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Atomizers vs. Cartomizer vs. Clearomizers: An Expert's Guide

Sit down with VaporFi experts to learn about the pros and cons of the three main heating methods for your electronic cigarette

Non-vapers and the mainstream media may talk about electronic cigarettes like they're all the same thing, but the true enthusiast knows better than to lump all vape devices into one category. "Electronic cigarettes" is the universal term for all of the various devices being enjoyed as a better alternative to smoking; however, each model has certain features and qualities that make it unique from other models.

One of these big distinctions is which type of heating component a vape device uses. When shopping for a custom electronic cigarette, a couple important questions to ask are: What's the difference between atomizers, cartomizers and clearomizers? And which one works best?

This article addresses these two questions, including how each heating component effects your vaping experience, as well as the pros and cons of each.


Atomizers are where it all began, and in fact, all electronic cigarettes in the world still rely on some kind of atomizer today. In both cartomizers and clearomizers, the atomizer component is included in them.

The job of the atomizer (or "atty") is to heat e-liquid to the point of vaporization so that you can inhale that delicious, flavored vapor. It accomplishes this important task through a heating coil, which is connected to the battery. When the atomizer operates solo (not combined into a cartomizer or clearomizer), the e-liquid drips directly onto the heating coil. A silica wick or metal mesh helps regulate the amount of e-liquid that reaches the atomizer to prevent flooding and dry hits.

Direct Dripping

One of the main benefits of using an atty alone is that it allows users to practice a technique known as direct dripping. People who drip insist that it results in more clear and potent e-liquid flavors since there is nothing to dilute the taste. This technique also usually avoids the problem of accidentally burning your e-liquid.

However, dripping also has its cons. For starters, it takes a lot more work to use than other methods. On top of that, be prepared for a mess. You'll probably have to clean the sticky e-liquid residue off of your device much more often. Finally, dripping can be a fairly involved and complicated process. New users are cautioned against trying to attempt dripping.


The single-purpose atomizers found in the original electronic cigarettes received a much-needed improvement with the invention of the cartomizer. Cartomizers (or "cartos") are similar in design to atomizers – the main difference being that they come with a cartridge of e-liquid attached. Another difference between cartos and attys is that most cartomizers have a poly-fill layer wrapped around the heating coil, resulting in a longer vape time.

The convenience of the cartomizer is what wins many electronic cigarette users over to using it instead of an atty. With cartos, the atomizer head is automatically connected to the battery and comes with a tank full of e-liquid. This allows near instant vaping right out of the box. Plus, cartomizers are often more affordable than atomizers and clearomizers.


Last up to bat is clearomizers, or "clearos" for short. Clearomizers are the most recent gadget out of the three, and the most innovative. They are essentially cartomizers with a few key differences. The most obvious difference is their transparency. For users of both atomizers and cartomizers, accidentally burning or flooding the heating element can be a common problem, especially if you tend to be forgetful about how much e-liquid is left in the tank. Clearomizers solve this problem by letting you see into the tank.

Speaking of tanks, clearos typically have larger tank capacities, which allows a more prolonged vape and less time spent having to refill your electronic cigarette.

An additional benefit of clearomizers for advanced users is the ability to adjust the coil setup for superior vapor production. There are three types of clearomizer coil setup, including:

  • Top coil – easiest to refill and creates smooth, warm vapor; however, can suffer from inconsistent hits
  • Bottom coil – great wicking action and high quality cooler vapor, but harder to refill and can develop leaks easier
  • Multi coil – stronger throat hit and larger vapor production, but burns through battery power and e-liquid quicker.

Learn more about single vs. dual electronic cigarette coil configurations.

Which One Is Best?

Ultimately, it's up to each person to decide which method works best for them. So while there may not be a set "winner" when it comes to choosing between an atomizer, cartomizer or clearomizer, we generally recommend trying out a clearo if you haven't yet. Atomizers can be tricky to operate, while cartomizers don't offer quite as many features. Clearomizers, in our opinion, provide the best overall experience in terms of convenience, affordability, performance, ease of use and functionality of your electronic cigarette.

Visit our knowledge center and blog to learn more about our custom vape products. And while you're at it, check out how we can help you build your own custom electronic cigarette from scratch!

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