Smok Guardian 3 Review 2016
As soon as vaping started to take off, it was inevitable that there would be “e-pipes” as well as devices that looked more like cigarettes. It didn’t take long for this to happen, but there was a big problem when it came to design. The bowl section of the pipe was generally used for an 18350 battery, which leaves battery life a little lacking. And then the issue of finding an atomizer that can masquerade as part of the “stem” section of a pipe makes things even more difficult. So while some vapers went for e-pipes, the idea seemed to have some serious limitations. But the Smok Guardian 3 could be the device pipe loving vapers have been waiting for.
The Guardian 3 (or Guardian III – if you like Roman numerals) takes an 18650 battery, has a display screen at the top of the bowl, offers up to 75 W of power, supports TC vaping and has a thicker stem design so the Micro TFV4 tank fits beautifully onto the rest of the device. The result is an e-pipe that really could have what it takes to turn the e-pipe into a truly workable style of e-cig for day-to-day vaping. But does it deliver? We’ve taken a look for our Smok Guardian 3 review to find out.
What You Get
The Guardian 3 comes in a standard Smok box, with an outer sleeve displaying an image of the device and a plain black box with “Smok” printed on the front below it. Inside, you get the Guardian 3, the Micro TFV4 (with two coils – one Clapton and one TC), a charging cable, a USB cable for firmware upgrades, an extension tube for the tank, a spare filling ring for the top of the tank and a manual for the device. This is a fantastic set of gear, offering everything you need to get started apart from e-juice.
Visually, the Guardian 3 does exactly what you want it to: it looks like a pipe, and an awesome one at that. It’s a fat pipe, with a sizable bowl section and a chunky stem, with the Micro TFV4 fitting neatly onto the top. The mod has a plastic construction, finished with black piano lacquer. This does make the mod feel a little cheap, but has the benefit of being fireproof. The device metallic trims around the top of the bowl section and the 510 connection, and the fire button is metallic too.
The Micro TFV4 is a little smaller in diameter than the 510 connection area of the Guardian 3, but it doesn’t detract much from the appearance at all. The Micro TFV4 has a 24.5 mm diameter, though, so 22 mm diameter atomizers have this problem much more.
That said, the Guardian 3 does a fantastic job in this department: it looks like a gentleman’s pipe and makes you want to kick back on an antique chair wearing a smoking jacket, reading a newspaper in front of a roaring fire and blowing out clouds of vapor as you complain about the state of the world. Maybe that’s just me, but you get the picture.
Structure and Layout
The device has a straightforward structure. It’s really like any other mod, with the lower area of the pipe holding the battery and a 510 connection towards the top for connecting your atomizer. The battery slot is located on the underside of the long section of the pipe, with a magnetic door bearing the logo and plenty of vent holes. The fire button is located on the inside of the bowl, positioned so your thumb falls naturally onto it when you’re vaping. Finally, the display screen sits where the opening to the bowl would be on a real pipe, oriented so it’s the right way up when you’re vaping (though this can be flipped).
Battery Door and USB Ports
The battery door on the back of the Guardian 3 is plastic and is held in place by two magnets towards the bottom end. There’s a small slot cut out of the bottom so you can open it up with a fingernail. The contact points for the battery are gold, and are labeled so you can’t make a mistake with the orientation of the battery. The USB port inside the slot is for firmware updates only, with the cable that fits the 510 connection being used for charging.
Everything here gets the job done, but there’s a little downside in that it’s a bit of a challenge to get your battery in. The slot is just a touch too small to insert it comfortably, but it does go in with a little bit of force.
Is the Guardian 3 Comfortable to Hold?
The e-pipe design means a necessary departure from the standard mod style, and this presents new challenges when it comes to ergonomics. Thankfully, the people at Smok clearly paid attention to this potential issue, because the bowl itself sits very snugly in your hand, and your thumb falls naturally on the fire button. It must be said that it isn’t the most comfortable mod in the world to hold, but once you get used to it, the positioning becomes second-nature.
