Hey guys, welcome to Pete’s Pick, the series where I directly compare several aspects of two different devices, to help you decide which one would be the best choice for you. I will also choose my own personal favourite that will be crowned ‘Pete’s Pick’.
Today I’ll be comparing the Arizer XQ2 with the Storz & Bickel Volcano Hybrid. If you’re looking for more information about either of these devices, we have a full individual review for each of them, check out the XQ2 here and the Volcano Hybrid here. Alright, let’s get into the comparison.
The Arizer XQ2 is the updated version of the Arizer Extreme Q, which is still a great vape, but the XQ2 features a bunch of excellent upgrades. It retains the same general shape and character, but there has been a lot of refinement and beautification done on this new model. It has a sleek new design, with a glossy upper section and a matte lower section.
The lower section features a vibrant full-colour screen, as well as five physical buttons that can be used to control every aspect of the device. On the bottom of the vaporizer there’s a nice coloured light ring, which really enhances the look of the device, as well as allowing for customization by letting you choose the colour of the light, the colour can even be set to communicate the operational status of the device. The XQ2 is incredibly light, to be honest I wouldn’t complain if it was a little heavier, as it would give it a more solid feel, but by no means does it feel cheap, just ultra light.
The XQ2 allows you to use either a whip or a balloon system and it includes a whole whack of accessories when you buy it, some of which you may not even use. Glass is used for the bowls and all of the connections, which is great, as it means you’re getting a very pure vapour pathway.
The Storz & Bickel Volcano Hybrid is the next generation of the original Volcano, which is an absolute classic vaporizer. The design is iconic, even a lot of non-users are aware of the Volcano and its shape. I find that the Volcano Hybrid feels like it is worth the higher price, it’s a high quality piece of equipment which feels heavy, substantial, and solid as a rock.
Like the XQ2, it retains the same general look of the original Volcano, but the physical buttons and dial have been replaced with a touchscreen interface. I would prefer physical buttons, because they are easier to use in a dark room, I think the touchscreen buttons should be illuminated when the device is turned off to avoid this problem. The lack of a physical on and off switch means that you don’t have that option of using the Volcano Hybrid with a smart plug, although you can pretty much leave this thing turned on 24 hours a day without any issues and it is possible to turn it on with your phone remotely.
The Volcano Hybrid also allows for usage via a balloon or a whip system, and it comes with a whole bunch of accessories in the box, including multiple extra balloons, which are a nice inclusion because they’re not particularly cheap. It has a removable power cord on the back, which is a great improvement as it makes it easier to pack up for travel.
The Arizer XQ2 gets to temperature really fast, but it’s not necessarily ready to use right away. Once it’s at temperature, Arizer recommends letting the bowl of material sit on top of the heater for about three to five minutes to prime. You will get far better results this way. You can inhale immediately after it reaches temperature, but until the flower itself has a chance to warm up, it’s not going to produce any vapour. After having tried both methods I would recommend priming the bowl whenever possible, otherwise the first quarter of your balloon is just going to be filled with warm air.
The XQ2 includes a remote control, at first I thought it would be a gimmick, but it’s actually super handy to keep somewhere within reach, so you can remotely turn on your vaporizer. If you keep a full bowl on top of the device, you can conveniently turn it on from afar to prime that material, and you can certainly leave it on there for longer than five minutes without causing any harm, except for a small loss of terps.
The Storz & Bickel Volcano Hybrid boasts a huge improvement of heat-up time compared to its predecessor, it will arrive at your desired temperature in approximately 45 seconds. There is no priming necessary with the Hybrid, and I wouldn’t recommend putting the heating chamber on until you are ready to have your session. If you leave it on there for a couple of minutes or so it definitely won’t hurt, but this one is ready to go as soon as it is at temperature.
If you’re using the Hybrid with the whip system, regardless of what temperature you’re using, you’re going to need to hit it a couple times before it will produce adequate vapour. I would give it one or two good solid pulls if you’re using it without the fan assist, but if you’re using it with the fan assist just start inhaling as soon as you see vapour.
