Eleaf — a subsidiary of Joyetech — kicked off the resurgence of box mods (after some years where tube mods dominated the market) as well as the movement toward higher-wattage vaping in 2014 with the iStick 20W. Since then, the mod market has been dominated by increasingly powerful boxes, now all with temperature control. Along the way, Eleaf has produced a line of steadily more powerful iSticks — 30W, 50W, 100W, 40W TC, 60W TC, 120W TC, and now the 200W TC. Despite some missteps (the 20W and 50W mods had serious flaws), Eleaf has kept pace with their strategy of making easy-to-use, inexpensive box mods that include all the features that most vapers want.
The iStick 200W TC follows the trend toward box mods that are rated for higher power than the vast majority of vapers will ever use. While mods powered by dual 18650s cannot exceed 150 watts with most setups, Eleaf’s adoption of a triple-18650 design, similar to the Wismec RX-200, takes care of that problem.
Some vapers feel that the entire iStick line is designed mainly for beginning or, at best, intermediate vapers. I don’t share that assumption, in that I feel almost any vaper could use and enjoy an iStick. One thing’s for sure, though: a 200-watt box mod is not aimed at a target market of beginners.
Wismec’s DNA-200 and simpler RX-200 mods are among the most popular and highly regarded temp control boxes of the past six months. Although Wismec, like Eleaf, is a subsidiary company within the Joyetech family, Eleaf’s iStick 200W TC takes clear aim at the RX-200 as its primary competition. Similarities to and differences from the RX-200 (now 250W after the most recent firmware upgrade) are noteworthy. Both mods use the same chip with the same menu options. Both are firmware upgradable. Both use three 18650s in a hexagonal design, although their ergonomics differ: The RX-200 is hexagonally symmetrical, with the firing/adjustment buttons and display screen on one of the two short sides, while the iStick 200W puts the buttons and display on the wider front, with a more rounded profile on the back.
Some vapers have mocked the design of the iStick 200W, protesting that it’s ugly and not ergonomic. They seem to hate the placement of buttons and screen on the front. I think most of these people probably haven’t used the iStick 200W. While both mods are heavy — with batteries and a full tank, they approach one pound each — they’re remarkably compact for triple 18650s, and both are comfortable to hold and fire (for average-to-large hands).
I own and like both — performance is effectively identical — but I actually prefer the ergonomics of the iStick over the RX. Although either can be trigger-fired, they’re both designed more for thumb-firing, and I feel that the iStick’s fit in the hand is more natural than the RX-200. With my pinkie supporting the bottom and resting the back of the mod against my other three fingers, my thumb falls perfectly at the firing button. Don’t get me wrong: The RX-200 is fine, but the iStick 200W is even better for comfort, at least in my opinion. It may appear to some as an ugly ducking to the RX-200s swan, but it feels great to me.
The hinged battery cover on the bottom plate is designed much like the Joyetech Cuboid, with a sliding switch that secures and releases the cover. Unlike the Cuboid, however, the switch snaps into place when closed and doesn’t need to be pressed firmly to make sure it doesn’t inadvertently snap open. That’s a good example of learning from mistakes.
I like the three-button system for up, down, and mode menu. The buttons are plastic and reverse embossed with “+”, “–”, and “mod”. To my way of thinking, this is more user-friendly than entering the mode menu by pressing the fire button three times or pressing some combination of two buttons simultaneously. The less I have to memorize, the better. The firing button itself is clicky and gives definite positive feedback. Firing is instantaneous, with no delay.
Despite the occasional product glitch, the current generation of box mods is generally much improved over mods of 2014-2015. They have more power, better accuracy in temp control mode, adjustable TCR, firmware upgradability, better design/build quality, and at prices that keep shrinking. No, they’re not bullet-proof or built to last forever, but they’re considerably more dependable than the mods we vaped in years past. The much more expensive top end of the box mod market, whether from Yihi or smaller custom manufacturers using Evolv chips, will no doubt continue to attract a select percentage of hard-core, expert vapers who swear that you get what you pay for, but the less expensive end of the marketplace — which includes the iStick 200W TC — serves the bulk of intermediate and experienced, enthusiast vapers very well.
Interestingly, many of the pros and cons of the iStick 200W are identical, varying mainly in the eye of the beholder: design, appearance, ergonomics, buttons, battery cover, heft, and triple batteries. These are pros for some vapers, cons for others. In my opinion, they’re all pros, and I don’t find any objective or substantial cons. Heck, there’s not even any button rattle.
The Eleaf iStick 200W TC box mod is yet another solid entry from a company that understands its mission and how to achieve it. Performance is flawless, ergonomics are innovative, and the price is eminently reasonable. I liked Eleaf’s 120W TC mod, and the 200W TC is arguably even better. What can Eleaf do to top themselves next?