Starting vaping has never been the same since the release of the Juul. The device really kick-started the world of pod system vaping, and salt nic devices like the Juul became the go-to method to quit smoking for the newest converts. Since then, vapers looking for refillable Juul pods drove the industry to create a wealth of Juul alternative devices, which generally take the core formula and improve on it in various ways.
In particular, many of the vape pods on the market today allow you to refill the pods and replace the coil, as well as sometimes having features more like a traditional vape mod incorporated too.
Best Pod Vapes (Juul Alternatives)
What’s the best pod system to start vaping? We’ve put together a top 10 list of pod mods to help you find the right one for you.
The Renova Zero from Vaporesso offers a simple and user-friendly pod vaping platform, with a single button interface but plenty of cool features under its hood. It’s a flat, pebble-like device with a 2 ml pod and mouthpiece combo attached to a 650 mAh battery, which has the Zero logo running up the middle and the fire/settings button towards the bottom. The Renova Zero has simplicity at its core, with a press-to-fill system that makes leak-free refilling easier than ever by closing up automatically when you remove the spout, no coils to change and a magnetic connection system for the pods.
The Zero comes with a 1 ohm mesh pod and a 1.3 ohm ceramic coil pod, with both options offering excellent flavor but the mesh option being the best in terms of performance. You can cycle through three settings (per pod) by clicking the button three times, going from 9 to 11 to 13 W for the mesh coil and 9 to 10.5 to 12.5 W for the ceramic option. The onboard chipset also adds tons of little features, such as auto temperature control and low liquid protection, as well as having a dedicated on/off switch for when you’re carrying the device.
The Sourin Air was one of the most popular options for people searching for the equivalent of refillable Juul pods in the early days of pod system technology, and the Pro version substantially improves on what it has to offer. The Pro version boosts the battery life to 930 mAh, which is comfortably enough for more than a day of use with higher-strength nicotine salt e-liquids. It has an improved airflow system, and offers the option of both draw-activated and button-activated vaping, with a side-mounted fire button for the latter. This makes it flexible enough to use either like a cigarette or more like a traditional vape pen.
The device has a substantial 4.9 ml pod, which means you don’t have to refill too often and gives it a lot of potential for use outside of the house. It outputs a consistent 18 W of power throughout its battery life. It doesn’t give you the option to adjust the output but the standard choice is good for most purposes. The performance is excellent and the design keeps everything that was great about the original Air, thin and portable while still packing enough of a punch in terms of battery and output.
The Sceptre from Innokin is a flexible pod vaping system, simple enough to use if you’re brand new to vaping, but still managing to get in a few extra features and a big enough battery to compete with the best pod system kits out there. The battery has a 1,400 mAh capacity, which is more than enough for a day of use with higher-strength nicotine salt juices, but could even get you through a day with ordinary juices too. It’s a rectangular pen-style device, with a magnetic connection for the pods and a clever bottom coil installation system.
The Sceptre comes with two coils, a 0.5 ohm direct-to-lung mesh coil and a 1.2 ohm mouth-to-lung (MTL) one, with different settings to suit each. For the 0.5 ohm coil, 18 W is the standard and 20 W in “Boost Mode,” and for the higher-resistance one you can choose 8 or 9.5 W. This is perfect for new vapers because it gives some guidance but still offers you some control. The performance is great from both coils, so if you use the mesh for ordinary and the MTL for salt e-liquids you’ll be impressed with what it can do, especially for the price.
The original Smok Nord was an excellent device, but the Nord 4 improves on the battery capacity as well as adding new features that put it well beyond the original unit. One of the main reasons this Smok pod system earns a spot on the list is the variable wattage functionality, which is common with traditional mods but is only just finding its way onto pod systems. You can set the wattage at anywhere up to 80 W on the Nord 4, and this output is supported by the sizable 2,000 mAh capacity battery. It also has a display screen so you can see your setting easily, but it uses just one button for operation, maintaining user-friendliness despite the increase in features. It comes with both an RPM and a Nord pod, both refillable and with 4.5 ml juice capacities, with an RPM mesh coil and a Nord coil included too.
The Caliburn from Uwell has been one of the most prominent Juul competitors for some time now, with a similar pen-like form but better battery life and refillable pods as standard. You can use the Caliburn as an auto-draw or a button-fire device, and it works at a modest 11 W which makes it perfect for use with nicotine salt e-liquids.
