When it comes to choosing the right dry herb vaporizer - there’s a multitude of options available depending on your budget and performance needs. Vaporizers come in such a myriad of sizes, types, build qualities, and prices - that users are now so incredibly spoiled for choice.
The Pax 3 (review | buy) by Pax Labs and Firefly 2+ (review | buy) by Firefly - both represent the higher end of the price spectrum. They also provide seemingly similar experiences, with both of them monikered as “the iPhone of vaporizers”. Both devices are also user reported to be the best in the market and since they share such a similar profile, it only makes sense to put them against each other to see which vaporizer is really the best and which device offers a more attractive bargain
The Pax 3 is said to represent compact vaping at its finest. This vaporizer is extremely portable and delivers well on its promise of a “premium vaping experience”. Its sleek and compact columnar shape is also pretty distinctive and is quite the contrast from the rest of the devices on the market which are usually rugged in design. It has a single-button interface and advanced features like haptic feedback, a lip sensor, and an accompanying smartphone application.
The Firefly 2+ is an improvement over the previous Firefly 2 and unlike most upgrades that are usually more expensive than the original, the Firefly 2+ is actually $80 cheaper than its predecessor. The Firefly boasts of a quick heat-up time thanks to its dynamic convection heating system and also has an accompanying smartphone app for better temperature control. It’s also one of the few vaporizers with a visible herb chamber, so users can see the state of their herb throughout a session.
Both the Firefly 2+ and the Pax 3 are compatible with dry herb and concentrates. I tested these two devices with Cherry Ultra CBD Hemp flower from InHemp (visit store), StrawNana CBD wax from Steve’s Goods (visit store), and THC herb from my local dispensary.
Kit and accessories
Between these two devices, the Pax 3 definitely has a more extensive kit. Especially since users have the option to choose between either of two kits, a “device only” kit and a “complete kit”. Think of the “device only” kit as somewhat of a starter pack - with all that you need to use the Pax 3. The “complete kit” is $50 more and allows you to explore the full range of the device with the following additional accessories:
- Concentrate insert- to use with extracts
- Extra lid (half oven)- allows to pack the oven with half the amount of herbs
- Multi tool- to pack, empty, clean the oven
- 3 Replacement screens
The Firefly 2+ kit might seem a little lean, but there’s nothing more you need to start using the device right out of the box. There are also available accessories to purchase, such as top lid replacements, a charging dock, extra replacement screens, and extra mouthpieces. Use the code TVG20 for 20% off your total purchase.
The Firefly 2+ kit contains:
- Firefly 2+ Vaporizer
- Rechargeable battery
- Charging dock
- Concentrate pads
- Cleaning kit
- USB 3.0 cable
Design & Features
The design teams for both the Firefly 2+ and the Pax 3 definitely seemed to think on similar planes when designing these devices. Sleek and characterized by their clean lines and curves, both these devices are definitely stylish and discreet. Both columnar and shaped to easily fit in a pocket or a purse- the portability of these two devices is undoubtable. Though compact, the build quality of the devices is felt when held- neither are flimsy or feel awkward to the touch.
The Pax 3 definitely makes a statement in the simplest way- its sleek columnar design catches just enough attention yet gives no clue as to what it is. Perfect for discreet vaping on the go. It’s characterized by its shiny or matte exterior and the signature flower-shaped LED lights on the front. The LED lights indicate the device temperature, battery life, and whether the device is switched on. While this design hasn’t changed since the first PAX, it’s a design worth sticking to they’ve also only made the design smaller with each release.
The Firefly 2+ looks similar to its predecessor, the main difference being the window that highlights the logo and sits beneath the viewing portal. While it is attractive, it isn’t functional - it would’ve been better if it were a temperature or batter display instead. Loading the Firefly is as simple as removing the lid to expose the chamber, it is magnetically sealed too, so there are no worries regarding spilling or anything of the sort just in case you drop or accidentally flip the device.
Instead of having a single firing button like the Pax, there are two touch sensors on the side of the device that has to be held while you draw. While this may seem slightly awkward, having two sensors instead of just one reduces the risk of accidentally turning it on when it’s in your bag or pocket.
It’s hard to clearly pick a winner between these two. However, since the Pax is more discreet and has a physical button- it’s much easier to handle than having to hold the Firefly’s two sensors while in use.
One of the ways the Pax 3 and Firefly 2+ have utilized technology to their advantage is by having accompanying smartphone apps that enable users to have further control of their experiences. An important note however is that Apple has currently banned all vaping-related apps on their App Store. If you’re an iPhone user and want to use the Pax and Firefly apps, you may opt to connect them via the Firefly web application and the Pax web application.
The smartphone app on the Firefly 2+ gives you a greater temperature range than what’s on the device itself. On the vaporizer, you can pick temperatures ranging from 320°F to 420°F in 20° increments. Using the app, you can go from 200°F to 420°F in 10° increments. Once your device is connected to the app, you can also then see some useful information such as the battery life and what temperature your Firefly is currently operating on. The app also contains helpful tutorial videos and allows you to customize the button configuration.
Since the Pax 3 doesn’t exactly have a traditional button interface, the Pax 3’s temperature settings and dynamic modes are fully controllable by the accompanying smartphone app.
- Standard Mode – increases oven temperature when your lips are detected on the mouthpiece and auto-cools when the device hasn’t been used for 20 seconds.
