Generally speaking, all vaporizers operate on the same basic principle. They use gentle and persistent heat to activate organic compounds without causing combustion or releasing harmful contaminants.
However, different vaporizers achieve this process in different ways. Some vaporizers use direct contact with a hot element to vaporize your blends, known as the conduction method, whereas others either separate the herb chamber from the element or use a fan to push hot air through your herbs, which is known as convection heating.
The difference between these two methods might seem insignificant at first, but the way in which your herbs are heated can have a substantial effect on the efficiency of your vaporizer and the quality of the vapour it produces.
As such, understanding the pros and cons of each method is helpful when it comes to picking the right vaporizer.
To use a simple anecdote, the difference between conduction and convection vaporizers is similar to the difference between the heating element in a kettle and the hand dryer in a restaurant bathroom. The kettle uses a much more direct and aggressive method to boil water, whereas a hand dryer uses an element to heat air, which in turn dries your hands.
Conduction vaporizers are like the kettle. They rely on direct contact between your herbs and a hot element (usually ceramic or stainless steel) to facilitate the release of active ingredients. This is a very direct way of heating your material, and often provides very fast and immediate results. However, conduction chambers are more difficult to regulate and carry a slightly elevated risk of combustion, though this is often negated by the digital controls inside most vaporizers.
Conduction can also be less efficient than convection, as it relies on all the herb in the chamber being able to make contact with the hot surface. For this reason, users of conduction vaporizers often find they have to stir their herb regularly to make sure it is evenly browned.
In contrast, convection vaporizers are like the hand dryer. They also contain a heating element, but this often situated below the heat chamber, so your blend does not make direct contact with the element itself. Instead, a convection vaporizer uses the heated air moving through your herb as you draw to vaporize, or it may even use an internal fan to actively push air up through the chamber.
Convection is generally considered the most gentle and the most efficient way of extracting active ingredients from your herb due to the steady and consistent application of heat.
It is worth noting, particularly if you are looking for a portable vaporizer, that most units will inevitably use a combination of both conduction and convection. However, they are classified based on the dominant process involved.
If you're looking at a portable vaporizer, one incredibly simple way to tell which heating technology it uses is to look at where the herb chamber is situated.
If you load your material in the bottom of the device, then it is most likely a conduction-based vaporizer, as there is no space underneath for a heating element to produce hot air when you draw. Most convection-based portables have their heat chamber somewhere near the top of the unit, with space for the heating element to sit underneath.
The majority of desktop models, due to their size, will be able to utilise convection heating. Desktops like the Volcano, Extreme Q and VapirRise that use an internal fan use convection in the absolute truest sense of the word, whereas most whip vaporizers will be a combination of both to some degree.
Despite the fact that convection vaporizers are often lauded as the superior solution on many web forums, it’s vitrually impossible to say which method of heating is objectively better. A more accurate (and diplomatic) way of putting it is that each type has their unique advantages and disadvantages for certain users. There is always an element of personal preference involved in choosing the best vaporizer for you.
If you’re looking for a vaporizer that heats fast and produces instant vapour, or is as small and lightweight as possible, then a conduction vaporizer may be more suited to you.
Conversely, a convection vaporizer would be the better option for someone who’s priorities involve the best tasting and incredibly smooth vapour, high efficiency, or who really needs to get the most out of their botanicals.
Generally, the pros and cons of each are as follows:
At the end of the day, it all comes down to your individual needs, and depends almost entirely on your own preferences. After all, there are literally hundreds of models on today’s vaporizer market, and many different users with many different opinions. You may fall in love with your first vaporizer, or it may take you a couple to get the one you like, but either way the process can be a lot of fun!
Want to know which vaporizers we would recommend from each category? Here are our top recommendations for convection and conduction vaporizers.
1. The Volcano
The Volcano is an easy pick for best convection vape. It's a tried and tested industry standard that has endured decades of developments in the vaporizer industry. The Volcano uses an ultra-precise heat exchanger and powerful internal air pump to push heated air up through your botanical blends to collect vapour inside a balloon bag. This bag can be detached from the unit and then inhaled from at your leisure, so it's also very convenient and especially good for people who have limited dexterity or who want to be able to vape away from the machine. It also provides unparalleled cooling capacity and flavour. Furthermore, with the addition of the Volcano Hybrid, you also have the option to inhale directly via the whip tube.
The Volcano is an absolutely premium vaporizer, but it isn't in everybody's price range. If the internal fan with balloon option sounds like something you'd like to try, mid-priced alternatives like the Extreme Q are a popular alternative.
2. The Mighty
A premium portable vape, the Mighty is manufactured by the makers of the Volcano and definitely lives up to the brand's prestigious reputation. With an easy to use digital display and precise controls, the Mighty is a powerful portable that uses dynamic convection and a little conduction to vaporize your herbs evenly and efficiently. It employs the same patented heat exchanger found inside the Volcano, but on a smaller scale, and produces very consistent, high quality vapour. To be fair, the Mighty does also use a small amount of conductive heat in the filling chamber, but the results can't be argued with.
The inbuilt cooling unit attached to the mouthpiece filters vapour through a series of channels as you draw, lengthening the air path without adding any size to the unit, and ensuring you always get a cool and comfortable draw even on high heat settings.
3. The Fury
The Fury Vaporizer may be small and discreet, but it doesn't skimp on performance. This pocket-sized powerhouse from Healthy Rips promises a whole lot of vapour for its size, using a next-generation convection heating system to deliver a cloud that's smooth, thick and flavourful. The internal mechanisms are encased in a tough but exceptionally lightweight Kirksite Alloy Unibody that gives the Fury Edge Vaporizer its featherlight feel. Throw in some great battery life and you've got yourself an amazing package!
1. The Pax 3
The Pax 3 offers a great balance between portability and performance. It's one of the smallest vapes on the market, with sleek professional aesthetics and vapour quality to match. If that wasn't enough, the Pax also provides first class battery-life, making it the go-to pocket-friendly portable for many users.
If you're not a fan of electronics, the DynaVap provides unbelievable vapour quality without any need of a battery. This makes it the perfect portable for things like camping and hiking. Another huge plus is its size; the M is easily one of, if not THE smallest portable we've seen to date.
The DaVinci IQ is the first vaporizer on the market to feature a 100% ceramic zirconia airpath and mouthpiece for superior flavour and superb vapour production. This enables users to experience the great flavour which glass provides, while being more durable and efficient. Temperature control is another strong suit for the IQ allowing full digital temperature control to the degree as well as many other features via smartphone Bluetooth connectivity. To top it all off, it's tiny!
Remember that you can always contact us for a friendly chat – we’d be more than happy to offer one-on-one guidance, and we love helping our clients to find the perfect vape. Just send a message via our contact form or, if you’d prefer to chat on the phone, call us on 1300 088 112.
Go back to the Buyer's Guide homepage
To learn more about the differences between portable and desktop vaporizers,
Learn more about the differences between analogue and digital vaporizers.
Learn more about the differences between dry herbs, oils and concentrates.