Micro TFV4 Design
The included Micro TFV4 has essentially the same design as its bigger brother (more info in our Smok TFV4 review here), complete with four airflow slots, the hinged top-filling system, drip tip with in-built airflow control and an understated but beastly appearance. The short version is that everything works just as it should, and the tank manages to look great at the same time.
The Guardian 3 has a great design, overall. It could be a little bit better in some areas – the plastic body and the cramped battery slot, for instance – but on the whole there’s little to complain about and a lot of positives. Smok has definitely managed to put together an e-pipe that can hold court with some of the more popular mods on the market.
Smok Guardian III Review – Features
The design may be solid, but what’s more important is what the Smok Guardian 3 can do. Thankfully, it doesn’t skimp on the features either, offering plenty of options to cater to the needs of experienced and newer vapers alike.
First off, the Guardian 3 has variable wattage up to 75 W, putting it right up there with the highest-power single-battery mods. The only downside (which we’ll touch on a little later) is the limitations in use as a result of the single-button design, but in terms of what the mod can do, it’s excellent in the variable wattage department.
As well as the respectable wattage range, the Guardian 3 offers temperature control with nickel, titanium and stainless steel coils. This covers the usual range from 200 to 600 °F, and also allows you to adjust the “TCR” of the device. This affects how the temperature control responds (for slightly technical reasons we’ve covered elsewhere), letting you tailor the performance you get to suit your build and your preferences. Overall, the Guardian 3 offers everything you really want from a TC device.
Draw Strength / Ramp Up Settings
The Guardian 3 has an extra feature: in both TC and wattage mode, you can choose a harder or softer draw to suit your preferences. This really just adjusts the power for the first couple of seconds of your draw, and you can choose between Min (15 % less power), Soft (10 % less), Normal (no adjustment), Hard (10 % more) and Max (15 % more). This is a well executed feature, giving you more control over your draw without overcomplicating things.
The menu system on the Guardian 3 is limited by the single-button design, but still works well enough. Three quick clicks takes you into the system, and then you click to scroll through the options, waiting for a few seconds to select one of the options. From here you can adjust settings, change the mode you’re vaping in, adjust the display and pretty much anything else you can do with the device.
Some options have nested menus, and the symbols it uses are usually intuitive (such as the cog for settings and the “+” and “−” signs for adjusting your wattage or temperature), but others aren’t as easy to interpret. For example, there’s an arrow pointing to a blocky, clumsy image of a coil for the adjustable initial resistance and a lightbulb with a clock next to it for the screensaver time setting. After consulting the manual, you do get used to it, but it could definitely be more user-friendly.
The Guardian 3 also features a Bluetooth connection that can be used with Smok’s app, currently called “Vaping Tour.” The app can be used to adjust the settings on your device, and allows you to change between modes (e.g. entering TC mode or wattage mode), as well as adjusting the draw strength. Overall this is a nice feature, but the execution isn’t great, and in some ways it’s harder work to connect the app and navigate around it than it would be to just use the menu system on the Guardian 3 itself.
Stealth Mode and Display Options
The Guardian 3 also allows you to customize the appearance of your home screen. The normal display shows your remaining battery life, current setting, the resistance of the coil and your “strength” setting. This can be changed to a simple display, which just shows your current setting and counts out the length of each puff as you vape, or stealth mode, which completely shuts off the display. The simple display is the most visually appealing, but the normal display is the most useful.
Finally, as with almost all regulated mods, the Smok Guardian 3 is loaded with safety features to ensure you stay safe when you vape. This includes a 12 second cutoff, short circuit protection, overheating protection, low battery protection, over-charge protection, low resistance protection (under 0.1 ohms in wattage mode or 0.07 ohms in TC mode) and a locking function to prevent accidental activation.
