Over the last few months we’ve been looking at an increasing assortment of vaporizers of all shapes and price points, from the stationaries to the portables. It’s been a fascinating and eye-opening journey because we’ve come to realize just what a wide impact on vapour quality and flavour each different device has. So when we were offered the opportunity to review the Herbalizer, the most expensive vaporizer on the market, we were stoked. After all, who wouldn’t want to see what a $729 vaporizer can do? Designed by two former NASA engineers, the Herbie promises unparalleled temperature control, consistent extraction, instant heat-up times, and a host of other features that help justify its premium price. It’s billed as the “first SmartVape”, and is designed, manufactured and assembled in the USA. The company is clearly going after the Volcano, and they’ve come out with guns blazing. Did they manage? Does the Herbalizer live up to its promise? Read on to find out.
The first thing you notice when you get the Herbalizer is the quality of the packaging: it’s premium. This goes a long way to give you an idea of the kind of attention to detail they’ve put into this product, and gives you an unboxing experience that will have you feeling good about your expense from the moment you break the seal.
The Herbie itself is rather small, measuring some
10 9 inches across and looking somewhat like an alien egg. Beneath it, still in the box, is a compartment with four pre-assembled balloons, each in their individual packaging, as well as the power cord. That’s it. There are very few accessories, nothing to assemble, and everything is ready to go from the moment you open the box. The idea is to get you from the box to the vaping in as little time as possible.
The unit is made from plastic, and features two nested lids to make space for what they’re calling a “mezzanine”. This is just an area where you can keep some herbs, some aromatherapy oils, a cleaning brush and some aromatherapy pads (more on that later). The vaping deck has a color LCD screen, two buttons (to pick the operation mode), a fan button, and a temperature rocker. It’s dead simple and there isn’t even an on/off switch; opening the lid turns the device on. Towards the bottom of the deck is the magnetic herb chamber holder, right above the patented halogen heating element. The herb holder itself has two rubber rings that allow you to hold it while it’s hot. Finally, there’s a silicone hose with a metal tip that wraps around, and stores within the periphery of the deck. Everything you need is right there, and you don’t need to assemble anything aside from connecting the hose or the balloon to the herb chamber.
Build quality on the lids is unfortunately not as perfect as we would have liked. Although minor, they don’t close flush and leave a little gap. It doesn’t affect operation in any way, but it’s a noticeable blemish on a premium product. We suspect that the plastic craftsmanship makes for some unwanted friction in the hinges, resulting in imperfect closure. But at this price we might have expected a sturdier and more reliable metal construction. In the end, however, it doesn’t matter because the meat of the product is in its operation.
The heart of the Herbalizer is in its patented heating element. Featuring a powerful 300W halogen heating lamp, the machine is capable of reaching its target temperature in as little as 5 seconds! This is compared to the several seconds to several minutes other devices can take. More importantly, an advanced microcontroller is able to regulate and maintain target temperature with as little as 5F in variation. While the company was developing the product, I was told that testing of other devices revealed temperature fluctuations of as much as 80F in some cases, which (as we’ll explain shortly) can make it harder to get the kind of buzz you’re after.
You see, cannabis contains a myriad of molecules. While most people only think of THC, there are in fact a bunch of different cannabinoids and terpenoids and other compounds that contribute in different ways to how you feel after vaping. Each one of these molecules has a different vaporization temperature, and achieving and maintaining consistent vaping temps makes it possible to control more precisely the mixture of compounds you inhale. This point is crucial, and is the reason the Herbalizer is so different from other vaporizers: by controlling the temperature in this way, you can select how you want to feel. Looking for a picker-upper? Something that will have you be more alert? Stick with the lower tier of temperatures. Want something more relaxing, maybe to help you sleep? Pick the middle temperatures for a “balanced” high. And finally, if you’re looking for an intense high, crank the temps up to the higher third. Each zone is clearly defined on the LCD screen.
What’s more, the precise and consistent temperature makes for a much more efficient extraction process. We found that we were able to get about 50% more use from the same quantity of herbs than we could with other vapes. When a lower temperature range no longer produced any discernible vapour, increasing the temp slightly once again released vapour from the as-yet-unvaporized compounds remaining in the herbs. And we have to say, vapor flavour is wonderful, especially at the lower temperatures. As you gradually increase, you start noticing more complex aromas that linger in the nose, and it actually becomes possible to achieve some very consistent “tiers” of vapour.
Now, getting this vapour into your lungs can be done in any of three ways: by filling up one of the preassembled balloons, by using the whip or by simply going “freestyle”, which just means filling up your room with whatever comes out. We enjoyed the balloons very much, in particular because of the silicone valve, which could be opened and closed with a simple pinch of the fingers. Really, this is an outstanding feature, especially when compared to other vaporizers that either simply don’t have any valve, or feature switch operated valves that are much harder to access (only in comparison to these). We found that we could keep the bag full of vapour for hours, and take hits whenever we felt like without any effort.
The unit also features an aromatherapy mode. This works by soaking up one of the two porous metal pads with essential oils and placing it in the designated pad holder towards the front of the mezzanine. A strategically placed vent then directs
warm air over the pad, releasing aromas in your dwelling for as long as you want. There’s a timer function that will shut things down after a preset time, if you want to fall asleep while being surrounded by soothing smells, for example. During our testing we found that this feature worked well… if not fantastically well. We would have liked for a stronger smell to fill the room, but this could be due to there being too much ventilation where we were. Either that, or maybe the circulated air needs to be slightly hotter, we’re not sure. Whatever the case, it does work and maybe our reservations are related to unrealistic expectations.
Operation using the whip is straightforward and efficient. The fan should be turned on while you’re pulling, otherwise you won’t get much vapor, but this also means you need to manually turn it off when you’re done if you don’t want to fill up your room with the smell or waste anything. Not a problem, really, but we still preferred balloon operation.
The Herbalizer is without a doubt a premium product. The experience of using it is like no other we’ve come across. It’s dead simple to operate and ridiculously quick to go from “off”, to a balloon full of vapor. There are no accessories to mess around with, and nothing to assemble or connect, really. The heating element is powerful enough to quickly reach and effectively maintain target temperatures, which makes for much higher quality vapor and a more efficient extraction process. More importantly, being able to select how you feel, through this granular temperature control, is wonderful. It seems like a gimmick, but it does work, we can attest to that.
The device looks great, and will attract comments and attention more than most other similar offerings. Yes, there are some minor construction flaws, but they’re aesthetic and affect the operation in no way at all. And sure, it’s an expensive product to own, but if you’re looking for a (perhaps “the”) superior vaping experience, the Herbalizer should satisfy you in spades.
+ Super quick heat-up times (5 seconds!)
+ Consistent extraction temperatures
+ More efficient extraction, making for less wastage
+ Premium look and operation
– Rather expensive
– Plastic hinges cause lids not to close properly
MSRP: $729 with a 2 year warranty, and a 5 year Quality Guarantee on the Limited Edition.