We are not going to spend much time on the accessories or shipping container. The shipping container is just that: a box. If you are interested in buying mod because it comes in a really tricked out, bling’ed out box… this is not the mod for you. Its basic black and while it does lack informational details on the outside… meh. Ask about it before you buy one… or you know… read lots of reviews on it like this one you are reading now!
The accessories basically consist of a small USB cable and a screen protector. The USB cable gets the job done but we are of the opinion that the only time you will ever need one is when you update the firmware. At which point any micro-USB cable will do. Yes this mod does do a decent job at balanced battery charging but I don’t even fully trust my DNA250 mod to not have problems at some point. So why temp fate? Buy an external charger, good quality batteries and never have to worry about a mod malfunctioning when charging!
The screen protector on the other had is very, very good and handy. Much more handy than we first thought. Usually we are not fans of screen protectors as they are a PITA to install and does reduce the clarity of the screen. Plus a good LCD screen should not be all that easy to scratch. The Alien is the exception to this rule as we are pretty sure that the LCD screen on our mod has a death wish. Literally we took it out of the box, updated the firmware, and then went to do the photoshoot. All the while being very gentle and careful as we always are… and yet somewhere along the way this little ****** got a scratch… got multiple scratches. Ugh.
We have literally never seen such scratch prone plastic LCD on a mod in a long time. It is a major negative of the Alien as we are gentle on our equipment and yet it did happen. Thankfully SMOK does include that screen protector so it really should be the first thing you do as otherwise you will get a scratch on the screen that will royal piss you off every time you look at it. Also on the positive side we now know who eventually builds Marvin the Suicidal Android… as the Alien is probably its long-lost forbearer!
Moving on the Alien truly is the best form-factor dual 18650 battery mod that SMOK has released. It is not too small, not too heavy, and not that difficult to carry. In fact, it is so comfortable to use that is easily kicks Sigelei and their 213’s to the curb. Yes it is that good. More importantly it does not matter if you have large hands or small – this one will be equally comfortable to hold and to use. We know as we have large hands and loved it, and let every vape enthusiast we know hold it. Every single one loved it and commented on how nice it felt in their hands… and really could not believe it was made by SMOK and only costs $50!
Some of the reason for the high comfort factor is because it is small. So small that it is not much wider than two 18650 batteries (for those interested the dimensions are 30x40x85mm) but it really comes down to two other key factors. The first is SMOK took the time to round the corners so that it more easily conforms in your hand. Neither your fingers nor you palm will have a corner digging in. This small tweak shows that SMOK spent a lot of time working on the ergonomics of this little bad boy.
The other reason though is because it does not have a firing button. It has a large firing bar. This means you don’t need to use your trigger finger to fire the device. Instead you can use your thumb, the webbing between your thumb and fingers, the palm of your hand… hell nearly any part of the hand to fire it. For us that means we can get some more trigger time in and practice our smooth trigger pull… while vaping which is a nice bonus to say the least.
For non-shooters this bar will really change the way you look at most mods… or at least once you figure out where the *****ing firing bar is! Yes it will take a novice a moment to figure out and maybe even require a bit of explanation if they have never used a SMOK device that features their firing bar technology.
Obviously this is not the first SMOK to use a firing bar… but it really is arguably the best example of this design released to date. Firstly, unlike say a H-Priv the firing bar is a very short throw. You really only have to depress the bar a couple millimeters for it to fire. That means there is zero chances of the webbing of your thumb getting pinched… and yes our H-Priv did die an untimely death after it bit us while we were having a nic-fit… and no we do not mourn its passing… funny enough… the H-Priv may look bullet proof but isn’t. 10mm’s rip right through it like it’s not even there.
Now while it is a short throw trigger it is stiff enough that you have to actively want to press it for it to fire. Negligent Discharges / Accidental Discharges are basically not going to happen as it does take about five foot pounds of pressure to activate it. You literally can lay it on its side with the firing bar down and it will not fire. You can even lay it so it wresting with all its weight on just one part of the bar and it will not fire (we even laid it on a pencil to try and force it to fire without success).
For some the only issue with this trigger bar is the fact that it relies upon a pivot point and only the top part will depress. This means a variable amount of pressure is required to depress it. The top (furthest point from the pivot point) it is only a couple pounds, whereas at the bottom it is well over ten pounds required. For this reason some people prefer the full bar style that SMOK uses on their X Cube Ultra as the amount required to depress the trigger is the same regardless of where you push it. We personally prefer the Alien style as there is no ‘battle rattle’ from the trigger as it is lesser (at the top) than the X Cube. Basically in return for it not being as easy to depress with your pinky you get a much tighter, much smoother fringing bar. To use an analogy if this was a pistol it would be a Glock with a highly-tuned aftermarket Glock trigger, whereas the SMOK X Cube Ultra is a high-end 1911…. with a stock off the shelf 1911 trigger. They both feel different and some will prefer one over the other. Considering the Alien only costs fifty bucks and the SMOK X Cube Ultra costs a heck of a lot more… this analogy actually works on multiple levels.
