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Pax 3 vaporizer review

Posted by Joe Hoang on

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Before the PAX 3’s release in November 2016, this portable vaporizer from PAX labs was one of the most highly anticipated releases in the dry herb vaporizer industry’s relatively short history. Having only released the PAX Era vape pen since then, the PAX 3 remains the company’s flagship product.

Boasting superior battery life, lower draw resistance, and precise heat setting control, reviews hailed the PAX 3 vaporizer as a marked improvement over its predecessor. However, were these improvements enough to warrant such an increase in price level from the identical-looking PAX 2? 15 months later the question still rages on: is the PAX 3 worth the $60 more than the PAX 2? Time to find out.

     

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    PAX 3 Matte Black Vaporizer

     

    PAX 3 Review
    Overall Rating

    PAX Labs have a real gem of a vaporizer here - portable, easy to use and beautifully designed, the PAX 3 is one of the sleekest and most user-friendly vaporizers out there. The design and build-quality are second to none... well, on par with the PAX 2 as nothing has changed on this front! However, significant improvements have been made with reduced heat-up time, increased battery-life, shorter charge time, haptic feedback and the new mobile app compatibility. The mobile app could have been nothing more than a novelty, and the new games probably are for most, but the custom temperature setting and heating profiles do add value by allowing you to customise your PAX 3 experience.

    The reason why in this review the PAX 3 doesn’t score higher than an 8.5 is mainly due to a lack of improvement on certain attributes - the most obvious being the tendency for the vaporizer to get too hot after a long session. In my opinion, this should have been one of the first things that PAX Labs addressed. The vapour quality also could be better, although limitations are to be expected for such a compact vape. The efficiency in using the herb could have been improved too, but as the PAX 3 is a conduction unit this is always going to be difficult.

    So, is the PAX 3 worth the extra AU$60? In our opinion, yes - the improvements make the PAX 3 much better in many different ways and it is simply a better experience than the PAX 2. If you’re not too bothered about using the PAX 3 when you’re out and about, and aren’t concerned about the longer heat-up time and shorter battery life of the PAX 2, then maybe the PAX 2 would be the better value option, although if this is the case, then why wouldn’t you invest in a clunkier, higher-performing portable like the Mighty, or even a desktop vaporizer like the Extreme Q?

    Or maybe you just want a good looking vape to sit on your coffee table...

    PAX 3 Matte Gold Vaporizer


     Pros Cons
    Sleek, iconic design Can get too hot to handle
    Highly compact and portable Similar vapour quality to PAX 2
    Easy to use Heating efficiency could be improved
    Includes haptic feedback Some draw resistance
    Great LED petal interface A little harsh on the throat
    Short heat-up time (around 20 -25 seconds)
    Long battery life (7 10-minute sessions)
    Quick charge time (1 and a half hours)
    10-year warranty
    Bluetooth Mobile App
    Intuitive motion sensor cool-down system
    Oil concentrate compatibility


    If you’re interested in a more detailed breakdown of the PAX 3, keep reading our PAX 3 review for a comprehensive look at all the different aspects of the vaporizer.

     

    Design and Build Quality

    Overall, although nearly identical in design and build quality to the PAX 2, the PAX 3 vaporizer still boasts one of the most iconic and stylish-looking designs in the industry. It remains one of the most portable vapes out there and can be easily slipped into a pocket or bag for discreteness. With the change back to the old matte finish of the PAX 2, which is much more durable and resistant to scratches, the only criticism that could be had of PAX is that there was nothing new to get excited about on the design front. Then again, why would you want to mess with a design that’s so loved by customers?

    Portability with the Old Design

    At first glance, the PAX 3 looks identical to the PAX 2 - same size, same shape. This isn’t a bad thing, the PAX 2 fits great in the hand and was one of the most compact and portable vapes out there - PAX Labs obviously didn’t want to mess with a winning formula. Even now, the PAX 2 and 3 are arguably still the most portable dry herb vaporizers on the market, although the new Arizer Argo is now challenging PAX’s crown.

