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Smoant Charon Mini and Sprks' thoughts


#1

Hidey-Ho fellow vape enthusiasts!

Sprks here with another analytical inspection of a mod kindly provided by the kind folks at Health Cabin for the purposes of review!

In Rainbow or Gold tone here:

Or you can have Black or Red here:

I was sent the Gold tone one for this review.

I received this a good while back (July) and have been using it frequently. It’s a mod that’s paint/finish has held up well, and it’s been a consistent performer in Power Mode.

It’s a looker (if Gold tone is your thing)

And it’s a fingerprint magnet!

It’s definitely got “bling”
(Not that I’m a fan of such)

Here is one of my (still) favorite things about Smoant… A respectable quality 510 connection!

Under the hood is nice and clean, with enough room to get batteries in and out without damage to wraps, while still being snug (as long as you’re mindful in pressing against the battery at the opposite end that rests against the 510, so that the spring compresses to allow for the extra room).

The screen size is about 50% bigger (overall) than the Cylon, BUT the “usable area” that we use most frequently, is only about a 30% increase. Still, a noticeable enough improvement for many “older” eyes.

The clock, while many would consider it a “froo-froo” feature, is completely worthless IMO on the Charon Mini.
Even with my “craptastic” pic below…You can still make out the Roman numerals on the Cylon (on right).
Good luck figuring out what time the Charon Mini is trying to communicate.

MrPipes was kind enough to point out to me that you can kludge a work-around for the lack of the AM/PM tickbox, if you set it to 24hr mode, set your time (ie: 18:00hrs), and then change the mode back to NOT using the “Use 24-hour format”.


Unfortunately however, I’d saddened to report that that’s where the positive words end for the unit I received.

To start with, I’m a TC guy.
The way I look at it is pretty cut and dry. If they (any manufacturer) advertise(s) a mod to work in TC, I expect it to. Primarily because I won’t buy (or even offer to review) one that’s Power Mode only. It’s just not what I use or want/expect out of a mod made in this day and age. So my evaluations and expectations rely heavily on how that aspect functions. Take that for what it’s worth in relation to your needs/desires. :wink:

Initially, right out of the box, I noticed that this unit ran “hotter” than the other Smoant mods that I’ve become accustomed to (as well as other recent mods) at the same power level. I typically vape at between 32-40w. Most all of my mods (except notably older ones) all perform about the same, at relative power. (Translation: if I use the Cylon at 36w, I can set the Joyetech Ekee to 36w, and the performance is very very close. Likewise for the Ijoy Captain PD1865, and the GeekVape Nova.)

The Charon Mini however, ran about 4-6 watts hotter than the rest. (If I had the Cylon set to 36w, I had to set the Charon Mini down to 32w or 30w to get the same heat.)
Once it’s set to the heat you desire though, it’s consistent.

This Power Issue also carries over into what’s applied to the TC and TCR usage (not unexpectedly). The problem is though, the fact that this was “that far off” turned out to be indicative of future things to come IMO. And it’s also the reason WHY it took me so long to release a review about this unit.

About 3-4 weeks in, and aside from the power issue, while the TC/TCR modes had been running mostly reliably…It finally came to the point that it started lacking power in TC mode, and then soon to follow (another couple 2-3 weeks), TCR mode.

The next thing I should mention before I go too much further is that, on this unit, TC SS appears to be set for the use of SS430, instead of the more common and preferred SS316. So it doesn’t exactly track real well for SS316. (This was -for a time- able to be solved by going into the menu and using TCR mode, almost exclusively. So thank goodness for that!)

When it started acting up (losing power) it would drop to around 22w-30w at times (around the 3-4 weeks mark) while in TC.
Sometimes (eg: after changing batteries, or letting it sit unused a while) it would resume normal working for varying durations. But the problem would reappear. And more frequently as time passed.

I finally went to using TCR mode exclusively.
This seemed to solve things for a bit, however, it was not a lasting solution. And things went from bad to worse. What had been a power drop down to 22w-30w, had now dropped through the floor, to 3w to 20w, and then 3w-7w at most.

