Unicorn 7 to 50 watt
Clones, clones, everywhere clones. The China manufacturers are even cloning their own China competitors.
Even the packaging.
Right up front: I do not recommend this product and find the company reprehensible in misleading buyers into thinking this is based on the Yihi SX chipset – this is a poor clone of the Yihi SX chipset with very poor battery life.
The Pioneer4You IPV series hit the vaping community by storm back in August of 2014 with the launch of the 7-50 watt IPV 2. This followed hot on the heels of the original 35 watt maximum IPV. The IPV 2 won rave reviews (including one from me) for its flexibility, light weight, box form factor, flat buttons, and quite readable OLED screen. With pass-though charging, it became a go-to device for many vapers. About the only feature that was laughable was the touchfire button at the top that most (including me) calling it a gimmick. A gimmick it is, but it is also an annoying feature that can only be used within 10 seconds of pressing the regular fire button and often self-fires when liquid sits on it or the finger inadvertently touches it.
The Unicorn is a similar design with the touchfire button on an angled corner edge. It supports wattage ranging from 5 to 50 watts in 0.1 watt increments. There are a number of differences from the IPV 2 that it obviously copies. The Unicorn supports coil resistance as low as 0.1 ohm, weighs only 157 grams (about 130 less than the IPV 2), It also supports two 18650 batteries – and note, I have previously stated that I would not review any dual battery systems ... this one, however, is connected in parallel and the only device that I know of that connects in parallel.
The back cover, as you will notice at the right, is held in place with a single rare earth magnet instead of the cheap screws that Pioneer4You can't seem to understand we don't want. In addition, the edges of the cover are in a track to the edges of the Unicorn case. The fit is incredible and only one magnet is really needed to hold it in place. There is a very slight ratting from the buttons – but quite franky, you have to really shake the unit to hear any of the ratting. You should not notice any ratting in regular use.
The interior of the Unicorn is remarkably clean with no visible glues. It even features a fabric pull tab to assist in removing the batteries. And, a note on the batteries: this will only use flat top batteries – button top batteries will NOT fit in the battery compartment.
The chipset manufacturer is claimed to be Yihi. This is clearly NOT the SX chipset – it is a clone of the Yihi chipset. There is both buck and boost converters adding to the safety of the user – but it still outputs more current than I feel comfortable with (8.5 volts). I wouldn't normally review a dual battery system and the only reason I do so with this device is that it is limited to a maximum of 50 watts. That means when I use either the Aspire Atlantis or KangerTech Subtank with an 0.5 ohm coil, it is pulling a total of 5 volts (10 amps) at 50 watts. Even with a 1.2 ohm coil in the Subtank, it is pulling 7.7 volts (6.45 amps) at 50 watts. This is well within a reasonable safety factor. I usually vape both of these tanks at 16 watts – with an 0.5 ohm coil that is pulling 2.8 volts (5.66 amps). All I expect from this device is really long times between battery charging.
I don't plan on using this at any extremes of coil resistance or wattage. The lowest resistance coils I have are 0.5 ohms, and I regularly vape those at 16 watts. What I am most keen on is the "in parallel" connection of the batteries that hold a promise of multiple days of vaping between charges.
Whether this works well or not, I plan on modifications for regular use. The first will be to completely disable the touchfire button – completely disable. By that, I mean I will be taking this apart and disconnect the wires. I don't even want the option of disabling that in a menu, I want it off completely with no possibility of firing. The second will be to completely strip down the exterior, sand it down, use marine epoxy to fill in the touchfire button and side graphics, and then wrap it all in a carbon fiber vinyl wrap. I'll personalize this and make it my own. (the unit I received is exactly as shown: a silver color that shows dirt quickly).
In terms of dimensions, this is taller than the IPV 2 (by 6.4 mm), wider (by 7 mm), and thicker (by 2.6 mm). It's also slightly bigger than the Cloupor T8, but not by much.
I took this device apart to verify that it is connected in parallel – and it clearly is. I was really impressed with the quality of this unit. The assembly is impeccable. The battery compartment is quality parts, held in place with a total of five screws that are incredibly smooth.