The pods are refillable, and you get two 2 ml options when you pick up the device. The battery has a 540 mAh capacity, which isn’t as big as many of the options on this list, but the benefit for the Caliburn comes in the form of portability and discreetness, and it recharges in just 45 minutes. It performs excellently with salt juices, but it’s definitely more of a traditional pod system than many of the other options on this list.
The Drag S is somewhere between a mod and a pod system, with the cylindrical, pen-like shape but the interface and capabilities of a mod, as well as a classy-looking leather cover wrapping around it. For a start, it comes with a 2,300 mAh battery, which is easily enough for a whole day of use even at higher power settings, and it recharges at 2A too. The pod has a capacity of 4.5 ml, with the Plug n’ Play (PnP) coil system making it easy to install and remove the coils even if you’re new to vaping, and it’s compatible with the whole PnP series of coils too. With the kit you get a 0.3 ohm and a 0.2 ohm PnP coil.
The Drag S supports vaping at up to 60 W, with a nice display screen on the front panel and two buttons so you can make adjustments easily. The pod is PCTG plastic, but it also has the look of a traditional tank more than a pod necessarily, with a bottom filling system and a traditional-style mouthpiece section on the top. The performance is excellent with the included coils, with both of them working well around the top of the Drag S’s power range and it also offering adjustable airflow so you can always get the type of draw you want.
The original Mi-Pod had a lot of excellent features and performed well, and the Pro version took this to the next level, but the Mi-Pod 2.0 blows them both out of the water. It has a slim profile, with a rectangular shape like a box mod but thinner, and well-designed 2 ml pods that slot right into the top. This might not be the biggest out there, but it’s a good choice if you like to change e-liquid frequently and makes it EU-compliant as standard. The pods also push straight into the top, and you don’t have to change the coils, so it’s really easy to use.
The battery has an impressive 1,250 mAh capacity, and there are four LED lights on the front that let you know your remaining battery life. It also has a physical on/off switch to make it easier to save battery when you aren’t using it. The pods have 0.9 ohm mesh coils, providing hard-to-beat performance that firmly puts it in the running for the title of best pod system on the market today. It also comes in a range of cool designs, and you get a lanyard connector as standard too.
Smok’s “RPM” series are “real pod mods,” which basically means they have the basic operation and style of a pod system, but features more like a traditional vape mod. The RPM 80 is a great salt nic device because it offers a huge maximum of 80 W of power, with a 2,000 mAh battery that can get you through a day of vaping even towards the upper end of the power range.
It has a pen shape, but features a full-color display screen, with one button to fire and two adjustment buttons to dial in your setting. The device comes with two 5 ml pods (one RPM and one RGC), with 0.4 ohm mesh and 0.17 ohm conical mesh coils included in the starter kit, both of which perform excellently with both salt and ordinary e-juices. It also features adjustable airflow, a convenient side refilling system and a “plug and play” system for installing your coils to make it easy to set up.
The Smok Novo 3 is firmly in the running for the title of best pod system for 2021 because it does a great job of balancing the simplicity vapers are looking for in a pod system with exceptional performance. The Novo has a simple pen-style appearance, and the newer version basically shares a design with the original, but it boosts the battery life to 800 mAh, which is good for 600 puffs on a full charge.
The device still works “automatically,” so you just puff to vape, but it comes with a 1.4 ohm mouth-to-lung pod and a 1 ohm mesh coil that boosts the performance even further, with both holding 2 ml of juice and being refillable. If you’re looking for a traditional style pod system (a true refillable Jull alternative), the Novo 3 is the best option on the market.
The Target PM80 from Vaporesso is one of those devices that’s more like a mini vape than a traditional pod system, offering a mod-like experience with the convenience of a pod system. It has a rectangular shape, with a color TFT display screen on the front face, a large fire button above it and two adjustment buttons below.
The Target PM80 offers variable wattage vaping at up to 80 W, and comes with two mesh coils (a 0.2 ohm and a 0.3 ohm option), so the performance is in line with many mods on the market. The pod has a 4 ml capacity, and is completely transparent so you can easily see how much juice you have left. The device is powered by a 2,000 mAh battery, which is plenty for a day of vaping, but it also recharges in just 45 minutes.
