Vaporizers & Vaping

Desktop Vaporizer: What You Should Know

Gabi Antunes

Aug 6, 2019

Power is the name of the game when it comes to desktop vaporizers. These large and stationary units are desirable for their efficiency, excellent vapor production, and vapor quality. Since it operates with an AC power cable instead of a small rechargeable battery, desktop vaporizers are well-known for their reliability and consistent high performance.

While they may be large and a little intimidating to those uninitiated vapers, a desktop vaporizer’s features and capabilities are highly regarded and widely sought after. Before you dive in, it’s important to understand how they work, what they offer, and for whom desktop vaporizers may be a good fit.

How do desktop vaporizers work?

Many desktop vaporizers support dry herb and concentrate materials. Finely grind the cannabis material of your choice and place it into the chamber as directed in the user manual. Dual-use desktop vaporizers will come with supplies such as a drip pad or a specialized insert to fill the chamber with wax or other concentrates.

Desktop vaporizers generally use convection heating, which passes air over the loose-leaf material in the vaporizer’s chamber. An AC adapter supplies the power necessary to blow from the unit’s diaphragm air pump through the air channel and over the cannabis material. Control the temperature with the attached knob or buttons. Expect to wait a few minutes for the desktop vaporizer to reach the set temperature.

Vapor delivery depends on the chosen model. One of the oldest and most common vapor delivery methods is a whip-style vape, named for the rubber tubing that extends from the unit. Consumers inhale directly from the tube. More recent models use what’s called forced air delivery, in which a fan blows the hot air over the material and fills the mouthpiece area with vapor. Some units use a balloon bag in place of the rubber tubing; this removable bag can be passed around a group of people or carried from room to room.

Temperature settings on a desktop vaporizer

Temperature control is a key component of vaporization. Certain compounds in cannabis are released at different temperatures, resulting in unique effects depending on the chosen temperature. For example, THC boils at about 315°F. Terpenes, which are compounds that contribute to smell, flavor, and effect, release at different boiling points as well.

Desktop vaporizers come with either an analog knob control or digital LED temperature control. The temperature range and adjustability varies from unit to unit, but most units support temperatures from the 200s Fahrenheit to the 400s Fahrenheit. Some units have presets, while others can be adjusted in one-degree increments. These temperatures will make the cannabis material hot enough to release compounds without reaching the point of combustion, resulting in a clean and flavorful vapor.

Desktop vaporizer drawbacks

For all of their impressive performance, desktop vaporizers aren’t the best fit for everyone. Some drawbacks to desktop vaporizers include:

  • Size: For all the advantages of a large unit, the sheer size of a desktop vape can be a deterrent for some consumers. Not only does the size and the need for AC power impact portability, but it takes up significant room on a table or countertop.
  • Heat up time: While other vapes heat instantly, in a few seconds, or in under 1 minute, desktop vaporizers generally take several minutes to heat, plus time to fill the balloon bag with vapor.
  • Maintenance: Larger units require more care than a vape pen or a less-complicated portable vaporizer. Multiple parts need to come undone, cleaned, and reassembled on a regular basis to maintain maximum performance.
  • Price: Due to their advanced power and mechanisms, desktop vaporizers are far more expensive than their smaller peers. Some units could cost hundreds of dollars more.

Portable vaporizers as an alternative

Portable vaporizers, such as the PAX 3, hold the unique position of combining the power of a desktop vaporizer into a unit small enough to carry around. The mechanics of a portable vaporizer are simplified to fit into a handheld device, comprised of an oven or chamber, vapor path, and a mouthpiece.

In a portable vaporizer, a rechargeable battery activates the heating element. Depending on the model, portable vaporizers use convection heating like their desktop relatives, or conduction heating, which heats the cannabis material upon contact with the oven. PAX 3 uses conduction heating, with a stainless steel oven heating the material via direct contact on all sides. Vapor makes its way through the vapor path to the mouthpiece, where it is inhaled. One charge lasts for several sessions, but battery life can vary depending on the chosen setting. PAX 3, for example, lasts between 8 and 10 sessions, or for 90 minutes of continuous use.

You’ll find several shared features between portable vapes and desktop vapes. First, there are several portable vapes compatible with dry herb and concentrates. Many are well-known and well-liked for their flavorful vapor production. More advanced portable vaporizers also offer a wide temperature range and adjustability, with many portable vapes offering those tools with a companion smartphone app. For vapers who value portability but want the desktop vaporizer’s power, a portable vaporizer may be the right vape for you.