Does the performance of the SKE Crystal Plus Pod Kit match the beauty of its cut gem appearance? We put it through its paces to see how good it really is...
About The Brand
Sikary, the company behind the SKE vape brand, launched in 2013 in Shenzhen, China. Since then, they have become one of the top vape device manufacturers in the world, employing over 1,500 workers, with an enviable reputation for innovation and commitment to research and development.
Their products have a distinct aesthetic that sets them apart from other brands. In a marketplace dominated by comparatively plain-looking cylinders from Elf Bar and flatter neon one-colour plastics from VooPoo disposables, SKE's products stand out like diamonds, all glittering and sparkling.
As has been the trend of late for vape brands, SKE recently branched out into the pod kit market to offer a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to their single-use disposables. And it is their first foray into this marketplace that is the focus of this review.
About The Device
Like its close cousin, the Crystal Bar, the Crystal Plus Pod Kit has that instantly recognisable SKE look: an attractive, transparent diamond-cut outer casing over a dramatic, boldly-coloured body, resembling crystal in both appearance and texture. Both ranges have that sleek and stylish feel.
With the UK's legislation and technological limitations, it is becoming more challenging for products to distinguish themselves in an oversaturated market with so many vapes built to the same specifications. The fact that SKE's trademark crystalline, translucent appearance is now much imitated (the sincerest form of flattery) but not yet rivalled shows that SKE have managed to achieve this successfully. Currently, the SKE Crystal Plus is the only Crystal style, rechargeable pod kit on the market, so SKE have achieved a first yet again.
In contrast to the device, the packaging for the Crystal Plus device and the pods have a simple, clean-looking design with a muted grey and white colour scheme. There are just a few slight colour pops from a picture of the device, the flavour name, the warning symbols, and the QR code (for you to scan for authenticity) on the reverse and the side. The packaging looks grown up, modern and a little 'techy'.
The device arrives pod-less, part-charged, and includes a USB-C charging cable. Including a charging cable may seem like a minor benefit, but it is no longer the norm. A charging cable provides convenience for customers new to vaping or those needing a spare cable to recharge multiple devices, so this will be useful to many.
The Crystal Plus device feels quite weighty and angular to hold. As mentioned, it has a coloured body surrounded by an angular transparent plastic shell. They have achieved a lovely crystal appearance with this device. The USB-C charge port and two airflow holes are on the flat metal base.
The Crystal Plus Pods look as substantial as the device and are visibly well-paired. They are made from gold and clear plastic, giving excellent visibility to the e-liquid within. They do, however, have the most bizarre hygienic rubber bung to protect them from dust and dirt contamination before first use. The nearest thing I can describe its likeness to is a mini toilet plunger with the handle sticking out of the top of the mouthpiece!
You are instructed to pull this handle to use the pod, but in practice, I found you need to pull quite hard! After a bit of stretching, it does break off with a resounding pop and gives you the confidence to repeat next time with less concern!
Now, a word of caution, as I learned the hard way with a burnt, disgusting dry hit and one pod thrown straight in the bin. These pods are not your typical vape-straight-out-of-the-box pre-filled disposable pods. Once the bung has been removed, they must be left for a little while. I assume this process must release the e-liquid onto the coil. If so, the Crystal Plus pods should be treated more as you would refillable/open pods before vaping, allowing at least 5 minutes for the e-liquid to penetrate the coil within the pod. It was a first for me, different from any other pre-filled pods I know on the market.
The magnets securing the pods are powerful; these are the most secure pods I have tried in a magnetic pod kit. You could drop it (not advised) or have it upside-down loose in a bag or pocket (again not recommended), and the pod would remain secure.
Each pod contains 2ml of nic-salt e-liquid in 20mg nicotine strength. Currently, the range includes 15 flavours, with many of the popular favourites found in the SKE disposable vapes range.
Flavour-wise, SKE has played it safe in this range, which is not a bad thing; there is a good reason why some flavours are perennial favourites across different brands. The key is, as ever, in the execution, as not all Blue Razz Lemonades taste equal!
The draw from the Crystal Plus is quite tight, so much so that I checked a few times to see if the air holes had been covered up! I like it, though, and it is far closer to a cigarette-style puff than the ELFA device I used hours before (which has a very loose draw). It takes noticeably more effort to inhale from this pod kit, producing a lot of vapour.
An accidental discovery by a friend: if you vape the Crystal Plus in low light conditions, even better in a dark area, the white LED light at the base illuminates the entire crystal-style outer body of the device and looks fantastic.
One thing to note (which turned out to be my tired eyesight) is that I couldn't see a flavour label stamped on the pod itself. It is there, along with the 20mg strength detail, but it is in such a tiny font, printed white on the clear plastic casing, which sits over a white pod core, that I could not make this out. This minor detail is fine if you have only one vape flavour on the go, but I found I had to store each e-liquid pod separately in the named empty boxes, so I didn't mix them up!
These Crystal Plus Pods, as with the disposable Crystal Bars and Elf Bar 600s, have very intense flavours. All had a hint of ice, and most had a lingering sweetness that stayed as an aftertaste for a good while after vaping. Even though the pods did appear leak-free, I questioned if some e-liquid made it onto my lips and into my mouth. It didn't; it was just that the flavours were so intense that you could actually taste them!
My favourite pod by far was the Blue Razz Lemonade, which had a definite berry taste and was rather lovely. Lemon & Lime had a brief scent of 'bathroom cleaner' to me, and Kiwi Passion Fruit Guava was just too potent (in a tropical fruit x 1000 way) but was not unpleasant.
After my initial disaster with the Cherry Ice pod, on my second attempt, I was able to taste test it and didn't find it to be very realistic in taste, just sweet and fruity.
If intense flavours are your chosen preference (and they are by far the most popular amongst vapers), you will be pleased to know that the e-liquid flavours in the Plus Pods retain a consistent intensity. Usually, pod kits deliver more muted flavour tones when compared to disposable vapes.