Updated April 2021
We first wrote this roundup of the best pod vapes available several years ago.
How things have changed!
Back then, pod systems had only just hit the market. They were small, compact and mostly basic devices that provided a Mouth-to-Lung hit.
You can now get pod devices to suit every style of vaping. You’ll find devices designed for ease of use, devices designed to replicate the experience of smoking and devices designed for cloud chasers.
You’ll also find that the devices have seriously improved. I’m finding that pod systems have greatly improved taste, longer-lasting batteries, a better nicotine hit and longer-lasting coils. It’s an impressive move forward in technology in just a few years.
In this post we’ll be taking a look at the best options available right now. If you’re a pod mod fan, though, you’ll find our pod mod round-up goes into more depth on this specific type of pod. If you’re not precious about the type of kit you use, do have a look at our round-up of the best vape kits here.
- At a glance
- Closed pod vapes
- Best refillable pod vapes
- Best Pod Mods
- How we chose the devices
- What are pod devices?
- Types of pod devices
- Benefits of pod systems
- Downsides of pod systems
- Wrapping up
Top pod devices at a glance
In this post you’ll find we also refer to MTL (Mouth-to-Lung), DL (Direct-Lung) or RDL (Restricted Direct-Lung) inhale. You can find an explanation of what these terms mean in our MTL v. DL guide.
|Device||Pod type||Inhale style||What’s special|
|Hexa V2||Closed pod||MTL||Best closed pod system|
|Uwell Caliburn G||Open pod||MTL/RDL||Best for flavour|
|Smok Acro||Open pod, fixed coil||MTL||Great performance, long-lasting battery|
|Smok Nord 2||Open pod, replaceable coils||MTL/RDL||Uber-popular, reliable, duck-billed mouth-piece|
|Vaporesso Luxe PM40||Open pod||MTL/RDL||Superb build, turbo boosting tech|
|Eleaf iSolo Air Kit||Open pod/Pod Mod||MTL||Super compact, easy-to-use|
|Innokin Sensis||Pod Mod||MTL/RDL||Cutting edge technology for longer-lasting coils & improved flavour|
|Oxva Velocity 21700||Pod Mod||DL||Super taste and performance|
|Voopoo Drag X/Drag S||Pod Mod||MTL/DL||Powerful, stunning combination of leather and metal|
|Smok Nord 4||Pod Mod||MTL/DL||Choose between tight or airy vape|
|Geekvape Aegis Boost Pro||Pod Mod||DL||Tough, powerful|
Closed pod vapes
Hexa V2: Best closed pod system
The Hexa V2 remains our favourite pod system, blowing alternatives like Juul out of the water. The key to its success is down to the interplay between the technology and the e-liquid.
Most e-liquid is either freebase or nicotine salts. Freebase, when used with high nicotine levels, can be harsh on the back of the throat. Nicotine salts are super smooth, even when used with high nicotine levels. The Hexa V2 uses a combination of nicotine salts and freebase e-liquid. This strikes a nice balance between the two and offers an experience very close to smoking.
The device comes with a 350mAh battery. That may not sound much, but at the low wattages it uses it can provide many users with all-day battery life. It’s also substantially better than the 200mAh of the Juul. It also comes with a 1.7ml pod – that’s slightly below the maximum allowed, but much more than the miserly 0.7ml you get in a Juul pod.
Finally, the device is also very easy to use. Simply click in the pod and vape. That makes it great for vapers who value simplicity and ease of use.
What we like:
- Throat hit similar to smoking
- Super easy to use
- Light and compact
Best refillable pod vapes
Uwell Caliburn G: Best for flavour
The Uwell Caliburn G is another example of a brand taking a popular device and making it even better. The original Uwell Caliburn, which remains popular itself, developed a deserved reputation for being the best pod system for flavour.
The Caliburn G retains the excellent flavour of the original and adds several improvements. You can now change the coils in the pod. The choice of coils and the dual airflow control system means you can get more vapour from this device than the original. The device also comes with etched lines, making it easier to grip.
The Uwell Caliburn G is still easy to use, and several users reported it helped them to transition from smoking to vaping.
What we like:
- Superb flavour
- Easy to use
- Easy grip
Smok Acro: Great performance
The Smok Acro is one of the newer devices here, and we haven’t yet had the chance to collect much user feedback.
So why’s it here? Because it’s performed very well in testing. The device comes with a 1000mAh capacity which provides excellent battery life at lower wattages. It also comes with a choice of two pods, both with different resistances, and I found it provided a really good combination of nicotine hit, throat hit and flavour.
