At first glance, the difference between portable and desktop vaporizers is obvious: portable vaporizers are small in size and can be taken anywhere, whereas desktop vaporizers are much larger and need to be plugged into the wall in order to function. However, there is more to this equation than convenience.
There are a number of important advantages and disadvantages to each type, which is why deciding between a portable or desktop unit is often the first thing to consider for any buyer. Portable vaporizers are an incredibly versatile alternative to more traditional desktop vaporizers, and they tend to be a little cheaper too, making them a popular choice with new vapers. However, desktop vaporizers are better at controlling the temperature and taste of your vapour, and they’re much better for group use, which is perfect if you want to be a sociable vaper. They also never run out of power, have longer warranty periods and are generally more efficient and reliable.
Before you can make an informed decision about the best vaporizer for you, you’ll need to decide whether you’re looking for a portable or desktop vaporizer. To compare portable and desktop vaporizers, we will be breaking these important distinctions down into five different categories:
If you're having trouble deciding which is right for you, read on to find out how portables and desktop vaporizers stack up against each other in a range of scenarios.
As mentioned above, desktop vaporizers plug into the wall, whereas portables rely on rechargeable batteries to operate. While a desktop will be able to last however long you need your session to go for, portables have wide variations in battery life and their Lithium batteries often tend to degrade with use. If you're looking for a vaporizer to use in the home and don't need it to be particularly discreet, the desktop option is a better choice.
However, portable technology is constantly improving, and modern units feature powerful batteries that can withstand heavy use, and some can also be used while plugged in for the best of both worlds. Portables such as the Mighty and the Arizer Solo II are built with endurance in mind, offering users hours of use before they need to be recharged.
There are also portables, such as the Arizer Air II and Arizer Argo, which have user-replaceable batteries. This setup allows you to carry spares and simply change the battery when the old one runs out, which is super convenient for people who like to take their vape out with them for long periods of time. Accessories such as car chargers also make it incredibly easy to keep your battery levels topped up, so battery life is not as much of a hindrance as it once was.
To summarise, if you need the ability to vape 24/7, or really hate the idea of recharging your unit at regular intervals, then it is better to opt for a desktop vaporizer. However, the battery technology inside portable vaporizers is leaps and bounds above where it was just a few years ago, and is continuing to get better.
Portable vaporizers can be harder to use than their desktop counterparts in the sense that they offer substantially less control over vapour production, and often have more limited temperature ranges and controls. After all, no portable vaporizer could hope to match the amount of precise control that something like the Volcano allows you over the density, flavour and temperature of your vapour.
In fact, a lot of portable vaporizers are equipped with very basic temperature controls, and many rely on a few pre-programmed settings to control the temperature at which your herbal preparations are heated. This is not an issue for the casual vaper, but users who require very precise control will be much more satisfied with a desktop unit. The no-fuss operation and full control of a premium desktop unit is very desireable to certain users. Medicinal vapers and hardcore enthusiasts generally get the most out of their experience with a desktop.
However, portables offer considerable advantages when it comes to convenience. For starters, they're very lightweight and they generally power up with a single button-push, which means that they often feel a lot more accessible and offer much quicker results than desktops which can take a while to heat up. These days, a lot of portables hitting the market have quite robust control interfaces and it is apparent they are becoming more and more sophisticated devices.
While they might be slightly harder to use initially, portable vaporizers do still offer a very accessible vaping experience, and their reliance on pre-programed temperature settings can be a bit of a blessing in disguise for inexperienced vapers who are not 100% sure what temperature they like.
When it comes to portables vs. desktops, there is definitely some compromise between portability and ease-of-use, but most people do get used to the control methods employed by portable vaporizers. Portable vaporizers generally offer a perfectly suitable level of control for most users, but serious connoisseurs, medicinal vapers and those who prefer to vape at home get the most out of a desktop unit.
Due to the fact that they have larger heating chambers and superior temperature control, desktop vaporizers tend to excel at delivering flavourful, rich and aromatic vapour. They also allow an incredibly tailored experience, which is perfect for users who want the ultimate control over their experience. This control is also good for vaporizing different materials, as it is easier to adjust temperature settings precisely according to the requirements of the chosen blend.
In contrast, portable vaporizers are slightly more primitive, and their smaller heat chambers can't generally produce the same high quality vapour as a desktop unit can. They are also bound by their battery limitations and less effective temperature regulation, making them less consistent than desktop vaporizers.
However, this doesn't mean that every portable will deliver a sub-par experience. Good quality portable vaporizers are certainly capable of very good vapour, but this quality does vary a lot across the range. If you want great results from a portable, be prepared to spend money on a higher end model, as the cheaper and lower quality portable vaporizers can be very poor on performance.
Desktop vaporizers are a little more conspicuous than smaller portables. While some units, such as the Da Buddha, are smaller in size and not quite as eye catching, units like the Volcano are quite large and difficult to conceal. They also have a lot more parts and accessories, such as whips or bags, to be stored away.
Because portable vaporizers are so much smaller, they are the go-to choice for vapers who want something that doesn't stand out. Portables can be easily stowed away in a drawer, bag, glove box or pocket and units like the Crafty and the Pax are stealthily designed to give nothing away.
If you want to keep your vaping as discreet as possible, a small portable unit is the way to go.
Sometimes you don't want to vape alone. A good vaporizer can be the perfect addition to your friendship circle, and will be the favourite guest at every party. For group use, desktop vaporizers tend to offer the best time, as their bigger bowl size provides longer and more potent sessions.
By far the easiest desktop to use in a group is the Volcano or another bag-style vaporizer such as the Extreme Q, as bags can easily be passed around a group without having to crowd around the unit. Another good choice is the VapirRise, which has a multi-whip adapter that allows up to four people to use it at once.
Of course, a desktop is harder to transport if you want to be able to take it with you to an event. Quality portables like the Mighty, Summit and the Arizer Air are small and hardy enough to be taken with you, but also foolproof enough for anyone to use.
If you plan on sharing your experience with a group of people, you may want to focus your attention on a desktop unit, assuming that the desire to vape as a group outweighs your desire for portability or convenience.
In short, neither type of vaporizer is "better" than the other, but each has their advantages for certain types of users or situations.
Desktop vaporizers have more controls, better heat control and regulation, and produce the best quality vapour when compared to other units.
Portables are lightweight, small, and very convenient and are also well-suited to stealthy vapers and inexperienced users.
A desktop will be the best choice for you if:
Read more about the best desktop vaporizers.
A portable will be the best choice for you if:
Read more about the best portable vaporizers.
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
Learn more about the differences between analogue and digital vaporizers.
To learn more about the differences between conduction and convection vaporizers,
Learn more about the differences between dry herbs, oils and concentrates.