeze out a bit more vapor and flavor, but I won’t say that I can.
The bottom line for me, when I strip the hyperbole away, I have switched from the Lambo 4 to the ZMAX because of the single-button navigation and the ability to adjust not only the voltage in 0.1v increments but the power (wattage) as well. Both feel great in my hands (as does the ProVari), they all offer a ton of features, and are built to last. But that large button pushes the ZMAX toward me, not away. The power level (wattage) setting is the cream on top. If I were to assign a grade of A to F to the ZMAX, Lambo 4 and ProVari, it would be easy, the Lambo 4 and ProVari get an “A” (for different reasons), and the ZMAX gets the “A+”. They are top tier vaping devices, but the ZMAX has the edge. And let’s not forget; the nearest competition to the ZMAX is the ProVari, and while it is American “assembled”, it does cost quite a bit more than the ZMAX and offers a little less.
So there you have it.
If you want more technical information about the ZMAX I recommend stopping in on our forum and ask around (we are still new, so you may have to wait a while), or head over to some high-tech forum and dig in. Otherwise, if you’re looking for the best tube-style PV and nothing but the best will do by all means pop over to MyVaporStore and pick one up before they are all gone. At $116.95 they won’t last long.