The term vape pod is loosely defined, but essentially it boils down to just a single design element: the removable pod. Generally optimized for nicotine salt vape juice, pod systems were in some ways the antithesis of the powerful box mod category of vape device.
Now that more vape pods have swappable coils, the distinction between a pod and mod are increasingly blurred, but the earliest vape pod systems were easy to identify. They used prefilled pods. This is a very convenient way to vape, particularly if you recently transitioned to vaping and are looking for a similar experience to cigarettes.
But there are two obvious drawbacks to prefilled pods. The first is that you are limited to the flavors produced by the manufacturer. The second is that pods are expensive. Even the least expensive prefilled pods are significantly more expensive than any refillable, or open, pod system. We reviewed a wide swathe of pod tech in our feature Top Ten Juul Alternatives.
Other prefilled pods are less expensive, check out our Juul vs. Vuse Alto showdown for more information on this topic.
Redefining Vape Pod
The differences between mouth to lung and direct to lung vaping influenced early pod designs. They had high resistance coils, restricted airflow, and were often autodraw activated, lacking a fire button. This pared down technological suite stood in stark contrast to the technology and power of a typical subohm vape mod.
But the differences between pods and mods are not set in stone. The Lost Vape Orion DNA Go permanently blurred the line between pods and mods.
Lost Vape Orion DNA Go
With a powerful Evolv DNA Go chip, eScribe software, and impressive customizability, the Lost Vape Orion DNA Go changed the face of refillable vape pod technology. In our Orion DNA Go review, we were quite impressed, and apparently so were vapers. Despite costing twice as much as its competitors, the DNA Go has moved the needle in sales and shaped how future pods will look.
Smok Trinity Alpha
Enter the Smok Trinity Alpha. There is no question it was heavily inspired by the Orion. It looks virtually identical. The form factor is the same. It is slightly shorter and a bit plumper. But where Smok may have aped the style of Orion DNA Go, it is not a clone.
Orion vs. Trinity Build Quality
For all their similarities, there are plenty of differences too. One of the first ones that sticks out is the build material. There is only a 3 gram weight difference, the Orion being the heavier, but the Orion DNA Go feels like it was forged from a block of titanium. It has a hefty, substantial texture and feel.
The Trinity Alpha has a very high quality feel compared to most other pods, but does not give the same tactile feedback. This may not be fair and is in some ways subjective, the Trinity Alpha is gorgeous and made from a nice zinc alloy. It doesn’t seem particularly prone to chipping or fading, and it looks and feels tremendous. But it does not emanate the same sort of gravity and purpose that the stainless Orion does.
In terms of basic performance, the devices are quite similar. The Trinity Alpha has the larger battery, 1000mAh versus 950mAh for the DNA Go. The DNA Go has a bit higher output. It reaches 40 watts, where the Trinity Alpha tops off at 30. The Trinity Alpha has a significantly larger tank at 2.8ml. The Orion DNA Go has a capacity of 2.0ml.
The mouthpiece drip tip on the Smok Trinity Alpha is removable, the one of the Orion DNA Go is at the very least quite firmly affixed. The Smok mouthpiece is also wider. The fill ports may look the same at first glance, but are quite different on the US versions of the devices. The Lost Vape Orion DNA Go has an incredibly easy to fill pod and a cap that unscrews like an old fashioned gas can lid.
The Smok fill port cap has a sliding design. This cuts significantly into the size of the port opening, but it still has a wider diameter that most pods. The Trinity Alpha’s port ends up being about the same size as the port on the quite practically designed Aspire Nautilus AIO.
Another difference is airflow control. The Orion has an adjustable base beneath the drip tip. The best you can do with the Smok is block the rectangular airflow port between the pod and the chassis, which is located on the drip tip side. There is a second airflow port near the release button, but my ham hands are far too porcine to manipulate this opening.
The button actuation for the ejecting the pods provides another contrast in styles. The stainless steel depressible bar on the Orion seems a bit more durable than the plastic button on the Trinity Alpha. But the Orion’s pod release is also trickier to use. You have to slide the button down to insert new pods. A new user is certain get a pod or two stuck in limbo, and have to go the uncomfortable expedient of smashing it into place. On the Alpha, you simply snap the pod into place and the button only serves as a release mechanism.
There are subtle differences in appearance as well. Smok chose not to mimic the Spartan waffled metal pattern that is the Orion’s trademark. Instead, they went with colorful inlays on the zinc alloy frame.
