Dry herb vaporizers can use two different heating methods: conduction and convection. Both work by heating up cannabis to a high temperature so that the active ingredients (THC, CBD, and terpenes) are released into vapor.
Quality vapes using either heating method will have precise temperature control, letting you heat up the herbs to the right temperature, without getting so hot that the herb burns. And then you inhale the heated air.
Most vaporizer users are looking for an efficient and healthier alternative to smoking, and don't want any risk of combustion of the weed into smoke, so temperature control is key. Check out our article "What is a Dry Herb Vaporizer?" if you want to learn more.
Convection and conduction vaporizers might both work on the same basic principle of heated herbs in a chamber, but each has its advantages and disadvantages, and there are great devices in either style. Let's take a deeper look at how each method of heating works.
Conduction vs Convection Vaporizers
Conduction heating works through direct contact - the chamber holding the bud touches the heating element. As the coil heats up, there's a transfer of heat to the chamber with the herbs.
Unlike conduction, convection doesn't make direct contact with the heating element. Instead, the vaporizer coils heat up air, then hot air flows through the chamber, vaporizing the bud. It's like how a convection oven heats food. Because the hot air flows everywhere, it's easy to heat herb evenly using convection heating. Conduction vaporization can be just as efficient, though.
Convection vaporizers: features and technology
Because they're not trying to be portable, desktops usually have large bowl sizes. This makes it easier to share a session with a group of friends. They're also bulkier and harder to store, especially if you're trying to be discreet.
Some models feature accessories like a whip (a long tube), others are "balloon-style" devices. Balloon-style vapes have internal fans and a forced air delivery system, and instead of taking a hit on a mouthpiece, the vape will fill up balloons with heated vapor, then you inhale directly from the balloon.
Portable convection vaporizers do exist, but they're bulkier and have lower battery life than conduction vapes.
Popularity of convection vs conduction
The biggest advantage of conduction vaporizers is their portability. Using direct heat means a device's parts can be packed closer together. Most users that are new to vaping choose conduction vapes for their portability alone.
They're also more affordable for those on a budget, and they heat up at a faster speed. Convection vapes are usually desktop units made for home use. Desktops are more powerful, but cost more.
Which has Better Vapor, Convection or Conduction?
There's no question that the best convection vapes produce amazing vapor. Because they don't rely on a battery, and draw from the wall outlet for power, they're simply more powerful compared with portable conduction vapes.
When vaping, you'll notice a subtle difference in flavor and vapor quality. But other factors (like temperature and grind) make an even bigger difference than the heating method.
Vaping using conduction vaporizers
With conduction vaporizing, because the chamber is heated by directly touching the coil, the heat transfer can sometimes be uneven: the herbs touching the heat source will get hotter. This isn't a huge deal, but if you're looking for the best possible vaping experience, it's worth being aware of.
If you find that the herb closer to the coils has a tendency to burn, you can give the material a stir halfway through a session. (Turn off your vape and wait for it to cool to a safe temperature first.)
Get better vapor from a conduction vaporizer
Also, vaping at lower temperatures can help you avoid combustion. Not "combust" as in you spontaneously exploding, but combustion as in burnt herb and marijuana smoke. Grinding your herb finely and packing your vape correctly (tightly but not too tightly) will help the material heat evenly.
Regular maintenance is also key. If you notice any problems with airflow when inhaling, or the flavor is getting worse and burnt tasting, it's probably time to give your vaporizer a clean. A clogged unit means worse sessions, because if your device has good airflow, that will help a ton with even heating.
The Best Convection Vaporizer
The most popular and highly rated convection vaporizers on the market are desktop models, with the Volcano Classic and Volcano Hybrid regularly topping lists of rankings. But they're very expensive, even if you don't get the gold-plated version.
Other popular choices include the Plenty, Silver Surfer, Vapexhale, Da Buddha, and the Arizer Extreme Q. In terms of portable options, Storz & Bickel's Mighty is a hybrid of both convection and conduction that gets good reviews.
Cheap convection vapes
Be suspicious of cheaper vaporizers marketing themselves as pure convection vaporizers - if the price is really low, odds are it's not actually a convection vape.
Read reviews carefully, or you run the risk of wasting cash on a dud.
The Best Conduction Vaporizers
The best conduction vapes on the market include the Davinci IQ 2, the Furna, and the Mighty (which is a hybrid). The PAX 3 is also a very popular model.
There are a lot of other vaporizers out there, but you'll notice some huge differences with a cheaper device. The heating settings and temperature control will be inferior, preventing even heating, and you won't extract the same amount of THC, CBD, and terpenes. The vapor will taste worse and have fewer effects, and you'll end up spending more on herb to make up for the lost potency. Finally, a vaporizer built from cheaper materials won't last as long, especially if you're carrying it around town.
Finally, avoid anything calling itself a vape pen - they're even worse in terms of vapor quality, battery life, and durability, without offering many benefits besides being a little lighter. Also, many vape pens are actually oil vapes made for use with oils, and don't have the benefits of dry herb units.
Conduction vs Convection: Which to Choose?
If you're looking for a unit to use only at home, share with larger groups, and you have a large budget, then a convection vaporizer is probably the best choice. For most users, the pros of a conduction vaporizer vastly outweigh the cons and are the more affordable, versatile choice. Portability, price, and faster heat-up times are tough to argue against.
For maximum portability, consider a vaporizer with swappable ovens like Furna. Reloading your vape on the go can be a pain if you're in an inconvenient location. With Furna, you can load up multiple ovens before leaving the house, and swap in a fresh one whenever you want.
Furna also has specialized concentrate ovens with a ceramic heating element, making it a breeze to vaporize cannabis concentrates. It's rare for a dry herb vape to be able to handle concentrates without dealing with awkward inserts, but Furna's swapping technology makes it possible. Read more about it here.