SMOK continues to design, manufacture, and market new vaping hardware products at a dizzying pace. Among their most recent offerings is yet another impressive atomizer, this time a Rebuildable Dripping Tank Atomizer (RDTA), christened the TF-RDTA.
The SMOK TF-RDTA bears at least superficial similarity to the SMOK TF-RTA (G2 deck) that I reviewed here last month (April) with considerable praise. How are they alike, and how do they differ?
Both tanks are oversized, with the TF-RDTA being slightly shorter. Both have large, dual-post Velocity-style decks that are easy to build. Curiously, the shorter TF-RDTA holds more eliquid. The TF-RTA’s large chamber cap limits how much the tank can hold to 4.5ml. By contrast, the TF-RDTA’s smaller chamber allows 5ml in the tank, plus another 1-2ml in the base reservoir, bringing the total eliquid capacity when fully filled to almost 7ml. Both tanks use SMOK’s patented hinged-swivel-cap top fill method, which is easy and effective.
Their designs differ, however in air intake and eliquid flow control. The TF-RTA is based on the Griffin design, with bottom-up air intake and eliquid flow from channels on the outside of the deck. The TF-RDTA is based on the Aromamizer design, with side air intake direct to the coils (like many RDAs), and bottom-fed eliquid through the floor of the deck. Both systems work well, but they present different challenges in proper, effective wicking to prevent either flooding or dry hits. Wick ends in the TF-RTA are placed in the tops of the eliquid channels, while in the TF-RDTA they rest floor of the deck over eliquid intake holes that feed from the bottom of the deck.
The meaning of the acronym RDTA (Rebuildable Dripping Tank Atomizer) is changing in the marketplace. The original RDTAs from some years back had a user-controlled mechanism, often a spring-loaded pump, for saturating the wicks with eliquid. In effect, the vaper had to keep re-saturating the wicks, just like a dripping atomizer. Those early RDTAs were complicated, fiddly, and unreliable, so few succeeded in the marketplace, and now they’re almost entirely relegated to vaping history.
Increasingly, the acronym RDTA is used by manufacturers to indicate a rebuildable tank atomizer of a specific design that uses eliquid feed from below the deck and side air flow direct to the coils. This is the system used in the SMOK TF-RDTA. Variations of that design are used in numerous other popular tanks, including the Steam Crave Aromamizer, Sigelei Moonshot, and Geekvape Avocado, among others. All those tanks are now designated as RDTAs.
The first broadly successful RTA was the single-coil Kayfun/Russian, which was introduced to the market in 2013 and designed for mouth-to-lung vaping at low power (less than 20 watts). That basic design spawned a whole series of different versions and dual-coil spin-offs (Orchid, Silverplay, Goblin, etc.) most of which are still manufactured and sold today. Some vapers prefer these earlier RTAs and swear that they provide flavor that’s close to the gold standard of dripping atomizers (RDAs).
The current generation of RTAs and RDTAs are designed for direct-lung, higher-power vaping (50–80 watts), although sometimes at even higher wattage levels that were unimaginable just a few years ago. Most enthusiast vapers prefer the newer tanks for their copious vapor production and fuller vaping experience. Happily, the vaping community is sufficiently large and diverse to include both the old and new hardware, with only the minimally predictable amount of judgmental one-upmanship: “My RTA is better than yours.”
MSRP for the TF-RDTA on the SMOKstore web site is $29.90 plus shipping. Prices from other online vendors cluster around that $30 mark.
The SMOK TF-RDTA builds upon SMOK's TF-RTA Beast platform and introduces their first entry into rebuildable dripping tank atomizers that feature a tank capacity of 5ml, the patented swivel top cap design, quad adjustable direct airflow, and an easy to configure two post build deck. The TF-RDTA builds upon the critically acclaimed TF-RTA platform, with major design revisions towards the airflow as well as the wicking systems, maintaining the 16mm diameter build deck alongside a two post, dual terminal build deck. Each terminal measures 3mm by 2mm allowing it to easily accommodate highly complex dual coil configurations, while the replaceable deck itself is cleverly threaded into the bottom ring, allowing for the subdeck wicking system to effectively work. The S2 deck integrates four wicking holes, two per side, that measure 4mm by 3mm each to allow for a tremendous amount of wicking surface area. The tank reservoir itself can hold 5ml of liquid and is filled through SMOK's patented and signature swivel top cap filling system, working in conjunction with the independently controlled feeding system. Airflow of the TF-RDTA features quad 7.5mm by 2.5mm airslots that enter directly into the build chamber, resulting in rapid and direct airflow that parallels rebuildable dripping atomizer platforms. With one of the most refined tank chassis on the market coupled with a high output specific build deck, wicking, and airflow system, the SMOK TF-RDTA is perfect for those looking for a top performing tank with a huge ceiling. (from the TF-RDTA product page of VaporDNA.com)
The SMOK TF-RDTA comes with pre-installed Clapton coils, ready for wicking with cotton or rayon. Resistance of the dual coils is 0.25 ohms. Design of the deck and eliquid feed system make wicking easy and straightforward, with the wick ends simply tucked under the coils, covering the inlet holes on the deck floor that feed eliquid upward to saturate the wicks.
Machining of the tank is very good. All threading is smooth, and the ring that covers or uncovers the quad cyclops air intake slots has the right amount of grip. Two of the slots provide direct air flow to the coils, while the other two provide indirect flow. Set wide open, the draw is ample but not airy.
Praise and criticism are sometimes opposite sides of the same coin, and that was true for me in evaluating the performance of the SMOK TF-RDTA.
What most impressed me was the TF-RDTA’s ability to handle high power without even breathing hard. With the large, factory-installed Clapton coils, the TF-RDTA is like a fine sports car that virtually demands being driven hard and fast. This is definitely not your father’s Buick, and you wouldn’t want to drive a Porsche 911 around town to buy groceries. That said, if you like hard cornering around winding mountain roads or going flat-out on the Bonneville salt flats, the TF-RDTA can be quite exhilarating. Air flow and wicking are so good that 100 watts can be handled easily with no dry hits, but the air intake slots need to be wide open at that power or the tank gets too hot.
Vaping at such aggressive levels has downsides, however. 80-100 watts eats through batteries rather quickly, and the tank’s appetite for eliquid at elevated power is darn near insatiable. As I wrote above, the tank does heat up with extended use at high wattage. Those consequences are inevitable with high-power tanks, though, so I don’t consider them substantive criticisms, just facts of life.
Initially, I wicked the TF-RDTA with rayon, but I wasn’t thrilled with the performance. After re-wicking with organic cotton (using less, since cotton expands while rayon contracts), vape quality improved dramatically, but I apparently used too little cotton, since I got nasty spitback through the driptip and some leaking of hot eliquid from the direct air intakes. So, I rewicked again, using more cotton. That solved the problem. I guess the third try was the charm. I’m not sure this implies that wicking is tricky on the TF-RDTA, or rather that I’m just a doofus and didn’t adequately cover the feed holes. Probably more the latter than the former.
Once I got the wicking right, performance was exemplary. Flavor and vapor were stellar. While the Augvape Boreas remains my personal favorite (despite the fact that it can’t be refilled to the top without leaking), the TF-RDTA is no slouch, giving its fraternal twin — the TF-RTA — a run for its money as a heavyweight challenger.
Please understand that the SMOK TF-RDTA is not designed for moderation or low power vaping. However, if you like to push the envelope, walk on the wild side, and go for the gusto, the SMOK TF-RDTA might be just what the doctor ordered.
Recommended for intense vaping.