Three Months with a Protovapor XPV – An In Depth Review

protovapor-xpv-dna-30

I was fortunate to order the new DNA30 version of the Protovapor XPV back in February, before Protovapor was overwhelmed with orders and underwhelmed with supplies. How does this unique DNA30 mod perform? Read on…

What is the Protovapor XPV?

The Protovapor XPV is a DNA-equipped personal vaporizer. The original XPV featured an Evolv DNA20 chip. The next version implemented the DNA30 when it debuted in early 2014.

The XPV is hand-assembled. The body is constructed of aluminum, with various bits and flair made of plastic. It has a relatively large firing switch that can be ordered in smooth or clicky versions, and in several colors. In fact, the aluminum body, as well as the plastic trim can all be ordered in a variety of colors. You can also choose whether you want a pocket clip or not.

The device has a simple 510 connector (more on this later) and a choice of 18650 batteries, including Sony 2600mAh US18650VTC5, AW 1600mAh 18650 or LG 2500mAh 18650HE2. They are soldered in place, and considered not user-serviceable, unless you really trust your skills with a soldering iron. The XPV charges via micro USB (mostly DNA30 devices do) and includes a charge indicator light. Yay!

What’s Good About the XPV?

Because it’s made of mostly aluminum, the XPV is light. It is also relatively compact, measuring in at 115mm x 24mm x 24mm. From there it’s relatively standard DNA fare. If you’ve used one DNA device, you’ve pretty much used them all.

Battery life is quite good with any of the 18650 options, and should get most vapers through the day. If you’re like me, and either in front of a computer or in the car all day, the USB charging feature is very handy. My XPV rarely goes under 50% charge.

Waiting for a custom mod is a drag. Protovapor goes to great lengths on their site to publicize their waiting period. When you place your order, you know how long the wait will be. This is a very good thing, and I wish more companies in the vaping world did it. From what I’ve heard from other owners, Protovapor usually hits their deadlines. (Mine was two days late, but who’s counting?)

So What’s Bad?

Aluminum is light, but not particularly sturdy. I have yet to drop my XPV, but I can’t imagine it would react well to pavement. Typically I wrap my high-dollar mods, but with all the recesses, creases and bits of extruding flair, I can’t imagine getting a wrap around this thing. For this reason, I chose the extra safety of the pocket clip, but the XPV is still rather fragile.

One way the XPV differs from most DNA devices is it uses a rocker switch for wattage up/down. In theory, this seems like a good idea. In practice, not so much. The mushy, inaccurate rocker is right below the firing switch, and inadvertent wattage changes occur frequently. “But wait,” you say! “The DNA30 has a wattage lock feature!” It does indeed. However, to enable the wattage lock, you press both up and down buttons simultaneously. The choice of rocker switch means this feature can’t be used on a device that really needs it.

Some of the plastic finish on the XPV seems to be 3D printed. After just a few months, those pieces are dirty and beginning to show signs of wear. Not good. Not good at all.

This is nit-picky, I realize, but I hate the placement of the readout window. When firing, you’ve got to flip the mod around 180-degrees to check your battery/resistance/whatever. It just makes more ergonomic sense that the readout window would be on the same face as the switch.

OK, deep breath. Let’s talk about the 510 connector, where the XPV really struggles.

Failure to Connect

The XPV’s 510 connector isn’t bad, per se. It’s just… normal. And that’s not good enough on a $200 device with a 2-3 month waiting period. Protovapor recently introduced a much-improved 510, but that’s too little too late for the devices that have already shipped (and they have turned down my request for an upgrade).

The XPV has been around for a while, and it was well-known that the connector had the problem many do – the pin pushes down little by little until it no longer makes contact. Thankfully, this is not difficult to remedy. Just remove the four screws from the top of the device and it’s very simple to push the pin back into place. But again, this is simply not good enough for a $200 mod. And it’s even more frustrating that the makers knew about this problem. Hell, they even ship you a tighter o-ring to use around the pin that MIGHT fix the problem. Why they didn’t install it themselves before shipping is a mystery.

Conclusion

I was thrilled when my XPV arrived. I had a few other DNA mods, but this one was smaller, more tote-able and just seemed “different.” After a few months, the XPV has worked its way into my daily carry rotation, nudging out my ProVaris, which are doing a great job sitting in a vape stand, weeping with loneliness. The XPV is simply convenient. It fits in my pocket, has great battery life, can be charged at my workstation, and most importantly, it’s got that DNA magic.

However, this is a flawed device. The old connector is flat-out bad. For $200, I should not have to disassemble my device and futz with the firing pin. The new version shipping with an improved connector will be better, but that’s not the only flaw. As I mentioned previously, it’s also fragile, the plastic pieces are cheap, and the wattage selector switch is a poor design.

Bottom Line

The Protovapor XPV is a decent mod, but not worth $200. What it does well is a product of the DNA chip, and there are more and more high-powered, variable-wattage options out there every day. For the price of an XPV, you can do better, or you can pay less and get a device of similar quality. I would recommend passing on the Protovapor XPV.

5 thoughts on “Three Months with a Protovapor XPV – An In Depth Review

  1. Hi there, thanks for your review of the XPV! Just wanted to make sure a few things are cleared up:

    – The wattage lock does work, just press down the watt rocker when it is centered, like a “select” press on a jog dial. Hold for at least 4 seconds (this is in the manual).

    – Most users have told us the watt switch rarely gets a false activation, even going to far as to deem the watt lock unnecessary when it was being speculated whether we would have it or not. Fortunately we did find a way to implement it. If you get a lot of false activations, I wonder if there might be a malfunction? If you think there might be, we’ll be happy to take a look at it.

