Review: SMOK RDA Octopus
When it comes to contemplating your first rebuildable dripping atomizer, the whole thing has the potential to seem quite daunting, to say the least. Rebuildable atomizers can make even middle of the road eLiquids really come to life in ways they might not in any other atomizing device. And when it comes to very, very good eLiquids, they can deliver absolute vaping heaven.
With potential rewards like that, it’s no wonder many vapers find themselves longing for the day when they can confidently build their first coil and begin to enjoy vaping beyond the casual level. But there again we encounter the great gatekeeper of rebuildable atomizers — the learning curve.
The question is: Is there a particular rebuildable atomizer that makes that learning curve easier to traverse? Is there a device that is economical enough, simple enough, and durable enough that the only thing needed to conquer your first coil is a bigger investment in time and patience than in hard earned dollars?
I think there is. And that device is the one I am going to tell you about today: the SMOKTech RDA, a.k.a. “The Octopus.” Available for $9.95 (currently on sale for $9.25), the SMOKTech RDA is an unbelievably wallet-friendly device — and a capable if not outstanding performer, as well.
Specs & Features
The SMOKTech RDA is a 510-threaded device set up to enable the user to create single coils on its positive and negative posts. Its posts feature “tool-less” terminals, meaning that there’s no need for an Allen key or any kind of screwdriver in order to install your finished coil.
Airflow is provided by a single air hole in the soft aluminum top cap, which can accommodate most 510 drip tips, although no drip tip is included with the device on arrival. What is included on arrival is a pre-installed coil featuring 8 wicks, hence the unofficial designation, “The Octopus.”
Build Quality & Ergonomics
Now here is where we begin to discover why the RDA is so light on the user’s budget. There are some build quality and design issues that mark this device as being very definitely aimed at the vaper who is only just beginning to journey into rebuildables.
First on the list of curious and underwhelming design choices is the airflow system. Starting at the very bottom of the device, there are 2 tiny, tiny airflow holes in the base of the 510 threads. These appear to channel air upward through an airflow port in the deck of the atomizer, presumably where one would position the coil. Finally, there is also a very, very small airflow hole in the aluminum top cap.
I suppose that, in theory, this was expected to provide sufficient (if not exactly ample) airflow to a single coil. In practice, however, this isn’t really the case. Draw remains rather tight even under ideal circumstances, and if you should happen to have liquid drip from your coil down into that airflow port in the deck, well, circumstances get pretty far from ideal.
The second inconvenient design element to the RDA is that the top cap, when fully seated on the device, is so snug and so flush with the deck that it becomes frustratingly common to attempt to unscrew the device from your PV, only then to have the top cap come up, and off, while leaving the rest of the device — and an e-liquid mess — behind.
But the news isn’t all bad, especially for someone just learning the ropes with the RDA. The tool-less positive and negative posts, in combination with the nicely sized “work space” mean that learning to install coils is very nearly child’s play — that’s what makes this device, despite its design flaws, a wonderful first rebuildable, in my opinion.
Performance & Real World Experience
As with any rebuildable atomizer, the performance you get from the SMOKTech RDA is going to be almost entirely dependent on how well you’ve built your coil. With that said, the performance of the SMOKTech RDA is also dependent, to some degree, on its design parameters.
The airflow system on this device, in particular, does significantly dampen what otherwise might be very, very good performance. And while the softness of the top cap does leave it quite easy to modify for more airflow, that’s something that I really can’t call a positive in light of the fact that user modification isn’t really a selling point for the device itself.
But while the airflow imparts a rather significant negative impact on the visual vapor output of the device, flavor fidelity and throat hit really are excellent — and there are some users who prefer a tight draw. For them, the stock airflow arrangement of the “Octopus” might be okay — until.
Until eliquid gets into the airflow port on the deck. And there again we come up against the reality that this is a budget rebuildable. Gurgling is a constant companion with this device — if you use it for more than a day or two, you’re simply going to run into gurgling at some point.
And that brings me to my real world experience with the SMOKTech RDA — it was the device I learned to build coils for. And when it’s performing well, it performs very well indeed. But, due to its design quirks, I’m sad to say that that’s more rare than common.
A Minor Flight Of Fancy: The Hypothetical “Octopus 2.”
So let me take a moment to imagine for you a worthy successor to the SMOKTech RDA. My vision of the user-friendly, budget-friendly “starter” rebuildable atomizer would retain the wide deck of the Octopus — or, better yet, a slightly wider deck — but also add a gentle “well”-like depression and move the airflow port slightly up the wall of that depression so that it directs air up at the coil but from a slight angle. This should prevent any stray eliquid from dripping into the airflow port.
Additionally, the deck would feature a “lip” with an oversized airflow hole; the top cap would also feature airflow holes of various diameters in order to facilitate user-adjustable airflow control.
The deck would, lastly, have a taller, knurled base — this would make it easier for the user to confidently unscrew the “Octopus 2” from his or her device without getting a handful of nothing but top cap and eliquid.
Most importantly, the “Octopus 2” would remain a single coil device with tool-less terminals, keeping the “Octopus’s” spot as a budget-friendly and most importantly entry-level rebuildable. It would offer all of the rewards of rebuildable devices but with the gentle and easy-to-overcome learning curve, as well as the gentle-on-the-wallet asking price.
SMOKTech, if you’re reading this, please bring us a device like this one. I could see it easily becoming an irresistible piece of hardware — not just for vapers looking to get into their very first rebuildable atomizer, but also for more experienced builders who just want something that can be built quickly and easily and then enjoyed for a long, long time.
Now, would I recommend the SMOKTech RDA to a vaper who is looking for his or her very first rebuildable — one that’s easy as pie to build for? Yes. I have (recommended) in the past, and I will in the future, or until something just as easy to work with comes along, but with even better, more consistent performance comes along.
With its generous workspace and light asking price, there’s no easier purchasing decision for a first RDA that I’ve seen.
Are there better performing single-coil RDAs? Yes, there are. Are there single-coil RDAs that are even less expensive? Yes, but not much less expensive. Are there easier entry-level RDAs to learn to build with, and are less expensive, and are better performers —no, there are not.
So much of vaping is comparable to taking a journey; the SMOKTech “Octopus” is by no means a destination — but it is a pretty good first step on the road to rebuildables.