When I received this an put in the batteries for the first time, I noticed that the touchfire gimmicky button is off by default. As with the IPV 2 manual, there are no instructions on how to turn on/off the touchfire button ... I've added those instructions in the user manual. To enable, press the Fire button and + button, and hold for 2 seconds. To disable, press the Fire button and - button, and hold for 2 seconds.
The Unicorn that I received for testing and review is the silver color unit. It's available in silver, black, gray, red, blue. The case is aluminum and the edges are bevelled (like the IPV 2s and IPV 3). This unit is the 7 to 50 watt version ... Unicorn also has a 100 watt and 150 watt version that use exactly the same case. The difference in the three devices is the chipset used. There are instructions in the user manual to download the Yihi SXI software for updating – don't bother, it doesn't work – this is NOT an authentic Yihi chipset, it is a clone. I downloaded the Yihi SXi software and was unable to get it to recognize the Unicorn. The micro USB port is at the bottom of the device and both charges the batteries. According to the manual, this is pass-through – you can charge and vape at the same time (although I do not recommend that with a multi-battery system).
So, what's the verdict? Is it worth it? It's not a secret – I dislike multi-battery systems, especially the ones connected in series. Batteries that are connected in parallel are a bit safer, they do limit the possible voltage to the coil. In parallel does introduce its own set of issues though ... if the batteries are not charged to the same level, the higher charged unit will be charging the lower charged unit and generate internal resistance (heat). In itself, that is only a problem when you insert batteries that were charged externally. If you are using the built-in micro USB charge port, the device will charge both batteries equally. If you are looking for a vaping system that lasts a good long time between charges, this is about the safest way to achieve that. If you use paired batteries (bought at the same time and exclusive to this device), you shouldn't run into any issues. I used two Samsung 25R INR batteries that are 2500 mAh rated at 30 amp continuous and 100 amp pulse. In the Unicorn that is giving me 4.2 volts at full charge and 5000 mAh which should be good for about three full days of regular use. And, please note, although claimed in the manual that this is based on the Yihi Chipset, it is NOT. This is a clone of the Yihi chipset.
PS. Now that I have completed this series of tests on the Unicorn, I will be adding a carbon fiber wrap to it. Check back again for a hand-check photo.
Update - January 11 2015: I have been using the Unicorn 50 Watt unit for several days now. I must say it is a most disappointing unit. On the first day, the dual batteries – fully charged – lasted about 12 hours, not even a full day. After trickle charging to full capacity, the unit did not last any more than 15 hours at the most. I also noticed that after releasing the fire button, the Unicorn continues to pulse fire (likely contributing to the short time between charges). After this update, I do not recommend the Unicorn.
Update - January 17 2015: I had set the Unicorn aside and wasn't planning on using it after discovering that when you release the fire button, the Unicorn continues to power the coil. That's probably the reason the batteries were only lasting less than 15 hours. However, I ended up finding a returned IPV 2 at a local vape shop (thanks NYX E-Cigs). The circuit board was fine, the wiring connections from the batteries to the board were toast. I stripped the IPV 2 down completely and salvaged the circuit board. It's the same dimensions as the Unicorn board. I disassembled the Unicorn, removed the cheap circuitry, replaced it with the IPV 2 circuit board and new wiring. The only major modification that I had to make was to adapt some spacers for a different spacing between the micro switches on the IPV 2 and the Unicorn buttons. Now everything works perfectly, no button rattle, no more firing after releasing the fire button, and the micro USB charger works. Quite thrilled with the result, and will let you all know how long the batteries last and how long it takes to recharge from full depleted.
Update - January 24 2015: During a live-stream broadcast of Clouded Judgement, I noticed that one of the QC stickers had come off. It had been covering the battery indicator on the plastic battery holder. The company that made the Unicorn obviously used parts that were not designed for the Unicorn ... the picture shows what I mean. The left battery has the positive at the top and negative at the bottom, and the right battery has the negative at the top and the positive at the bottom – that is incorrect. Now, if you look at the cover, the imprint is correct showing both positive at the top, both negative at the bottom.
Caveat Emptor ... buyer beware.
This is one of the worst designs and worst builds I have ever seen. Unless someone is technical and spends time inspecting – and fixing this thing with expensive parts – there is absolutely little (if any) value in this product. The only reason anyone should consider purchasing this product is as a parts box. You will need a new chipset (likely from a donor IPV 2).