Despite having a fairly typical pod design, it’s also surprisingly sophisticated for a slim pod device.
A slim LED screen on the side provides you with the resistance level of your coil, battery level, puff count, puff length, wattage setting and battery level. While clear and easy to read, the display is small, and might not be suitable for people with restricted vision.
I also like the airflow control. This looks small but works very fluidly. Close it off completely and it provides a very restricted vape, while the wide open setting lets a surprising amount of air through. If you have mobility issues, though, you may find it a little too small.
Then there’s flavour. I tried it with a regular e-liquid and it brought out variations of flavour I had not tasted before – almost a little fruitier.
The acid test was when I tried it on my parents, who are usually wedded to ancient vape technology – they asked me to get them one 😉
What we like:
- Great flavour
- Good airflow control
- Long-lasting battery
Smok Nord 2: Reliable, comfortable mouth-piece
I couldn’t write a post about the best pod mods without including a Nord – and in fact there are two in this roundup!
Both the original Smok Nord and the Smok Nord 2 have proved hugely popular. They’ve also proved highly reliable. In fact, the Smok Nord 2 has an average review rating on E-Cigarette Direct of 4.8/5 from over 200 reviews.
Both the devices come with a duck-billed mouthpiece which has proved part of the key to its popularity. The mouthpiece is designed to fit the contours of your lips, making it one of the most comfortable to vape.
The Nord 2 comes with significantly more power than the original Nord. It can provide up to 40 watts, and can also be used with lower resistance coils. This makes it a great choice for vapers looking to experiment with larger clouds of vapour without blocking the sun out!
What we like:
- Duck-billed mouthpiece
- Reliable performer
- Choice of coils
Vaporesso Luxe PM40: Well made, great aesthetics, turbo-boosting tech
If you’ve ever used a cheap plastic pod system, you’re going to love the quality and aesthetics of the Luxe PM40. Vaporesso are experts at producing well made, high-quality devices, and the carbon fibre PM40 boasts a superb build which is both light and strong.
As the name suggests, the Luxe PM40 has a maximum wattage of 40 watts. That means it could just about slip into the pod mod category but the design itself is classic pod style. The choice of coils (down to 0.6Ω) means that while this device is not a cloud machine, it can be used for a Restricted Direct-Lung inhale as well as Mouth-to-Lung.
We also really like the turbo boosting tech the Luxe uses. Essentially it means that the Luxe applies a consistent power output throughout the inhale, which maintains both the flavour and the vapour.
The Luxe also comes with crawler air transmissions, which enables you to make small, precise adjustments to the airflow.
What we like:
- Well made, high quality
- Turbo-boosting tech for consistent flavour
- Precise airflow control
Best pod mods
Eleaf iSolo Air Kit: Compact, easy to use
The iSolo Air Kit is another device which looks great. At under 10 cm long, it’s also seriously compact.
The Eleaf iSolo Air has the design of a pod mod, but is really a Mouth-to-Lung device. Designed to give a tight, restricted vape closer to that of a cigarette, with the small air holes you need for this type of vape. The device does come with up to 40 watts of power, which is more than sufficient for MTL.
The iSolo Air has a 1500mAh fixed internal battery, which is good for its tiny size and sufficient for a MTL device (if it was a DL device we’d want to see a larger battery life). The device can go from zero to full charge in just 45 minutes.
This a very easy-to-use device, with simple controls and fast coil changing, and would make an ideal first foray into the world of pod mods.
What we like:
- Super compact
- Fast charging
- Easy to use
Innokin Sensis: Longer lasting coils, superior flavour
One pain point with vaping, especially when used at higher wattages, is the coil. If you don’t keep the coil saturated with e-liquid it will burn, providing a foul taste.
To prevent this, it’s important to prime coils. However, you usually do this before you vape, and if your coil gets dry during usage there’s not much you can do about it.
So I’m really excited about the Innokin Sensis, which is the first device to introduce auto-priming technology. When you turn this mode on, the device automatically draws e-liquid into your coil to keep it saturated. This both expands the life of your coil and improves the flavour.
There’s a lot more to like about the Innokin Sensis. In fact, there’s so much to the new technology we wrote a whole blog post about it. If you’re in a hurry, though, it’s also worth noting that it has an excellent 3000mAH battery capacity. There’s also a mysterious Find F mode, which you can access by solving a puzzle or searching online.
What we like:
- Auto-priming for longer-lasting coils
- Auto-refresh mode for improved flavour
- Mysterious Find F mode
Oxva Velocity 21700: Superb flavour and clouds
There was a time when vaping meant a choice between flavour and clouds. The Oxva Velocity 21700 provides both. The performance and taste are so good that our product manager labelled it the best pod mod he had tried.
