Sunday, May 12, 2019

X-Mode Energy Shots on Tap: Jacked Apple, Tangerine Scream, Cherry Bomb (Online)

Energy drinks in a box, anyone?
As some of you are probably well aware, simply from the number of energy liquids I have reviewed on this site, I'm always looking for new ways to get energized, without breaking the bank. You see, name brand energy drinks (and even the shots, for that matter) are always incredibly overpriced, lest you manage to get them on sale or a closeout. As one who doesn't drink coffee, I have to have something to get me through the early morning work grind, and I've found that drinks and shots are the way to go, with the latter being my preferred method as of late: They have a greater concentration of energy in a smaller package, making them portable (at my job I'm almost always on my feet, so I want something that I can take with me wherever I may roam), and resealable, so you can lock in the freshness even after they've been opened.

I found a great ally in Aldi's Red Thunder Extra Strength energy shots, which are some of my favorites in terms of flavor, but those recently took a slight price hike, up to $.79 (from $.69). Kroger has also entered into the shot game recently (or at least, started pushing them more because I'd never seen them before), though they can't seem to decide where in the store to sell them or how many should come in a pack. (They used to sell two-packs across a variety of flavors for a respectable $1.49, but lately I've only seen singles for $1.19 and a six-pack for $6). Dollar Tree has a product of their own to throw into the fray, as well, offering up a 4 oz. mega-shot for a mere $1, making them the straight-up winner in terms of price, at $.50 per 2 oz. serving. Yet that comes at the expense of flavor, because they easily taste the worst of the lot (though they do provide energy, so at least they work.)

Well down the rabbit hole I went: If Dollar Tree can offer shots for $.50 a serving, then surely there had to be something out there that would be even cheaper than that, right? And obsessively researching the answer to that question is how I stumbled on X-Mode, a product that blends convenience and gimmick, smart and stupid, danger and liability, all into one large 100 oz. box.

It's basically like boxed wine, for the energy drink crowd: the box contains an inner pouch of flavored energy drink that you then dispense, via tap, into the included “Mode-2-Go” bottles, which are little 2 oz. plastic bottles that come complete with screw-on lid for maximum portability. Each package comes with two of them, allowing you and a loved one (or roommate) to share in your caffeine dependency together. The bottles are marked with serving lines, so you can tell how many ounces are remaining in the bottle; this is also useful if you're planning to ration them out, as I do.

There were initially two flavors at the time I first tried them (tangerine and cherry), but they have since branched out with a new apple flavor that I recently tried. X-Mode markets themselves as the “best tasting energy shot on the market”. Is that just a hyperbolic statement for the purposes of marketing, or is there some truth to that?

It depends on where your flavor preferences lie. I will say that, in terms of comparing them to other shots, there is really none of the medicine-y, metallic taste that you get with most of them. So if you're someone that doesn't like the taste of other ones—which all do seem to tread in line with one another—you might find this as a welcome breath of fresh air. The “might”, however, is emphasized because the trade-off is that these are almost sickeningly sweet, and artificial as all hell. I'm not going to say that, personally, drinking them got to be a chore for me—because as I've mentioned a thousand times before, my palate steers more toward the sweet anyway—but for those who have more “refined” tastes, drinking them with any regularity might start to become a burden somewhere within the first week (my wife, for example, refused to even touch it after trying it once or twice, opting for nothing even when she had no other caffeine sources in the house and was going through symptoms of caffeine withdrawal).

Use the tap to dispense the drink into the included 2 oz. bottles.
On to performance: Quite simply put, this stuff works. Say whatever you want about the overall stupidity of the product idea (valid point), or its disgusting taste (also a valid point for some), but it's powerful stuff, coming in at a strong 150mg of caffeine per ounce. That's right, per single ounce. That means if you fill the bottle up to the 2 oz. line, you're getting a full 300 mg of caffeine, which is more than even the mass-marketed extra strength energy shots, and for literally a fraction of the price. Even better: despite their sweet taste, they are sugar-free, so there's no sugar crash involved once the effect starts wearing off. This isn't much of a surprise considering, as far as I know, every energy shot is sugar free, but it's still a must for me: sugared energy drinks make me feel like shit almost immediately after drinking them.