Smok Guardian 3 Review – In Use
So the Smok Guardian 3 is loaded with features, but what is vaping with the device really like on a day-to-day basis?
How Does the Guardian 3 Perform?
On the whole, the Guardian 3 and Micro TFV4 perform admirably, regardless of the mode you’re vaping in. It works just like you’d expect it to, but the ramp up strength feature and the adjustable TCR in TC mode give you very welcome bits of additional control over the performance that you get. The TC vape is impressively smooth, without notable drop-offs as the wattage fluctuates to keep you at the right temperature.
The Micro TFV4 has a big part to play in the performance you get from the kit, and thankfully it’s excellent. The more extravagant coils on the full-size TFV4 do offer better performance, but the dual core fused Clapton option that comes pre-installed and the stainless steel TC option included both still offer vibrant, well-captured flavor and impressive vapor production.
Refilling and Changing Coils on the Micro TFV4
One of the most common tasks you’ll have to do with the Guardian 3 kit is refilling the tank. Thanks to the top-filling system, this is really easy. Simply move the top cap off to the side using the hinge, and fill e-juice into the curved, oval slot in the outer ring.
Changing coils is similarly simple: you just unscrew the tank, take the existing coil out of the base and screw a new one in its place. After priming the coil with a few drops of juice, you’re ready to fill up, let the liquid soak in for a few minutes and vape.
Adjusting Settings on the Guardian 3
The one-button design means that you can’t adjust settings on the Guardian 3 as easily as with other devices. To change your setting, press the fire button three times to enter the menu and choose “+” or “−.” After waiting a few seconds, you enter the adjustment screen, where you can use the fire button to change the setting. If you hold the button down, you’ll scroll through the available options more quickly, which makes it easier to make big changes.
While this isn’t difficult to do, it’s a bit more demanding than it would be if the device had dedicated adjustment buttons. The only saving grace is that once you’ve found the right setting for your current juice and atomizer, you don’t need to make any adjustments, but this is a definite downside to the design. The app aims to solve this problem, but honestly I don’t find it much easier to use.
Out and About: The Guardian 3 and Portability
One of the reasons box mods are so popular is that they’re ideal for taking out of the house while still offering great battery life. The Guardian 3 doesn’t have the benefits of a boxy shape, and really it’s a little bit bulkier and more awkward than a tube mod. This means it isn’t the best device on the market for portability, but this doesn’t mean it’s completely unsuitable for use out of the house. If you have a bag to store it or a big pocket, you can head out of the house with the device without issues.
Other Issues with the Guardian 3
Although we’ve covered the main points about the device, there are usually a few niggling issues with a mod in day-to-day use. For the Guardian 3, there isn’t too much extra to complain about. The biggest is really the shape of the device, which makes it hard to stand up between sessions without risking leaking. Including a stand for the mod would have solved this issue.
The menu system could definitely be improved, but after an initial setup you can largely avoid it. The main features all work as they should, the Micro TFV4 doesn’t have an issue with leaking, and no other annoyances came up during testing.
The Smok Guardian 3 may feel a little cheap due to the plastic construction, but it’s really a solidly-built device. The material was chosen because it was fire-proof, so while it doesn’t feel as sturdy as some other mods, you do get extra protection in the case of a disaster. Everything is made from high-quality materials and works just as it should. The only slight issue is the size of the battery slot; it does fit, but it feels like a bit of a squeeze.
The Smok Guardian 3 proves that e-pipes can get the job done. With the 18650 battery eliminating issues with short battery life, and the 75 W maximum power, sub ohm resistance support and the full-featured TC putting it on par with a top-end single battery box mod. On top of this, the device boasts the distinctive look of a real pipe, so it’s everything you could really hope for. There are some downsides – the single-button design has a lot of consequences, for instance – but on the whole it comes out looking like one of the best options on the market for vapers who want a pipe-style device but don’t want to sacrifice performance.