Whether you’re new to vaping or a seasoned user, choosing your next vape device, parts, accessories and mods can be a daunting task. Vaping’s explosion in popularity has brought about a wave of new brands and products pushing the limits of innovation. For example, our very own LotoLabs has developed the world’s first induction heat vaporizer.
And while innovation is welcomed with open arms, it can make finding the right options for your device challenging. One of those challenges is making the decision between cartomizers, clearomizers, and atomizers.
In this guide, we’ll tackle what is often considered to be one of the most confusing questions vapers have: “What are the differences between cartomizers, atomizers and clearomizers, and which one is the best fit for me?”
Overview – what the heck are they anyway?
All three are devices that attach (most typically screwed on) to the power supply or battery in order to facilitate the delivery of e-liquid or concentrate to you in vapor form. In other words, they “atomize” or turn your vape juice or concentrate into vapor. They do this by heating the substrate to a temperature at which it vaporizes from a liquid to the familiar clouds of vapor that we’re all accustomed to.
So is one better than the other? Not necessarily. It all comes down to context (i.e. how you plan on using your vape) and your goals. That said, it is important to note that all vape devices need one of the three to function properly.
How they work
While we won’t go all “rocket scientist” on you here, it is important to understand the basics of what goes on under the hood. All cartomizers, atomizers, and clearomizers have both a positive and a negative post. A coil wrapped wick (often made of silica) is attached to these posts.
When e-liquid is introduced, the wick acts to absorb, hold and position the fluid in contact with the coil. As the coil increases in temperature, it heats the e-liquid to a point at which it vaporizes.
Why even include a wick? The wick acts to mediate the proper (and steady) flow of e-juice without flooding the coil. An indication of a flooded coil is a gurgling sound and weak vapor production, neither of which is optimal.
Now that you have a general understanding of what’s going on inside your device, let’s dig into the main topic and get you the information you need to make the right choice about atomizers, cartomizers, and clearomizers.
Atomizers represent some of the earliest vape devices. They have traditionally been used in other applications to emit water vapor (much like with vapes), perfume or other liquids as a vapor or spray.
As it relates to vaping, atomizers transform e-juice into water vapor for inhalation. Atomizers are noted for their lower capacity, making them a better fit for those individuals preferring “dripping”. The vaping community generally recognizes atomizers as either RDA (re-buildable dripping atomizers), otherwise also known as RBA (re-buildable atomizers).
Parts / Components
Atomizers come in varying designs, but the overwhelming majority utilize a lower positioned heating coil with metal mesh over the top. While less common, some atomizers make use of a silica wick in lieu of metal mesh.
Break-down of an Atomizer:
- Device assembly/housing
- Atomizer tank
- Mesh (metal) or silica wick
- Heating coil
- Battery thread and base of the unit
The primary benefit of using an atomizer (either RDA or RBA) is the ability to easily play with flavor optimization. Atomizers make it easy to adjust the intensity and overall flavor profile of your e-juice.
They also allow for the ease of switching flavors after every few hits without having to wait until the tank is empty to swap out e-juices.
Dripping the e-juice directly onto the atomizer may also improve flavor by way of its freshness, providing a cleaner, more robust flavor. Vape purists often cite atomizers as the best way to experience vaping.
- Perfect for dripping
- Easily swap out e-juices / flavors
- Simple design
- Low cost
The most glaring disadvantage of this type of system is the extra work and inconvenience it places on the user. This setup doesn’t allow for you to simply pull out your device and take a drag. You’ll need space to set things up and carefully drip your e-juice on the wick prior to enjoying. This may be especially frustrating if you are walking or riding in a car where motion can cause you to spill.
- Users need to purchase pre-wrapped coils or learn to make their own
- Requires users to carry bottles of e-juice with them to saturate the wick
- Dripping is required every 5-10 drags to avoid “dry hits”
- Requires set up space and minimal movement
Often described as “extended atomizers”, a cartomizer is a longer cased atomizer with a heating coil wrapped in poly-fill. The poly-fill acts as a type of sponge, soaking up e-juice and allowing for a slower release over the atomizer.
As compared to traditional atomizers, cartomizers can hold a larger amount of e-juice, allowing users to experience longer vape sessions without the need for refilling.
