Anyone familiar with advanced electronic cigarettes can't help but notice some similarities between Volcano's Lavatube and the reigning flagship e-cig, the Provari. I've written both a ProVari review and a Lavatube review as well as a review of the newest Lavatube, the Stainless Steel VTube from Apollo. I struggled quite a bit to avoid making the original Lavatube review into a Lavatube vs. ProVari comparison. That particular e-cigarette review has been written and more people have had a chance to experience the Lavatube. So, now would be a good time to do a review comparing the ProVari and Lavatube.
Note: this review has been updated to reflect the changes in the new ProVari V2.
The ProVari and Lavatube are very similar in design. Some may say that the Lavatube has taken a lot of inspiration from the ProVari, particularly when looking at the knurled finish on the endcaps. Beyond the design cues, both devices are tube style mods with LCD displays and advanced features. Some more cynical readers may essentially view the Lavatube as an attempt by Chinese manufacturers to capitalize on the success of the ProVari
|ProVari without extender|
From a size standpoint, neither device would be considered small by any stretch. Both e-cigarettes are large devices. The Lavatube is very slightly thinner and taller than the ProVari. How much taller depends on which options the ProVari is configured with.
The Lavatube has one battery option, a sizable IMR 18650 battery. The ProVari in contrast is much more flexible. In its base configuration, it takes smaller 18490 batteries. Adding a special endcap to the device allows it to use 18650 batteries at the cost of additional length. A third battery option, the ProVari Power is a slightly larger battery that increases the length of the device by another 1/8 inch.
Despite the slightly larger size, the Lavatube is a featherweight compared to the ProVari. The reason for this is the ProVari is constructed from stainless steel while the Lavatube is built from aluminum. The Lavatube's weight helps the device feel smaller when in use.
The general design of both devices is fairly similar. The fit and finish department is where the ProVari really separates itself from the lower-end Lavatube. This isn't that surprising, the ProVari is a high-end device, whereas the Lavatube is more of an entry level contender in this space.
|My battle-worn ProVari|
The Lavatube despite its lower-end roots, does not feel flimsy. The finish on the device is well done, and there are no glaring design defects. The paint finish is good on the Lavatube, but the endcaps are plastic instead of aluminum or steel, and the main button works well, but has a decidedly low-end hard plastic feel to it.
In contract, the ProVari feels a lot like comparing an economy car with a high end luxury sedan. The fire button while also plastic, is illuminated and has a softer feel to the plastic. The end cap screws on with a fluid action rarely seen on other devices. I sort of use that as the gold standard against which I compare all other devices' end caps.
A number of other small touches also add to the ProVari's high-rent feel. The fluting along the sides of the device and the much better executed knurling of the endcaps are two prime examples. The fact that the ProVari is also available in a gold plated model doesn't hurt its reputation as the e-cigarette for the monocle and top hat crowd.
|Lavatube's 3-button interface|
The overwhelming similarity in feature sets between the ProVari and the Lavatube is of course the reason for this review in the first place. Both devices feature variable voltage between 3 and 6 volts adjustable in .1v increments.
Each device also features an LED readout screen that displays key information such as the current setting. The Lavatube's screen is a little on the small side when compared to the ProVari's screen. The makers of the ProVari also recently announced their device will be available with an optional blue display. The default color, like that in the Lavatube is red.
The ProVari uses a single button to handle both activating the device along with all of the other features. A series of button presses accesses the various menu items. The Lavatube uses a series of three function buttons, + – and a power button. This provides more simple operation for most key features, although there are a couple of features such as battery level check and button lock that require a combination of presses.
|ProVari's battery options|
Battery levels, power toggle and button lock are all available in the ProVari using the button menus. The ProVari also offers a feature in its menu system the Lavatube doesn't. The ProVari has a feature that displays the currently connected atomizer's resistance in ohms. It's a seemingly obscure feature, but I find myself using it regularly.