Then, once I’d had enough, I decided to crack into it, and see if there was an unknown liquid event (ULE lol) that might have occured while it sat upright in it’s cubby, along with it’s mates, while I was sleeping, or had one of his buddies out in play.

There was absolutely ZERO liquid inside the bottom of the 510 or anywhere inside the chassis, or anywhere on the pcb.

Ok then. That answered that. It’s strictly a hardware/firmware issue (Hardware being the most likely, but leaving room for the possibiltiy of my making a mistake in “assuming” too much lol). Before I did dive in though, I did check to see if it was on the latest firmware, and it was. It showed v1.3.1 (which was current as of 10-5-2018).

The insides are very well assembled, and thoughtfully laid out.


Behold the Smoant ANT225 chipset


This unit, in reality, is powered by /drumroll:

The Holtek HT32F52352

This is indeed a very different animal from the Smoant ANT218 that powers the Cylon (confirmed) which is also suspected to be the same ANT218 that powers the Original Charon 218, and the Ranker 218.

The ANT218 chip is in reality an ARM device by ST Microelectronics (a long respected name in silicon, for literally decades). The STM32F412, as seen here:

This is the reason IMO why the Cylon (and probably the other ANT218 variants) are SO superior in their performance and operation.
(Thanks again to the “Degen family” for the inspiration and conversation that led me to digging back into a perfectly working Cylon, just for gut-shots, and confirmation of WHY it’s so special! :wink: Incidentally, YES it still works perfectly once I put it back together :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: lol)

The back of your batteries rest directly on the PCB in the way the Charon Mini is designed.

So I’d exercise caution in just how roughly you put them in and pull them out. Any force you exert on them, can be transferred against the body of the pcb. So don’t press down too hard, or cock them at an angle, and force them in. Because even a hairline crack in a multi-layer pcb (like these are) could be catastrophic.

And finally, the battery monitoring wire (small blue wire just to the right of the black) that goes into main body of the battery chassis.


Sprks’ final thoughts


Overall, this is a mod that I REALLY wanted to like. But I just can’t. At least at the moment. I’m hoping that Smoant will release another firmware, and also that it will fix the issues (default SS TC being set for 430, losing/dropping power levels in TC/TCR modes, the crappy “clock” -if you can call it that…)

But it’s still a very solid, albeit a “hot” performer in Power mode, with Smoant build quality.

If you use TC exclusively, look elsewhere.
If you use Power exclusively, it’s still very worth looking at as an option!!

Another important thing I want to note here is this:
I have absolutely no doubt that HAD I CONTACTED HealthCabin, and informed them of my problems, they would have made right on it.
I’ve heard many good reports about their customer service, and even though I can’t leave the bright shining review on this particular device they sent, it should NOT be allowed to reflect on the vendor.

I did not give them the chance to rectify it, nor were they aware of it (until they read this), BUT, I am reviewing the unit I received, AS received, and on the merits thereof.

Smoant still has some growing pains, and it would also seem that they seem to be more of a design house, as opposed to having the capabilities to manufacture. As I’ve seen different things across a couple of devices now, and there’ve been tell-tale signs that these are not coming out of the same factories IMO. However, while they’re still pretty strict on what it takes to make one (how it’s assembled, materials used, etc), they are obviously still trying to carve out their niche.

It’s my hope that they’ll return to the ST ARM cpu’s, and the reliability and performance that they exhibit/produce.

The ST Microelectronics ARM CPU is the largest part of what has earned Smoant the reputation for quality, and given them the hefty lead in the quality and performance that’s being expected of them by their buying public!

I appreciate HealthCabin’s willingness to allow me to review these units. You may not have the issues that I had with mine. But again, I’m sure that Maggie and the team @HealthCabin will make every effort to resolve it if you do encounter an issue.

I also sincerely appreciate your time and interest in reading my thoughts!


#2

and we are grateful that you and others take the time to find out why. Another great one bud! Got my gut-shot fix.


#3

Cheers @Sprkslfly for a great, honest and thoughtful review.