Guide to Choosing the Best Vape Pods
Vape pods are incredibly popular at the minute, but if you’re new to vaping or you’ve never heard of a pod device before, this all might be a little overwhelming.
The good news is that it’s pretty easy to get up to speed, and with a quick primer on what pod vapes are, why you might want to use them, what e-juices are best for pod vapes and salt nic devices, and other things to look out for when you buy, you’ll be ready to make your decision on the right pod vape for you.
What are Vape Pods?
Simply put, vape pods (or pod vapes, pod systems, pod mods, salt nic devices, and many similar names) are e-cigarettes that use a “pod” instead of a traditional vape tank.
The Juul was the original pod system device and its pods are the perfect example of what this means.
While other modern devices tend to have a refillable tank, where you can unscrew parts to replace the coil or even take it apart to clean the whole thing, vape pods simply have a closed pod filled with e-liquid that you vape until the pod is empty.
In addition to the pod-like “tank,” early pod systems also worked “automatically,” meaning that they activated when you took a puff from the device rather than requiring a button-press to activate.
They also used higher-strength e-liquid (more on that later), and so could operate at much lower powers than mods or other common vaping devices. This in turn made them more portable and generally with lower-capacity batteries (the number before “mAh,” roughly a measure of battery life). They’re essentially designed for beginners and the idea is to make vaping as simple as possible.
However, the demand for refillable Juul pods and further innovations have broadened the definition a little bit.
Now, pod systems are essentially any e-cigarette that uses a “pod” like tank rather than a traditional tank.
Many of them can be refilled, and coils can often be changed as well, unlike on the Juul where the whole pod had to be thrown out when the pod was empty. The battery sections have gotten bigger, often have manual (button-press) rather than automatic operation, and in many cases even have variable wattage like traditional mods. These are still better for beginners than traditional mods, but some are definitely easier to use than others.
Pros and Cons of Vape Pods
So why would you want to use a pod system e-cigarette? Here is a run-down of some pros and cons:
Generally easy to use
Discreet and portable
Use less e-liquid
More advanced devices available too
Need nicotine salt e-liquid to get the most out of them
Pre-filled pods can be expensive
Less vapor production than mods
Can have limited battery life
Types of Pod System Vapes
There aren’t any “official” groups of pod vapes, in the same way you can relatively easily split ordinary e-cigs into cigalikes, pens and mods, but there are some important differences that can create a similar distinction between the different options.
Basic pod vapes: Like the Juul, these have pre-filled pods (or at least ones where you can’t change the coil) and automatic operation. Generally, the batteries are small and the power output is limited, but they’re usually the most portable.
Mid-range pod vapes: With changeable coils, refillable pods and often manual operation (press a button to vape), many pod devices fall into this category and they’re comparable to e-liquid vape pens in terms of complexity. The power output is often a little higher and the batteries are bigger, but this reduces portability.
Pod mods: Devices like the Smok RPM are much more like traditional mods than most other pod devices. They have the same features as mid-range options but also include variable wattage and display screens, as well as offering the best battery life.
What E-Liquid Should You Use With Pod Mods?
Generally speaking, pod e-cigarettes work best with salt nicotine juice, and in fact are sometimes called salt nic devices for this reason.
These were originally developed for the Juul, and basically use nicotine in the natural “salt” form rather than the “freebase” nicotine used in the majority of e-liquids.
In order to convert this into a form that your body can actually absorb, this has to be combined with an acidic ingredient, usually benzoic acid, which lowers the pH of the mix as well as converting the nicotine as needed.
The result is the important thing, though: the lower pH reduces the harsh throat hit from the nicotine. This means that you can use higher-strength e-liquids without it becoming unpleasant to vape. This is perfect for pod vapes because you can still get a satisfying vape with a lower power using the higher-strength salt nicotine e-liquids (for example, 25 or 35 mg/ml). As well as easing your cravings, this means you get more out of the comparatively limited battery life from pod devices.
For most pod system e-cigs, then, salt nicotine e-liquids are the perfect choice. This is especially true if you’re essentially using refillable Juul pods or something similarly simple.
However, some mid-range options and especially pod mods have coils that are suitable for ordinary e-liquids too. So really you can use any type of e-liquid with a higher-end pod system, but overall salt nicotine e-juice is the best choice.