Both devices also have self-protection circuitry built in for conditions such as a short circuit, overheating or over-amperage. The ProVari displays an error code that is linked to a specific fault condition while the Lavatube isn't quite as verbose in its errors.
The two also have different approaches to over-amperage conditions. These tend to occur when the voltage is set too high for the resistance of the attached cartomizer. The ProVari simply shuts off and displays the relevant error code. The Lavatube simply lowers the voltage to 3.7 v and keeps on chugging along with no indication an error occurred.
The Volcano device's way of handling things sort of throws the performance of the device slightly in my mind. Without knowing at what point the protection circuit is activated, it makes pushing the device to the edge of the performance curve somewhat difficult. The ProVari makes things more simple since finding the highest possible voltage setting is just a matter of backing down the voltage until the errors go away.
|ProVari with Dual Coil Cartomizer|
The ProVari has a higher amperage limit. This allows the device to push lower resistance cartomizers at higher voltages. This gives the ProVari an overwhelming advantage when using dual coil cartomizers. Knowing when the protection circuitry kicks in also gives the ProVari the upper hand in real-world use conditions.
In theoretical conditions, the ProVari also has a small performance advantage due to cut-off times. The Volcano's stated cutoff time is 10 seconds (my unit cuts off after 15). ProVari will cut you off after 16 seconds. Going with the stated times, in theory a draw of 16 seconds longer should produce considerably more vapor. In reality, this is probably an edge case, but if you need 16 second cutoff times, you know who you are.
Warranty and Price
|Can't take a picture of the warranty|
Similarities between the two devices continue in the warranty department. Both devices come with a one year warranty. Should something go awry, send the device back and they'll repair it or send you a replacement. Shipping to the company is on your dime. The ProVari also has an optional 1 year extended warranty, extending the warranty period to two years.
There was some controversy over Volcano's warranty during the pre-order phase. The company originally stated it was the same as their warranties for their other devices. This means that if the device was damaged due to a non-volcano atomizer, the warranty would be voided. The company has since stepped back from that stance noting that the protection circuitry should protect the device from these conditions unlike their standard batteries.
Where the two devices really separate themselves is the price. The Lavatube is nearly half the price of the ProVari. The price is even less than that when the ProVari is configured with the extended battery cap or any extra goodies like gold plating.
Clearly, the Lavatube was built to compete directly with the ProVari on price. The Lavatube actually surprised me with its quality when I received the unit. It lacks some of the finesse and polish of the ProVari or the dual coil performance enabled by the ProVari V2 update, but the Lavatube is far from a junky device.
If money were no object, or if you are looking for more of a luxury choice, the ProVari is hands-down the winner of this e-cigarette comparison. There is no question of which device to choose if are a dual coil cartomizer fan either. The ProVari continues to be the Cadillac of e-cigarettes. However, the Lavatube is hard to ignore with its incredibly attractive pricing.
Essentially, the Lavatube gives you about 90% of what the ProVari provides for about half the price. For a lot of people these days, that's a pretty compelling reason to take a good look at the Lavatube.
Since the original writing of this review, the Lavatube has become available to many vendors. Some may offer the device at an even more affordable price. Two of the best sites I've found are Vape Dudes, Apollo eCigs and Vapor Alley. Check each site for prices and availability as they are frequently out of stock.
Buy it from: VolcanoEcigs
Price: $69.95 (base unit) $99.95 (starter kit)
Discount: 10% with code volcanoAFFC10 (one time use)
Buy it from: ProVape
Price: $159.95 – 299.95 (base unit) $211.95 (starter kit)
Options: Blue LED $15.00, Extended battery cap $19.95 – $23.95
Shipping: Free standard shipping for orders over $99
Battery: IMR 18490 (with standard end cap), 18650 or ProVari 2500 (extended cap)
Threading: Joye 510
Voltage: 3.0 to 6.0 in .1v increments
Max amperage: 3.5