Pax’s latest weed vape got an update that kept me from getting too high


The Pax Era, a design-heavy, rectangular cannabis vape that’s positioned as an alternative to the standard pen-battery-and-cartridge setup, didn’t sell me when it came out in January. It has proprietary cartridges with a selection of extracts from a curated group of vendors. That seems to counter the versatility that made the flagship Pax product (which can be used with any dry herb or concentrate) so appealing.

An app and firmware update was released last week, however, so that hand-holding pays off. A new feature called “session control” helps the user control dosage in a more precise way.

Instead of just choosing the temperature, users can pick from a selection of doses: micro, small, medium, or large. You can take multiple drags to hit your desired threshold, and when it’s done, the little X on the device glows aqua and the flow of vapor stops, locking your device for 30 seconds so you can’t absentmindedly take another drag. If you need to reset, either hit “unlock” or take the cartridge out and put it back in. (This makes it less of a parental control-esque, self-policing device and more a fail-safe against overdoing it. Although if you do need actual “parental controls,” you can lock a device indefinitely from the app.)

Technically, the vape isn’t measuring the product output; instead, it measures the energy output, which varies by setting and temperature control. A “micro” hit at 600 degrees, for example, is going to go by a lot faster than a “micro” hit at 450 degrees. The device still gives the user some idea of how much they’re consuming — whether they take one monster, high-vapor drag or several dainty, low-temperature puffs.

Dosing control interface in the Pax app for iOS.

I’m a perpetual lightweight, so I tried “micro” first with a 9 Pound Hammer cartridge — a sleepy indica — that Pax provided me for review. It was doable at 460 degrees in one solid drag, and it was just enough to feel a little brighter but not especially buzzed. While Pax’s press materials say this feature is a good way for beginners to experience a strain, it seems designed for microdosing — right down to the “micro.” A few hours later, I did the same with a Dutch Treat cartridge, a more energetic hybrid, and, again, it wasn’t especially pronounced. I did a “small” session to build on it, which was over after a couple of drags.

Later that night, I tried “large” with 9 Pound Hammer as I was heading to bed, and it felt more like when I typically spend time with a vape after a long day. It took a few drags to get through, and it was about what I wanted as I wound down for the day: heavy but not too extreme, exactly the point where I’d want to put a gate. I later ended up supplementing it with a “medium” session right before bed.

Of course, this isn’t always going to control how stoned you get. That can depend on a variety of factors, like the strain and what you’ve consumed that day. For example, the next day, I gave the “medium” setting a shot with the Dutch Treat cartridge. I personally tend to get hit harder by more uplifting strains, and while the session felt like a medium one, the effect was larger.

But it still gives some idea of what you’re in for. Out for drinks with friends later in the week, I was reasonably confident that taking a “small” hit of the Dutch Treat wasn’t going to mess up my night. (It didn’t.)

Photo by Sarah LLoyd / Vox Media

Pax thinks of itself as the “Apple of vapes.” While that’s meant to be a nod to high-end, high-design products, the Era is actually kind of like an iOS device: you can’t do anything on the Pax Era without going through Pax first. It gives the device a kind of Keurig vibe that makes me question whether I want to commit to it. Will someone keep making these cartridges if something happens to Pax? Do I want to limit my consumption to relatively high-profile producers?

It also means that using the Era is a smooth, streamlined process with minimal guesswork. The uniform packaging on the Pax’s cartridges labels each one with the strain name. Pax-vetted production decreases the chance of having a disappointing experience. Micro USB charging means you don’t have to dig through a mess of cables for a pen battery charger. You can also set thresholds to make doubly sure you don’t overdo it — or that you overdo it to the point you want to. All the variables are somewhat packaged.

Maybe it takes some of the organic experience out of consuming cannabis (although the Pax Era gets an honorable mention for replicating a pipe vibe by putting a carb on either side). But it also lessens the chance of showing up to a family dinner in a little over your head.

By: Sarah Anne Lloyd, The Verge