Updated: December 2023
John has been vaping for a few months using a relatively simple device.
He has no problem filling tanks, changing wattage or adjusting airflow, but he doesn’t (yet) have experience of more advanced features like temperature control mode.
He wants to upgrade to a more powerful, sophisticated (and impressive-looking) device.
But when he goes to choose his new mod he is bewildered by the choice available.
Ring a bell? If this story reflects your experience, this guide should help!
One problem for those who don’t live on vaping forums is that the huge choice of vape mods (not to mention some technical gumpf too!) can lead to bewilderment. In this post, you’ll find an explanation of features and benefits found in different mods so you can match them to your needs. We’ll also give examples of mods that include those features. Finally, you’ll find a table matching features to mods, so you can easily find the best mod to suit your needs.
Do note, if you’re looking for a more basic guide, you’ll probably be better off with How to Vape: E-Cigarette Basics.
Also see: Which Vape Kit Should You Buy?
- What are vape mods?
- Pros and cons of mods
- Mod features explained
- Matching features to mods
The term vape mod refers to the device part of a more powerful electronic cigarette. The mod contains the battery (either fixed or replaceable), the chip and the controls. The mod will connect to a tank, usually via a threaded 510 connection.
The term ‘mod’ came about because vape enthusiasts built or modified their own electronic cigarettes. Manufacturers saw the growing popularity of these and started creating their own mass-manufactured devices. This made the power of modified electronic cigarettes far more widely available.
These days, mods come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and, in some cases, with a huge range of features. Many mods are becoming easy to use thanks to features like Smart Mode which make them more accessible for less experienced vapers.
Mods are often best bought in the form of a mod kit, which combines the mod and tank in one package. This is usually more economical than buying them separately and also ensures that you have a tank and mod that are well matched to each other.
They look good!
Some vapers have no idea how to use the advanced features of their mods but simply love their look, size and vibe.
More power, more vapour!
Mods typically have a much higher power range than a standard pod device, meaning they can be used with low-resistance coils and produce more vapour.
Advanced features and modes offer more control over the vaping experience. For example, some mods allow you to adjust the speed at which the coil heats up.
Battery life is important to you
Mods often come with much bigger battery capacities and typically last much longer between charges, although the exact life depends on the power level you are using.
Massive power isn’t important to you.
Following the introduction of devices like the Aspire PockeX, you can now get a decent sub-ohm experience (i.e. lots of vapour) without needing a mod, and you don’t need to push your vaping experience to extremes.
You don’t need advanced features
Many vapers, especially those not involved in the cloud chasing, sub-culture of vaping don’t understand or use the advanced features included with many mods. However, it may still be worth getting a simpler mod device if the battery, power, design or size appeal to you.
You want something simple to use
Some mods are difficult to use. If you prefer something simple, either choose one of the easier mods or stick to a simpler device such as the Aspire PockeX.
Pod mods are a great alternative here as they tend to combine the power of a mod with the ease of use of a more simple pod-style device.
You like small, light devices
When it comes to vape mods, there’s usually a tradeoff between power and size, and most mods are not as light and compact as simpler devices.
Almost every vape mod is loaded with features, ranging from the essentials like variable wattage through to useful extras like smart mode, right down to things not everyone will need like stealth mode. So when you’re choosing a mod, it’s helpful to learn a bit about each feature to give you an idea of what’s most important to you.
(For more explanation of different mod features see our guide to advanced vape modes.)
Most mods allow you to adjust the power/wattage going to your coil and can be classed as “variable wattage” (or VW) mods.
The range of power available is one of the simplest things to think about when you’re choosing a mod. Generally speaking, a wider range is better, but most vapers don’t need anything especially powerful. There are few coils that handle the maximum wattage of a powerful device, so these are really only relevant to vapers who build their own coils.
For example, the Innokin Kroma 217 has a maximum power setting of 100W compared to 230W on the Smok Morph 3. But, unless you build your own coils, you probably won’t need to go beyond 100W. The best advice is to think about what you’re actually likely to need.
Do note that when we first wrote this guide, temperature control was all the rage, but seems to have dropped out of favour in recent years. That might be because it is a little more difficult to understand than other modes. You will still find it in the odd mod, though, so we include it here for the sake of completeness.
To simplify the concept a lot, temperature control (TC) vaping allows you to set a specific temperature to vape at, rather than a specific wattage. This helps you avoid “dry puffs” and can help you get the best flavour out of your e-liquids.
