[June 2021] Smokers nowadays like having more options when it comes to finding the best vape kit to quit smoking with, but which e cigarette is most like the real thing (i.e. a cigarette)?
New vape pods like the Aspire Vilter and Innokin EQ FLTR now come with soft tips and other things to make you feel like you’re smoking a real cigarette.
I tested three new e cig pod kits for smokers to see which one gives the closest, most realistic vape compared to the experience of smoking.
Which e cigarette is most like the real thing?
Aspire Vilter vs EQ FLTR vs Smok Stick G15
Here are the three suction-activated, low power pod vape e cigarette models I tested:
Each device is a refillable, suction-activated pod vape kit, and each is supposed to produce very similar sensations to those produced by lit cigarettes.
NOTE: I tested each model with 50/50 PG-VG nicotine salt e liquid (natural tobacco and menthol flavours) at 10, 12 and 18 mg strengths.
|Aspire Vilter Pod Vape Kit||Innokin EQ FLTR Vape Kit||Smok Stick G15 Pod Kit|
|Appearance||Small enough to hold comfortably, but longer (118mm in total with tip attached) than an average cigarette.||Very small (around 105mm long with tip fitted) so roughly the same length as a king-size cigarette. ||Longer (around 115mm with tip) than a real cigarette. No real visual similarity to cigs|
|Device mouth feel||Soft tip feels like a cigarette filter tip|
Draw is quite tight but not as tight as draw from a cigarette
|Soft tip gives real cigarette feel in your mouth and tight, realistic draw resistance with soft tips||Plastic mouthpiece is same size / shape as cigarette filter but is harder so feels less like cigarette in mouth |
Loose to medium tight draw resistance with plastic tip
|Vapour mouth feel||Taste on tongue is mild and not very obvious (no real sweetness)|
Vapour is a little too warm
|Excellent reproduction of sweetness / bitterness even with subtle flavours|
Cool vapour even on long draws
|Reproduces brighter flavour notes very well (menthol, fruits, etc) but softer tobacco flavours not so obvious.|
Vapour quite warm on long draws
|Vapour inhale quality||Strong throat hit with 18mg nic salts which is as smooth as hit from cigarette. |
Less noticeable throat hit at lower nic strengths
|Only soft throat hit with 10ml nic salts (similar to light cigarette inhale). Stronger, more distinctive and rounded throat hit with 18mg nic salts (like regular cigarette)||Adequate throat hit with 10mg nic salts but closer to inhale from regular cigarette at 12mg. 18 mg (salts) gives very strong but slightly sharper nicotine hit|
|Suction response||Excellent suction responsiveness even with gentle sucks||Good responsiveness to suction except when charge is running low or contacts are damp||Excellent vapour release in response to even the gentlest or shortest of sucks, much like smoking a real cig|
|Hand feel||Comfortable hand feel though square rather than cylindrical, which feels less like a cigarette||Feels very comfortable and light () in the hand||Very light to hold but still too heavy (37g) to feel anything like a real cigarette – more like a mid-sized cigar|
|Nicotine relief||Very noticeable relief with 18mg salt liquid – not much if any at 10 or 12mg||Very noticeable with e liquid strength at over 18mg (nic salts) but not much at lower strengths||Excellent, noticeable nicotine relief at 12mg (nic salts) and above|
Pod vape most like the real thing
For me, Innokin’s EQ FLTR offers by far the closest feel to a real cig than the other pod vapes I tested. Here are a few reasons why:
#1: Innokin EQ FLTR Soft Filter Pod Kit
Look and feel vs real cigs
The EQ’s soft tips add a surprising level of ciggy similarity to this e cig by hypnotising you into feeling that you’re actually smoking while vaping. I like the look and feel of this feature a lot.
And the minimal size and weight of the EQ FLTR also add to its appeal as a worthy cigarette substitute.
I also really love the way this e cig has been designed to look like an IQOS device. But what’s even better is that the EQ FLTR e cig actually tastes nicer than one of these (in my humble opinion).
Flavour and strength in relation to cigarettes
The EQ FLTR gives out way more flavour than a lit cigarette (or heat-not-burn) ever could and can reproduce even very subtle e liquid flavours and tones very nicely.
