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Aspire Proteus E-Hookah Review: When Less is More

  • April 20, 2017 /
Aspire Proteus

Aspire is well known for their excellent vaping products, so when I discovered they had their own spin on the (still very niche) e-hookah head format, I knew I had to give it a try.

Much to my surprise, this product--the Aspire Proteus E-Hookah--costs significantly less than pretty much all of its competitors. I had to wonder: what gives? What did Aspire sacrifice in order to make this particular e-hookah so...inexpensive? And how well does it stack up against everyone else?

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's time for answers. Please join me as I review the Aspire Proteus E-Hookah Head.

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The Aspire Proteus E-Hookah

Tank Size: 10ml

Atomizer: 0.25 ohm

Wattage: non-adjustable, max 70W, reduces with battery level

​Battery: 2 x 18650 style 2500mAh

Price: $49.99

Aspire Proteus

Overall Impression:

The Aspire Proteus is the most straightforward e-hookah head on the market right now. Though limited in function, smart design choices and sub-ohm capabilities allow this device to outperform many of its competitors--and at a much lower price point.

PROS

  • Great value
  • Sub-ohm coil means you can use high-VG e-liquid
  • Rechargeable batteries are replaceable
  • Fantastic battery life
  • Glass tank allows for more e-liquid flavor options
  • Extremely user-friendly

CONS

  • No manual wattage control
  • Only comes with one replacement coil
  • Doesn't really look like a hookah accessory

Unboxing the Aspire Proteus

Aspire Proteus unboxing

Inside the box, I found:

  • The Aspire Proteus
  • One 10ml tank with a pre-installed 0.25 ohm atomizer coil
  • Two 18650-style 2500mAh rechargeable batteries
  • One micro-USB cable
  • A basic user manual
  • An Aspire warranty card

Design and Build Quality

There’s no denying that the Proteus is an aesthetically unique e-hookah head. With a pseudo-cylindrical shape, protruding sides, and a basic matte-black finish, Aspire’s e-hookah looks more like a computer accessory than something you’d place on top of a hookah pipe—I’d go as far to suggest it’s the most un-hookah-like product of its type on the market (as far as looks are concerned).

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, either. E-hookah heads aren’t really hookah bowls, per se, so there’s no real need to make them look exactly like the things they’re supposed to replace. And while I found the overall design to be rather bland, this is certainly a case of function over form. The protruding sides make the Proteus a little bit wider than other e-hookah heads, which provides a reassuring sense of balance. It also makes the device quite easy to hold with one hand.

The main body of the device is made almost entirely out of plastic, save for the battery compartment screws, which are (thankfully) metal. Truth be told, it felt a little insubstantial at first, but actually holding the Proteus calmed my initial concerns of build quality: it has some weight to it—I’d say about a pound or so.

Bottom of the Aspire Proteus
The bottom of the Aspire Proteus has a built-in rubber grommet and two threaded battery compartments

It’s also more bottom-heavy, further highlighting the aforementioned notion of balance. In other words, unless you forcefully ram something against it, I don’t think you’ll really have to worry about keeping your hookah pipe upright with the Proteus attached to it.

The only indicator that the Proteus is working is a small light on the front of the device, which emits a light orange glow when you’re pulling a vape (the light also flashes when the batteries are running low).

Beyond that, there’s a USB-charging port centered on the bottom back of the Proteus. Noticeably absent are any controls whatsoever--but we'll get to that little tidbit later on in this review. Now let’s talk about the tank, since it’s really what gives the Aspire Proteus an edge over competing devices.

Instead of the cheap, plastic ones associated with the Square E-Head and its ilk, the Aspire Proteus comes with a lovely 10ml pyrex glass tank. This is a great addition—it means that e-liquid flavor restrictions are pretty much minimal, so if you want to vape on some citrus or cinnamon flavored juice, you’re in luck.