The range of temperatures available on a TC mod can vary, but the Aspire Zelos 3 mod is a good example, offering a temperature range of 100 – 315°C / 200 – 600°F.
TC vaping requires either nickel, titanium or stainless steel coils. Most modern TC mods support all of these coil materials, but this is definitely worth checking before you buy.
When you start to vape, your mod fires at a specific wattage.
On some devices, this wattage is fixed, often at the maximum wattage allowed by the mod. However, other mods allow you to adjust the “ramp up” (i.e. starting) wattage to suit your preferences. You can increase it for a harder hit and decrease it for a softer hit. Some devices even allow you to adjust the wattage throughout the inhale.
For more info, see this tutorial on ramp up mode.
Most mods don’t have too many output options beyond VW, temperature control and sometimes “bypass” mode which delivers the full power of the battery to the coil. Some mods do offer additional options though, with devices like the Smok G-Priv 4 offering different preheat modes for your output.
Setting the output strength to “soft” gives you a gentler start to your puff, and choosing “hard” gives you boosted power at first to offer a harder-hitting vape. While many vapers will stick to “norm” (i.e. normal) output mode, the extra options are great if you’re looking for some extra control over your experience. (And yes, it’s essentially the same as Ramp Up mode but with a different name.)
As vaping becomes part of your everyday life, you’ll find you use your mod in all locations - including the outdoors. Manufacturers have caught on to this and have started designing mods to withstand the elements, so you can use your mod whilst camping, at the beach and more.
If you’re an outdoorsy vaper looking for a mod that can withstand the elements, a good thing to check is a device’s IP (Ingress Protection) rating - which refers to how dustproof and waterproof it is. This is expressed as ‘IP’ followed by a 2-digit code:
- Dustproof rating (1st digit): Expressed between 1 and 6. 1 means the device offers no special protection from dust and 6 means it is dustproof.
- Waterproof rating (2nd digit): Expressed between 1 and 8. 1 means there is no special protection from water and 8 means the device can withstand continuous water submersion.
For more information on choosing a great device for the outdoors, see our Guide to Outdoor Vaping.
The battery is one of the most important parts of any vape device, from basic cigalikes to high-powered, feature-rich mods. One of the most important things to think about when looking at different devices is their battery capacity.
This basically tells you how much battery life you’ll get out of each charge, and is represented by a number followed by mAh. If you’re interested in what this all means, it’s explained in more detail in this post on voltage, watts and ohms.
For the purpose of buying a vape device – especially a mod – the main thing to remember is that bigger numbers are better. A mod with a 3000mAh battery will last twice as long as one with a 1500mAh battery when used at the same wattage.
(Do note that you’ll often see pod devices with a smaller battery described as having a long battery life. That’s because these devices typically need less power, and therefore don’t require the same battery size to achieve a long battery life.)
For a serious battery, it’s well worth checking out the Vaporesso Target 200. Powered by dual 18650 batteries, this powerful device can output up to 220 watts of power.
There isn’t really a “better” choice here; it’s all down to your preference.
Fixed battery mods are generally simpler and many newer vapers prefer them for this reason. You just need to buy the mod, plug in the charging cable when it needs to be charged and vape as usual.
The battery included will be suitable for the power output of the mod, and you can compare battery capacities between mods directly.
Removable battery mods are a little more complicated to deal with but have their own advantages too.
The biggest benefit of a replaceable battery mod is that you can bring a spare battery with you when you’re out of the house, so you don’t have to worry about finding somewhere to recharge it.
With age, batteries start to perform worse or may even stop working, and if this happens it’s much cheaper to replace the battery rather than having to get a whole new mod.
The downside to removable batteries is that most mods and mod kits don’t include the battery and you have to find a suitable option. This means making sure the battery you choose can safely provide enough current for the mod. This isn’t too hard to find, but it’s undoubtedly more work than just using a mod with an in-built battery.
Most vape mods are “regulated” mods. This means that they have chips that control the power output and support the other features they offer, unlike the early “mechanical” mods which had no such features.
One huge benefit of regulated mods is that they tend to come with a lot of in-built safety features. This makes it much easier to stay safe when you’re vaping.
For example, mods often have a low battery cutoff, so you can’t keep vaping when your battery is too low on charge. Most will prevent you from firing for more than 10 seconds, to protect against accidental firing when the mod is in your pocket.
