Best Vape Tanks 2018
October 2, 2018

Atomizers vs Clearomizers vs Cartomizers: Everything You Need to Know

If you are new to vaping you are probably wondering what all these terms refer to. Even if you have been vaping for a while, you have probably stumbled upon some confusing terminology, making you second guess what you are actually using. Someone might refer to a device as a sub ohm tank, a reviewer might call it an atomizer, while a vape shop catalog might list it as a clearomizer.

Vaping is still relatively new and its terminology is still evolving; words are often used interchangeably and devices can be referred to in various ways. We know that this can become a burden, especially if you are trying to find the best vape equipment to help you quit smoking. The purpose of this guide is to make everything simpler and help you pick and choose the best kind of vape tank for your own needs.

What is an atomizer?

Atomizers vs Clearomizers vs Cartomizers

The definition of an atomizer is “a device for emitting water, perfume, or other liquids as a fine spray.” In vape terms, the word refers to any device that vaporizes e-liquid. In fact, there are many ways the term atomizer has been used throughout vape history.

An “atomizer” used to refer to the coil of any vape tank, the part that is responsible for vaporizing e-liquid. It was later stretched to describe the entire vape tank, i.e. what you would put on top of a mod to vape. Rebuildables, clearomizers and cartomizers were all considered “atomizers.”

Nowadays (and for the purpose of this guide), the word “atomizer” is an umbrella term that refers specifically to the rebuildable side of vape gear — the tanks (and drippers) where the user has to build their own coils. RDAs, RTAs and RDTAs are what we commonly refer to as atomizers, although the term is sometimes still used for non-rebuildable vape tanks.

How do atomizers work?

Modern atomizers are built and operated in similar ways. What you need is a simple set of tools, wire or a pre-made coil, and wick (usually cotton.)

  • Prepare your coil and secure it on the atomizer’s build deck (you will need to do this again for atomizers that require more than one coil.)
  • Check coil resistance on an ohm meter or a vape mod, making sure you are aware of the limits of your device and battery safety.
  • Slowly dry burn your coil(s) to remove hot spots and make sure it glows evenly (this can be skipped if using spaced coils as they will generally not have hot spots.)
  • Leave it aside for a while to allow it to cool down to room temperature.
  • Prepare your wick and place it inside your coil(s).
  • Place the wick tails in the wicking channels.
  • Drip some e-juice on the coil to prime your wick.
  • Let it saturate for a bit.

That’s it. The power you will need to fire your atomizer at depends on the specifications of your coils, so start low until you reach your desired vape. If you are using a rebuildable dripping atomizer (RDA), then keep dripping every time you sense it is getting dry. If you have a rebuildable tank atomizer (RTA), then fill up the tank and don’t let it get empty. On a rebuildable dripping tank atomizer (RDTA) you can do both.

While the process seems straightforward, it may get a bit more complicated than that. Not all atomizers are built the same way, and some are much easier to use than others. Some atomizers are designed for single coils, some for dual and some for triple or more. Some decks are easy to work with, while others might be more demanding. Even wicking an atomizer might be more complicated than it sounds: wick channels might be too small or too large, wicks might need to be combed out to help with saturation and wick length may need to be carefully measured. For these reasons, rebuildable atomizers are the most demanding vape tanks out there, but also the ones that can give the most tailor-made experience!

What is a clearomizer?

Atomizers vs Clearomizers vs Cartomizers

Clearomizers are the most popular and widely used devices for vaping. The word comes from the combination of “clear” and “atomizer.” They usually comprise of a glass or plastic clear tank, a replaceable coil which screws on the base of the tank, a chimney that connects the coil with the top cap, and a mouthpiece. The first popular clearomizers were the CE4 and CE5 by Aspire, who also produced some of the most popular modern clearomizers with the Nautilus line.

All vape tanks that take replaceable coils are clearomizers, although the term is nowadays mostly used for MTL tanks. They may come with a 510 connection that allows them to be used with a variety of vape mods, or as non-removeable parts of vape kits, usually in cylindrical form.

How does a clearomizer work?

A clearomizer is very easy to use as long as you get the basics straight. The first step is to carefully prime your coil by dripping some e-liquid in it. Screw it inside the tank, assembly the rest of the parts, fill the tank with juice and let it sit for a while. This will allow the wick to get saturated properly. If your tank comes as a part of a kit without wattage adjustability, you may now start vaping!

If you are using a variable wattage device, start vaping from the lower recommended wattage and work your way up until you reach the vape you are satisfied with. If you start experiencing a dry vape, lower your wattage a little bit. Be careful not to exceed the recommended wattage you see written on the coil: this will most certainly lead to some nasty dry hits.

Clearomizers are not as easy to operate as cartomizers, but certainly easier than atomizers. Many people will start vaping on a clearomizer, as newer products will combine an excellent vape experience without the hassle of having to build your own coils. If you are using a carto and want to get a better vaping experience without having to mess with tools and wires, then clearomizers are the best way to go.

What is a cartomizer?

Atomizers vs Clearomizers vs Cartomizers

A cartomizer is a vaping device that attaches to the end of a battery. They are also commonly referred to as cigalikes or just e-cigarettes. The word comes from the merge of the words “cartridge” and “atomizer.” The cartomizer and battery together will usually resemble the size and shape of a cigarette, with the cartomizer being the filter. Most of the times, cartomizers are pre-filled and replaceable. The wicking material used in cartos is usually polyester fiberfill, commonly referred to as polyfill.

How does a cartomizer work?

Cartomizers are the easiest to operate of the bunch. The fact that they usually come pre-filled makes vaping on them a simple two-part process: just screw the cartomizer on the battery and press the button while inhaling. Seriously, there is nothing else to do. When you start getting a reduced amount of vapor per puff, its more or less time to throw the carto away and buy a new one. Cartomizers will not drive your taste buds crazy, but they will deliver the nicotine you need while emulating the size, shape and draw of a cigarette.

What should you choose?

Atomizers vs Clearomizers vs Cartomizers

If you want to combine ease of use with performance, then you should probably go for a clearomizer. A good sub ohm or MTL clearomizer will offer a high quality vape while at the same time let you replace your coils in a matter of seconds. Coils will cost you some money, but they are reasonably priced and you will generally replace them once every week or two anyway. Consider clearomizers as the golden mean of vape gear.

If you are after the best performance and willing to learn how to build and wick, then an atomizer sounds like your kind of vape gear. Atomizers are the best performers of the bunch and will generally give the best flavor out of all the other kinds of vape tanks. They will also cost less in the long term, as cotton and wire are usually very cheap to source. You will need to do some research and chances are you will not nail it on the first try, but practice makes perfect when it comes to building on an atomizer. Follow our instructions and watch some videos, chances are you will be building excellent coils in no time.

If all of that sounds too complicated to you, then by all means go for a cartomizer. You will not get the best performance when it comes to flavor and vapor production, but it will satisfy your nicotine cravings while emulating a cigarette. You can’t beat the ease of use of a cartomizer, simple as that. Just keep your battery charged and always have extra cartos available.

Remember that it doesn’t matter what kind of e-cig you will be using: the best vape is the one what works for you. Some people quit smoking with quad coil RDAs, while some will stay loyal to their cigalikes for years and years. Just do what you feel is best for you and stay smoke-free — that’s what counts.

My first attempt at vaping came back in 2009 on some of the first cigalikes to ever reach Europe. A couple of attempts -- and vaping tech generations later -- I managed to quit smoking in 2016, and have since then developed somewhat of an obsession with all things vaping. When I am not consuming vape reviews I am either tinkering my NBA fantasy teams or playing board games with friends.

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