Ease of Use
I periodically explain that the “Penguin” in my online persona derives from Tux, the penguin mascot of the Linux (open source, based on Unix) computer operating system. I’m cited a lot in the literature out there since I was one of the first Linux bloggers on the web. I mention this because the Pax 3 reminds me of the old joke about Unix computer systems, that they are “as user-friendly as a cornered rat.”
This is gonna be a brutal review, and I am deeply sorry for that, but I just got trolled by a product designed by the Joker or somebody, so it’s payback time.
- attractively packaged and built
- durable enough to withstand your frustrated beating on it
- Instructions mostly in French, with arcane drawings that don’t communicate usage effectively
- Who loads herb in THE BOTTOM of a vape?????
- Who puts the power button IN THE MIDDLE of the mouthpiece?????
- What was wrong with a STANDARD charger?????
- How do you screw up designing a MOUTHPIECE?????
- Huge focus on a superfluous “multitool” (a plastic stick on a keychain)
- Non-standard controls
- Alien indicator scheme
- Non-standard oven requires herb to be ground to a specific consistency to work
- Takes WEEKS to figure out
- Still not sure if there are features missing or we’re just not thinking like a blind idiot
- Fiddly and difficult
- Video documentation is snide and unhelpful
- Doesn’t even produce visible vapor!
- Overpriced at $250
Recommendations: Fire EVERYBODY and start over designing a vape USING SOME COMMON SENSE!!!
The Design Failures of the Pax 3
On opening the box, we are greeted with the motto “every detail matters.” And to look at the Pax 3 at first, it is attractively designed with a sleek fistful of technology like other vaporizers. But after exploring this product, “every detail matters” starts to sound more ominous, like the tagline to one of those escape room horror movies that are going around where the protagonists have a time limit to solve puzzles or get slaughtered in some gruesome fashion. I would hate to try to solve the Pax 3 with a timer running out on my oxygen or anything.
First Puzzle: How Do You Charge It?
Well, Einstein? Surely you’ve used a vape before! You plug in a USB, but where? There’s no USB connection port.
Instead, it comes with a “cradle,” whose entire purpose is to be proprietary and incompatible with every other vape out there. You attach the cradle to the side of the unit on a pair of magnetic contacts. It’s called a cradle because you have to set this combination upside down, resting on the cradle, so you can see the LED charging indicator, which is on the other side of the unit.
That wasn’t too hard, but don’t worry, we are just warming up! Be afraid, and get ready to kiss the last of your sanity goodbye as it swirls down the drain.
Looking for Help? Don’t Rely on the Manual!
The manual is just a few pages, most of it in French. Look what you get for English instructions: one sentence! Also some arcane drawings which don’t explain anything. The single sentence for English users says “grind material to a medium-coarse consistency and pack tightly into the oven.”
OK, I don’t know what grinders the rest of you are using out there, but I have seen dozens of grinders and none of them have a “medium-coarse consistency” setting. They don’t come with settings. They’re metal things with barbed teeth in there. What even is a “medium-coarse consistency”? Isn’t that just “medium”? Finally, why the heck does it matter what consistency the herb is ground to? We will get to that part! It’s worth the wait!
OK, Where Do You Load the Weed?
Normally, you would look for the mouthpiece, open it, and the oven is right under there. In the first place, the Pax 3 doesn’t have any apparent mouthpiece, and in the second place, the Pax 3’s oven is at the opposite end from where you inhale.
You heard right. Try to wrap your walnut around that one. You load weed in the bottom and vape from the top, or else you load weed in the top and inhale from the bottom.
Oh by the way, both the oven and mouthpiece are accessible only by identical flat panels with no purchase for a thumbnail to pry them open. You’re supposed to push in on one side and flip it open, for which purpose, according to the videos on Pax’s channel, you are provided with “The Multitool.”
Yeah, about that:
The Multitool is Just For Marketing
Similar to how Izod Lacoste built a polo shirt empire by sewing their logo on the front of every shirt, the Pax 3 people want you to attach The Multitool to your keychain so that you advertise to the world that you vape weed with a Pax 3. The Multitool is actually just a plain, ordinary, plastic STICK with a logo and a keyring attached to it! There is no actual purpose to this tool that can’t be better served by a common appendage most of us come equipped with already, called “a finger.” No wait, I take that back, fingers actually work better.
Seriously, there is no special function to this. It isn’t made out of any special materials, there isn’t a chip embedded in it, there are no slots on the Pax 3 where it’s specially designed to fit. It’s a stick with their logo on it. A. Stick.
OK, we got our Pax 3 charged and loaded, the rest should be easy, right? RIGHT???
Wait… How Do You Turn It On?
So on the opposite end from where you loaded the weed, you might have noticed a slight gap in the rim of the cover on the other end. Guess what? That’s where you inhale. It’s not a mouthpiece, actually, it’s just a crack, like how you suck leaking milk out of a split milk carton.
It is important to know this first, because the only button on this device is on the mouthpiece. That’s right, and you have to press hard, right in the middle. Do you not like putting your fingers and lips in the same spot? Well that’s too bad. You better hope you have your hands clean every time you use this, because, you know, COVID and all.
Oh don’t worry, the default “mouthpiece” (the flat slab) is interchangeable with another mouthpiece which is actually shaped similar to a normal mouthpiece by people who know what human lips look like. But there’s a catch with that too: Contrary to the magnetic attachment scheme used for the rest of the device, the alt mouthpiece fits in there with a foam base, like a champagne cork. Tight. So when you go to pry that out, it’s stuck. It is very hard to remove, and somehow even The Wondrous Multitool isn’t any help here.