Moving on. SMOK not only borrowed the overall form-factor (and improved it) from Sigelei they also borrowed the bottom battery tray door. Some people love bottom battery tray doors, some prefer middle of the body doors like SMOK uses on their high end X Cube Ultra. We personally are ambivalent. All we care about is ease of use. In this regards the Alien is a perfect 10. Unlike the H-Priv it is a hinge style door that does not fully come off the body. Instead it swings out.
To be precise you have to push it out and away from the Alien chassis and then it will swing open. The combination of the two small latches (one at each end) and spring pressure from the battery contacts means that unless you drop in on hard surfaces… vigorously… the batteries are not going to come out. By the same token if you do drop it from head height… expect the batteries to come out… and you will have to chase them down. That is the downside to bottom door designs – they simply are not as secure as middle of the body models. However in return for a little less robustness they are a heck of a lot easier to use. Plus there is no seams to catch your fingers on like can happen on even more expensive models that use side loading or middle of the chassis loading design.
It is also worth noting that this mod will allow the batteries to drain beyond 3.0v. In fact it is not until the batteries droop to 2.8v will you get the low battery warning. This is why this mod seemingly has such great battery life -as it simply lets you drain the batteries further than on most (which usually stop at 3.2v). Interestingly enough the built in battery charge status indicator will show empty at 3.0v so as to keep you from actually draining the batteries nearly dry. Personally we consider the slightly increased strain on the batteries to be well worth it. In testing we found Sony VTC6 batteries @ 55watts and .25resitance to last an additional 70-100 2 second puffs over that of our Sigelei and Smok H-Priv. Also of note the difference between 3.0v and 2.8v was about 30 extra puffs. Whether or not you consider these extra puffs to be worth the extra strain is debatable, but as long as you replace the batteries when the batteries show empty and not when the device stops firing it is a moot-point. What is not a moot-point is going to 3.0v is not all that harder on them than stopping at 3.2v and we consider 3.0v to be a very good improvement over previous SMOK mods. Now if they would only allow the user to custom set the shut-off point we would be even happier – as we usually set our DNA based mods to 2.9v cut-off.
At the other end is the spring loaded 510 connector. As with all recent SMOK devices the 510 is darn good. It is spring reloaded and the threading is as smooth as silk. This should come as no surprise as SMOK has a great reputation in this regards and the Alien is no exception.
The one disappointing part of the Alien was in the color options. Basically as long as you like a mod that is either denude of color or black or white (if you can find the white version that is)… you will like the Alien… as all color options are either naked silver or black or white with color accents. We opted for the black with orange and think it does look good, but would have preferred more color.
Some people have reported issues with earlier Aliens and the paint peeling. We cannot confirm this as our Alien’s paint never peeled… wore off yes… but never peeled. The paint is definitely on the thin and fragile end of the spectrum so it would not surprise us if it was improperly applied that it would indeed peel.
The other main claim to fame of this device is its LCD screen. As there was simply no room on the top to fit an information LCD screen SMOK made the decision to put it where it belongs – on the side of the body. This way no spilled fluid or even condensation will toast your LCD screen like can happen on some top LCD SMOK models.
More importantly since it is on the side SMOK include a whole hell of a lot of data. Everything from a puff counter that goes to 99,999 before rolling over, to mode it is in, voltage, wattage, resistance, a puff timer… even a large battery indication for each battery. Yes it is crammed pack with data and we love every last bit of it. This really is how to do an information panel and we hope all future SMOK devices come with it. The only thing that bugs us is that while the information can be flipped like it can on SMOK’s top LCD models (thanks to firmware 1.2.11) it can only be permanently flipped. Basically when you are taking a puff and looking down at the screen everything will be upside down or when you lay it down and look it at everything will be upside down.
A much more optimal solution would be to have the option of having the information flipped only when the trigger is pulled and then go back to normal once it is reset. Since this is easily done via firmware we hope SMOK listens and allows this very nice tweak. Until then the setup is a touch less than optimal… but SMOK is working on refining it… so there is still hope they will ‘perfect’ it.
On the positive side the two included control buttons are nice and tactile and easy to manipulate. Equally important is that they do take a bit of effort to manipulate so if you do lay the device on its side with the LCD screen facing down you will not come back to a device that has a wonky setup!
The other minor nit-pick is the fact that the only vents on the body are near the top… and will be pointing at your face if the batteries catastrophically vent. Yes in all likely hood the bottom door will pop off before plasma vents through these 12 (6 per side) small holes… but really couldn’t they have placed them somewhere more reassuring? In all likelihood these vents are there to help keep the internal printed circuit board cool but that is no excuse for lazy design.