Variant 260W Clone Review

Variant 260 Clone Review

The authentic Variant Titanium Slim 250W mod is made by Vicious Ant International, who is a well known a modder based in the Philippines. The Variant Ti Slim 250W is a subsequent release to the Variant Fat and Slim 120W mods which were released to the market in April 2014. The original Variant Fat/Slim 120W entered the market backed by a lot of industry buzz due to not only its stunning aesthetic, size, wattage output capacity, and its use of Li-polymer batteries, but most notably its record breaking price point of $500usd.

Today you can expect to spend upwards of $1,500usd for the O.G Variant Fat/Slim, and that is if you can find one. In July 2014, there was an authentic Variant Slim that was sold for $2,200 via auction on Ebay. The newest Variant Ti Slim 250W retails for $650-1,200usd at various online retail outlets.

The Variant 260W clone is made by Limwell/Psmoke. Limwell, and Psmoke are sister brands that trade under the same factory, so they are essentially the same. Originally, the Variant clone was being marketed and pre-sold as a clone of the Variant Slim 120W. However, once the authentic Variant Ti Slim 250W was released in October 2014, Limwell/Psmoke changed directions and created a 260W clone chip which they hoped would compete with the newer 250W Variant Ti Slim.

The Variant 260W clone featured in this review came directly from Limwell Industrial, and cost $196usd shipped. The Variant 260W clone is packaged in a large, beautifully designed Vicious Ant embossed gift box. The Variant clone also came with one 7.4v 1200mah/42A rated lipo battery, and balance charger. The Variant 260W clone currently retails for $129.99-$174.99 without a battery and charger, and $186.84-274.99 for the kit which includes the lipo battery and charger.

Where to Buy a Variant 260w Clone:

Variant collage 1

VARIANT 260W CLONE SPECIFICATIONS:

  • Brand: Limwell
  • Type: variable wattage/voltage APV
  • Materials: 304 grade stainless steel and shatter proof glass
  • Connection threading: 510 (spring loaded)
  • Depth: 25.4mm
  • Width: 48mm
  • Height: 100mm
  • Weight: 345 grams

Features:

  • Variable wattage – can be adjustable from 5.0W to 260.0W (0.1W increments)
  • Variable voltage – can be adjustable from 2.0V to 8.4V (0.1V increments)
  • 1.4″ OLED display
  • Output current: 40A (Max.)
  • Fires 0.2-3.5ohm atomizers
  • Short circuit protection
  • Wattage/Voltage/Pulse modes

BUILD QUALITY

My first impression of the Variant clone was “wow, this is impressive”. This mod definitely has a “high end” feeling, and based on construction, and build quality, it absolutely looks and feels like a $200 device. This clone is one of the most impressively built vape related devices that I have handled to date honestly.

The Variant clone is constructed in a brushed 304 grade stainless steel framed casing, with black shatter proof glass panels on the front and back of the device. On the front of the device you can see the display screen which is installed behind the front glass panel. There are three menu function buttons on the lower front panel of the device. The glass panels have a high gloss appearance, and are very reflective, which made this device a challenge to photograph. The glass is also a major fingerprint magnet.

The Vicious Ant Titanium logo is printed along the left side of the body, and I do find it to be a tad janky to have a Titanium logo on a stainless steel framed device. The fire is button is stainless steel and is the same style button found on the Hana Modz and its clones. The feel of the button is clicky however, oddly enough the fire button does not wear on my fingers like the buttons on the Hana/Cana Mods did, and is comfortable to use.

Variant collage 2

The well around the spring loaded 510 connection is raised around the outer perimeter of the well, and recessed within the well. Upon receipt this was also the dirtiest part of the device. I was also a bit thrown off by the hole in the center of 510 pin, and to this day I am still not sure why this type of pin was used. Aside from being dirty, the 510 threads are well machined, and I did not have issues with screwing or flush mounting any atomizers into it.

On the top of the device there is a firing indicator light which flashes green while the device is firing, or red if the device detects a problem. I will cover this function in more detail later in the review.

Variant collage 3

The Variant clone is quite the heavy device at 278.8 grams without a lipo battery installed, and 344.6 grams with a battery. I think it is fair to say that the Variant clone is not a pocket friendly device. The Variant clone has a sliding back door panel which is held in place with a ball bearing. The sliding back door panel itself is also rather thick and heavy.

One of the only criticisms that I have for the build quality of this device is the lack of finishing of the inner edges of the stainless steel frame, which you can only feel when the back door is removed. The inner edges of Variant are very sharp, in fact they are sharp enough to slice through the battery wires of the lipo battery. So great care and caution needs to be taken when installing and removing the lipo battery.