    Stylish as Always

    Most would agree that in terms of aesthetics, PAX still comes out on top. It’s sleek packaging is exactly in line with what’s to come inside the box, with the PAX 3 retaining the elegant design of the PAX 2. With no visible buttons and the awesome 4 petal LED screen, the PAX 3 keeps that minimalist design which gained PAX the nickname of the “iPhone of Vaporizers.” One criticism is that PAX Labs didn’t take the risk of bringing out a new design like DaVinci did with the DaVinci IQ, but as I mentioned before, why change the look of such an iconic and well-received vape?

    Change in Finish

    The PAX 3 now looks near identical to the PAX 2 with the original polished finish being swapped out for the more durable matte one. This change back comes after customer feedback complaining about the scuffs, fingerprints and scratches unavoidable with the original gloss coating. Frankly, this is for the best - although the PAX 3 looked great in the box, the same couldn’t be said after it was handled a couple of times.

    Materials

    All of the materials PAX uses are of a good standard; the majority of the PAX vapor path, which is essentially the filling chamber and internal tube, is made from stainless steel. The oven lid interior is made from high-temperature resistant plastic and the mouthpiece is made from silicon. PAX Labs assures users that all materials are medical grade and of the highest quality; in any case, the PAX 3 is covered by a 10-year warranty, so if the vaporizer were to fail you can rest easy knowing you can replace it.

    PAX 3 Matte Rose Gold Woman

     

    Functionality and Ease of Use 

    The PAX 3 is a versatile and easy to use device which incorporates haptic feedback, the LED screen, and the single multi-use button effectively to make the PAX a joy to operate. It does forgo a more informative LED screen like the ones featured on the Mighty and Boundless CFX vaporizers, but this has to be the case given the sleek design of the vaporizer. The PAX App is a nice addition too, allowing users to set their own custom temperature and select a heating profile which suits them. In my opinion, the games are not worth investing much time in, but are a fun gimmick nonetheless.

    If you’re interested in how the PAX 3 operates and a more detailed review of its functionality, read on.

    How to Use

    When it comes to operating the PAX 3, things couldn’t be simpler. Just slip out the magnetized oven lid on the bottom of the vape, drop your ground herbs in the oven and replace the lid (making sure you have a packed oven), press the single button on the top of the vaporizer once to switch on, hold it down to enter the temperature selection mode, and tap through to select the preset temperature you want. When the set temperature has been reached, the new haptic feedback will cause the PAX 3 to vibrate and away you go.

    LED Display and Multi-Function Button

    The petal shaped LED display of the PAX 3 needs to be on point as this, other than by vibrating, is the only way the vape communicates with the user. Thankfully, it is a joy - it has a variety of colours and petal formations to indicate when it’s ready to use, what temperature setting is selected, and even allows you to play a few entertaining games with the PAX 3 (although this isn’t really something any vaporizer enthusiast is likely to care too much about). Importantly, the LED lights work in sync with the multi-purpose button on the top of the device - this button is cleverly designed and doesn’t look much like a button at all, contributing to the overall minimalist feel of the PAX 3.

    I’ll quickly run through the different colours and formations the LED displays for each situation and how to control the PAX 3 using the multi-function button.

    Power On

    After the PAX has been turned on with a short sharp button press:
    PAX 3 Heat-up Ready LED Display
    To turn off, simply press the button again - the device will turn off automatically after three minutes without being used. 

    Battery Level

    Shake the device gently to display the charge level.

    PAX 3 Battery LED Display

    Temperature Settings

    Hold down the button for 2 seconds to enable temperature select. Then, quickly press the button to cycle through the 4 preset temperature settings. If you have connected to the mobile app, you can select a 5th temperature setting after the highest preset, but we’ll get to that later.

    PAX 3 Temperature Settings LED Display

    Once the desired setting has been reached, press the button again for 2 seconds or shake the device to start heat-up and exit temperature select mode.

    Haptic Feedback 

    One of the major additional features of the PAX 3 over the PAX 2 is the inclusion of haptic feedback. This is a nice addition, although one which features on most new portables at this price range. The major benefit of vibration is that you don’t have to pay such close attention as to when the device has reached the selected temperature. This is especially useful when you’re out and about and don’t want to hold your vape in your hand so obviously waiting for it to be ready to use, you could instead keep it in your pocket for discreteness and pull it out when you feel the vibration.

