Clearomizer vs Cartomizer vs Atomizer: The Real Difference

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One of the biggest problems new comers to vaping encounter is learning what the differences are between an atomizer, clearomizer and cartomizer. Slang and lingo is tossed around so much in the vaping community,  sometimes it’s hard wrap your head around it all and build a solid understanding. To help those who are trying to understand these essential components of vaping, we have put together the definitive guide to learning the differences. If you find something you would like added to this guide, or just want to share your thoughts, please share a comment below!


There are two main components that every e cig or Advanced Personal Vaporizer (APV for short) have, the battery and the atomizer. In the simplest terms, the atomizer draws power from the battery which it uses to turn the e liquid into vapor. The differences, and the reason for this article, is that there are multiple different ways to deliver the e liquid to the atomizer. Direct dripping on the atomizer, clearomizers and cartomizers all achieve the same goal of delivering e liquid to the atomizer, but each have their own set of pros and cons. Let’s dive right in!

What is an Atomizer

There many different kinds of atomizers, but in general they consist of a small heating coil and a wicking material that soaks up the e liquid and funnels it into a coil. The coil is generally a short piece of resistance wire that is coiled or wrapped around the small wick or wicking material. The atomizer is then connected to the negative and positive poles of the APV battery, which the coil uses to create the vapor once the e juice from the wicking material reaches it. On top of the coil/wick is a mesh bridge, which helps regulate the amount of e liquid that reaches the wick, and subsequently the coil.

Direct Dripping

vape atty head

Another view of an atomizer head and how it works

As I mentioned earlier, every e cig or APV uses an atomizer of some sort to vaporize the e liquid, but can differ on how they deliver the e liquid to the coil. The first method we will cover is dripping. While cartomizers and clearomizers hold several milliliters of e juice at a time, the direct dripping method workings by dripping just 3-5 drops of e liquid directly onto the atomizer at a time. It is a more traditional method that has been used for years, and many experience vapers will swear by it. But as with anything else, there are a set of pros and cons related to direct dripping, so let’s take a look:

Top 4 Pros Of the Dripping Method:

  • A strong vapor production
  • A stronger throat hit
  • Not much burnt taste if vaped correctly
  • Solid, consistent hit and flavor

Top 4 Cons Of the Dripping Method:

  • Can get messy
  • You have to refill it more often
  • Must always carry e liquid on you
  • If you fill it with too much e liquid the atomizer can get flooded

Direct Atomizer Dripping Summary

As you can see, there are definitely benefits and drawbacks to dripping. The biggest pro for dripping is that it has some of then cleanest, smoothest vapor production of any vaping method.  It also has good vapor cloud production as well. Vapers who enjoy great tasting vape, with good vapor production and a strong throat hit should definitely try out dripping. Most of the cons can be avoided with a little bit of practice and patience.

atomizer head

Diagram of an Atomizer Head

Make sure you find out how many drops you should use for your particular atomizer (it can range from 3-12), and only use that many when refilling. When vaping, keep a mental count of how many hits you have taken so you know when it’s time to refill to avoid any burning taste. If you follow these tips, dripping is a very enjoyable vape.

Even with all the great benefits of dripping, it is often difficult to do if you are out of the house. You always have to a bottle of e juice on you, and trying to refill your atty while driving is never a fun time. The solution: tank systems! There are two main types of tank systems, clearomizers and cartomizers. Both of them use atomizers to vaporizer the e liquid, both have different methods of containing and delivering the juice. We’ll cover the important differences between the two types.

What is a Cartomizer

There are a lot of different aspects to consider when choosing a clearomizer vs cartomizer for your APV. While clearomizers are similar to cartomizers on a fundamental level, these small contrasts can make a big difference in your vaping experience. Let’s start by covering what a cartomizer is.

A portmanteau is a word whose form and meaning are derived from a blending of two other words. Cartomizer is a portmanteau of the words cartridge and atomizer, and for good reason. A cartomizer works by using a tank system that is filled with a polyfill material.

Clearomizer vs Cartomizer

Diagram of a Cartomizer

There are a couple of different types. Some cartos use horizontal coils, which internally are the most similar to direct dripping. The horizontal coil runs across a center air path in the middle of the cartomizer. The coil is wrapped around a wick (wicks are made with several different types of material). The wick funnels juices from the filler material, so the coil doesn’t have to touch the filler material in the tank directly like it does inside a vertical coil cartomizer. This helps reduce the chance you will have a burnt taste when your juice starts running low.