Cartomizers come in varying designs, each with their own unique use cases.
Extended Atomizers – these are cartomizers that are typically longer than traditional atomizers but similar in width. However, in contrast to traditional atomizers, these models use poly-fil vs silica fillers or wicks. Poly-fill is a cotton-like fibrous material that is used to absorb and hold the e-juice in place.
Single and Dual Coil – The majority of cartomizers on the market today are dual coil. Dual coils provide a lower resistance, and, as a result, produce more vapor. That said, duel coils also use more power and thus drain your battery source much quicker.
Parts / Components
While designs can vary, in general, cartomizers consist of a single metal wire positioned in a metal tube. This tube is wrapped with an artificial filler commonly known as “poly-fil”. This filler ensures the coil maintains constant and consistent contact with the e-juice.
Parts typically include:
- Assembled unit / housing
- Cartomizer itself
- Heating coil
- Base with battery threading
Cartomizers often come pre-filled with e-juice. This can be a benefit for those looking to purchase and vape quickly without any additional hassle.
Other benefits include:
- Capacity to hold a larger volume of e-juice as compared to an atomizer
- Low cost / low barrier to entry
- Fast and convenient
- Moderately easy to refill
- Simple to re-build
Cartomizers have, in large part, lost their place as the most used technology in vape devices. With rapid advancements in vaping have come alternative parts and devices that can outwork and outperform older cartomizers.
A few key disadvantages include:
- Moderately awkward refilling (you risk spilling into the air hole)
- Risk of burning the poly-fil
- Not as suitable for heavy vape sessions
- Poly-fill “may” affect flavor
- May retain residue and thus flavor from previous e-juices used
Clearomizers represent some of the latest improvements in vaping. Typically cylindrical in shape, these units feature a Pyrex or clear polycarbonate glass tank. Transparent tanks allow users to clearly see the amount of e-juice left in their device. These tanks also house disposable or replaceable “pre-built” atomizers.
Clearomizers come in a multitude of sizes, configurations and shapes, and are generally capable of holding more e-juice than either atomizers or cartomizers, with capacities ranging from 2-5ml. This makes them a great option for long vape sessions or continual use throughout the day, eliminating the need to carry around bottles of e-juice for re-filling.
Another key feature of clearomizers is the amount of customization you can implement. From optimizing resistance, to regulating the flow of e-juice, the options are endless.
Parts / Components
Clearomizers generally consist of four major components:
- The mouthpiece (also known as the drip tip) – this is where you place your mouth to begin a drag.
- The tank (typically clear), made of Pyrex or glass that stores the e-juice
- Base – screws into the tank and sometimes houses a replaceable atomizer
- Wick and Coils
Clearomizers offer a number of benefits that both novice and advanced vapers will appreciate.
Here is a short list:
- Increased holding capacity of e-juice (up to 5ml)
- Transparent tanks for ease of seeing how much e-juice is left
- Customizable options abound
- Longer life-cycle
It can’t all be rainbows and sunshine right? Here are a few potential downsides to using clearomizers:
Higher initial cost
- Possible flavor retention from previous e-juices used
- Potential for cracking of the glass / Pyrex tank
- Some designs may require tipping of the clearomizer for absorption of left over e-juice
- Swapping out coils can result in e-juice spills if not careful
Each has their own unique benefits and disadvantages, and what aspects are more important to you will be largely based on how you intend to use and experience your vape device.
Arguments can be made that all three have specific use cases where they excel over the others. That said, clearomizers are quickly becoming one of the more popular options for standard use.
Given the amount of maintenance and tinkering involved, atomizers are generally reserved for more experienced users. Conversely, cartomizers are typically the simplest, and great for grab and go scenarios. Where cartomizers fall short, clearomizers pick up, making them a great option for daily use.
In the end, the decision is in your hands. We hope that this guide helped provide you with information that will help you make the best decision for your needs.
And if you’re looking for something even more innovative and user friendly, check out The Loto Legend from LotoLabs.com, the world’s easiest and fastest induction heat vaporizer. Classy, stylish, and perfect for dabbing waxes, concentrates, and more.