The Pax 3 joins the ever-growing lineup of Pax portable vaporizers. (Ben Livingston, The Cannabist)

Pax 3 flirts with portable vape perfection by adding more, more, more (review)

This sleek vaporizer is a knockout, catering to the concentrates crowd while adding power and speed, but some of the tech doodads are a bit much

One of the smallest portables on the market, the palm-size Pax 3 is a sleek little vaporizer. The lustrous, polished aluminum case instantly attracts, resembling a high-end music player more than pot paraphernalia. It’s a sexy little beast with function to match its form.

Pax 3 improves upon its predecessor Pax 2 in small ways. Most notably, Pax 3 ships with a hash oil insert to target the concentrates crowd. Cannabis consumers increasingly choose oil pens for their discreet nature, ease-of-use and stony reliability. Pax missed that market segment for years while competitors like the Firefly 2 added concentrates support to their portables.

The oil insert functions remarkably well. Little more than a rounded metal box, its amazing ability evinces the thoughtful research and development that went into the tiny vessel. Inside, two cylindrical posts surround air holes punched in the bottom of the insert, and a slit on the top allows air to pass completely through while keeping most oil within the unit. Measuring 8x8x18mm, it fits snugly inside the Pax oven and effectively conducts heat. A gasket on the lid helps reduce potential spills.

Seepage is certainly possible, especially if held sideways or upside down when heating concentrates. I do that, of course, but when not in buffoon mode, such spills are atypical. The whole thing snaps into place with two magnets on the oven cover, and the oil insert easily detaches from that cover for thorough cleaning.

pax3 concentrates  option with hash oil
A before-and-after view of the new Pax 3 insert for concentrates. (Ben Livingston photos, The Cannabist)

Hit it faster, stronger

Startup time is now 15 seconds, down from 45. That quickening is a godsend, especially for impatient stoners. On the front, Pax logo blinky lights indicate when the device is ready to puff. Once operating, the Pax 3 maintains heat with little to no wait between puffs.

The battery is slightly more powerful, as is the heater. That ensures cloudier, more reliable hits than previous Pax versions. The oven is mostly-conduction, meaning heat transfers from the metal walls into the adjacent herb. Many people think convection heat — air heat — produces a better vape experience, but the Pax 3 has me reconsidering that opinion. A mostly convection device can be tough to get right, especially in a portable vape. In contrast, the Pax 3 mostly conduction oven hits the mark on every bowl.

“The heater is much more powerful than it used to be. It’s twice as powerful,” Pax chief product officer James Monsees told The Cannabist. “It is potentially the fastest zero to vapor of any product on the market, and the fastest to repeat vapor. That allows the user to use the product when they want, versus trying to use a very prescriptive puff.”

Blinky tech, tactile controls, smartphone apps

Pax 3 stands 4 inches tall and measures 1-1/4 x 7/8 inches around, small enough to fit in a pants pocket. The user interface consists of a single button hidden in the mouthpiece and a shake-sensing accelerometer. Turn it on and off with a single click. To change temperature, press for two seconds, then single-click between four temperature settings.

The tactile temperature control sets Pax 3 apart from the Firefly 2. Previously I’ve mentioned my general disdain for smartphone-connected vaporizers. Building on a natural fear of change, my reticence is exacerbated by the concern that meddling hackers or auto-propagating computer worms will one day own my vaporizer. Like I need my pot paraphernalia to participate in Vladimir Putin’s command and control infrastructure.

If you let that fear wash over you, the Pax 3 phone app can tweak the blinky light patterns, adjust the LED brightness, and change the one user-controlled temperature setting. I finally gave in and installed the app and was immediately annoyed that it would not work without access to my GPS location. After several bypass attempts, I finally gave in once more and was further annoyed to find the Android app doesn’t actually work at all, instead saying “Check back later for updates!” Who the hell are the 19 people who rated this useless placeholder app five stars?

Pax 3 has a handful of LED-based games built in, which also raises my hackles a bit. Why the hell do I need Simon on my vaporizer? The unit always seems to be saying something in LED language that I don’t understand. What I want in the smartphone app is an STFU option to simplify the blinkenlights for easily annoyed cannabis curmudgeons.

But that’s just me. I’m certain some battery-wasting weedheads love that stuff. For those folks, the confusing lights and superfluous games are a feature of the Bluetooth-enabled Pax 3. Never you mind the grumpy ganja lovers who would rather bake brownies in the damn thing.

Pax 3 is awesome

My dislike of the worthless gaming, phone app and confusing lights can be easily ignored. The core hardware and software powering the Pax 3 are functionally amazing. It puffs great with cannabis flowers or hash oil. No need to draw super slow, just breath intuitively. It’s slicker than Astroglide.

Also worth noting: With the new release, the now-outdated Pax 2 price dropped to $199, making it a great option for patient potheads who don’t vape oil. If you can wait 30 extra seconds to get high, you can save $75. If you want the newest, coolest version of one of the planet’s best-selling portable vaporizers, you simply must get a Pax 3. It’s well worth the money.

Pax 3 retails for $275 and is available directly from Pax Labs.