    Bluetooth Mobile Application

    So much can be said of the mobile application and all its features, so I’ll keep it brief - in my opinion, the major benefits are the custom temperature settings and some of the dynamic modes which, for all intents and purposes, are heating profiles. Sure, changing the colour theme, displaying the exact battery level, and the three new games are fun additions, but are not going to dramatically affect the vaping experience.

    Custom Temperature Settings

    This feature, as you may have guessed, allows you to set the max temperature of the device to your own preferred temperature to the nearest degree. This lets you tailor your vaping experience to your own preferences, rather than accept the four preset temperatures. One annoying aspect of this is that you cannot change the preset temperature levels, only the custom one.

    Heating Profiles

    The PAX 3 can be set to three different heating profiles: standard, boost, efficiency, flavour and stealth mode. You can find an in-depth breakdown of the different modes here on the PAX Labs website. The PAX is designed to head on demand to prevent battery and material wastage between draws - for the most part, all these profiles do is change the speed this happens.

    Standard is the normal setting; boost heats more quickly and takes longer to cool - good for short sessions; efficiency heats and cools at the same rate as standard but the peak temperature gradually rises over the course of a session; flavour heats more aggressively when you draw and cools more rapidly when you aren’t - it works best if you’re preoccupied on something else and not using your vape in a consistent way, or when you want to get the most flavour from a particularly tasty herb; stealth dims the LED light and autocools to try and mask the smell coming from the vape, although in my opinion the difference in smell was marginal at best.

     

    Basic and Complete Kit Components

     Component Basic (Device Only) Kit Complete Kit
    PAX 3 Vaporizer Yes Yes
    USB Charging Dock Yes Yes
    Standard Oven Lid Yes Yes
    Flat Mouthpiece Yes Yes
    Raised Mouthpiece Yes Yes
    Maintenance Kit Yes Yes
    Oil Concentrate Insert No Yes
    Half-Pack Oven Lid No Yes
    Multi-Tool No Yes
    3 Replacement Screens No Yes
    Storage Pouch No Yes


    PAX 3 Vaporizer Basic KitPAX 3 Vaporizer Complete Kit
    In addition to the vaporizer unit and charging dock, the basic kit includes both flat and raised mouthpieces which can be switched interchangeably depending on your preference. The complete kit also includes both the handy half-pack oven lid and the oil insert.

    As the name suggests, the half-pack oven lid enables users to pack half the amount of herb in the filling chamber than in the standard. This is really good for those sessions where you only want to use small amounts of herb - one of the complaints of the PAX 2 was that this was very difficult to do and still achieve good performance, the half-pack oven lid goes some way to resolving this issue.

    The oil insert is only useful if you intend to use your vaporizer with essential oils as you won’t be able to do so with only the standard kit. This added function makes the PAX 3 more versatile and saves you having to buy another device which is oil compatible.

    PAX 3 Complete Kit Features


    Heating and Battery Charge


    For a device of its size, the PAX 3 performs extremely well in this area - it takes only around 20 seconds to heat up to an optimal temperature, and can last for an hour and a half of continual use. Even more impressively, it takes only an hour and a half to fully charge from dead, which is remarkable for a battery of its size.

    Where the PAX 3 falls down on is the fact that it is a conduction unit. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, the effect it has on the temperature of the device after a long session can make the PAX 3 too hot to handle, literally. PAX Labs would do well to try and solve this issue with the next PAX 3 release.

    Heat-up Time and Temperature

    As mentioned before, the PAX 3 features 4 preset temperature levels going up in intervals of 10°C, ranging from 185 to 215 °C, along with the opportunity to set a custom temperature to the nearest degree. It takes just 20 seconds for the PAX 3 to heat up to the desired temperature, which is about half the time it took the PAX 2.

