Our Starss Icon review puts the pod-style vape to the test. It has a lot to offer, including refillable pods and great battery life, but is it worth picking up?
The Icon from Starss is an excellent pod-style device, and comes highly recommended for new vapers or anyone looking for something discreet to use. It has great battery life, performs well and is really easy to use. For $24.99 for the kit it’s a bargain.
User Review2 Votes
Pod style device
Really easy to use
380 mAh battery – enough for a day of vaping!
Impressive vapor production
Automatic operation, just puff to vape
Very affordable at $24.99
Ideal for just-switching smokers
Coils can’t be changed, you need a new pod when one dies
On rare occasions it doesn’t respond when you take a puff
If you’re new to vaping, or you’ve been vaping for a while and just want something more discreet to use, the Icon is a fantastic option. There might be a lot of pod-style devices on the market, but the performance combined with the cool look and the impressive battery life makes the Icon pretty hard to beat.
The designs might not be to everybody’s taste, and you might feel a little weird vaping a circular device, but if the aesthetics don’t put you off it’s highly recommended. It’s found its way into my regular rotation very easily. And for the $24.99 tag it’s an awesome deal.
The rise in pod systems and nicotine salts has changed the face of vaping. They’re ideal for beginners in particular, because pod devices essentially work like cigalikes except they’re actually good. You usually just have to take a puff to vape (so no buttons at all), but the vapor production is generally on par with vape pens and they’re genuinely satisfying thanks to the nicotine salts. The Juul is the most well-known device of this type, but there are tons of options out there, so you’re not stuck with something that looks like the tallest USB stick in the world and many are refillable. The Icon from Starss is such a system, circular in shape and distinctive in style, with a tempting $24.99 price tag to top it off. But how does it vape? We’ve tested for our Starss Icon review to find out.
What You Get
The kit for the Starss Icon comes with the device itself and a pod pre-installed, a spare pod, USB cable, a little fold-out instruction manual and an empty, thin-nosed bottle in case your e-liquid is hard to add directly. The presentation is pretty good too – everything comes individually-boxed, and the device itself is in a top layer that swings open to reveal the rest of your goodies. You definitely feel like you get plenty for your money.
Starss Icon Review – The Design
The Icon looks really cool. It’s a round disc with a satisfying thickness to it, and a mouthpiece protruding from the top that makes it a bit more teardrop-like in shape. It’s the sort of device I’d have thought of as a “pod” if writing about vaping hadn’t changed the meaning of the word for me. The actual pod part slots in the top, and the very top of the body of the Icon is hollow, with contact points and a little rubber base for it to sit on.
Design wise this might sound pretty simple but the effect is great. As well coming in a range of colors – including black, grey, rainbow, blue and bronze – the front of the device has a circular “icon” that adds some visual flair. This depends on the color you get, but the blue option has a pretty cool wild-haired woman surrounded by an ornate frame on the front. The others include a skull with a guns and roses design (literally guns and roses rather than the band logo), a gunslinger cowboy skull, a chopper and a crest-like eagle design. They’re all potentially good depending on your taste but I’m happy to have the blue one. The backs are blank apart from the carbon fiber pattern and the “Starss” logo at the bottom.
In terms of overall look it’s excellent, it doesn’t try to do too much, but it manages to be reasonably discreet without just looking like any old pod system.
The pods themselves are pretty straightforward in design but they work well and are easy to get to grips with even if you’re brand new to vaping. They have a vaguely trapezoid shape, with a flat bottom section for connecting to the rest of the device and two gold-plated contact points that line up with the pins on the connection point of the device. There is a small airhole leading up to the mouthpiece in the center of these, and the fill hole for e-juice is off to the side. This is covered by a rubber flap, with a tiny indented section at one side so you can easily open it up and fill your pod. The pods are a translucent black color, so you can just about see how full they are but it does help to hold them up to the light. You can get 2 ml of e-juice into the pod, and they have coils with a resistance of 1.6 ohms.
They slot into the device pretty securely, with a couple of raised lips on either side so they clip into place. Installing them couldn’t be easier, though, just push it in place and you’re ready to go. Overall they’re really easy to use and work just as intended.
USB Port and LED Light
There aren’t many other design features to the Icon, but there is a micro USB charging port on the bottom edge and an LED light on the front face. There isn’t much to be said about the charging port: it’s at the very bottom of the device so it doesn’t interfere with the overall look, and it’s a little bit recessed so the cable stays in well.
The LED light serves as an indicator light when you’re vaping – lighting up as you puff – and also gives you a rough idea of the remaining battery life. It lights up blue most of the time, but when the battery is getting towards the end of its life it turns red. The light also turns from red to blue when charging is completed.
The Starss Icon does a fantastic job in terms of design: it’s simple, effective and looks great.