Variant collage 4

FUNCTION/LIPO BATTERY

The Variant mod (authentic and clone) are powered by high current Li-polymer batteries, which is a turn off for some vapers. First, for anyone considering this mod I would highly suggest that you first do some research and reading on how to properly handle Lipo batteries. Due to the chemical nature Li-polymer batteries, they are far more volatile than Li-Ion batteries, and therefore potentially more dangerous in the case of a thermal runaway. There are a number of RC hobby websites and forums in existence, and I suggest spending some quality time on them reading about Li-polymer battery safety.

The lipo battery that can be purchased with the Variant clone is a 7.4v 1200mah, 35C/42A rated battery, which is two 3.7v lipos wired in series, not parallel (2s1P). The fitment of the lipo battery is very snug inside this device, and when new it can take quite a bit of maneuvering and tucking to get the battery, wire, and connectors to fit inside. This does get easier after the wires begin to conform to the shape of the battery compartment.

The Variant clone and the lipo battery are pre-installed with a micro deans connector, and a charging balance plug. Unfortunately, the micro deans connector also happens to be the least common connection type in the RC world, so it will be challenging to find a lipo battery that is pre-installed with the micro deans. I have also heard some concern expressed about the fact that the micro deans connector is only rated for 15A max, while this device is capable of outputting up to 40A. Since I am not an expert on lipo batteries and connectors, I can only relate what I have “heard” on this issue.

Variant collage 5

You must also be mindful of that the fact that you are limited to the length, width and depth of the lipo battery that can used in this device. The inner dimensions of the battery compartment are 39mm wide, and 79mm long. The max battery thickness allowed is 13mm, and the max battery length is 74mm for the Variant clone.

You will not be able to fit a lipo with a larger capacity than 1300mah inside of the Variant clone. Below you will see a photo of the Zippy 1300mah/25C lipo that I picked up for the Variant clone. I had to buy the necessary micro deans connectors to install to the Zippy lipo myself.

Variant collage 6

If you purchase the full kit with charger included, you will receive a generic B3 balance charger as shown below. This charger is capable of balance charging 1-3 cells, and has two balance charging ports which correspond to 1-2 cell lipos, and 3 cell lipo batteries. The balance plug is pre-installed with the included battery would be plugged into the port located on left for 1-2 cells. When the battery is plugged in the indicator light will be red for each cell, and will turn green once both cells have completed charging and balancing.

For the sake of safety, you should use a fire retardant lipo charging bag while recharging lipo batteries. Personally, I would also recommend picking up a better balance charger than the one that comes with the Variant clone. I have already heard one report of this charger malfunctioning, and the incident was scary enough that the user returned his Variant clone to the vendor he purchased it from.

There is a lot of information available on internet regarding good lipo balance chargers. I know that many authentic Variant users have purchased the SkyRC B6 charger which is very popular with hardcore RC hobbyist however, based on my own research I find that charger to be over kill for this application. I went with the Tenergy 1-4 cell balance charger shown below, which came highly recommended, and is well reviewed as a good, reliable lipo balance charger.

Variant collage 7

FUNCTION/MENU

One of the immediate let downs with this device is that it does not come with any type of instruction manual. A $200 device with no instruction manual? … China.

The center button on the front of the device is the power and menu navigation button. To turn the Variant on you hold the power button for 2 seconds. You will see the Vicious Ant logo and v1.5 flash on screen before the main display screen appears. To turn the device off you hold the power button for 5 seconds.

To switch between wattage, voltage and pulse modes you hit the menu button 5x. The button on the far left is your down button, and the button on the far right is your up button. Pulse mode is exactly as it sounds, voltage output is delivered in a pulsed pattern, as opposed to a steady voltage output. In Pulse mode there is a working variable voltage output of 1-6.0 volts.

In wattage mode you will see the wattage setting in prominent display on the left. At the center you will see the firing voltage, current output, and atomizer resistance. Along the bottom of the display you will see your total vape time in hours and minutes, puff counter, and battery voltage level. The puff counter cannot be manually reset, which I find annoying. The puff counter will reset itself once you hit 1000 puffs, regardless of battery changes.

To lock your wattage or voltage setting, press and hold the power/menu button for 2s while simultaneously pressing the fire button. To unlock the wattage/voltage setting you repeat this. To access your devices serial # and unique ID, hold the up and down button simultaneously and the serial # and ID will appear. Firing is disabled from this screen interface. To exit this screen you repeat the same button hold pattern.