    Conduction Heating

    The PAX 3 is a full conduction unit, and one of the best ones out there. The dry herb is vaporized through direct contact with the stainless steel filling chamber. However, convection is almost always the better option, as it is difficult for conduction units to achieve even vaporization of the dried herbs throughout the chamber. On the other hand, given the size of the PAX 3 it would have been amazing if PAX Labs could have incorporated this heating method into the design.

    For more information about the differences between conduction and convection, check out our video below:

     

    Where the device lets itself down is the fact that PAX Labs have been unable to come up with a way to limit the heat escaping to the stainless steel exterior. This makes the device heat up to temperatures which are uncomfortable to hold in the hand, although this tends to only be a problem if using the PAX for a long time at high temperatures. Still, this is an issue PAX Labs should try to find an answer for in their next version of the PAX 3.

    Matte Silver PAX 3 Skater

    Cooldown

    One interesting new feature of the PAX 3 is the use of a motion sensor to determine when it should cool down rather than using an automatic shut-off time. The sensor is able to know when the unit has been put down and is not in use which triggers the unit to begin cool down, although this stops when the device is used again. This is a nice added feature as it caters for sessions of any duration and is definitely an improvement on the standard shut-off feature.

    Battery Charging 

    The PAX 3 uses an integrated rechargeable 18650 lithium battery which, unfortunately, is not user replaceable, but in any case provides amazing power efficiency given its size. A single battery charge is more than capable of lasting for seven ten-minute sessions. This really is an impressive feat for an 18650 battery, so no complaints here.

    The battery takes around an hour and a half to charge up, which is about half an hour less than the PAX 2. This is definitely a worthwhile upgrade, especially considering the PAX 3 can go for longer too. Overall, the PAX 3 is the most impressive vaporizer out there when it comes to battery-life and charge size given its size and use of a convenient USB charger.

    PAX 3 USB Charger


    Vapour Quality and Efficiency


    The PAX 3 does not really seem any different to the PAX 2 in terms of vapour quality, which is disappointing as this is one of the most important aspects of any vaporizer. The PAX 2 still provides good vapour, and so does the PAX 3, but it would have been great if PAX Labs had focused on this key element of any vaporizer. This may have been difficult to achieve with such a small portable vaporizer, but there is always room for improvement.

    The taste is still great, and the half-pack oven lid goes some way to solving the efficiency of the vaporizer when using smaller amounts of material, but it seems obvious that PAX Labs invested most of their time in improving other areas of the vaporizer. This is why our review has given the PAX 3 only a 7 in this area. 

    Vapour Quality

    There is little if any difference between the vapour quality of the PAX 2 and PAX 3 vaporizers, but then again it is still very good for its size. With the PAX 3, you won’t be getting the same vapour thickness and potency as you would with the Mighty Vaporizer or even the Arizer Solo II, but given its portability this is to be expected. However, it is disappointing that there isn’t an improvement between the PAX 2 and the PAX 3 because when all is said and done this is the true measure of a vaporizer, the quality of vapour it produces. Nevertheless, the taste is still great with no interference from the build materials, and the inclusion of a half-pack oven lid in the complete kit makes shorter sessions much improved.

    The cooling capacity of the PAX 3 airflow isn’t fantastic, and can be a bit harsh at the back of the throat. Again, given its compact size and short distance between the heating element and the mouthpiece, the PAX 3 does a good job of keeping this harshness to a minimum. The short airflow distance also affects draw resistance for the PAX 3 noticeably, although it isn’t terrible.

    Efficiency

    However, in terms of efficiency, perhaps more could have been done with the chamber size itself - the difference between the original PAX Ploom and the PAX 2 was to make the chamber deeper and narrower, which was a big improvement, although there was no such change between the PAX 2 and PAX 3. The only option is for users to invest in the complete kit or purchase the half-pack oven lid independently to use smaller loads, but this still doesn’t solve the issue completely. Having said this, the chamber is not a big issue, it just would have been nice if PAX Labs had thought of something to improve it.

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    Future Product Reviews

    This review is the first in a series of product reviews which will be released every week. We would love to hear your thoughts on which products you would like reviewed in the future, so feel free to contact us and we’ll take your suggestion into consideration.

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