Starss Icon Review – In Use
The Icon does an impressive job when it comes to vapor production. The puff to vape, automatic operation means that it helps to take a couple of short puffs before you main one, but when you do, you’re rewarded with an impressive plume of vapor. It won’t rival mods with sub ohm tanks, admittedly, but compared to entry-level devices it’s excellent, easily putting out as much vapor as most vape pens on the market and comparing favorably with the smoke from a cigarette. It might take smokers a little while to get accustomed to puffing in the right way – it took me a while and I’ve been vaping for years – but once you get a hang of the pipe-like pre-puffs it works really well.
The automatic operation from the Icon works well overall. It’s a little less reliable than a button-operated system, because you need to keep the flow of air up for the coil to respond, but as long as you inhale fairly firmly it works reliably. Sometimes the device didn’t respond when I took a puff, but it was when I first started using the device and getting used to it. Originally I thought there might have been an issue with one of the pods, but subsequent testing showed it was more down to my technique – I was being too gentle on occasion and didn’t always have the hole in the middle of my mouth.
The LED light gives real-time feedback that helps you get used to this (it illuminates when the sensor is properly activated), and once you’ve gotten the hang of it you’ll be able to vape without issues. I would have still preferred a button for operation, but for just-switching smokers the automatic operation will undoubtedly feel natural and will make the transition easy.
The flavor from the pods is hard to fault. Throughout testing, I’ve been able to pick up all of the flavor components from the juices I tried, coming through better than with most entry-level tanks or pod systems I’ve tried. Of course this depends on the specific liquid you’re using, but if you don’t get flavor from the pods, it’s more likely to be the fault of the juice than the pod itself.
Battery Life and Charging
The Icon from Starss has a sizeable 380 mAh battery. This is smaller than the batteries on most vape pens and substantially smaller than for mods, but in the field of pod devices this is really great. Since they work at lower powers, they ask a lot less of your batteries and the same capacity will get you through much more vaping time.
You can only expect so much from any compact device – longer-lasting batteries are almost always bigger batteries – but the Icon gave me a pleasant surprise on this front. A full charge lasts me about a day’s worth of vaping, enough for a bit more than a full pod of e-juice. With high-strength nicotine salt e-liquid, this is plenty for me to get through the whole day – you shouldn’t really use a device like this with standard, lower-strength juice so overall the battery does a great job.
The LED switches from blue to red as the battery approaches the end of its charge. This is a nice feature but it could do with switching sooner, or alternatively having a third color so you have a more accurate idea of your remaining life. As it stands, when the Icon switches to the red light you’ll need to charge in the next half an hour or so.
Charging is really quick too. It goes from being completely flat to charged and ready to go in about an hour. This is excellent – you’d expect fast charging from a device with a small battery, but in terms of the number of hours of use vs. the number of hours spent charging this is genuinely hard to beat. The LED light on the front turns blue when it’s fully charged so you know when you can start vaping again.
Ease of Use
The Starss Icon is really hard to beat when it comes to ease of use. Filling the pod is the most complicated thing you’ll have to do, but realistically this is really easy and won’t cause you any problems.
Everything else is so simple you don’t even need instructions: push the pod into the top of the device and take a puff to start vaping. The manual rightfully points out that you should wait a few minutes between filling up and starting to vape (to give the juice time to soak in), but this is true for all devices and is still really easy to do once you know. Overall it’s one of the best devices on the market when it comes to ease of use.
Comfort and Portability
The tiny size of the Icon makes it ridiculously portable: not only will it fit comfortably in a pocket, you can easily forget it’s even there. You might think the shape will make it a bit strange to vape with, but there are no problems there either, you can easily grip it between your thumb and finger, or hold it at the sides like you would the bowl of a pipe and take plaintive puffs. All pod systems tend to be quite portable and comfortable to hold, but this is one of my favorites so far on both fronts.
Do the Pods Leak?
The pods for the Icon are well enclosed, and don’t have the issues many tanks do with leaking. The main issue you might encounter is condensation, which can build up after a little while vaping and leave a few spots of e-juice on the connection point inside the device. This isn’t an issue, though – it’s not very much juice at all and you can just wipe it up when you notice and continue vaping as usual.
If you’re struggling to get the device to respond and you puff too hard, you can get a bit of juice coming up the mouthpiece, which is pretty unpleasant, but this is rare and more related to your vaping technique than an actual issue with the pods themselves. Once you get used to inhaling enough air but not sucking at the mouthpiece like a straw this will stop. Additionally, this can happen with any device on the market for the same reason, so it’s kind of unavoidable until you get the hang of the technique.
Starss clearly put a lot of care and attention into the Icon. The device is impressively sturdy for something so compact, and it definitely feels reliable enough to stand up to accidental knocks or drops. The connections for both the USB cable and the pods are really well made too – everything fits snugly and the pods won’t accidentally pop out in your pocket or anything like that. Overall, they’ve done a great job when it comes to manufacturing.