Let’s face it, most of us buy clones! From wanting to try before we buy, a scarce supply, or simply not wanting to spend too much on an atty, we all have our reasons!
The question most often asked about clones is “Which clone of X is the best?”.
I’ve decided to compile a list of my personal preferences when purchasing a clone.
Metal used: 316 SS > 304 SS > SS
Often we find specifications for the metal used to create the clone. This is important, as we do not want our atomizer to rust or corrode!
The fast summary is: 316SS > 304SS > SS .
316 Stainless Steel: This is the best stainless steel grade for a clone. Also called marine grade stainless or surgical grade stainless, it provides better corrosion resistance than the other stainless steels used to make atomizers. This is due to the addition of 2-3% molybdenum. These are usually a little bit more expensive than the others.
304 Stainless Steel: If 316 is not available, the next best is 304 stainless steel. It also has corrosion resistance, but less than 316 since it does not contain molybdenum. These will usually be cheaper than the 316 counterpart, but more expensive than the plain stainless steel ones.
Stainless Steel: If only stainless steel is written, it will be hit or miss! While there is a chance it could be 304 or 316, it can also be very low grade stainless steel. These are atomizers that can easily rust and give out a weird metallic taste. These will usually be the cheapest clones available.
Copper inside the chamber: NOPE!
Some atomizers have a copper center post or copper top caps. Some authentics even have it (ex: Kennedy RDA). This is a big no-no for me!
Copper is a metal that easily oxidizes, patinas and is known to be toxic in certain dosage.
Our atomizer chamber is constantly being heated up then cooled down, with a constant flow of juice (alkaline or acidic) inside it.
This means our chamber is literally a catalyst for the oxidation/patina of the copper. I am not fond of this idea at all! Knowing an external reaction not related to my evaporation of e-liquid is taking place and I could be inhaling the results of it does not sit well with me!
It is important to note that I am not a chemist, so my logic could be wrong here, but why in the world would I want to test this when I can replace the copper with 304/316 stainless steel and just forget about it?
Back in the early days of mechanical mods, people praised the use of a copper center post to provide better conductivity. While it is true that copper conducts electricity better than stainless steel, the advancements in regulated mods have made this a non-issue.
Peek Insulators: Good but not a necessity!
An insulator is a substance that resists electricity. It is used to segregate our positive and negative connection in the atomizer to make sure they only connect at the coil. Insulators can be made of glass, ceramic, plastic and many other substances. We mostly find plastic insulators in our atomizers, as they are cheap and malleable.
It is important for the insulators in our atomizer to be able to withstand heat, as we are constantly generating heat from our coil. If the insulators were to melt, we would most definitely have a short as the positive and negative would be touching each other before the coil.
PEEK insulators provide high temperature resistance (up to 250C/482F) and are the ideal plastic insulators to use for our atomizers. Unfortunately they are more expensive than regular plastic insulators.
Thankfully, unless we are vaping at extremely high wattage (100+W), a regular plastic insulator will do the job!
I have more than 50 atomizers in my arsenal and have only managed to semi-melt 1 cheap plastic insulator. I was also at fault, having the atomizer fire button constantly being pressed/released for 20+ minutes (in car cup holder in a weird position).
At the end of the day, PEEK is preferred, but should not be a deal breaker! This also applies to delrin, ultem, or any other insulating material presented in the marketing of the product!
Clone brands: Reviews are more important!
We see them everywhere: Tobecco, Ehpro, Hcigar, SXK, Ivogo…
These companies have very small factories (if any) and subcontract their work/orders from other manufacturers. The difference is *usually* in the quality control of the batches. I say usually because sometimes getting your dollar is more important to them (looking at you Hcigar and Wotofo!!!)
For example, Hcigar used SGS for quality control. The clone manufacturer would transfer the goods to SGS for inspection, and if passed they are branded Hcigar. This is one of the reasons why branded clones are more expensive, and sometimes are exactly the same as the 5$ ones on FT. This does not necessarily mean the quality is better! Hcigar quality went down the drain before they stopped selling clones!
Unfortunately there is no clone brand that didn’t drop the ball. It is a roller coaster ride. This is where reviews come into play!
Reviews will provide a much better depiction of the atomizer under real use over a company that has no clue what they are looking at!
1:1 Clones: Not always!
Clones often have little variations over their authentic counterpart. These can be different screw sizes, diameter, drip tips…
A 1:1 clone should have the exact same specifications as the original. This means that all parts should be interchangeable with an authentic.
Sadly, this does not always apply to the metal used or tolerances of certain pieces! This is why in my opinion the metal used is more important!
If we have the option between 1:1 304SS and not 1:1 316SS, I would choose the 1:1 version.
If a clone of the device was just released, chances are more will pop up with better machining or tighter tolerances. This can be rewarding as sometimes a clone can be extremely close to the authentic (Ex: Tobecco Kayfun V4)!
That covers the basics that I use when purchasing a clone. Hopefully you found this useful!
If you think I forgot something, want add to this, or just say thanks, don’t be shy and leave a comment down below!