So I finally pressed the buy button on one of these after seeing them advertised for quite a few weeks. I was attracted to it because it's tiny and doesn't look anything like a PV, and is a MTL device that doesn't produce huge clouds of vapour, all of which make it perfect for a stealth vape and while out and about. At less than 40 grams loaded for bear it doesn't weigh your pocket down either.
I got the mini, because it's smaller. I also paid the extra $7 for the kit with the PCC because it's pretty good value, and will remove the need to carry a charger if I want to leave home with just this one device. It cost me $29 from Victory Vape, the only place in OZ that I could find them. The Mini on it's own is only $22, and the full size iCare is just in between.
Some specs for you to compare the iCare and the iCare mini:
Eleaf width height thickness tank battery PCC iCare mini 24.5mm 75mm 12mm 1.3ml 320mAh YES iCare (full size) 30mm 75mm 14mm 1.8ml 650mAh NO
The output on both of these devices is the same, 15 watts maximum, and it seems like it will drop with the battery voltage. Eleaf said the battery should last one tank and that seems to have been the case. I didn't notice the drop off in power at all. These devices can be charged via USB and in the case of the mini also by a PCC (Portable charge case) which is available separately or as a kit.
You get two IC 1.1 ohm coils in the box. Victory Vape don't seem to have been able to get the coils yet, but Fasttech list them at $4.49 for a five pack with a "ships in 5 days" proviso. The coils are very tiny but it should be possible to rebuild them if you have to. They have a bottom plug and grommet which holds the coil legs in the normal way. A vertical coil has some cotton sheet wrapped around it, which is then inserted in the threaded case.
Filling the tank
There's an almost full height window on the tank so you can see how much liquid is in it. Because the air tube displaces liquid, you can only fill the tank to the fill line which is about half way up the tank. I filled it right to the line and it did not overflow but it must have been awfully close - there was just the tiniest air bubble in the tank after I'd closed it off.
I think some people will have trouble seeing the level and the fill line in normal room light, but it should be fine with good natural light. If you are trying to to fill it at night I've found the solution is to plug a charger into the USB port so the the red charging LED comes on inside the tank. This back lights the fill line, and the liquid level line is sparkly and clear.
How it Vapes:
It's not going to please everyone as it's strictly a mouth to lung device, as you'd imagine. It has a variable airflow which I have wide open because really don't like a tight vape. It's acceptabe for me with all five holes open. To adjust the airflow you need to access the tube the coil screws onto, which means removing it from the tank. There's a little collar with five holes on it which you twist to adjust. Only one hole open is quite tight but if you like taking a mouth suck type drag it might suit you.
You can't just take a quick puff on this device because the coil doesn't heat up fast enough. A slow drag wins the race.
I had some high nicotine juice in this because of the smaller amount of vapour and because of the intention to only vape it occasionally. This worked very well - it was a satisfying vape with a good defined throat hit on unflavoured. I believe the flavour on this device will be a bit muted (based on other reviews) so a strong menthol, mint, or cool type vape might be the way to go.
With such a tiny battery in the mini you will use it up pretty quickly if you use this device normally. If you run a high nicotine content and only use it in cases where you can only vape occasionally it will go the distance. I figure the mini is good for about 75 puffs between charges, and maybe 100 puffs out of a tank (0.013ml per puff which seems about right)
I'm running a 60/40 PG/VG 28mg/ml juice in this currently. I've never had a dry hit off it, it works perfectly. If it sits for a while the coil tends to flood a little which is easily fixed with a quick flick to clear it. I'm thinking a 50/50 mix might help to solve this problem a bit. The juice holes in the head are *tiny* so I'm wary of going too thick with the juice, and it's vitally important to prime the heads before first use.
About the top cap:
The mouthpiece is a flat tip which did not cause me any problems even though I don't normally like "whistle tip" type mouth pieces. This is because the device is flat and you are always holding it the right way. It serves three purposes: apart from the obvious hole for inhaling vapour, a second hole on the end of the mouth piece is ported through to the sensor for the automatic switch. The third use for the tip is as a spanner to undo the tank insert which Eleaf call the "air pipe" so you can fill it or change the coil. A word of warning here - if you force the tool, or don't have it on the insert neatly you might deform the inside of the cap. Since there are seals for the air pipe and it's a tight fit, deforming the cap would prevent you putting it on and would render the device useless.
This is a very cute little device, and it seems to be attracting a lot of attention. As a stealth device or as a companion device with a larger cloudsbro mod, it serves the purpose very well indeed. It's nice that it's not a closed system similar to other devices on the market which require changing pod$.
With it's cuteness and quirky design comes a couple of things to be very careful of and they all involve that cap. I've mentioned about being careful not to deform the top cap, but you need to be careful of a couple of other things with it too. Now is a good time for a picture of the internals:
The working parts in the full size unit are exactly the same. At the top of the air pipe is the keyed section used to undo it with the cap, and just below that are two o-rings which seal in the cap. Phil Busardo reported losing both o-rings on one of his devices so the first thing I did was put a bit of PG on them to lubricate them. I'm thinking he might have ripped the cap off with dry o-rings and that might have pulled them off. I remove the cap carefully and so far have had no problems. The cap has been on and off several times checking things for this review.
The other problem occurs when putting the top cap back on. Because the port to the air pressure sensor is a large silicon nub, and because the air pipe is a tight fit also, sometimes the top cap doesn't seem to slide on easily. A little wiggle will normally cause it to sit down flat on the top of the device.
The iCare uses the usual three colour LEDs to indicate battery charge level. This is very hard to see outdoors as the LEDs illuminate the tank. The LEDS also flash to indicate short circuit, 10 sec cutoff etc but you probably won't see them. The red LED goes on while charging, and goes off when it's finished.
The iCare mini charges pretty quick as you'd imagine - about 20 to 25 minutes and it's good to go again.
I was actually really pleased with the paint on this. It's a matt finish which feels really nice and seems very hard. I put it in my pocket with my keys (by accident) and found the key's had left marks. Not that the paint was damaged, the *keys* had actually rubbed off on the paint. I rubbed the marks with my finger and they came off. There is NO damage to the paint. It's a bit like when you rub a piece of unpolished ceramic with a piece of soft metal - the metal rubs off on the ceramic. I don't know what this paint is, but I wish Kanger would start using it on their mods: It's brilliant.
Portable Charging Case
I haven't used the PCC much yet except to charge and test it. It connects to the iCare mini magnetically when you slide it in the right way. If you insert the mini the wrong way the magnets repel and don't let it connect. Well done Eleaf!
The electrical connection between the mini and the PCC is via two spring loaded pins on the PCC, not the micro USB port. It seems to work as advertised. Eleaf say the capacity of the PCC is 2300mAh, which should charge the mini about seven times. I think that would easily get me through a weekend with high nic juice if it had to.
The LEDs on the PCC are weird. They indicate battery level with a flashing LED. They should have used the three colour system same as everything else. (Update, having used the PCC: ) The PCC seems to charge at 500mAh, which takes 4 to 4.5 hours and it charged the mini six times.
I'm pretty glad I bought this device. It's very portable so will be no trouble to carry on outings, to the shops, and anywhere else it might not be convenient to take a larger mod. It works well enough with high nicotine juice to give a satisfying throat hit, but does not make large attention grabbing plumes of vapour. Stealth vaping is very easily achieved. If you're looking for a very stealthy device or a high nic companion device then this might fit the bill.