When SMOK released the TFV4 tank in 2015, it was a pretty big deal. Until then, you basically had two coil choices at the most for any given tank: a single-coil head for regular vaping and a dual-coil head for cloud chasing. With the TFV4 tank, SMOK introduced triple-coil and quad-coil heads – and for many vapers, it was like the sky had suddenly opened up. People who had browsed forums and looked at coil builds on Pinterest had seen plenty of quad-coil builds – but those were RDA builds, beyond the reach of those who wanted to leave the coil building to the factories. The TFV4 took a quad-coil build and turned it into a drop-in coil head for a vape tank. Most people who tried the TFV4 tank loved it – but SMOK wasn’t done.
The release of the SMOK TFV4 in 2015 started a sub-ohm tank arms race that continues to this day. In this article, we’ll examine the history of that arms race and learn about its pros and cons. We’ll also take a look at where sub-ohm tanks are headed over the next couple of years.
The SMOK TFV8 Cloud Beast
For many people, the SMOK TFV4 was the first sub-ohm tank that could really keep up with a decent RDA build. It was good enough, in fact, to make some people lose interest in the coil building game entirely. If you were vaping in 2015-2016, though, you already know what happened next: SMOK followed up the game-changing TFV4 with the completely revolutionary TFV8 Cloud Beast King.
The TFV8 was essentially SMOK’s answer to the question, “What would happen if we took everything that was good about the TFV4 and doubled it?” With the TFV8, a quad-coil head was no longer the endgame; it was more like the starting point. The TFV8 maxed out at eight coils per head, arranged in a configuration of four dual vertical coils and packaged in a coil head that looked a little like a shotgun shell. For anyone used to buying their coil heads in boxes of five, the TFV8 Cloud Beast was also a bit of a rude awakening; its coil heads shipped in boxes of three for the same price.
The TFV8 Cloud Beast was a tank that instantly made vaping more expensive for its adopters. Switching to the TFV8 meant that you’d pay at least 60 percent more for your coil heads. It also meant that you’d use massively more e-liquid. With the eight-coil head, you could just about watch the level of e-liquid in the tank drop every time you pressed the fire button. Those who tried the TFV8, though, found it difficult to switch back to any other tank. How could anyone accept less flavor and vapor production after experiencing the best?
The SMOK TFV12 Cloud Beast King
SMOK could have stopped with the TFV8 and rested on their laurels while they wanted for the rest of the vaping industry to catch up. They didn’t do that. Realizing that they could push their design just a little further, SMOK released the TFV12 Cloud Beast King in 2017. The TFV12 once again upped the ante on flavor and vapor production, topping out with a 12-coil head arranged in a configuration of six dual vertical coils. Some people said that the SMOK duodenary coil was overkill – that there was no way the increased juice consumption could justify the modest increase in flavor quality and vapor production compared to the octuple coil heads of the TFV8. Cloud chasers didn’t care; the TFV12 was exactly what they wanted. To this day, few tanks can match the raw performance of the TFV12 Cloud Beast King.
The most important aspect of the TFV12 Cloud Beast King wasn’t necessarily its extreme vapor production. The tank also established SMOK’s new strategy for the creation and marketing of vape coils. To this day, when SMOK introduces a new tank model, they’re also introducing a new ecosystem of coils that often work with several other tank models. The TFV12 Prince – a tank that shares technology with the Cloud Beast King but has slightly smaller coil heads – has so many coils available that even the SMOK website can barely keep them straight.
Where the Sub-Ohm Tank Arms Race Stands Today
So, SMOK released new flagship tanks in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Each one pushed the coil design envelope by cramming ever more heating wires into increasingly larger coil heads. Virtually every manufacturer copied the idea. Today, any vape tank that’s purportedly for cloud chasers is going to have coil heads with more than four heating wires available. You’ll notice, though, that SMOK did not release a TFV16 tank in 2018. What’s the reason for that? The reason is that the sub-ohm arms race has already gone as far as it can go. Any further increase in the number of heating wires will only result in hot-running coil heads without adequate wicking. The arms race is over. SMOK won. So, where do we go from here?
The Mesh Coil Is the Next Frontier in Cloud Chasing
What do you do when you can’t simply add more heating wires to increase a vape tank’s performance further? You design a better coil – and that’s exactly what companies such as Freemax have done with their new mesh coils. Rather than using a wound metal wire as the heating element, a mesh coil uses a strip of metal mesh that looks a little like a window screen. A mesh coil has high surface area and low mass, so it heats almost instantly – even at lower wattage settings – and provides incredible flavor quality and vapor production.
Long known primarily as a manufacturer of white-label vaping gear for outside companies, Freemax made a real name for themselves when they released the Fireluke Mesh tank in early 2018. It was the first vaping tank designed specifically to use pre-made mesh coils, and it was a big hit – but the best was yet to come.
What did we learn from the SMOK TFV tanks? We learned that if one heating wire is good, multiple wires would be even better. In late 2018, Freemax followed the success of the Fireluke Mesh with the new Mesh Pro tank. Yet another first of its kind, the Mesh Pro had coil heads available with two, three and even four mesh coils. It enabled greater vapor production than ever with lower wattage requirements than the previous generation of cloud chasing tanks. Other product manufacturers quickly moved to clone Freemax’s design.
What Does the Future Hold for Sub-Ohm Tanks?
As things stand right now, it seems certain that mesh coils will rule the future of sub-ohm tank design – but there is still plenty of room for innovation. Can manufacturers manage to cram even more mesh coils into individual coil heads? Will alternative wick materials such as flax prove to be more durable than cotton? Will manufacturers experiment with different mesh shapes and alternative materials such as stainless steel? We can’t wait to find out.
Jason Artman is the owner and author of eCig One. A professional freelance writer and SEO consultant with more than a decade of experience, Jason works with vaping companies around the world to increase their targeted web traffic and improve their revenue
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