Clearomizer VS Cartomizer VS Atomizer: What’s the Difference?

Clearomizer vs cartomizer: what's the difference?What’s the Difference Between a Clearomizer and Cartomizer?

When I first got into the e-cigarette world, this was one of my first questions. The words ‘clearomizer’ and ‘cartomizer’ were thrown around all over the place, sometimes interchangeably.

So what’s the difference? Which one is better?

The short answer is they’re functionally similar. They both serve two purposes: 1) they store a small amount of e-juice, and 2) they contain a coil which atomizes the stored liquid.

The main difference is in how they do their job. They use different materials.

Atomizers are a bit different, more like a minimalist clearo or carto. More on them in a bit!

What is a Cartomizer?

What's a Cartomizer?

A refillable cartomizer.

A cartomizer is a classic e-cigarette technology, and it just works. Essentially, you get a tube filled with some kind of wicking material, called polyfill. That can be cotton, silica or something similar.

What's a Cartomizer?

A look inside. You can see the polyfill.

The polyfill operates like a sponge, soaking up your e-juice. Cartomizers rarely leak for that reason.

At the bottom of the cartomizer, you’ll usually find an electrical coil. This coil heats up the surrounding polyfill, thereby vaporizing the juice.

Are cartomizers refillable? Short answer, yes!

Filling a carto is usually as simple as removing the cap and dripping in the e-liquid. Non-refillable cartomizers are intended to be disposable, but you can often refill them with a bit of work.

Advantages of cartomizers: They rarely leak, they’re simple to use, they offer good, consistent flavour, and they’re very affordable.

Disadvantages: They are ultimately disposable, and only last for a few weeks on average. It’s hard to see how much juice remains in a carto.

What is a Clearomizer?

Photo Credit: Jon Williams

A clearomizer consists of a tank (usually made of plastic or glass), which can be filled with e-liquid. Several wicks run along the inside of the tank and draw liquid towards the coil.

The coil on a clearomizer is often replaceable. This allows you to sort of rebuild it. When it burns out, or when your vapour and taste diminishes, you can simply unscrew the clearomizer and replace the coil unit.

Essentially, the main difference between a clearomizer and a cartomizer is that cartos have polyfill, while clearos have wicks.

A clearomizer can be a top coil or a bottom coil configuration. That simply refers to which end the coil sits in. Top coils tend to produce warmer vapour due to its proximity.

Advantages of clearomizers: It’s very easy to see how much e-liquid remains, so you’ll know when to refill. They’re cheap to buy and easy to clean and maintain.

Disadvantages: I’ve found clearomizers tend to leak more often. They are susceptible to producing ‘plastic’ tastes, depending on the model.

What is an E-Cigarette Atomizer?

An Ego-T atomizer & tank

An Ego-T atomizer & tank

An atomizer is essentially a wick and coil. In a sense, all cartomizers and clearomizers contain an atomizer.

What's an E-Cigarette Atomizer?

An Ego-C atomizer head.

Atomizers work on their own as a dripping unit (as in, you drip the liquid directly onto the coil yourself), or in concert with a tank system.

Tank atomizers have a separate tank which attaches to the atomizer somehow. This can range from something as simple as the Ego-T (which uses plastic tanks and an atomizer with a ‘spike’ to draw liquid) to expensive, high-end units like a Genesis tank atomizer, which incorporates stainless steel mesh as a wick.

Rebuildable Atomizers: Rebuildables, or RBAs, are atomizers which can be rebuilt when the coil burns out. They can also be customized for a specific resistance. RBAs are intended for intermediate to advanced vapers.

Dripping: When people talk about dripping and drip tips, they’re always referring to an atomizer setup. Drip atomizers are the most basic form of vaporizing.

Dripping provides flavour with no added extras, the most pure you’ll find. The downside? Dripping is inconvenient on the go, and it can be messy.

Advantages of atomizers: They often have the most true flavour. They’re inexpensive to operate if you learn how to rebuild the coil and wick. Rebuildable atomizers provide the best flavour, vapour and throat hit.

Disadvantages: Tank atomizers can be leaky. Rebuilding an atomizer requires knowledge and some know-how.

Which is Best: Cartomizer, Clearomizer or Atomizer?

This is an impossible question to answer. Individual taste is usually the deciding factor.

For me, I lean towards cartomizers when I’m on the go. They’re easy to fill, they rarely leak, and the flavour and throat hit are fantastic.

At home, I have a rebuildable atomizer which creates more vapour than my cartos. It’s not great to take everywhere, but for home it’s perfect.

Brand new to vaporizing? Which is good for a beginner?

If you’re totally new to the world of e-cigarettes, I’d highly recommend that you avoid atomizers. I’d order a kit with some cartomizers, a battery and a charger. Cartos are fantastic for taking anywhere, and they’re hard to mess up.

You can even get pre-filled cartos, which save you the trouble of filling them up.

Clearomizers are equally good for newbies. They’re the easiest to fill, and most are compatible with Ego or 510 batteries (the two most common connectors).

Beginner: Clearos and cartos.

Intermediate & Advanced: Atomizers.

Got any questions? I’m happy to help you get started! Leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading!


Five Pawns

about 3 years ago

Atomizers are one of the original devices. They have a fairly small capacity and are best for people who prefer dripping. There are different design but majority of atomizers have a heating coil on the bottom with metal mesh on top of the coil. Some atomizers utilize silica wick instead of metal mesh.



about 3 years ago

Hi Will, very help guide to clearomizers. Thanks :)


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