The Arizer XQ2 has a ceramic heating rod inside the glass external section, this is a tried and true heating method which you will find in a lot of different vaporizers. Ceramic heating rods are known for their consistency and longevity, although if you spill some flower into this section it is going to be tricky to get out because of the gap between the body and the interior section. The heating rod gives you convection heating, which contributes to the great flavour and strong vapour, but the glass bowl gets super hot when you prime it, so you’re getting some conduction there as well. If you’re after more of a convection experience from the XQ2, I would recommend foregoing the priming and simply run the convection heating through it as soon as you put the bowl on the device.
On the remote control, not only can you change the temperature in single degree increments, but you can also choose three preset temperatures, allowing you to simply press one, two, or three to have the XQ2 automatically switch to the corresponding temperature you have set.
The word ‘Hybrid’ in the name Volcano Hybrid refers to two things, the first is the inclusion of the whip system in addition to the balloon system, and the second is the hybrid mixture of convection and conduction heating. You may wonder why Storz & Bickel would change from the pure convection of the original Volcano to a hybrid system, the reason is that conduction heating helps with vapour thickness as well as improving the material heat-up time, as the heating chamber gets heat directly from the device, rather than depending only on the warm air.
The Volcano Hybrid features Bluetooth, so you can set up a web app to allow for enhanced customization. The web app is definitely more cumbersome to set up than a regular app, but once it’s set up it enables you to do things like turn the device on or off, change temperature, or set up workflows. Workflows allow you to change the temperature and timing throughout the session. For example, you can have it automatically run at 350°F for 10 seconds, pause for 20 seconds, and then run for 20 seconds at 400°F. It’s a cool system that allows for an insane amount of customisation, although I rarely use it these days, as it already works brilliantly in its default fashion.
Ease of use
The Arizer XQ2 is super easy to use once you get a hang of the glass components. At first I found it a little awkward with the multiple glass connections, as the glass pieces can be hot and there is no way to know that until you touch them, but once you get a handle on the system it is a dead simple device to use. Load your flower into either the cloud side or the flavour side of the connoisseur bowl, let it prime for a while, put your balloon on, and vape.
The controls are simple and easy to understand, it allows for a good deal of customization, and the remote is handy for controlling the fan and temperature while you are using it. The whip has more of a learning curve than the balloon, you need to use the right temperature, fill, and bowl to get great results. Overall, I much prefer this device with the balloon system over the whip, and one of my favourite things about the balloon is that the glass mouthpiece is a 10mm male joint, so you can use the balloons directly in a 10mm female water pipe, which is fantastic.
The Storz & Bickel Volcano Hybrid really couldn’t be much easier to use, this is a perfect device for somebody who is brand new to vaporizers, or medical patients who want an ultra effective device with no learning curve. After you fill the heating chamber, simply rotate it onto the vaporizer to lock the chamber in place, now you can’t knock the balloon off accidentally like you could with the original Volcano. The balloon fills up very fast, and for both desktops - having a balloon system really enhances the ease of use, as you can simply fill a balloon and walk around your house with it or pass it to other people easily and safely.
The Volcano Hybrid has a fantastic balloon system, when you press your mouth to the balloon mouthpiece to inhale, it will open the valve to let vapour out, and when you pull your mouth away it automatically closes to seal the vapour in, whereas with the XQ2 you have to either plug the hole with your finger or use the balloon cap every time to seal it. The whip clicks in place securely on top of the heating chamber, and then you can either inhale through the whip, or turn on the forced air to have the vapour shoot out of the whip.
The XQ2 creates fantastic and very tasty vapour. When you use it with a whip after priming it for five minutes, the first hit you have will be almost overwhelming with terps. I have never really felt like there were too many terps in a hit, but I have had hits from this thing where I blow out no visible vapour, but it still makes me cough from the abundance of terps.
The fan can be used at three different speeds, and you can get some insanely thick balloons when you use the lowest speed. One thing I like about balloons is that they help cool the vapour, the vapour is exposed to a lot of ambient air while it sits in the balloon, so I don’t find it too harsh, even at higher temperatures.
There is a huge difference between the two bowl sizes on the XQ2, and if you use the massive cloud bowl side you can get some insanely thick hits. Just keep in mind that you are going to be putting a ton of flower in this one. I find I get way better results with a coarse grind rather than the medium fine grind I use in most other vaporizers.