While the Variant is firing normally the indicator light on the top of the device will flash green. In the event of a short-circuit, or too low battery the indicator light will flash red, and firing of the device will be disabled. In the case of a short, or inability to read an atomizers resistance, the display will also read “CHK ATTY”

After 1 minute without firing the device, the display screen will go out. After 30 minutes without firing the device will turn itself off. This chip does have flash memory so your last wattage or voltage setting will be remembered.

Variant collage 8

PERFORMANCE

What I like about the Variant clone, aside from the fit and finish, is the menu interface. This menu system is very quick and easy to navigate, and all of the buttons are very responsive. Another surprise for me was the long battery life of this 7.4v 1200 mah lipo, which did last me around 7-10hours on a single charge (1.0 ohm at 7-10.5W). In terms of battery life, a 7.4/8.4v 1200mah lipo is very different from a 3.7/4.2v 1200 mah Li-MN battery. Actual battery life will vary depending on what resistance and wattage setting you vape at.

It is also worth mentioning that this Variant clone does not suffer from the battery drain issues that has plagued the authentic Variants. There is no need to remove the battery overnight as required by authentic Variant users. In fact none of the various firmware bugs found on the authentic Variant, are present on the clone (wattage settings self adjusting, device stuck at start up screen, spontaneous surges in voltage output, device turning itself off while firing). However, this does not mean that the Variant clone is without issues, or that there aren’t any out there with some sort of defect. The only defect on the clone that I have seen reported is a couple of sticky firing buttons.

With regards to the chip, when I first arranged for a sample of the Variant clone, I asked Limwell whether the chip had a pulse width modulated or a flat DC signal output, and I was told that it was a flat DC signal. One of the major turn offs about the authentic Variant is the very prominent rattlesnake sound that it makes while firing, which is caused by its low pulse width modulated frequency. In my opinion it brings down the value and appeal of that device because it is really loud, and off putting.

When I finally received the Variant clone, and installed my atomizer of 1.1 ohms set to 15 watts, and it felt like a lot more than 15w. However, initially it did appear to be a flat DC signal as there was not even the slightest hint of a rattlesnake sound coming from the device. When I put my inline volt meter on it to see how what the voltage output really was, lo and behold, I found that the Variant clone is indeed pulse width modulated. The reason that there is no rattlesnake sound is because it’s a 100hz frequency, unlike the 33hz frequency of a Vamo. The authentic Variant actually sounds a lot worse than a Vamo, so my guess is that its PWM frequency is like 20hz, lol.

Being that the Variant clone is pulse width modulated, an inline volt meter is not appropriate for testing voltage output. For weeks I searched the internet for anyone who may have tested this device on an oscilloscope, and eventually I did come across a German youtube reviewer by the name of Dirk Oberhaus who did put the Variant clone on a scope (see screenshot below). I cannot say that I was surprised to find that the Variant clone is over powered throughout most of its wattage range, but I was surprised to see it being underpowered at certain resistance/wattage setting as well.

I also noticed that the displayed resistance of my atomizer would fluctuate up and down within .2 ohms or so. For example my 1.14 ohm atomizer would initially read at 1.1 ohm, then change to 1.09, and back again. This fluctuation didn’t really change my vape, but I did notice that it was happening. With regard to the inaccurate power outputs, in spite of this I was still able to find “my vape” with this device (1.0 @7-10W). With all this considered, the unimpressive engineering of this chip does bring down the otherwise very impressive build quality of the device.

Variant collage 9

OVERALL

Never have I felt so divided in my thoughts and feelings about a device, as I do with the Variant 260W clone. I love the way this device looks, and feels, the build quality is stunning. Yet there is something undeniably janky to me about a Titanium slim clone constructed in 304 grade stainless steel. And I also can’t ignore the faults in the engineering of this excessively, and unnecessarily powered 260 watt chip. Not to mention the fact that the market for $200 clones is about 25 people deep, lol.

Limwell started out in a good way when this was a 120W Variant slim clone, and had they stayed that course I believe this “could” have been one of the best clones made in 2014. It seems as though Limwell, and Yosen/SXK drank from the same bucket of bad choices … sigh

Now, in spite of being over powered, the chips actual power output capacity is between 17-242 watts, which covers a lot of ground for a lot of vapers. However, being powered by a Li-polymer battery is a deal breaker for many, as it requires an investment in a whole new set of supplies, on top of being the most expensive clone this market has seen to date. So the reality is that this is a device that is best suited for the frivolous hobbyist/collector. Personally, I love my Variant clone, and I am very happy to have one … but like the authentic Variant it just ain’t for everybody.