Refilling and Changing Coils on Pod Vapes
The two main tasks you’ll need to do for any Juul alternative or pod system vape is filling the pod with liquid and changing the coil inside it. The whole concept behind pod system e-cigarettes is that it’s easy for beginners to use, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that these are both quite simple to do.
Refilling the pod is as straightforward as it gets. On almost all refillable pods, there is a small silicone flap with a stopper on the end (as shown above), which is inserted into a hole somewhere in the body of the pod.
To refill, you simply pull the stopper out and fill up through the hole, putting the stopper back in place when you’re done. These are usually on the side of the pod, but it differs depending on the specific device.
Changing coils is similarly simple on most pod vapes. Most of the time, the coil simply pushes into the bottom of the pod, so you don’t have to unscrew anything, you just pull one out and push the other one in place.
You should still follow the standard advice when changing any coil, though, and make sure you leave the e-liquid to soak in for 5 to 10 minutes before vaping from a new coil. You can also “prime” the coil by applying e-liquid directly to the exposed wick before you insert the coil.
Pod Vape Buying Guide
Choosing the best vape pod for your needs just means thinking about the points above, but as a general guide, if you’re brand new to vaping you’ll probably want something different too if you’ve been vaping for a while.
If you’re brand new to vaping, basic pod vapes and mid-range options are the best choices for you. This is general advice, though, and it does depend on what you’re looking for.
If you’re looking for something that’s as easy to use as possible, we would still recommend choosing something refillable, because this will save you a lot of money over time and give you free choice over flavors and nicotine strengths. However, something with automatic operation and where you don’t need to change coils is still ideal.
If simplicity isn’t super-important to you, mid-range options (like the Smok Nord) have massive advantages. Being able to change the coil means that you save money on pod replacements, and often gives you some control over the type of performance you get. You don’t need to go for a full-blown pod mod to get an excellent vape, and these devices are the perfect middle-ground.
If you’ve been vaping for a while, some of the pod mods (for example the RPM80) are really solid options. They give you enough control so you can have whatever type of vaping experience you want, and tend to have better battery life, more coil options and generally greater capabilities. However, if you’re just looking for something to use when you’re out of the house, a mid-range vape pen like option is a good alternative.
More generally, you should look at these factors when you choose a pod system e-cig:
The number before the “mAh” is the capacity, which roughly tells you how long the battery will last between charges. On simple, automatic draw and nicotine salt only devices, lower capacities of 300 to 500 mAh are acceptable, but generally speaking you want at least 1,000 mAh to get a day’s worth of vaping on a single charge. This should be increased for “pod mod” style devices.
Different devices have different coil options, with higher resistance (over 1 ohm) coils being better for nicotine salt e-juice, and sub ohm (under 1 ohm) options with bigger wicking holes being better for ordinary e-juice. Always check the coils available for your device and use the resistance to get an idea of what to expect.
Although “automatic” draws are more like smoking a cigarette – and you might prefer this – remember that you do get used to using a button pretty quickly. Generally, “manual” activation gives you better performance and is more reliable.
Alongside the battery capacity and coils, it’s a good idea to look at the power a pod system e-cigarette can put out. Ones with smaller batteries and higher-resistance coils don’t need as high a power output (even 15 W is more than enough), but if you’re using sub ohm coils something higher (up to 40 W or even more) allows you to get the most out of the coil.
Airflow options/MTL or DTL:
Most pod systems don’t offer adjustable airflow, but some do, and this is definitely worth checking. Generally, higher resistance coils work well with less airflow and mouth to lung (MTL) draws (like smoking a cigarette), and lower-resistance ones work better with open airflow and direct to lung (DTL) draws. Adjustable airflow lets you work with both or fine-tune it to your preferences.
While changing coils might seem a bit involved for your first device (and you definitely don’t have to), in general, running costs will be lower if you get a pod system with replaceable coils. Otherwise the cost of replacement pods adds up over time.
There are other factors – price, for example – but these are the main things where some guidance might be useful. Of course, you should also read reviews of the device you’re considering and weigh your options before making a decision.
Vape pods genuinely are simple and very beginner-friendly. But taking the time to learn about the options and what they can do before you make your final decision is definitely worthwhile.
The good news is that pod mods and salt nic devices tend to be affordable, and they’re a good thing to have as a backup even if you end up switching to traditional mods or something more advanced. But with the options on this list and the brief guide, you’ll be able to find something that works well for you.