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ZQ Xtal Review: A Very Familiar Vape Experience

Spyros Papamichail
August 11, 2020

Intro

The Xtal comes from ZQ, a relatively new company in the vape world. It is a standard pod system with a 520 mAh battery, and takes refillable pods with a capacity of 1.8 mL.

This is the second ZQ product I am reviewing after the impressive and rather original ZQ GO. Unlike the GO, which came in a design that I had never seen before, the Xtal reminds me of a very popular pod system. You guessed it; I am talking about the UWell Caliburn. From the looks down to the battery capacity, the resemblance is indeed striking.

Will the ZQ Xtal give the Caliburn a run for its money? Keep reading to find out.

Price: $21.99
Colors: Black, gunmetal, red, teal

Specifications

  • 520 mAh battery
  • Draw/button activated
  • 1.2-ohm nichrome DC coil
  • 1.0-ohm mesh coil (not included)
  • 1.8 mL pod capacity
  • UK imported cotton

Kit contents

  • 1 x ZQ Xtal device
  • 2 x 1.2-ohm replacement pods
  • 1 x USB charging cable
  • 1 x User manual
  • 1 x Warranty card

Build quality and design

If you’ve ever used a Caliburn, you’ll know what to expect here. The Xtal comes in the same shape, weighs more or less the same, and is only a tiny bit larger. Even the pods look kinda similar, with the only difference being the mouthpiece. The end of the mouthpiece has a rectangular shape on the Xtal instead of the rounded ends of the Caliburn pods, and there’s no piece to remove with the Xtal pods being filled from the bottom. Other than that, the only other visible difference between them is that the LED light on the Xtal is on the button itself instead of below it.

But not everyone has used a Caliburn, so here’s a quick rundown of the device. Measuring at 113 mm x 22 mm x 12 mm, the Xtal is longer than your average ultra-portable pod system, but it is rather thin and will easily fit in your jeans pocket. It feels solid from a build quality perspective, but weighs just 32 grams. It comes in four single-color editions and the branding is kept at a minimum, with “ZQ” on the bottom of the one side, and “XTAL” on the other.

Xtal pods

As mentioned above, the pods and coils of the Xtal look a lot like the Caliburn pods, but they are certainly not 1:1. For starters, the take up to 1.8 mL of juice, which is a bit less than the Caliburn pods (2 mL). They are transparent but dark-tinted, and there are no side windows—but you can still check for juice levels if you turn the device upside down. The fill port is placed at the bottom of the pod, and the plug is hard plastic instead of the standard silicone plug that comes with most devices out there. The filling port is large enough for most plastic bottle nozzles, but filling it with a glass pipette is going to be hard.

As for the mouthpiece, I have to say that I do prefer the rounded edges of the Caliburn. The Xtal doesn’t feel very comfortable in the mouth, although I got used to it after a while. Finally, I have noticed that the pods may leak occasionally, but it’s mostly drops of juice at their sides. The contacts seem to be dry for the most part, and the tiny bit of juice that may find its way there hasn’t caused any performance issues.

Performance

There are two pods currently available for the Xtal:

  • 1.2-ohm Nichrome
  • 1.0-ohm mesh

The 1.2-ohm pods are included in the package, while the mesh coils can be bought separately. I can’t find the material for the mesh coils listed anywhere, but if I had to guess I’d say that these are also nichrome. Note that the coils of the Xtal fire pretty fast, so make sure you give them some time to saturate before hitting it for the first time.

The Xtal is button and draw-activated, and the sensor is very sensitive. I barely noticed a difference between the two firing modes, but I kept using the button just because I am used to button-activated vapes. Three presses of the fire button will scroll between button activation, draw activation, and button/draw mode.

The 1.2-ohm pods hit, well, almost exactly like the Caliburn’s pods. The draw is only very slightly tighter, the flavor is almost identical, and the warmth is so close that I couldn’t be sure which one produced a warmer vape. From a performance perspective, that’s a good thing. Everybody loves the Caliburn, and while many pods have tried to duplicate the experience, not many have succeeded.