Variant final photo 2

Pros: Cons:

  • Impressive build quality

  • User friendly menu interface

  • Finger friendly fire button

  • Spring loaded 510 connection

  • Good battery life


  • No user manual

  • Price point

  • Over powered/inaccurate chip


Where to Buy a Variant 260w Clone

Nicole Lea is a committed vape gear enthusiast of 3 years, who is dedicated to informing, educating, and guiding the vape community in this amazing world of electronic cigarettes.

18 COMMENTS
  • sage 01/05/2015

    Another on target review from the the best reviewer in the biz!

  • Rick, Mt.View 01/06/2015

    Nice one Nikki, been looking for it for days.
    I think 8.1 is a pretty fair rating. I thought you would come in at a lower figure because of the power inaccuracies.
    Turns out, lipo batteries are easy to live with and I already purchased a copter, lol. You had all the button press figures wrong…….everyone. Other than that, I think this clone got a good shake with your reviwer eyes. It’s my main mod now and I don’t expect that to change, so much so, that I kinda just delete the VC newsletter as it comes in………psssst, don’t tell Nathan.
    Best regards,
    frivolous, hobbyist/collector

    • Nathan 01/06/2015

      Nooooo…. Not my newsletter! It’s alright, I’m sure you will come back when you need a new mod.

  • G..... 01/07/2015

    Glad as always to say that you Nicole are one of the most detailed reviewers I’ve read, very seriously meant. And always focus on the small things that can actually be big things.
    I’m a RC helicopter hobbyist and those micro deans connectors can be a serious issue and I’ll say this from experience, I avoid them like the PLAGUE..!! And I was so surprised, well not really, that you even mentioned this as it is a big deal, and could be a very big deal.
    If the wire gauge isn’t right, or the solder isn’t silver solder the plugs will heat up and the wires will disconnect and or putting heat shrink over the wires and if it isn’t all done correctly, well.. problems for real I’d suspect.
    One thing that is always the conversation in the RC world is what’s the amp ratings on the micro deans and NO one knows for sure, lots of speculation but no hard facts that I’ve ever seen or heard. Even the manufacturer doesn’t have the amp rating and the new ultra’s are supposed to handle 100 amp continuous which most are saying is BS,
    I had looked at these Variants and opted out for many of the reasons you mentioned and #1 is the lipo for sure, I’ve also noticed that on the original there’s a amp limiter of 30 amps, which would be very very smart if not just for the micro dean connectors used, I wonder if this clone has a amp limiter as I don’t recall if you mentioned anything about that in your review, I’d bet not but for vapors sake I sure hope so. I wonder why the original comes with two extra micro deans, maybe so you feel you got a $700 mod?
    Looking forward to you next review, hurry up…… Please

  • ambercliman 01/07/2015

    Happy New Year, Nikki, and nice review!!!!

  • Scott 04/11/2015

    I just picked one up used and the B3 charger it came with was shot. Is the Tenergy 1-4 cell balance charger all I need to replace it? No additional attachments or connectors?

  • Justin 04/21/2015

    My screen on my variant wont turn on, but the light on the tops lit up green. Any idea how to fix this?

    • Daniel wipfler 09/05/2015

      I do electrical work for a living and honestly if it first and you can vape still the its just your l.e.d screen not wanting to to work that’s all mess with the power setting and see if u detect a change in power if what I said earlier is true its just your display screen

  • Brandon 06/05/2015

    My clone stopped firing….I think there is something wrong with the 510….any ideas how to get a hold of limwell?

  • Bluntster 08/01/2015

    Just got the slim and really want a 11.4 lipo any suggestions

  • Kaylah 08/21/2015

    I just ordered my clone variant and it was hitting like a champ my battery got low, so like anyone I charged the battery when I went to put the back on the but the wires we’re giving me a hard time. I thought it was normal because it was new so I just shoved the wires down and put the back on.. well when I did that, it kept firing until I unplugged the battery and almost caught fire. I don’t know how to fix this, it will work when I don’t put the back on just fine but when as soon as I put the back on it won’t stop firing. I literally just got it yesterday and it’s already having problems. If you have tips please help.

    • Daniel wipfler 09/05/2015

      My opinion is with you shoving the wires in there like that u might of bent our a tear in the rubber makeing it short or what ever or the male and female connector for the battery isn’t connecting right my opinion on which one I said just now is your led screen just shit out that’s all trust me I Ben fixing making + for years now had same problem with different mod just replaced screen and BAM WORKED FINE if you need awnsers or advice or anything let me know hit me up on fb or text (630)-449-2733

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