I particularly like the way the EQ handles real tobacco flavours, which taste really strong and very cigarette-like.
Nicotine strength, throat hit and relief are all potentially impressive as long as you use a strong enough e liquid. I would suggest using at least 18mg strength nic salt liquid with the EQ FLTR to get the same satisfaction that you’d expect to get from the real thing.
Areas for improvement
The only area in which the EQ FLTR is not so much like a cigarette is responsiveness to suction. But given all its other “cig-alike” qualities, I think we can forgive this. It’s not like you don’t get any vapour at all, but more that sometimes you have to suck a bit harder to release it.
Intermittent suction responsiveness is only an issue when the battery is run down or if contacts aren’t completely dry. Best advice is to dab contacts with a cotton bud from time to time and keep battery topped up.
Innokin’s EQ FLTR isn’t my all-time favourite kit of all time, and it should be said this is very much a “beginner” device. However, this e cig does do a good impression of a real cigarette in terms of feel, flavour and performance. And all at a very affordable price.
#2: Aspire Vilter Pod Vape Kit
Soft tips and responsiveness
The Aspire Vilter’s soft tip feels just as realistic in the mouth as EQ FLTR’s tip and delivers an authentic smoking feel.
Vilter responsiveness is also excellent (perhaps the best out of all three pods), and vapour really rushes out when you suck even a little.
Vapour warmth and flavour
Vapour from the Aspire Vilter is a little too warm for my liking, though not so unlike puffs from a real cigarette, which can even taste hot, at times.
Flavour quality for me is where the Vilter falls down. You just don’t get the same range of tobacco flavours (bitterness and sweetness) on suction as you do with the EQ FLTR.
Like the warmth issue though, this doesn’t take anything away from its similarity to smoking. In fact, smoke from a real cigarette doesn’t often give you anything more than a vaguely bitter taste on the tongue.
The Aspire Vilter certainly gives you more flavour than that, but for a vape, it’s just a bit too flat-tasting for a flavour-chaser like me.
I did notice however that depth of flavour seems to improve a little on the second refilling, so the flatness may just be a “new coil” thing.
Nicotine strength and satisfaction compared to smoking
With nic salts at 18mg, the Aspire Vilter gives a nice strong throat hit which is easily as powerful and smooth as throat hit from a real cigarette.
If you live in a place where you can get stronger nic salt liquids, I’d probably go up a little higher (22mg maybe) to get an even more satisfying hit.
The Aspire Vilter was pretty noisy (background hissing during suction) on first use, but quietened down after a few puffs. It now runs as quietly as the EQ FLTR.
Overall feel and verdict
I like the way the Aspire Vilter feels in the hand. It’s super-light and easy to pocket, though its more rectangular shape makes it feel less like a cigarette in the hand compared to the EQ FLTR.
As a cigarette-like vape there’s not that much between the Aspire Vilter and EQ FLTR in my opinion. It’s just that the Vilter seems to take a bit more time to settle down.
But in terms of practicalities, I don’t like that the Aspire only comes with one pod (EQ and Smok have two) and only two soft tips (EQ FLTR gives you several).
#3: Smok Stick G15
The Smok Stick G15 comes third in this race, but only really because of its slight shortcomings in flavour compared to the other two devices.
Vapour flavour is strong enough, but it seems I’m only getting higher, sweeter notes, rather than really interesting, bitter ones.
For the G15 to be a more like the real thing it would need to be able to reproduce tobacco flavours more accurately. This is tricky to fix, though using it with very strong tobacco e liquid flavours would likely solve it to some extent.
Longer and fatter
The shape of this e cig is also a fair bit longer and fatter than that of the the EQ FLTR – this issue also takes away from its potential as a true cigarette substitute.
Strength, satisfaction and suction response
However, what the Smok Stick G15 does do well is nicotine strength and quality of throat hit with even relatively low-strength (12mg) e liquid. I was very impressed with the quality of throat hit in terms of its similarity to smoke inhaled from a cigarette. What’s more, it will consistently generate vapour in response to even gentle sucks.