The Aspire Proteus 10ml tank
The included 10ml tank is made out of Pyrex glass, and uses 0.25 sub-ohm coils

The tank has another special feature that I truly appreciate: a top-fill plug. This means you can refill the device two different ways: you can unscrew the entire top section, or you can just lift a little rubber stopper at the top. I found both methods easy to do, and had no problems replacing e-liquid at all.

I should note that glass tanks do come with one significant disadvantage: they’re considerably more breakable than plastic ones. I actually had to experience this the hard way—I accidentally dropped the original tank my Proteus shipped with before I could test it, and it broke into a million little pieces.

Thankfully, Aspire sells these particular tanks separately, so I was able to replace it without any real hassle (beyond the obvious, at least). In any case, this is pure user-error, and it would be foolish to blame Aspire for my general clumsiness. And it’s also nice to know that, when situations like this happen, there’s an easy fix.

Using the Aspire Proteus

Remember how I said there are no controls? I wasn’t kidding. There are literally no buttons to press, no screens to monitor…nothing. Trust me, I looked everywhere!

This means that the Proteus is probably the simplest e-hookah head to ever to hit the market. You literally make sure that the batteries are installed correctly—which is not challenging in the slightest—make sure that you’re tank is full of e-liquid and screwed on to the body, and then vape.

For some people, this is probably the most ideal set-up imaginable. It makes it so vaping on the Proteus is a quick and painless affair. There’s very little you can actually get wrong.

For others, though, this lack of control may be a little concerning. The Proteus maxes out at 70W and utilized a 0.25 sub-ohm atomizer, which means—unless you want throat-hit—you’re pretty much restricted to using e-liquid that’s much heavier on VG.

But is this a bad thing? Quite the contrary--it's probably the most ideal situation for an e-hookah head. VG is a primary ingredient in shisha, and vaping high-VG e-liquid already provides “hookah-like” results on standard vape mods.

So really, utilizing sub-ohm technology on an e-hookah head makes perfect sense, and being able to finally vape high-VG e-liquid on a hookah pipe just makes the experience *that* much closer to the real thing.

Inhale/Draw​ Resistance

As per usual, I tested the Proteus on a smaller, 18” junior hookah. Compared to older e-hookah heads—think Square E-Head, Amanoo, etc—the draw resistance is significantly better.

Like the ePuffer TC100W—which I enthusiastically reviewed earlier this month—I have no problems calling the Proteus and effortless draw.

Granted, there is still a little resistance—but you have to expect that, considering that we’re utilizing a hookah pipe.

In any case, if you’re accustomed to smoking shisha heated by coals, you probably won’t be disappointed on this front. It’s remarkable similar.

It’s also important to note that every draw has a 10 second cut-off limit. This isn’t surprising—it’s a pretty common restriction for e-hookah heads—but for some traditional hookah smokers who like to take longer draws, this will take some getting used to.

Vape Quality and Flavor

And now, to the most important factor of all: how well does the Aspire Proteus vape?

This is where things get a little tricky.

Remember—we have no control over wattage/voltage. There are no settings to fiddle with. The Proteus maxes out at 70W, and power output decreases with battery life.

What we can control, though, is the type of e-liquid we’re filing it with. The atomizer coil we’re using is rated at 0.25 ohm—placing it firmly within the realms of sub-ohm vaping. This means the Proteus is designed to work best with e-liquid that’s higher on VG concentration.

So for my first test, I decided to use a guava flavored, max-VG e-liquid with 3mg of nicotine. As expected, the vape went down smooth, with plenty of that sweet VG-aftertaste lingering after every puff. With this particular e-liquid configuration, throat hit was practically non-existent.

Unfortunately, beyond the aforementioned VG-aftertaste—which is still quite nice—I didn’t experience much flavor. I’d blame it on the particular e-liquid I was using, if it weren’t for the fact that I used the same exact juice on a competing device and got significantly better flavor results.

So stay a little more objective, I asked my wife (who doesn’t vape nearly as much as I do) to give it a try. She echoed back the same exact sentiment: the vape is smooth and pleasant, but the flavor just isn’t there.

