By Andrew Tarantola
With their flashing lights, roaring fans, and Blade Runner-esque designs, a lot of tabletop vapes these days place more emphasis on maintaining hyper-precise temperature gradients than in providing a relaxing and enjoyable user experience. The new Cloud Evo takes a refreshingly zen approach.
What Is It?
The Cloud Evo is the second iteration of VapeXhale's wildly popular tabletop vaporizer, this time with lighter weight, faster heat times, and steadier temperature ranges than the original Cloud.
Why Does It Matter?
Because bongs are archaic and you're too old to be smoking out of an apple. Volcanoes are still well north of six bills, and you shouldn't need a goddamn thermal engineering degree to get properly stoned.
I'll admit, when I first pulled this unit out of the box, I was thoroughly underwhelmed. I mean, just look at it; this little 8-inch tall plastic monolith uses a single toggle switch and an unmarked temperature knob for input. Who does that? Vaporizers are supposed to look like alien spaceships, right? Right?
This is a radical departure from other tabletop vapes—which often incorporate extravagant LED readouts telling you exactly how hot they are—and I quickly grew to love the restraint. I stopped worrying about whether it was really hitting 380 degrees and how that would affect my buzz, I stopped counting down in my head the seconds and degrees until the unit was fully heated, and all the other things that I never worried about when getting high until someone slapped a digital readout on my toking device. Essentially, I stopped getting all neurotic about how I was getting high and got back to just enjoying being high. It's amazing what a single knob can do.
The crucible loads into the top of the unit—either a metal mesh EZ Load bowl for loose leaf material or a glass tube for concentrates—and the combination percolator-mouthpiece sits on top of that. It's an all-glass air pathway and the heating element features a "perpetual heating" function similar to the Firefly that boosts the temperature based on how hard you draw. VapeXhale sells a number of different handcrafted, artisanal mouthpieces, running anywhere from $30 to $450 (which, coincidentally is what the unit itself will cost you). For this review, we played with the $250 Swagger Sidecirc.
Take your crucible and fill it with a tiny your favored loose leaf, wax, oil, or concentrate. Remember you only need a little bit when vaping concentrates; you want to get high, not make yourself sick. We used cold water hash and loose leaf for this test, though there's no reason to believe that oils or wax would perform differently.
Drop that into the neck of the vaporizer, fill the mouthpiece percolator chamber with water and set that on top of the vaporizer neck. Then, flip the toggle switch to turn on the heater, wait a minute or two for it to heat up (a small LED embedded in the neck will turn from red to green when it is ready for use), and begin drawing.
There's a lot to like about the Cloud Evo. The unmarked heater dial is rather liberating compared to other systems that forcefully display that information at every given opportunity. It's also way easier for neophyte vaporizer users to get the hang of than similar devices. I mean, do you really care the optimum vaping temperature reads out at 381 degrees or 5/8's of the way up the dial so long as it delivers a nice, milky hit? I know I don't.
The Evo's focused versatility is also quite nice. Being able to handle both concentrates and loose leaf, you simply can't go wrong. What's more, the Evo doesn't try to shoehorn unrelated functionality into the device—like an aromatherapy mode or similar such silliness—but rather focuses on doing one thing very well: getting you thoroughly blunted.
The Evo is, however, not without its drawbacks. For one, it takes far longer than other tabletop vapes—close to two minutes over the course of my testing—to initially heat up. And even after the light turns green, it can take a few moments to actually pull the vapor through the system. It also takes forever to cool down after consuming a bowl, so unless you've got multiple crucibles to cycle through, you're going to be waiting 5-10 minutes between sessions (though with the strength of today's concentrates, you aren't going to need more than two or three rounds).
And while the vertical formfactor is interesting, I constantly worried about knocking it over—and nearly did a few times—which is not what you want to deal with when you're four bowls deep and have a $250 piece of glasswares sitting on top of it. And if you want to set your mouthpiece down for longer than a second, you're going to need to shell out another $20 for the glass footpad.
Should You Buy It?
Yes, right now if you can. It's a clever and incredibly functional little unit that perfectly dovetails the relative strengths of bubblers and vaporizers. It's stealthy enough to leave out when company comes over, and small enough that it won't take up your entire coffee table. So long as you don't go overboard with the mouthpiece (or do, if you have the cash, the Swaggerpuck looks marvelous), you can get a full system for significantly less than a Volcano. Check out a Cloud Evo for yourself at VapeXhale.