I also like the cigarette tip-shaped mouthpiece which adds to its charm. However the mouthpiece felt even more realistic better when I removed the plastic tip and replaced it with an EQ soft tip instead (perfect fit!).
The Smok Stick G15 is definitely a worthwhile, though somewhat bulky pod vape kit to replace your cigarettes with. It will certainly satisfy cig cravings too, though you may need a more flavoursome e liquid to go with it.
You can see my full review of the Smok Stick G15 here.
How close to the real thing can you expect e cigs to get?
Vaping was originally invented to help smokers quit, so it’s no surprise that some e cigarettes can get you very close to at least a few of the pleasures of smoking.
Here are some of the ways in which e cigs really do resemble the real thing:
- Smooth vapour throat hit which stimulates your throat in the same way as cigarette smoke
- Heated vapour which can taste very similar to cigarette tobacco (or any other flavour you choose)
- Vapour release when you suck, as with cigarette smoke
- Satisfying nicotine hit and relief similar to smoking
- Very similar oral (feeling of device and vapour in your mouth) and manual (hand-to-mouth) actions to those smoking
But despite the strong similarities that e cigs do share with real cigs, most realistic vapers would admit that there are some pleasurable aspects of real lit cigarettes that you just can’t achieve with vaping.
- Appearance and super-lightweight feel of real cigarettes
- A realistic “smoky” flavour when you inhale
- The lingering aftertaste of cigarette smoke in your mouth (though not always something you want!)
- Being able to rest your cigarette comfortably between your fingers between puffs
How to make your e cig more like a real cigarette
Finding an e cigarette that tastes and feels more like real cig is a lot easier these days, thanks to the recent invention of (good) pod vapes. But there are still a couple of things you can do to make your e cig even more like the real thing.
- Use nic salt e liquids in your e cig rather than standard ones for smoother throat hits that feel more like those from a cigarette
- Get a good tobacco e liquid, preferably made from real tobacco extracts
- Use at least a 50/50 PG-VG ratio vape liquid to improve, flow, flavour and strength of your e cig vapour
Which kinds of e cig are closest to the real thing?
Suction-activated pod vapes
Basic, pod vape e cig models tend to offer the best overall cigarette-like vape (especially to new users), and this is for several good reasons:
Low-power pod vapes are the closest e cig alternative to real cigarettes because they are small, lightweight, suction-activated and provide tighter suction to match the smoking experience more closely. Pod vapes are also compatible with nicotine salts, which produce vapour with a smoother texture most similar to cigarette smoke.
Suction-activated pod vapes range in style from those with flat, rectangular bodies and wide mouthpieces (like Juul) to “pen-style” pods (like Smok Stick G15).
Pen-style pod vape e cigs are often cylindrical and have narrower, rounded mouthpieces, which make them feel more like real cigarettes.
MTL tanks, vape pens and pods
It’s true that many MTL tanks, vape pens and all-in-one e cig kits can produce vapour with a very similar taste and texture to cigarette smoke. And for heavier smokers, these are often the best choice of device to quit smoking with.
But these more serious devices are often bulkier, too, so feel heavier in the hand. They may also include power buttons or other more advanced features which can make them feel less like cigarettes for some smokers.
On the other hand, really small e cigarettes like “cigalikes” do look a lot like real cigarettes and are usually suction-activated.
But cigalikes are usually too small and unreliable in terms of power and flavour output to come even close to providing real smoking satisfaction.
The IQOS option..
If you’ve already done everything humanly possible to make your vape more like a cigarette but still can’t get that smoking feel, IQOS may be a better option for you than vaping.
Though (in my opinion) a bit of a last resort, IQOS does give you more of a realistic smoking feel. It’s also probably the closest you can get to the taste and feel real cigarettes.
IQOS devices aren’t really “vapes” in the conventional sense, as they work by heating real tobacco instead of e liquid. As such, you do end up inhaling a few more toxins and particles etc than you do with vaping.
But despite the additional health risks, some people find IQOS gives them the realistic smoking experience they need to move on.
What’s more, heat-not-burns can also be a useful “bridge” for existing smokers by a allowing a gentler transition from smoking to vaping or other alternatives.