Things fared much, much better with a little more PG thrown into the mix. I later tested the Proteus with 80VG/20PG and 70V/30PG juice (still guava, with 3mg of nicotine), and both configurations awarded me with a significantly more flavor.

I did begin to experience a bit of throat-hit with the 70/30 juice, but I wouldn’t call it unbearable. I didn’t have my wife test out the different e-liquid ratios, so you’ll just have to take my word on this one (sorry).

The user manual recommends using e-liquid with at least 50% VG, so I went ahead and tried some 50/50 e-liquid as well. Results were not good—there was just too much throat-hit, and the whole thing felt more like a regular old e-cigarette. My advice? Stick to 70% VG or higher with this guy.

Cloud Size​

My original testing with max-VG e-liquid (predictably) produced the biggest clouds, were about the same when I tested the 80/20 e-liquid, and were noticeably smaller with the 70/30 stuff.

Overall, I’d say the cloud production from the Proteus is on-par with first-generation e-hookah heads. Which is slightly disappointing, considering that this is indeed a sub-ohm device, whereas older e-hookah heads are certainly not.

Keep in mind that you’ll still get clouds from the Proteus…just don’t expect them to be anywhere close to what you can get from shisha and coals—or from a standalone sub-ohm vape mod, either.

Battery Life and Longevity

I had to refill the tank once every 30 to 40 minutes, placing it around the same ballpark as earlier e-hookah heads. Not too shabby, considering that sub-ohm units tend to burn through e-liquid at a faster rate.

On an even brighter note, the battery life is fantastic. I was able to get between 4 and 5 hours of moderate-to-heavy usage on a single charge, and thus only really had to recharge the Proteus overnight.

Replacement Parts

The only piece you’ll absolutely have to replace on a consistent basis is the atomizer coil. Aspire sells them from around $6, and my one lasted for about two weeks of daily use (averaging at around 45 minutes to an hour per day).

If you plan on using Proteus less than that, you’ll probably be able to get about a month out of a single coil.

Overall, pretty standard for sub-ohm stuff. And like I said earlier, they also sell replacement tanks.

You can also purchase entire tanks with a pre-installed atomizer for around $20, or you can simply buy the glass portion (without a lid) for a little less than $10.

Aspire Proteus replament parts
Aspire sells replacement parts for the Proteus tank

Final Verdict

So, is the Aspire Proteus a good e-hookah head? Absolutely. The overall design is basic, but ultimately very smart and user friendly.

It’s also the only e-hookah head I know of that features a glass tank, setting giving the Proteus a significant advantage over just about everybody else.

But is it the right e-hookah head for you? The answer to that question is extremely contextual.

If you’re looking to switch from traditional hookah to vaping, the Proteus acts as a great starting point. It isn’t the same as “the real thing,” but it’s pretty darn close, and certainly closer than what you’d get from a non-hookah vaping device. The fact that it utilizes VG-heavy e-liquid also makes the vape *that much more* hookah-like.

If you already already have an older e-hookah head that uses regular-resistance coils, there’s enough here to consider to Proteus a worthy upgrade—and at a lower price point. While you do end up sacrificing power control, the aforementioned usage of higher-VG e-liquid makes vaping out of the Proteus a much more pleasant experience. There’s that glass tank as well, which might be enough to actually seal the deal for you. Also—don’t forget that this thing has replaceable batteries, which adds to its overall longevity.

If you’re already vaping sub-ohm devices that don’t require a hookah pipe to function (and are happy with the results you’re getting), then the Aspire Proteus is probably not something you’re looking for. It’s provides a good vape, but the lack of controls and lack of massive cloud production may be oft-putting for seasoned vape enthusiasts.

As for me? I'm very pleased with the Proteus. It isn't the fanciest e-hookah head available right now, and it's far from being the most advanced. But for what it lacks in flash and features, it makes up over function and value. All in all, it's a solid effort from Aspire--and another great e-hookah head to add to the list.

Buy the Aspire Proteus E-Hookah today for $49.99