This is a solid device that feels hefty in the hand and provides decent clouds of vapour – it’s a long way from a classic pod design! The extra size means the device can take external batteries. In fact, the Oxva Velocity can take a range of batteries, including 18650, 21700 or 20700 batteries.
External batteries have a big advantage over fixed batteries. When your battery runs out, you can just slip it out and put a new charged battery in. You can also charge them either in the device or in an external charger such as the Intellicharger.
The Velocity 21700 also comes with a neat Smart Mode. When used, this stops you from going above a maximum wattage, which helps your coil last longer. This makes the device more accessible for less experienced users.
What we like:
- Superb taste
- Great for clouds
- Smart Mode
Read more: Is this the best pod mod yet?
Voopoo Drag X/Drag S: Stunning combination of metal and leather
The Voopoo Drag series is a real looker. It combines leather and metal for a device which both looks great and is super comfortable to hold.
But there’s a lot more to the Drag than looks. It performs superbly. It also comes with Smart Mode. This both sets a maximum wattage to prevent coils from burning out, and also recommends an optimum wattage.
The Drag X/S is a great option for vapers who have some experience but still need a little guidance. It also has options for more advanced vapers. Experienced users can switch to RBA mode, allowing them complete freedom over how they use their device.
The Voopoo Drag series comes in two options. The Drag S uses a fixed internal battery with a 2500mAh battery. The Drag X uses a 18650 battery. These usually come with a battery capacity of 3000mAh. That’s slightly more capacity, but the real advantage is being able to swap the battery out when it needs recharging.
What we like:
- Great performance
- Choice of fixed or replaceable battery
- Smart Mode great for less experienced users
Smok Nord 4: Choose between restricted or airy vape
While the Nord 2 was a step up from the Nord, the Nord 4 is a different beast altogether. The device can output up to 80 watts of power, putting it firmly in the Pod Mod category.
Combine that power with low resistance coils (especially the 0.16Ω RPM2 coil) and you can produce thick, dense clouds of vapour.
The Nord 4 is not just for clouds though. Switch to the 1.2Ω quartz coil and dial down the airflow and wattage to get a restricted vape with more intense flavour.
I also like the airflow adjustment. This is controlled by a wheel-like control, which makes it easy to get better accuracy.
(You may be wondering why there isn’t a Smok Nord 3!? Smok told us that they regard the Smok Nord X as the third in the series, which is why this device is called the Nord 4, despite there being no Nord 3.)
What we like:
- Most powerful Nord device yet
- Choose between MTL or DL vaping
- Great airflow control
Geekvape Aegis Boost Pro: Pod Mod Power
The Geekvape Aegis Boost Pro is a bit of a beast in comparison to the Eleaf iSolo air, at least when it comes to power! This device can provide up to 100 watts of power – it may not match a mod, but it’s a lot for a pod device. (In all honesty, you’re unlikely to need more unless you are building your own coils.)
It also comes with upgraded Gen 2 airflow. Essentially, that means it can provide enough airflow for a very airy vape. The power, airflow and wide bore tip make this a great option for cloud vaping.
As with most Geekvape devices, this pod mod is super tough. You can drop it in water, cover it in dust and drop it on the floor and it will still function. (After you dry it out, of course – it’s never a good idea to wet electrical devices 😉 ) This makes it a great option for outdoor vapers.
Do note that Geekvape has designed the device so it can also be used for MTL vaping, but we think it is best for vapers who DL more than MTL.
What we like:
- Super tough
- Great option for clouds
How we chose these kits
To select the kits here we’ve used a combination of our own ratings, the popularity of the devices, both in terms of sales and ‘on the scene’, as well as taking into account customer feedback. Occasionally we’ll add a just-launched kit to the list – but only if we are seriously impressed in testing.
All the kits here are made to UK standards and are compliant with EU and UK regulations.
What are pod systems?
As the name suggests, pod systems are e-cigarettes that make use of a “pod” as opposed to a traditional tank or cartridge. They ultimately do the same job: they hold the e-liquid and vaporize it to deliver vapour to you through the mouthpiece.
The pods simply push into place in the top of the device and pull out when you’ve emptied them or want to switch flavours. Closed pod systems typically have a smaller capacity than tanks, but amongst other pod systems the size is usually the maximum currently allowed (2ml). Some pod systems also have either auto-inhale options, or offer the choice between auto and button inhale.