Well now let's take a look at value: The first box I got, fell way under my expectations, as I had to reorder another one almost exactly thirty days after ordering the first one because I was running low. Now, to be fair, I did end up wringing about ten more days out of it, bringing the total to about forty days of total use (very unscientific, this method of estimation; should have taken notes). Forty days might not sound too bad, but considering drinking 2 oz. per day should have given me 50 servings, and I was drinking less than that every day, it felt like I was getting a little shorted.

The latest box I got was delivered on November 5th and, as of Christmas Day, I still had some left. Sure, it was on its last leg, and I had to fight with it to keep getting some of that precious, precious liquid (which lasted another three or so days before running out completely), but it felt more in line with what I was expecting, considering I drank even more per serving this time around (still under 2 oz. on most days, but there were a few where I downed the whole thing, something I don't think I ever did the first time). Long story short: The company claims it's “as low as $.30 per serving”, which is technically true, because they dictate a serving as 1 oz. and there are 100 servings for $30 (the “as low as” is kind of weird; whether or not people drink more, a serving is a serving). However, most people will probably need more than that, and if you go up to 2 oz. per day, that's still only $.50 per shot, which is still a very respectable number that represents a solid value.

I do have two main qualms with this product, though, and both kind of go hand-in-hand: I don't like the box design, which is very heavy on its own and conceals the amount of product left; and the idea of “tapping” your own bottles, while admittedly kind of neat at first, gets kind of cumbersome toward the end as you're running low on liquid. That's when you have to shake and tilt, and shift the box and pouch around at various angles just to wring out every last possible drop, lest you want to waste both valuable caffeine, and your hard-earned money. I understand that the box probably has to be hefty to withstand the rigors of shipping, but it could benefit the company to look into lighter packaging, which would mean less costly shipping for them (it's free to us either way), which would translate to more profits (in simple theory).

I also don't think there's quite 100 oz. in each pouch, although it could just come down to the packaging: even at the very end, there are some leftover drops that just stick to the inside of the plastic bag and can't be accessed. All that probably adds up to another serving or two. It's a rather nit-picky issue, and certainly not enough of one to call it a "gyp", but worth mentioning: Both times I had to reorder a little quicker than I thought I would, despite never exceeding 2 oz. in one day.

We'll round this one out with a flavor comparison, though again, the basic flavor profiles (saccharine-sweet) are all the same. The cherry flavor reminds me a lot of what it would probably taste like to drink cherry Icee syrup straight from the machine, though oddly not as satisfying as I thought that would be. The tangerine's taste reminds me of the intense, fakey smell of orange-scented cleaning products, captured in a drinkable liquid. Thankfully, it tastes better than that, with a hint of goofy, candy-style orange flavoring amidst the sea of chemical-induced sweetness. The apple, which is their newest flavor, is probably my favorite, with a flavor reminiscent of a melted-down apple candy, like a Jolly Rancher or Airhead, in liquid form.

Overall: 8/10. I've overthought and rambled on about a boxed energy drink for far too long already, but to recap: it's a solid product for the price, assuming you can put up with the overly sweet, candy-style flavors. The tradeoff to the sickening sweetness, though, is that there's really none of the metallic-y, medicine-style aftertaste prevalent in so many others; this could be a great option for people who tend to stay away from most shots because of the taste. “Tapping” the product is great for full control over serving sizes, but it can also get a little annoying toward the end of the pouch, when you have to tilt the box or move the pouch around just to wring out every drop of that precious liquid; the box is also too heavy on its own, making it hard to tell how much of the liquid is actually left (without taking it out and looking manually). Working in its favor, though, is that this product packs a whopping 150mg of caffeine per ounce, and it feels like it, kicking in quickly and with no noticeable “crash”, considering it's also sugar free. I also like the added convenience of not having to go to the store to buy individual energy shot bottles every week.

PRO TIP: Order these from eBay, where they are already cheaper to begin with ($27.99 instead of $29.99) and have Best Offer accepted, allowing you to knock that price down even more. (NOTE that the "Best Offer" tip only applies to the cherry and tangerine flavors; since apple is the newest flavor, it is exempt from offers, but the $27.99 price tag still applies.)




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