Those that haven’t had the pleasure of trying a Caliburn should expect a warm, smooth, and flavorful vape—and, in my personal opinion, a not so impressive throat hit. The tighter draw of the Xtal helps in that department, but only marginally. I suggest filling it with something like 30 mg salts—20 mg probably won’t hit hard enough but you won’t need to go 50 mg on a warm vape like this. As always, your mileage may vary. I even enjoyed it with 9 mg regular nicotine, which is what I have been using my second pod with for the last five days—I would have preferred 12 mg but didn’t have any left.

The 1.0-ohm pods on the other hand hit harder and produce even more flavor. I get a more saturated and warmer vape with these coils, which is evident by the fact that 20 mg salts feel just right on them. The warmth has an effect on the draw too, with these pods giving a tighter MTL draw. I was curious as to why they didn’t include these in the package, but they informed me that they will be adding them to the retail version soon. All in all, very satisfied with the mesh pods. Two thumbs up!

Both pods can easily wick 70VG juices, but I suggest going with 50/50 or 60/40 for the extra throat hit. As for coil life, my coil-killing salts managed to destroy my first pod in three fills, but I’m on the sixth fill on my second pod using it with some clear juice. It still feels like it felt on day one, so overall I am happy with how long these pods are lasting.

Battery life and charging

The Xtal charges through a micro USB port that’s placed at the bottom of the battery and supports pass-thru vaping so you can use it while it’s charging. I wish it was a Type-C port, but that’s only a minor con. ZQ claims that the Xtal charges fully in 40 minutes, but the light went off on mine at the 70-minute mark. That’s a huge difference, and anything over the one-hour mark nowadays is too slow in my opinion.

The button is also an LED light and it will light up when you vape in three colors depending on battery level:

  • Green: 60-100%
  • Blue: 30-60%
  • Red: 0-30%

The 520 mAh capacity is not impressive at all, but it’s alright for a device this small and lightweight. The 1.2-ohm nichrome coil is not that power hungry, and I managed to vape a bit over a full pod before having to charge. Note that the Xtal has direct output, so performance will drop as the battery depletes. I didn’t notice a large drop in performance on the first pod though, but I wish the red light appeared a bit earlier. I only managed to squeeze out around five puffs from the point the light appeared, and that sure is far from the 30% that ZQ claims.

Pros / Cons

  • Pocketable and lightweight
  • Good build quality
  • Very easy to operate
  • Easy to fill
  • Pods last for long
  • Warm vape
  • Great flavor (especially on the 1.0-ohm mesh pods)
  • Slightly tighter draw than the Caliburn (subjective)
  • Button and draw-activated
  • Sensitive draw sensor
  • Supports pass-thru vaping
  • Not the most comfortable mouthpiece
  • 1.2-ohm pods could hit a little harder
  • A bit of leaking around the pods
  • No Type-C charging
  • Could have a slightly larger battery
  • Needs more than an hour to charge fully
  • 1.0-ohm pod not included in the package

Verdict

I’ve mentioned the Caliburn a lot in this review, but it’s not only because of the visual similarities between these two devices. The Xtal is not the first vape that comes in this design, and it sure won’t be the last. The thing is, from a performance perspective, these two vapes are very close. Yes, the Xtal has a slightly tighter draw, but I had to compare them side by side to notice the difference. In any case, considering that I find the draw of the Caliburn to be a bit too loose for my liking, I like the Xtal a little bit more.

Did the world need a Caliburn 1.1? Maybe. Uwell have removed it from their website, news is out since April that the FDA asked them to remove it from the market, and there have also been reports of their pods being out of stock. If you love your Caliburn and you are concerned about future access to pods, the ZQ Xtal is a great option. I’m not sure about ZQ’s reach and future pod accessibility either (I’ve had the same concerns about the ZQ GO,) but I wouldn’t hesitate to buy one of those as soon as they reach the shelves of large retailers.

What do you think of the ZQ Xtal? Let me know in the comment section!

My first attempt at vaping came back in 2009 on some of the first cigalikes to ever reach Europe. A couple of attempts -- and vaping tech generations later -- I managed to quit smoking in 2016, and have since then developed somewhat of an obsession with all things vaping. When I am not consuming vape reviews I am either tinkering my NBA fantasy teams or playing board games with friends.

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