Other common safety features include short circuit protection (to protect against sudden drops in resistance) and protections against battery overcharging.
The Smok Morph 2, for instance, offers an automatic cut-off for puffs over 8 seconds, short circuit protection, overheat protection, low voltage protection and overcharging protection.
This is a simple feature that essentially shuts off the mod’s screen and any other lights when you’re vaping to make it easier to ‘stealth vape’.
If you’re hoping to vape discreetly, this is a very useful feature. If you won’t need to stealth vape, this feature isn’t particularly important, but since many mods include it you may end up with it anyway!
If you’re concerned about your kid getting their hands on your mod, some devices have features designed with you in mind.
Many devices such as the Vaporesso Gen 200 and Geekvape AP2 have a locking feature that prevents them from firing.
This means that only you can get your mod to work again when it’s unlocked, which can provide some peace of mind if you have children.
It’s still important to keep an eye on your device and especially your liquids when you have children, though, and make sure they are out of reach of little hands!
Some people are put off mods because they’re often quite big and bulky. But that isn’t always the case. You can find mods that are both portable and still quite powerful.
There is a bit of a trade-off when it comes to size, though.
In general, bigger batteries will last longer between charges and bigger mods will be able to put out more power.
Mods like the Smok Morph 2 are substantially bigger than options like the Vaporesso Target 80. But for the extra size you get much more power (230W vs. 80W) and space for two 18650 batteries to keep you vaping through the day.
Overall, compact size is a useful feature for a mod, but bigger devices tend to have more to offer you as a vaper. It’s usually a trade-off between portability and power, and only you can really decide which is more important for your vaping needs.
Alongside the size, the apparent complexity of mods can be a bit off-putting to newer vapers.
It’s true that most mods are more complicated than basic pen-style devices. They usually have a display screen to show your settings and a couple of buttons to adjust your settings in addition to the main “fire” button.
Beyond this, there is quite a bit of variation in how easy mods are to use. For example, many devices with a temperature control mode require you to enter a menu system, select “Mode” and then choose “Temperature Control” (or a similar combination of choices) in order to switch modes.
However, something like the Eleaf iStick Power reduces this procedure into a single long press of the mode button.
If you’re interested in trying a mod but have been put off by the complexity of them, it’s worth looking for devices like the Innokin GOZEE or the Innokin Adept, which make ease of use a priority rather than an afterthought.
While mods were originally limited to advanced vapers, the inclusion of newer, more easy-to-use modes and features have made them accessible to users of almost all experience levels.
We are seeing Smart Mode included in an increasing number of devices and it’s now quite a standard feature of most mods.
As setting the wrong power level for your coil can lead to either not enough power to heat it or too much power and a burnt coil, Smart Mode is designed to counter this and take the guesswork and fuss out of controlling your mod.
When in Smart Mode, the device will automatically detect the resistance of the coil being used and will either automatically set the correct/best wattage needed or set a fixed power range that will restrict you from going too high or low. This helps more inexperienced users get the most out of their devices and coils without the time or knowledge needed for manual wattage setting.
If Smart Mode appeals to you it’s worth checking out the Eleaf iStick Power 2.
As you may expect, a mod’s brand can give you a pretty good idea of quality.
Despite their apparent complexity, mods – and vape devices in general – aren’t too complicated to make and there are a lot of companies trying to cash in with lower-quality offerings.
A lot could be said on this topic, but the simple advice is to stick with more well-known brands with a solid reputation.
Vaporesso is a great example. The GTX One is an excellent mod, but coming from a company like Innokin with a long history of making high-quality devices, it’s hardly a surprise that it outperforms similar devices made by less well-known companies.
Other than this, your choice of brand does come down to personal preference and experience.
You may have tried a Smok mod before, for example, but didn’t like the menu system. Since many modern Smok mods have similar menus, in a case like this you may prefer Voopoo or Vaporesso mods.
Factors like this are hard to account for without first-hand experience, but it can be helpful to read reviews of mods you’re considering. To give you a helping hand, we’ve put together a list of the 9 best vape hardware brands here.
All of this is a lot to take in, so to make it easy to find the right mod for you, we’ve matched features to mods in the table below.
It doesn’t include every model available (there’s too many for that), but because we’ve personally tried and used all the models below, we’re comfortable recommending them. For a more detailed guide, see the Best Vape Mods for the UK.