Oh by the way, you had better swap the other mouthpiece back every time you refill it because you have to turn it back upside down to reload it, remember, and it won’t sit flat on the actual, real mouthpiece. Are you starting to see where this topsy-turvy build method cripples every inch of functionality?
No matter which mouthpiece you’re using, you still have to press in the middle to operate it.
By the way, you also change temperatures with the same button. And par for the course, you don’t get to click in quick 1-2-3 rhythms like every other vape, you instead have to hold for a slightly different duration. After accidentally shutting the unit off several times trying to change the temperature, with the LED indicator, which fluctuates in colors and radiates rays along the “X” logo with no clue what means what, being no help at all, I gave up and resigned myself to the default temperature while tasting my resin-stained finger.
Let’s circle back to that bit about grinding herb to “medium-coarse consistency”:
The Pax 3 Filter Mandates a Specific Herb Grind Consistency
According to the video documentation, the “filter” in the bottom (actually top) of the oven has ridges along the side where the air has to flow through. So that’s why you need the weed ground to a specific consistency. I wonder if Pax sells an overpriced weed-grinder with a consistency calibrator on it?
In any case, designing the filter right was a lower priority than being sure the Pax “X” logo was stamped on it. They put the “X” logo everywhere on this thing, to make sure you don’t forget for a minute that it’s a Pax product. “X!” Memorize it, tattoo it on your brain damn you! XXX!
Anyway, really, the videos actually shame you for not grinding your weed to the right consistency if you get some past the filter. You know, the same problem that every other vape solves by not being designed by complete morons. But this time it was your fault!
Final Roundup of Other Kludges
A “kludge” is a haphazard or makeshift solution, and the Pax 3 is stuck with plenty of them. At first, you might be mystified by the two kinds of oven covers. One has a big plastic block on the inside to take up space. Now guess why?
The one with the plastic plug inside is to hold the weed UP! Inside the UPSIDE-DOWN OVEN, because the heating element is ABOVE IT! So the space-filling oven cover is for when you are only using a half-load. The videos actually instruct you to re-open the oven and pack the chamber tightly periodically to keep it functioning. This is also why, unlike most vapes, the Pax 3 has to be packed tightly! They show you in this video that you should have it packed so tight that it can’t fall out.
I know a better way to prevent my weed from falling out. Dare I say again, put the oven on top!
There is also a concentrate adapter, because why not suck at two things? I am not brave enough to even attempt this, but I’m guessing that all the turning upside-down and right-side-up again is not going to end with a happy story for loose concentrate inside, especially when it’s hot. Oh, I’m sorry, am I supposed to dab with The Almighty Multitool?
Oh, and the concentrate adapter doesn’t even fit into the end of the Pax 3, but sticks out. The videos assure us that they know about this mistake, but then defiantly defend it as intentional. But they can’t fool us. Follow along here: Why wouldn’t you want 400 degree wax pointed at your crotch with a nice wide gap so it can leak out?
Finally: THE PAX 3 DOESN’T EVEN MAKE VAPOR!
Yeah, after all this trouble, you don’t get vapor off it! They say so right at the beginning of this video: “The Pax 3 doesn’t create vapor; instead it extracts moisture from the cannabis.” Well it says “vaporizer” on the side of the box – thanks for making me double-check just to be sure – so it’s failing at its one job. In fact, it even declares on the packaging that the Pax 3 is a “SMART” vaporizer! Every smart person on Earth should sue Pax for defamation.
Again, behold the video, demonstrating it live, the model they show isn’t exhaling any visible vapor! It’s designed to work that way, as the video condescendingly explains, you’re not supposed to draw hard on it. You just kind of inhale and taste/smell a mild aroma-therapy sensation of your weed toasting away uselessly at the other end of the unit.
I tried it every which way and never got a tiny visible puff. I’ll tell you a better way to get this effect: Get yourself a toaster-oven, throw some weed in there, heat it up, and walk by sniffing it. You might even be able to get away with wasting less weed in the toaster-oven, since you don’t have to pack it so jam-packed tight.
Dumping it out after this, I had some half-raw / half-burnt weed that would have been nice to vape.
The Pax 3 : WHAT Happened?
I confess, this one has me boggled. I am trying not to assign deliberate malice to the design team, but I am hard pressed to find any other explanation. Here’s my theories:
Theory 1: They were trying to solve the hot vape problem – except other vapes solve this with an actual mouthpiece and the Pax 3 gives you a mouthful of empty hot air anyway.
Theory 2: Pax is normally devoted to other products – this is true, they were known for a pod system, and we have given decent reviews to other Pax products before. This proves that they can do something right, or at least did once.
Theory 3-n: Money laundering? Lawsuit-bait? An excuse to declare a strategic bankruptcy? An elaborate practical joke?
Other than that, I have to rank the Pax 3 as a huge pile of regrettable mistakes which were kludged around instead of addressed. Let me reiterate:
- Upside-down loading
- Power button in the middle of the mouthpiece
Pretty much everything that dooms the Pax 3 stems from one or both of those two ideas. Most of the rest is a work-around to compensate for the starting flaws. Without the glaring failures in design, this could have been a workable vaporizer.
But even at that, its hard to fathom what demons of dementia drove the design of this cursed device. I mean, GRAVITY, you know, it’s a thing, so why not work with it instead of against? Were they actually expecting that people would only use the Pax 3 in space?
Anyway, in all my career, I never thought it was possible for a device to be so elaborately, lovingly designed to be broken and brain-dead to the point where it actually angers me. But today, damn you Pax, you have proven that it can be done.