Although the growth of the vaping industry has increased the amount of choices available, it has also enhanced the confusion felt by those dipping their toe into vaping for the first time. Those who are unfamiliar with the industry often believe that all vaping devices are more or less the same. However, as experienced users know, each vaporizer model has distinct qualities and features that set it apart.
One of the biggest points of confusion is the type of heating element used in vaporizers. If you’ve performed any kind of research into vaping, you have doubtless come across the terms atomizer, clearomizer, and cartomizer. While all three essentially do the same thing – atomize the herb or liquid to create vapor – they all achieve it in different ways.
In this guide, we explain the differences between the three types of units, along with a quick look at each of their pros and cons.
How Do They Work?
Atomizers, clearomizers and cartomizers all have a negative and positive post, with a coil wrapped around a wick made from a heat-resistant material that is connected to the two posts. When you add the liquid to your vaping device, the wick holds and absorbs it, and the coils are heated up to help create vapor. As long as there is liquid, your wick remains wet due to osmosis.
The wick provides a steady flow of liquid without flooding the device’s coil. Incidentally, if you hear a gurgling sound and vapor production dwindles noticeably, it is likely that your atomizer has become flooded.
In this instance, you have to either shake the device until it becomes dry, or blow through the opposite end of its atomizer. In a nutshell, all three units (atomizer vs clearomizer vs cartomizer) all hold your e-liquid and vaporize it so you can enjoy your marijuana oil without worrying about combustion.
What is an Atomizer?
An atomizer was the first of the three to be created, but as it is the system found in older vaporizers, it typically has a relatively small capacity. The atomizer is a good option for users who prefer ‘dripping,’ which is the process of applying e-liquid directly to an atomizer one drop at a time. It completely bypasses the tank or cartridge.
As we already mentioned, an atomizer uses a heating element to vaporize your e-liquid. It is normally found in a three-piece vaporizer and is favored by users intent on deriving the best possible flavor from their e-juice. Atomizers are the shortest of the three options, and if you use a 510 or 305 atomizer, you need 3-4 drops when dripping, which provides you with ten puffs or so.
With an atomizer, it is relatively easy to determine when a refill is necessary. Over time, the flavor becomes less apparent, and if you continue without refilling, you will soon suffer the horrors of a burnt taste!
- Ideal for dripping, which is the ‘go-to’ option for people who want to experience several flavors during a session.
- Easy to refill.
- Refilling continually is a pain for regular users.
- You can purchase rebuildable atomizers, but it takes time and skill to assemble.
- It isn’t easy to gauge the amount of e-liquid left.
What is a Clearomizer?
Better known as ‘tanks,’ clearomizers come in a variety of shapes and sizes and have the largest capacity of the three options. It is normal to find one with a capacity of at least 5 ml, which should provide you with ample vape oil for your needs. As clearomizers are clear tanks (hence the name), you can easily see how much juice is left at any time.
Once the coil gets worn down in a clearomizer, you can rebuild a new coil and wick, or buy a pre-built coil head. Clearomizers are the most recent of the three units, and offer a greater level of customization. For example you can choose the resistance level, the type of wick, and the size of the tank.
Overall, users of clearomizers need to concern themselves with tank size and the type of coil they wish to use. In general, there are three different types of clearomizer coil available:
These coils place the atomizer closer to your mouthpiece, which is ideal if you want to replicate the experience of smoking a tobacco cigarette. As you only have to remove the top cap for a refill, it is a convenient option for beginners. However, the wick and the coil placement mean there is a greater likelihood of suffering dry hits.
You can alleviate this problem slightly by tilting the tank towards your mouthpiece. Overall, top coils are fine if you don’t mind vaping at an angle, or don’t find it annoying to have to tilt the device.
If you choose a bottom coil setup, you don’t have to worry about tilting. It provides a cooler vaping experience than its top coil counterpart, and is ideal if you want a fuller flavor.
On the downside, there is a greater risk of flooding with bottom coils, an issue that is exacerbated if you choose a porous wick material.
Even if you choose a thicker material for the wick, you could end up with dry hits. As a result, it isn’t easy to enjoy a premium-quality vaping experience with bottom coils. And as you have to remove the entire tank just to refill, this form of a coil can also be pretty inconvenient.
At one time, dual coils were considered an innovation. Today, it is becoming increasingly common for vaporizers to come with triple or even quadruple coils. If you want a lot of vapor and enjoy a strong throat hit, then this is the option for you. As the heat isn’t focused on one coil, you’ll also enjoy a cooler and more refreshing vaping experience.
On the downside, multi coils use a lot more battery, so you have to recharge often. This isn’t that big of an issue if you use a device with a large battery. Ultimately, top coils are best for a warm vaping experience, bottom coils are #1 for flavor, while multi coils are best for vapor production (bigger clouds).
- Largest tank capacity of the three options.
- Longer lifespan.
- You can see how much is left in the tank because it is clear.
- Excellent flavor/vapor production depending on the coil you choose.
- Most models are rebuildable and come with a replacement coil.
- The most expensive option.
- Prone to leaking if you choose a low-grade option.
- If you choose the top coil design, you have to tip the device to the side.
- If you use different flavors, there could be an overlap in taste.
What is a Cartomizer?
While a cartomizer is about the same width as an atomizer, it is longer and uses a cotton-style fiber rather than a silicon wick. These days, practically all vape manufacturers prefer to use dual coil cartomizers instead of old-fashioned single coil models. While dual coils offer more vapor and lower resistance for a better vaping experience, they use more battery.
Cartomizers have a greater capacity than atomizers, and you can refill them once the flavor becomes bland. Alas, refilling is not an easy process since it involves tipping the cartomizer at an angle to ensure you don’t fill the air hole. If you end up dry burning the cartomizer, you will ruin the polyfill which will have to be tossed away.
Although they were hailed as an innovation when initially released, cartomizers are now seen as outdated. Modern-day atomizers have a greater capacity than cartomizers, and don’t come with the irritation of awkward refilling. On the plus side, cartomizers come pre-filled at first.
- Not too difficult to rebuild.
- Usually come prefilled.
- Relatively low cost.
- A nightmare to refill.
- Although it has a greater capacity than older atomizers, new atomizers match or exceed a cartomizer’s capacity.
- The polyfill material can dull the flavor.
Final Thoughts: Atomizer vs Clearomizer vs Cartomizer
As you can plainly see, all three of these options have significant pros and cons. None of them are ‘perfect,’ and it generally boils down to your personal preference.
However, we can unequivocally state that cartomizers are outdated and not really worth purchasing unless an innovation comes along to save them. (You can forget this advice if you don’t mind purchasing cheap pre-filled cartomizers every time, because trying to refill them yourself is a very annoying process).
Originally, it seemed as if atomizers were becoming antiquated, but innovations – especially in the realm of capacity – have ensured that they remain the favored option for advanced users. They are a high maintenance choice, but if you are a flavor aficionado and appreciate the best tasting vape oils on the market, there is no other option. If you are a beginner, it is worth purchasing a spare atomizer if you want to enjoy several flavors in a session.
Clearomizers are the best type of vaporizer for beginners because they are convenient and easy to use. Experienced users also enjoy clearomizers because of the range of customization that they offer; if you are new to vaping and want to try out different draw resistances, simply swap out the coil heads. As a vaping veteran, rebuilding a variety of coil configurations will help provide you with exceptional vapor production along with outstanding flavor.