With anything bearing the Tugboat name, there is a certain expectation one has about the quality and performance of the product. Flawless is well known for their high quality American made atomizers and mods and they certainly have made their mark in vaping. The Tugboat v3 is their latest atomizer; with some new, interesting features that make this the most unique atomizer Flawless has released to date. But the question is, does it stand up to its predecessors?
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The machining is very good and definitely feels like a $90 atomizer; it feels very sturdy and rugged. Everything fits together pretty tightly as well. The deck o-ring is extremely tight when dry however, after applying some juice, the top cap comes off without too much of a fight. The top airflow controller o-ring is a bit looser, but not loose enough to fall off in your pocket.
The positive pin is certainly long enough to make a safe connection on a hybrid mechanical mod. Even though it’s adjustable, at its tightest setting, there may be a small gap on some mods without a spring-loaded or adjustable 510 pin.
This atomizer has a two-post deck with a single hole in each post. The holes are about 1.5mm in diameter which is relatively small; large enough to fit a 36g/26g dual fused clapton or a 32g/3x28g dual alien build but those crazy framed staple builds will not fit in here in a dual coil setup.
The juice well stands about 6.35mm tall but is only 4.75mm deep due to the side airflow cutouts. It holds about 10 drops of max VG juice and about 15 drops of 50/50. One major downfall is the height of the walls; they stand so tall they get in the way when positioning the coil.
This RDA has both side and top airflow; you can run it with side airflow only but not top airflow only which is disappointing. It's also odd how they line up: the top airflow holes are dependent on the position of the side airflow slots. If you decide to close off the side airflow a little bit, you throw the top airflow holes out of alignment with the coil. Not only does this limit your options, it makes putting the top cap back on after dripping a task requiring some precision.
I was able to find a sweet spot by lining up one top airflow hole with the coil; lining up the right hole will put the side airflow slots at about 50% and left hole will put you at around 75% open. Wide open, it's slightly looser than the Aeolus v2 Pro wide open and slightly tighter than the United Chaos wide open.
As stated previously, the walls of the juice well make positioning your coils a real pain. There is a cutout on each side of the wall that lines up with the side airflow slots in the top cap; you want your coil positioned down in that area. The problem is, that cutout is about 1.5mm tall, forcing your screwdriver to be at angle when positioning the coil. In order to get it level and in front of the side airflow slot, the coil must first be installed at an angle, then press down on the lead of the higher side with a small screwdriver. This would all be unnecessary if those walls were only as high as the side airflow slots. It’s not like they help it hold more juice because the well can only be as deep as the side airflow slots. This is a major design flaw in my opinion.
Nothing has really changed from the original Tugboat aesthetic and I like that. The only noticeable difference is the airflow slots instead of holes. It still has the official Tugboat logo on one side and the American flag on the other. The drip tip also has the Tugboat logo but not the American flag. I'm also a fan of the height ratio between the atomizer and the drip tip.
I was pretty disappointed in the performance of this RDA. I started out with a standard 3mm 22g kanthal build and the vape was awful. It had a really intense throat hit that was unbearable. So I moved the coil up closer to the top airflow slot; still the same incredibly harsh vape. Then I rebuilt it with a whopping 5mm 22g N80 build and that was only slightly better. The issue is, the side airflow slots are too low on the top cap. When you position your coils right in front of the side airflow slots, they are too far away from the top airflow holes and cause a terrible throat hit and sub-par flavor.
With side airflow only, the vape is pretty good; I would imagine it's about the same as the Production RDA. However, that defeats the purpose of this RDA; why buy a $90 top-and-side airflow atomizer and use only side airflow when you could just buy the Production RDA for $50?
The only build that performed really well for me was a 28g N80, 8.5 wrap, 2.4mm inner diameter quad coil build. I stacked them vertically and positioned the top coil as close to the top airflow hole as possible and the bottom coil in front of the side airflow slot. No more throat hit, excellent flavor, great vapor production and just an all around solid vape. Another downside is that in order to set up this atomizers most optimized build, I had to use 28g wire because the holes were too small to fit a 26g quad coil build in.
I've never owned a Tugboat before and with their extremely positive reputation, I was excited to try this out. Overall, I was pretty disappointed with this RDA; I had to resort to quad coils to get good flavor, installing them was annoying because of the walls of the juice well and I couldn't even use 24g or 26g wire because the post holes are too small. Some of these problems could be fixed by releasing an alternate top cap. Move the side airflow slots up to position them closer to the top airflow holes and take some notes from the Aeolus and allow for a top airflow only option as well. With a new top cap like that, I could deal with the building issues since I've dealt with much worse. At this point though, I cannot recommend this atomizer to anyone as it is. If this atomizer sounded appealing to you before reading this, wait for a Tugboat v3.1 or at least a new top cap with some changes before purchasing this.