The Volcano has been around for 20 years for a good reason, and that’s because it produces exceptional vapour. The Volcano Hybrid lives up to its predecessor, and with the added conduction it might even be superior. The vapour is strong and if you ‘scuba’ a balloon it’ll knock you right between the eyes. The balloons fill up nice and thick at higher temps, although I would recommend letting the air run through the Hybrid for about three seconds before you put the balloon on, so the balloon is filled with pure vapour without the hot air that is produced while the material heats up. While the XQ2 needs three to five minutes to prime, this one only needs around three seconds and even that is optional, it’s quite a difference.
The hits from the Hybrid are tasty and remarkably smooth, especially if you let the balloon sit for around a minute after it has filled. Even when I use it at a high temperature like 400°, and empty the balloon completely straight after, it doesn’t have that harsh or scratchy kind of feeling, unless you do multiple balloons in a row.
The workflows can allow for some really interesting balloon configurations, and I think you should at least experiment with them. I really like setting it to fill the last 25% of a balloon with high temperature vapour, to thicken it up and add strength.
The XQ2 includes the new connoisseur bowl, and this is a clever change from the old model. The screen sits in an offset fashion, rather than being right in the middle, which means it gives you two different chamber size options. You get the cloud chamber which has a massive capacity, but then they also have the flavour chamber which is much smaller. The flavour chamber means the heater sits farther away from the flower, so it's optimised for flavour rather than vapour thickness, but you can still get huge hits with this setup. The efficiency is really good with the flavour chamber as you’re not putting much flower in there at all, and if you pack it properly you’ll get very thorough extraction.
My favourite set up with the XQ2 is using the flavour bowl and the balloon on the low fan setting at around 370°F to 390°F. It fills up the balloon super slowly, so you just watch that thing milk up like crazy, and with this method you get tremendous efficiency.
The Volcano Hybrid does a very good job of extracting all of your active materials, and it’s accurate to whatever temperature you set it at. One of the reasons people love the Volcano is that it does a remarkable job of maintaining the set vaporisation temperature, which can be really helpful for medicinal effects, a lot of vaporizers don’t manage this so well.
The bowl of the Hybrid is massive, I sometimes wish it was way smaller, as I would like to do fresh bowls more frequently. I also find that because this one hits so hard with its efficient performance and large bowl size, it tends to increase your tolerance quite a bit. When I think of this device I don’t really think of efficiency, it will very evenly extract your material in a complete fashion, but you just put so much in here. I would recommend getting a chamber reducer, as then you can use the dosing capsules as well as loading much smaller bowls, which is the only way I use it.
My favourite thing about the Arizer XQ2 is the unbeatable value. Arizer has always been known to put out quality products at reasonable price points, but their desktop lineup features the best value out of their whole ecosystem. The XQ2 is roughly a third of the price of the Volcano Hybrid, so it gives you fantastic and flexible performance for an incredibly reasonable price.
The Storz & Bickel Volcano Hybrid is a honed and beautifully functional product. The inclusion of conduction heating and whip option are both welcome additions, though I could personally do without the touchscreen and I would like to see the physical buttons return. The vapour is rock solid at any temperature and remarkably consistent, with absolutely no skill and little training required.
This was a really tough choice, it’s so easy to recommend either of these vaporizers, but when I’m being really honest with myself and if I can only pick one of these two, I am going with the Storz & Bickel Volcano Hybrid. The reason it was so close is because the XQ2 offers such a good value in terms of performance and features, but the Volcano is a legendary institution, some people would argue that it was the first popular commercial vaporizer, and there’s a very good reason for that.
The Volcano Hybrid is a fool proof system, it’s designed to be ultra simple to use, while giving you 10 out of 10 results. Though I much prefer the balloon system, the addition of the whip is fantastic. Everything clips into place on the device so it’s really easy to share the whip around, and it’s also much easier to use the device through a water pipe, which I would definitely recommend.
I hope this installment of Pete's Pick helps you with the very difficult choice between these two vapes. Honestly, I don't think you can go wrong with either one.
Thanks so much for reading and watching guys, I really appreciate it.
Keep it green, keep it sneaky!