#4

Nicely done but I will give this one a miss. I’m waiting for Smoant to bring out a mod with something like this, it will give me something to do when I’m bored.

200

It’s a shame, I’ve been really impressed with Smoant products until they came out with these products with side features I’m not interested in and it looks like their vaping products are suffering because of it.


#5

As have I. Genuinely so.

The thing is, the 32F family of microprocessors are basically “all the same” (in feature-sets, and intended functionality).

But the difference between the actual silicon manufacturers, and the quality of the firmware, and firmware tools (and support from the CPU manufacturer TO the design teams that come up with these circuits) obviously CAN and DOES make all the difference IMO/IME.

The tools themselves (be it the firmware flashing hardware, or the coding of the firmware, etc) can be (and frequently are) every bit as important as the CPU itself.

It’s why I’ve been so impressed by the Cylon. And I believe, why I’m not impressed with the longevity and performance of the Charon Mini (and others like it that use the Nuvoton, etc chipsets). :wink:

Use of the Holtek CPU appears to be a recent thing, and it might have potential…
But it’s too early to tell.

Nuvoton however has a couple years of use and history under it’s belt amongst it’s being implemented in various mods/brands. And I’m definitely not impressed with the track record of that one. But that’s just me, and YMMV.


#6

A pity it doesn’t work properly in TC mode. Like you I vape exclusively in TC and I had been thinking about buying this, so thanks for the the review and warning about TC. I might just end up buying the Cylon instead.


#7

Nice review and damn that’s a good looking MOD!! Was hoping your review would have been steller! Perhaps they can do a FW update to correct the TC mode issues. Currently I am casually looking for a good tc MOD and rely on what I read here on ELR more so than the youtubers in general.


#8

Outstanding Sparky!! Thanks for all the homework you’ve done. All excellent and valuable information. The more we know, ( thanks to peeps like you ) about the products we use, The more we can protect ourselves from the flood of crap they try to feed us. We are consumers, not Guinea Pigs.


#9

Great write up! Thank you! That was a lot of work!


#10

I did not like reading this. I’ve been using this one for months (gold even), and now I have to look at it funny every time I pick it up, wondering if this will be the last good draw I get before it goes wonky!!! I liked this mod, too! Now I find it’s only a poser. :cry:


#11

After a year or two of vaping everybody should have at least one mod on the desk that you just don’t like, and actively frown if you accidentally grab it.


#12

I feel the same way…


#13

RX300, cough…

Worst part is, I went for the Mini over the Cylon for the big screen and small footprint. It works for me in power mode so I’m sticking with it… for now…


#14

I got what you’re saying (honestly, I’d probably be looking twice too), but let’s hope that mine is a defective fluke.

I don’t wish anyone a bad mod, but I do feel an obligation to report the facts of my experience with the one I received.


#15

Can’t be a defective fluke! Mine Fluke is over 40 years and still banging away even with the melted plastic here and there from a soldering iron.


#16

Fluke is indestructible. Mine dropped from 4th floor onto concrete. still works


#17

Wow!!! Now that’s a testimony!! I still have my first Hewlett Packard “scientific” calculator from over 40 years ago as well. Dynamic Duo!!!


#18

I wouldn’t go that far (though it is impressive)…
A fellow tech killed my 87 about 25 years ago by putting over 10kv through it (accidentally touched a tv flyback transformer) :roll_eyes:

Fortunately, a $100 flat rate repair at Fluke had me a brand new (and freshly calibrated) one! :grinning:


#19

That will fry it for sure :slight_smile:

Mine never approached something that high even when i messed with tube amplifiers


#20

Of course, and I understand that. In the case of the GBOX, I was already wary of it, having to do surgery on it almost immediately, but after Ogre pointed out its’ potential hand grenade qualities, it hit the shelf, never to return. Your issues are less ‘urgent’, but there is just way too much good hardware out there on the market to have to abide such flaws, so I hope mine stay mostly clear of them.

As for that ridiculous clock, I don’t display it. I just use the little digital version at the top of the screen. But like I said earlier about it, in two plus months it has gotten ahead by 10 minutes, which is wonky.