For as many cigars as there are on the market, there seem to be just about as many ways to light them. There are the big differences such as torch flames versus soft flames, and certainly enough designs to give cognitive overload, but then there are other differences that are more integral into how the lighter functions.
In general, cigar lighters tend to work on a system of a piezo ignition, a process in which an electric charge is generated when certain materials are subjected to high pressure. In practical terms, it means press a button or pull down on a button, create a small spark that ignites a flow of butane. Specifically, a small, spring-loaded hammer hits a crystal of PZT or quartz crystal, creating voltage that gets conducted along a wire to where the spark should come out and ignite the gas. While it was a pretty significant technological innovation, it has become so commonplace that we don’t think much of it anymore.
Some companies have looked to update that mechanism however, replacing the mechanism with a small, rechargeable lithium ion battery to create the spark, one of which is Visol. This year the company rolled out the Visol Hybrid USB Triple Torch Cigar Lighter ($40), which is just what it sounds like as far as the lighter end of things, but which comes with a battery that gets recharged via a USB power connection, much like a cell phone or numerous other electronic devices.
WHAT IS IT?
If you read the title of this review, you pretty much picked up the bulk of what this lighter is about. It’s a pocket-friendly triple-torch lighter that uses a USB-powered electronic ignition to light the flame as opposed to a traditional piezo ignition. As such, there is a USB port on the bottom of the lighter, in addition to the traditional fuel valve. It measures about 3 inches tall by 1.6 inches wide and .5 inches thick, while weighing just under .3 pounds. It also comes with a built-in cigar punch on the base of the lighter, as well as a flame adjustment mechanism that requires a flathead screwdriver or similar tool to use. It is available in gunmetal (pictured) as well as matte black, both of which have a silver accent piece around the ignition mechanism and the top of the lighter.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?
The battery-powered electronic ignition is the central part of this lighter, providing several clicks to ignite the butane and give you a pretty good chance of achieving ignition on each press of the button. And because of the lack of a piezo ignition, the force needed to activate the flame is significantly less than a typical lighter.
- The butane doesn’t start flowing when the lid is flipped up, but rather when the ignition button is depressed. It’s a small thing, but I like the fact that you have to actively be using the lighter for the butane to be flowing as opposed to leaving it open and having the fuel flowing out. This is something that isn’t an issue with most piezo lighters but is an issue on a lot of soft flame lighters.
- Similarly, when the lid is closed, the battery is automatically disengaged, making it impossible to ignite the lighter.
- If you need to recharge the battery, if you have a micro USB cable, you have a number of options to do so: a traditional outlet, a USB outlet, a car charger or a portable battery pack are all viable options. It wasn’t until I was on the road and needed to recharge the lighter that I realized just how many options I had to so do.
- The ergonomics of the lighter are pretty solid. The curved space for your thumb reflects heart pretty well and makes it easy to keep the butane flowing. There is no locking mechanism so you must keep the ignition button depressed to keep the flame going, but it is very easy and comfortable to do so.
- While I’m not a frequent user of a punch cutter, the one on this Visol performed quite well.
- The glaringly obvious omission of a fuel window seems almost inexcusable for a lighter of this price point and just where the accessories market is currently.
- Similarly, there is no indicator for the battery’s level, and when it’s out, it’s out. I was on my way to a ballgame when the battery finally died after about a month’s worth of use, and as soon as it does, the lighter becomes unusable. Incidentally, there is an indicator light to show when the lighter is successfully charging.
- Put these two things together, and you have two things that can effectively disable the lighter to consider before taking it out for use.
- I don’t recall subjecting this lighter to any harsh environments, but when I went to record the video, it made me notice just how scratched up this lighter had become. While it works as well as it did on day one of use, it doesn’t look quite as good.
- While it’s not a huge problem, I would love for the angle of the lid top be tilted back a few more degrees. It’s angled just enough so that it could be considered to be in the way of lighting certain cigars.
In terms of triple flame torch lighters, there isn’t enough code to cover all the competitors. But if you’re looking for something with a battery-powered ignition, there are a few out on the market are worth considering.
- Vector ICON ($80) — One of a handful of lighters with USB-rechargeable batteries, this features a touch-sensitive panel—I’m hesitant to call it a screen—that triggers the ignition. Aside from a bit of use at the IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, I have yet to use this on a regular basis, but it seemed to be worthy of consideration if a tech-forward lighter was a priority.
- Rocky Patel Laser Lighter ($59.99) — I reviewed this lighter in February 2015 and found it to be a very impressive option, though it is a single torch as opposed to the triple torch found on the Visol Hybrid. I generally prefer the single torch option, and the Rocky Patel Laser Lighter remains one of my favorite options in that category.
- JetLine Touch ($90) — While this lighter was discontinued about two years ago, it is still available at some retailers, and uses a similar technology as the others on this list to trigger the electronic ignition. I haven’t had the opportunity to use it, but it was one that had me intrigued, and I have heard chatter that an updated model is in the works.
A FEW OTHER NOTES
- There is a definitive sound when igniting the Visol Hybrid USB Triple Torch Cigar Lighter, not too unlike that of a Taser, stun gun or electric fly swatter. Be prepared for some interesting looks when you fire this up around people for the first time.
- Seeing my phone, headphones, Bluetooth speaker, camera batteries and lighter all plugged into the same USB hub was an interesting sight.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?
No. There are some real flaws with this lighter, and for as much as I enjoyed using it and think there is some merit to it, it’s hard to overlook what this lacks. Let me be clear: in terms of function when filled up and charged, it is quite good. I never had a problem with it and it lights about as reliably as any lighter I’ve used in recent memory. But the burden of keeping it full and charged is on you and the lighter does nothing to help with that. The lack of a fuel window and charge indicator is pretty noticeable, and it’s too easy for this to become unusable, all in the name of a battery-operated ignition that provides marginal benefit over a traditional piezo ignition.