- Boost Mode – the temperature rises quickly and comes down just as fast, this is for quick and easy sessions
- Flavor Mode – heats and cools down quickly to maximize flavor and produce more vapor on demand
- Stealth Mode- made for low-profile vaping and speeds up cool-down time. This mode also dims the LED petals and puts the PAX 3 into standby mode within 15 seconds of non-use
- Efficiency Mode – the oven temperature increases by 1° every two seconds. Great for saving battery life
The Firefly 2+ has a 7.4V Lithium-Ion battery, which is completely replaceable. Meaning you can swap a dead one out for a charged one on the go. The Firefly kit includes two batteries in the package and one fully charged battery should last for about five to seven bowls, depending on which temperatures you operate on.
The entire device slides right into a charging dock that may be charged fully in approximately 45 minutes. It also features fast charging, which means you can charge the battery up to 80% in just 20 minutes.
The Pax 3 only has one 3500mAH battery, and it’s built into the device. A single charge should last roughly 8-9 sessions or 90 minutes and that again depends on the temperatures you’re on. In lieu of a charging dock- there is a magnetic charger that snaps onto the back of the device. This connection isn’t exactly the most secure and charges the Pax in about 2 hours.
Clearly, the Firefly and Pax have similar use times. But the Firefly takes the win here since it charges in less than half the time it takes to charge the Pax - and its charging dock is more secure.
The Firefly 2+’s removable mouthpiece sticks out of the main body and is connected to the glass vapor path that stems from the borosilicate glass bowl at the top of the device. One of the major improvements of the 2+ over its predecessor is that this new air path and mouthpiece allow for more air- making inhalation easier and eliminating that “heavy milkshake” draw. The glass mouthpiece keeps the vapor extremely pure since glass is a neutral material. The fact that it runs across the entire device also further cools down the vapor.
The Pax 3 comes with two mouthpiece options straight out of the box. The built-in flat mouthpiece sits discreetly at the top of the device and keeps the sleek columnar shape of the Pax 3. It feels slightly awkward and takes some getting used to, and since your lip touches the side of the device- it does get a little warm. While the raised mouthpiece feels a lot more natural to use since your lips only come in contact with the silicone mouthpiece. The only downside is the fact that it distracts from the clean lines of the device’s overall design.
Performance & Vapor Quality
Both the Pax 3 and the Firefly 2+ aim to represent compact vaping at its finest and design-wise, they seem to have accomplished that. Performance, however, is a totally different ball game since they’re constructed quite differently. The Firefly’s vapor path is much longer while the Pax’s sits right beneath the mouthpiece- drastically affecting vapor quality and heat distribution.
- Firefly 2: Heat-up time on the Firefly is impressively quick. After only a few seconds, the light turned green and ready to go. However, it does seem to happen too quickly, like the herb hadn’t been heated up long enough and only really got hot enough after subsequent draws.
- Pax 3: This device takes about 5-10 seconds longer to heat up, and it does feel a little warm in your hands as it does. Though it’s not searingly hot - it does get a bit uncomfortable, especially if you’re on the higher temperature ranges. This is why the raised mouthpiece is the better choice for the Pax since the recessed piece will eventually be warm on your lip.
- Firefly 2: On the smartphone app, there is a power tuning setting that gives you an extra boost for more flavor and a better draw. It’s also good for maximizing small amounts of herb as opposed to a full load.
- Pax 3: As mentioned earlier, the Pax app has several power settings you can cycle through for a more controlled and curated vaping experience. The boost and efficiency modes were the ones that I found most useful for quick sessions.
- Firefly 2: Don’t expect huge clouds of vapor with the Firefly, but rather a light, cooled, yet flavorful vapor instead. One of the Firefly’s strengths is in its consistency, ensuring decent pulls each time. The chamber doesn’t exactly hold much - but the little amount you put in is fully consumed and vaporized.
- Pax 3: Vapor production on the Pax is of decent quality and it does perform better than expected of a small vaporizer, especially at the 30-second mark. Deeper into the session though, the device’s small size becomes a disadvantage and the Pax 3 becomes too warm to hold. The vapor is smooth, weighty, and flavorful- but only for the first 2-3 hits. After that, the vapor quality dwindles more towards the average end with more warmth and less flavor.
Performance with Concentrates
Both devices may be used with concentrates and this may be done with the use of their respective concentrate inserts. However, the experience was subpar- with the Firefly 2+ fairing slightly better than the Pax. It’s best that you don’t use your main herbal vape for extracts. Doing so just makes cleaning your herb vape more difficult and it also means having to clean it more often. If you want to use extracts, then a wax pen is the better choice. If you’re looking for something more suited to concentrates, check out our list of the best dab/wax pens of 2021.
With both vaporizers being so similar, it’s definitely hard to pick between both. They are both compact, portable devices that are meant to be taken out and enjoyed on the fly.
While the Pax does perform substantially well in such an attractive, discreet package - the fact that it does get warm is a definite downside. The Firefly’s design and ergonomics are a few points lower than the Pax, but its glass vapor path does produce an excellent and pure result.
It’s always ultimately about what matters the most to you- but if I really had to choose, the winner here would be the Pax 3. The fact that it’s indistinguishable when in use just gives it such a leg up over the Firefly which has a visible chamber that’ll obviously give you away. Remedying the Pax’s heating issue can be done by slowing your sessions and employing lower temperatures. But if that’s a hard no for you, there are several devices that might just serve your needs- check out our list of the best dry herb vaporizers of 2021 for more.