Back before the Juul was a meme or status symbol or sign of impending doom, it was just a new nicotine-based product from people known for weed. Juul was born out of the same minds as Pax, the most stylish weed flower vape around. Now Juul is a threat to lungs and Big Tobacco while Pax is still focused on delivering weed in as stylish and small a body as possible. Last year it launched the Pax Era, a very nice little cartridge-based weed vape with a few deeply annoying flaws. The new Pax Era Pro improves on the Era in a lot of very welcome ways.
The Pax Era Pro, like the Pax Era, is a vape pen. You buy ready-made cartridges filled with cannabis-infused oil and plug them into the vape. Sucking on the pen creates big weed clouds. Pax isn’t the only company producing weed pens. Stiizy and Grenco are increasingly popular competitors who, like Pax, produce proprietary cartridges than only work in their respective pens and curate what weed goes in those pens.
But most people are probably familiar with the much more popular 510 thread pens and cartridges. These pens can work with either nicotine or weed cartridges and are the most common culprits for vape related injuries. Cheap pens can explode, while poorly (and often illegally) manufactured weed 510 thread cartridges are believed to be behind the epidemic of vape related illnesses in the U.S.
Pax and Grenco and Stiizy are all trying to avoid the bad press and reputation other pens have earned by offering more quality control. Oil-making companies have to use these vape pen companies’ cartridges if they want their oil to atomize in the vapes. Pax even claims to test each cartridge to ensure it’s safe to use.
This testing has been part of Pax’s promise since the Era, however, ahead of the Era Pro’s release earlier this year, Pax began seeding new cartridges into the marketplace. Marked with a red ring, these cartridges have NFC built in and can provide even more information. The NFC chip works remarkably well with the new app. Apple axed all vape apps late last year, so the app only works on Android currently. A Pax representative told me a web app is already in the works.
Simply plug the cartridge into the Pax Era Pro, which gives you a haptic buzz when it’s properly seated (which is a feature unique to the Era Pro). Then you pair the vape pen with your phone via Bluetooth. Immediately the app populates with the brand and strain of cannabis in the cartridge. It also gives you details about the cartridge, like how much THC and CBD are in it, what sensations you can expect, and what temperature the company thinks is ideal for smoking.
It also includes test results performed by Pax in partnership with the cartridge maker. This, in theory, would make it easier to track down a bad batch of cartridges or potentially even warn users if they’d purchased a bad pod. However, for now, it just provides the data in a green font meant to indicate the cartridge has been tested and is safe to use. A few people I showed it to felt heartened by the little column of green numbers, but I didn’t feel particularly safer. It would be a much more useful feature if plugging in a known bad cartridge would give some kind of warning.
Still, the information about the pods themselves is useful. I also appreciate that the app lets me set a specific temperature for each NFC-equipped pod and the Pax Era Pro actually remembers it. The ability to manually ID pods that are NFC-less is also nice, because it allowed me to still get a quick refresher on what I’d bought and how it might affect me.
The app is largely what differentiates the $70 Pax Era Pro from other pens, but the original $30 Era also works with the app and allows you to customize temperatures. So why drop more than twice as much just to enjoy a wider range of pen colors and some NFC magic?
It’s all the little things. The LEDs in the Pax logo are brighter so it’s just a little easier to see if a cartridge is cashed or if the pen’s battery is dead. The Pax Era Pro also relies on USB-C instead of microUSB, a welcome change that more companies should embrace.
The Era cartridges rested loosely in the pen. Shoving the pen into my pocket or purse always meant the cartridge would fall out and potentially get lost. But cartridges fit nice and snuggly in the Era Pro—not even a vigorous waggle of the pen dislodges the cartridge.
Pax has also added small air intake vents on the sides of the pen, which makes it much easier to draw on the device. I get bigger clouds (though knocking the temperature down will reduce that effect), and the vapor feels a little less harsh on my throat. The Pax Era Pro can still give you a telltale weed cough, but I found it happening a lot less frequently than with the Era or even the Grenco Gio I’ve used before.
Still. The Pax Era Pro is $70. The Era is only $30. The Grenco Gio is only $20. Same goes for the Stiizy. A 510 thread pen can be had for as little as $6 if you know where to look (and are OK with the risk of your pen exploding in your face). Pax is asking you to spend a lot more money to get in on the Pax ecosystem. For people new to weed vaping, I’m not sure it’s worth the cost even if this is the best pen I’ve used. The original Era or the Gio or Stiizy are more affordable solutions that can let you dip your toes into the way too complex world of weed vaping. The Era Pro is for people who reach for their pen daily or who really need the security blanket the cartridge test results provide. If you want to experience the Juul of weed—the Cadillac Juul of weed—you’ll have to suck it up and pay the price.
- It improves on the $30 Era in almost every way.
- The app is lovely but currently Android only.
- There are cheaper pens but they don’t provide the same assurances.
- I’m not going to get into why the vape has been engraved with the words “bye bitch.”