Types of pod system
A closed system pod device uses pre-filled pods. When you have finished using the pod, you simply dispose of it and replace it with another pod.
These devices are the easiest to use and are ideal for vapers who are visually challenged or who have mobility issues. However, you don’t have as much choice when it comes to flavour.
Open system, fixed coil
Open system pod devices with fixed coils allow you to fill the pod with e-liquid. You can use your favourite e-liquid, but be aware that the e-liquid you use needs to match the coil. If you use a high VG e-liquid with a high resistance coil, the coil will quickly burn out.
When the coil comes to the end of its life, you need to replace it. However, most fixed coil pods use low power and high resistance coils. This means they often last 2-4 weeks before needing replacing.
These devices are often easy to use and make a great first device. They are perfect/ideal for people who are nervous about the technicalities of vaping. They are also suitable for people who have some mobility issues but are confident they can fill a device with e-liquid.
When choosing between fixed and replaceable coils, it’s worth bearing in mind that a lot of thought and effort has gone into improving coil swapping. Many systems now boast fast coil swaps, which involve simply pulling out the old coil and pushing in a new coil.
Open system, replaceable coils
If you purchase an open system with a replaceable coil, you can both change the coil and fill it with e-liquid.
Many pod systems are compatible with different coils. By choosing a different coil, you can vary the style of your vape. For example, a low resistance mesh coil will provide more vapour, while a high resistance coil will provide a tighter vape. These devices are great for people who want to experiment with different coils. They also minimise plastic waste, as you can re-use the pods.
Pod Mods are a cross between mods and pod devices. They are usually simpler to use than a mod and have a lower power rating. At the same time, they are generally larger and more powerful than a standard pod system. They may also have more functionality than a pod device.
Many pod mods allow you to vape in different styles. For example, you can switch between a tight, restricted vape and a loose, airy vape with a lot more vapour than other pod systems can provide.
Pod Mods are a great option for vapers who want to experiment with larger clouds of vapour, but are not yet ready for an uber-powerful, advanced mod device.
See our pod mod roundup for more info on pod systems, as well as our current favourites.
Benefits of pod systems
So why might you want to try a pod system e-cigarette? What are the benefits of pod systems in comparison to traditional vaping devices?
- Compact. Pod systems are much more compact than most modern vaping devices, which make them a great choice if you’re going to be vaping out of the house a lot. There is some variation in the size of pod systems, but even the bigger ones are more compact than most mods on the market. The pen-like ones are closer in size to a cigalike.
- Easy to use. The “pod” design makes pod system e-cigarettes really easy to use. The pods simply pop in and out of the battery section. Some of them work just like a cigarette – all you need to do is inhale to vape. The most complicated thing you’ll have to do on some devices is refill the pod, but this is really easy too. Even pod mods are generally easier to use than mod devices.
- Affordable. The cost of pod system e-cigarettes does vary, but on the whole they’re pretty affordable. They’re cheaper than most of the mods on the market, although in many cases are a similar price to vape pens.
- Satisfying. Despite their size being more in line with cigalikes, pod systems are generally much more satisfying to vape. This is especially true if you’re using higher-strength e-liquids or very high strength nicotine salt options. With a high-strength e-liquid, you’ll find them as satisfying as most mods.
- Discreet. Clouds aren’t for everybody and they aren’t for every situation. Sometimes you want something more discreet to vape, and smaller pod systems are perfect for this. Even if you use mods at home, getting a pod system for vaping out of the house has definite benefits.
Downsides of pod systems
When we first wrote about the downsides of pod systems, there were quite a few in this list.
A combination of advances in technology and the introduction of pod mods have made this list shorter. As long as you choose the pod device which meets your needs, there’s really not that many drawbacks.
- Closed systems offer limited flavour options. If you’re using a closed pod system device, you’re stuck with the flavours on offer from the manufacturer. This isn’t always a big issue, especially when high-quality e-liquids – like those from Element – are included as standard, but with some devices, it can be quite limiting.
- Less control than a mod system. There’s always a trade-off, and the simplicity of pod systems means you don’t have as much control over your vape as with a mod. That said, the advanced features of a mod system (such as customised ramp up speeds) are only used by a minority of users.
- Less battery capacity. Pod system’s smaller size means they usually have less battery capacity. There are two things to remember here. Battery capacity doesn’t automatically translate into battery life. If the device uses less power, it doesn’t need as much battery capacity. Also, some pod mods now have an excellent battery capacity, although this is not usually as big as the best mod devices.
I’d love to provide a top pick here, but that’s really difficult.
The devices listed here each have their own special features, and what will suit another vaper might not suit you.