Now it is time to get down to brass tacks. There is a substantial price premium attached to the Orion because it has an Evolv DNA Go chip. This allows firmware updates and all manner of eScribe customizability. It also has the always cool “replay mode”. When you take the perfect hit, hold down the button on the base and it will record the precise parameters that made this flavorful vape possible.
But these features aside, the Smok is far from overmatched. Both devices offer three preset power levels. On the Orion they are indicated by a white, blue or red light. The Smok has “S, N, H” to indicate soft, normal and high. Both have intelligent battery life indicators.
Swappable Coils versus Replacement Pods
The Smok has one major edge on paper. Swappable coils. A burnt or worn out Orion pod is toast. You have to buy a $7.50 Orion replacement pod (sold in 2 packs). The Trinity Alpha uses Nord coils. This is welcome respite from the compatibility issues that Smok is somewhat infamous for. Nord coils are widely available, and there are four resistances to choose from.
Of course cleaning a plastic pod is never a fun exercise, and this activity is back on the table with swappable coils. One solution is to own multiple pods for specific favored flavors. I am a creature of habit and only consistently vape two or three different juices. If you are more adventurous, mastering the art of cleaning an Trinity Alpha pod is in your future. Unless you don't mind mingling ejuice flavors.
Swapping coils on the Trinity Alpha is pretty straight forward. Anyone familiar with the Nord coil has probably noticed that the base is not a perfect circle. Two sides of the coil are flattened in order to form a snug and sealed fit. Make sure you have these lined up properly before jamming the coil into place.
The Trinity Alpha comes with 0.6 and 0.8ohm coils. But there are also a pair of 1.4ohm coils that are also compatible. The Lost Vape Orion DNA Go is typically used with a 0.25 or a 0.5 ohm coil. There is also a 1.0ohm coil, usually associated with its less expensive stable mate the Lost Vape Orion Q. You may note that both devices are therefore subohm pods. Apparently, the advice to not use a subohm coil with nic salts has been cast aside. Although, Orion does market the 0.25ohm coil as being for regular ejuice and direct to lung vaping.
The Nord coils represent both the Trinity Alpha’s greatest strength and greatest weakness vis-à-vis the DNA Go. The swappable coils give the user way more flexibility and are a much more economical option. Unfortunately, they also mean that the Trinity Alpha pod uses a BVC coil that has the potential to leak. I love my Nord, but he is a strong weepy fellow, in the mold of a Dick Vermeil. I would not bank on the Trinity Alpha remaining bone dry. On the flip side of the coin, the Orion has a closed system and is essentially leak proof.
Real World Performance and Conclusion
The fact that that there is a competition at all is a testament to how impressive the Smok Trinity Alpha is. The Lost Vape Orion DNA Go has the performance of a Ferrari and the reliability of a Civic. It completely changed how pods are viewed, and the steep price tag has been no deterrent to its countless fans.
Smok essentially, and perhaps unapologetically, took the practical style of the DNA Go and incorporated their own technology into a device with the same size footprint, some might argue the same shoe. The use of Nord coils is a great example of compatible coils being used across multiple platforms. Thumbs up Smok. We need more of this.
Comparing the 0.6ohm mesh Nord coil in the Smok and the 0.5ohm pod in the Orion is probably the closest to a head to head shootout you can get. Both have great flavor, the Smok perhaps even has a slight edge, although the Orion pod I tested had an extra day of mileage on it. The Orion is a tighter draw, even when wide open. It delivers a better and more authentic mouth to lung experience, at least in my opinion. Set on high, it is hard to detect the Orion wattage advantage, although it comes clearly into focus when you use the 0.25ohm coil.
But the danger of leaking coils with a Nord is a real world consideration. I also prefer the Orion’s fill port, as the slide can be knocked ajar on the Trinity Alpha. In terms of bang for your buck, the Smok easily beats out the Orion. Especially if you have no interest in using the eScribe capabilities. It is cheaper, the replacement coils are cheaper, and the performance difference is fairly scant. Overall, with money as no object, the Orion DNA Go does have the edge.
Vape Pod Thoughts
A common misconception about salt nic is that you need a pod system to vape it. This is not the case. Salt nic is simply one ingredient in ejuice and interchangeable with freebase nicotine. We recently tested a Vapor Titan Clearomizer kit with nic salts and found it is one the best ways to vape nic salt. This actually makes perfect sense, clearomizers were always noted for their flavor and restrictive hits. Check out our deep-dive “What is Salt Nic?” for more information.