    – The 510 upgrade will be publicly available shortly for existing mod owners, we have never “turned down” anyone for the upgrade. If we gave the impression that it would not be available to you, it was unintentional.

    – Regarding the screen placement: The device could never have been made that compact with a button-side screen placement. However the back screen placement was intended for one-handed use with the button facing forward like a trigger. Thus the screen is facing you while the mod is held in the hand, and adjustments can easily be made with the index finger on the rocker. If you are a thumb-firer, unfortunately it can’t be perfect for everyone.

    We’re disappointed that we don’t rate a recommendation despite apparently being better than the legendary Provaris; it is difficult enough to compete with mass-produced Chinese mods, many clones to boot, as a modest US based producer. We are on the lower end of prices for genuine DNA mods of this type.

    But we certainly do consider replacing Provaris praise in and of itself, as they are the gold standard for many. We did design these devices first and foremost to be used like tools. We do hear that our mods have retired quite a few Provaris.

    Reply
    • Hey Protovapor, thanks for stopping by. I’ll let Michael, the author, know about 510 upgrade, I’m sure he’ll be excited to hear it.

      Reply
    • Hey Protovapor, thanks for the detailed response. Sorry for not replying sooner, but I wanted to make sure my comment was as thoughtful and complete as yours.

      Regarding the wattage lock, I’m one of those guys who actually does RTFM (in fact, I comforted myself while waiting for my XPV to be born by reading it over and over online), and in going through the manual, I did note that holding down the rocker switch would enable the wattage lock. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it to work upon receipt. I tried it again after reading your comment, and with a significant amount of mashing, it did engage. I suppose I simply didn’t expect it to be so finicky. Taking into consideration the other issues I’ve had, I’m beginning to wonder if I got a defective rocker switch (I like saying “rocker switch”).

      I wish I had saved your email response, but the long and short of it was, when I asked for an upgrade, you couldn’t or wouldn’t do it at the time, and I wrote this piece shortly after. Checking your site again, I see you are now offering the upgrade, and I’ll definitely be getting it. However, I am not happy that it will cost me $25, because the truth is, the original 510 connector is more than just bad. I consider it a defect, and I don’t believe I, or any other XPV owner, should have to pay to have a defective part repaired/replaced. Since writing my review, opening my XPV and resetting the connecting pin has become a weekly chore. This is simply not appropriate for a $200 device.

      Speaking or pricing and market positioning, I understand that competing with Chinese knock-offs is difficult. You simply can’t compete on price. No one can. But what you can compete on is quality. This is where Provari has excelled, and this is why they’ve been successful, despite continuing to build an outdated product.

      I like my XPV. I want to like it a lot more, but quality is a serious concern. You may be on the lower end of the DNA mod price scale, but at $200, you are between a Provari and a Hana Mod. Frankly, your quality is not in the same league as those builders. There are many people, like myself, who will pay a premium for a better vaping experience. I did not get that experience with my XPV. Though the idea is good, the execution is not. I should not have to partially disassemble a $200 device weekly in order to use it. And I should not have to pay an extra free to have a significant flaw fixed.

      Since I wrote this review, I’ve had another quality issue. The charging indicator light fell out of place. Let me make very clear, I do not abuse my devices. My XPV has never been dropped or otherwise mistreated. The worst thing that has ever happened to it is being placed in a messenger bag next to a Hana Mod. Yet still, the connector needs to be reset weekly, the rocker switch is a mushy affair, the plastic trim is gross, and the charging light has fallen out after four months of use. In case I haven’t made my point, I will say it again. This is not acceptable in a $200 mod. This is $30 Vamo stuff.

      I see Protovapor as a good company with good ideas as well as ideals. But the XPV’s pricing makes it a premium product (even if it’s at the lower end of the premium space), and quality matters in the premium market. Upon receiving my XPV, I planned to get another as soon as money allowed. I carry two mods with me everywhere, and dual XPVs for my daily carry was going to be perfect. But after a month I began to think twice about putting another $200 into a mod that does anything but perform flawlessly. I went with a couple Hanas instead (and an ADV, but that’s for another piece).

      I wish you the best, and I hope my review and response were helpful. I look forward to the day when I can grab another XPV with confidence, as I really do enjoy it. Vape on!

      Reply
  2. Well, it looks like your mind is made up. Frankly though, it’s ridiculous to call one of the the most common types of connectors used on box mods throughout most of vaping history — and the same type used on Hanas — “defective.” These are well-known for certain atomizers to push in the center pin or damage the insulator if they are out of spec. That’s why we replaced them as soon as a better one was available, however it’s not realistic to expect the upgrade service to be free given that it includes a new connector, new clip, new top of the mod, new screws, shop time and return shipping.

    We do note that you have not engaged our support services regarding any of these issues since the contact you reported in your review and especially since we contacted you above. We still service the original 510s for people who don’t want to upgrade and absolutely respond to quality issues.

    Please contact us to get your issues resolved, we don’t want you to have problems with your device. Service and support is part of what you get when you buy from a USA manufacturer — or at least it should be.

    Reply
  3. I’m sorry if you think I’m being unfair. I have three Hanas and a couple other mods with the same connector. I have never had a problem with them. I actually did engage your customer service about the connector months ago, and I will be sending my XPV back in as soon as I have some spare cash. When I ship it, I will also be sure to ask your team to check the rocker switch and repair the charge indicator at that time. Thanks, and best wishes.

    Reply

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