Ultra eCigs Review
If you’ve been researching e-cigarettes for a little while, one of the main things you’ll notice is that there are a hell of a lot of options out there. For a company like Ultra eCigs, this must be an especially daunting fact of life. How is a manufacturer supposed to stand out when there are a multitude of multi-nationals with monolithic marketing budgets to compete with? It’s a sad fact of life, but even if your product is better, it isn’t always possible to compete with the big boys. However, there are always exceptions to the rule. The trick is to do it much better; to give the giants of the industry a run for their money with a complete knockout product. You’ve probably only just heard of Ultra eCigs, but I’m sure you can appreciate that they have a pretty substantial task ahead of them.
3.0/52 User Reviews »
- Very affordable starter kits
- Portable charging case
- US-made ingredients
- Decent vapor production
- Cigarette-like size
- Only two, poorly-executed flavors
- Relatively short battery life
- Only one nicotine level available
- Vapor production could be better
- Uninspiring design
Bottom LineOnly consider Ultra if you’re on a tight budget, and even then it isn't advised. It isn't all bad – the vapor production is OK, it’s well-built and the charging case is cool – but overall there is very little to recommend the e-cig. In short, it’s very disappointing.
Ultra eCigs Review: Editor's Opinion
Update August 3, 2013: The Ultra eCigs store seems to be permanently closed. We recommend that you consider other options. Check out our latest e-cigarette reviews to choose other starter kits.
The story of Ultra eCigs' founder Bill Ford is a familiar one. He was a heavy smoker and a technophile who was determined to reduce his cigarette consumption. I can see why, since he smoked three packs a day – which works out to a cigarette every 20 minutes, assuming he took a break to sleep six hours per night. That’s some habit to kick, and he started trawling websites, kiosks and stores for an e-cig he could get his fix from. Assumedly unsatisfied, he spent a massive two years researching and developing the Ultra eCig with concept artists, engineers and testers. He found what he was looking for in the first batch they produced.
Ultra eCigs Original Starter Kit is fairly basic, with a battery, three cartomizers and a USB charger. The big bonus from the consumer’s point of view is the price, the kit coming in at an extremely low $19.95. The Premium Starter Kit costs $49.95, and you get a portable charging case and a wall charger, as well as the USB charger, two batteries and six cartomizers. We've tested out the Premium Kit to see if Ultra has what it takes to match up to their tall, tall order.
Packaging and Design
One thing that sticks out about the product development story from Ultra is the use of concept artists. With that in mind, the resulting bland packaging is particularly disappointing. There’s nothing wrong with it objectively – it’s plain, sleek black with a proud, metallic-colored text in the center. However, if I’d paid a concept artist and that was the result, I’d feel pretty ripped off. It doesn’t stand out – with the only real “character” coming from their logo, which is evidently supposed to appear regal (like some sort of spindly crown), but looks more like the head of an ineffective rake.
Inside, the portable charging case looks at you from the top layer with the same distinct like of style – although the soft-touch rubber coating does make it very pleasant to hold. The e-cigs are two-piece, and a little smaller than standard size – much closer to the size of a tobacco cigarette. The grey plastic tip lights up with a blue LED when you inhale – clearly signalling the lack of fire.
Overall though, the shot at minimalism in the design has gone too far and drifted into just plain boring – even something as minor as a more interesting font could have made the entire thing seem cool, but as it is the e-cig itself is uninspiring. The word “Ultra” printed across the battery is the only design, and the font would look more at home on the wall of an optician’s office.
If the title to this section was going to be grammatically accurate, there would not be an “s” on the end. There is one nicotine level, 16mg, and no others. The manual claims four nicotine levels, including 12mg, 8mg and 0mg, but the cartridge packets bear no indication of the level. After trying in vain to specify a nicotine level in an order, I can confirm that it really does appear to be true. Ultra eCigs is the only brand we’ve covered with just one nicotine level. There is a very good reason that other e-cigarette brands such as White Cloud, Green Smoke, VaporFi and V2 offer multiple levels – many vapers (particularly smokers hoping to stop altogether) choose to reduce their consumption gradually by stepping down the nicotine levels. The inability to do that with Ultra is crippling. And that’s before you even consider the fact that most pack-a-day smokers need 18mg cartridges or higher to comfortably make the switch.
Flavors and Vapor
The vapor production from the Ultra eCig is satisfying, but nothing else. A few priming puffs on the battery gives you a decent amount of vapor, but it is far behind the best e-cigs for vapor production. You get a transient, rapidly-vanishing mist rather than a milky-white fog. The throat hit is extremely poor, and it would be described in more detail if I could definitely confirm that it even existed. The back of your throat feels slightly dry after a period of heavy use, but there is no smoke-like hit on inhalation.
The lack of variety infects the flavor selection too, since there are only Menthol and Tobacco available. The Tobacco cartridge has a distinctive mustiness about it – not like a rich, complex tobacco aroma – more like some sawdust has fallen into the vat they were mixing liquid in. The taste isn’t pleasant, but thankfully it fades fairly quickly. By the end it’s something you can vape, but not something you’d really choose to vape if you had another option available. The Menthol cartridge is better, but there’s still the problem of the quickly fading taste. I’d be very impressed if anybody could identify it as menthol in a blind taste-test after somebody has already taken around 30 puffs.
The battery life on the Ultra eCig isn’t particularly bad, but you can expect it to run out after a couple of hours’ worth of heavy use. In practice, this means if you don’t vape it too often it would last around five hours, but in no way would it last for a full working day. You do get a spare and a portable charging case, though, so you’ll always have something to vape. The charging case will replenish your battery in a couple of hours, as will the USB charger. Ultimately, a small battery like this will always have a shorter life than most standard-sized e-cigs, but it performs about as well as expected. It isn't amazingly responsive, but will a long puff you can get the vapor you’re looking for.
Manufacturing and Warranty
The e-cigs and accessories are manufactured in China, but the ingredients for the liquid are US-made. The pieces screw together comfortably, leaving four small holes for air-flow. The manufacturing quality appears good overall, and the fact that they offer a one year warranty on all parts and accessories – except for cartridges and disposables – seems to convey their trust in the quality of their products. For all the complaints about the performance, the manufacturing and warranty seem robust and reliable.