The most common type of cartomizer is a vertical coil. Vertical coils uses a coil that runs up and down, instead of side to side like on the horizontal coil cartomizers or atomizer dripping heads. There isn’t a wick, instead the filler material surrounds the the coil and directly supplies juice without the use of a wick. When you take a hit, the airflow will be drawn through the middle of the coil, instead along the outside of the coil as it does with horizontal cartos. Since the filler material touches the coil directly, you are prone to tasting a burnt flavor when the e juice starts to run out.

Some cartomizers come as both refillable and non refillable, although most non refillable cartos can still be refilled with a little bit of effort. You must ensure you clean out your cartomizer and filling occasionally if you want to extend the life of it. If you don’t, you may start to experience flavor ghosting, which is when you taste the previous flavor you vaped after switching e juices. Ghosting makes it difficult to enjoy the pure, clean flavor of your e juice. They both have their pros and cons. Some people feel they get better flavor from horizontal coil cartomizers, however sometimes horizontal coils do not work as well as vertical coil cartos when using higher voltages since they have thinner wicks. Thinner wicks have a hard time supplying enough juice to the coil, and vaping at higher voltages will burn through e liquid faster.

Next, let’s take a look at what a clearomizer is and how it is different from a cartomizer.

What is a Clearomizer

As you may have guessed, one of the features of a clearomizer is that it is in fact clear. They have tanks that hold e juice, which feed a wick into the atomizer head on the device. Unlike cartomizers, they do not have any poly-fil material inside the tank. This makes it a little easier to get the clean, natural flavors of your e liquids. It also reduces the chances you will get that burnt flavor when your e liquid runs low, since you won’t start burning the filler material.

top single coil

Top Coil Clearomizer Diagram

Clearomizers are generally easy to refill, and can have a larger capacity. Some clearos can hold up to 6.0 mL of e juice! It’s awesome to have the large capacity for the times when you’re busy, but still want to vape a lot with out refilling often. Many clearomizers also come with replaceable atomizer heads, which can greatly extend it’s life. As you vape your clearomizer, the atomizer coil will start to corrode which increases its  resistance. This increased resistance and corrosion will eventually lead to decreased vapor production and flavor. But with replaceable heads, you can just pop out the old one and slap in a new atomizer head. Just like that your clearomizer is as good as new! New atomizer heads are pretty cheap, so it makes clearomizers an efficient way to vape.

You can even go one step further and rebuild the actual coil and wick system on the atomizer. This is even cheaper than replacing the whole atomizer heads. It requires a bit of patience and practice to learn, but once mastered you’ll be happy you did. It is insanely cheap, and you can build your coils and wicks exactly the way you want, optimizing your vaping experience. For example, you can easily have many coils with different resistances, giving you more options when vaping. To learn more about resistances for clearomizers, check out our best clearomizer guide!   It also adds a level of convenience in that if you even run out of atty heads, you don’t have to worry about buying new ones online and wait for them to ship. You can just bust out your supply of coil and wick and wrapped yourself one right away.

Of course, many people are completely content just buying the replaceable atomizer heads and don’t both with making their own coils. It’s still really cheap and a great way to vape.

Another option to consider when buying a clearomizers is whether you want a bottom or top coil setup. A bottom coil has it’s coil placed near the battery end of the clearomizer, while a top coil is mounted near the mouthpiece. There are several pros and cons of each type which we cover below:

Top Coil Clearomizer


  • Produces warmer vapor since the coil is closer the the mouthpiece
  • Refillable from the top
  • Less likely to leak


  • Can have poor wicking
  • Frequently dry hits
  • Must be swirled and title occasionally to keep the wicks moist
  • Flavor production can suffer

Bottom Coil Clearomizer


  • Consistent wicking
  • Great vapor production
  • Cooler vapor


  • May sometimes hiss and gurgle
  • May develop leaks is it isn’t tightened together well or too little wick is used
  • Filling from the bottom requires a little more effort than top refillable clearos.
  • Wicks may need adjustments occasionally

Dual and Single Coil Clearomizers

If that wasn’t enough, clearomizers can also come with single or dual coils.

bottom dual coil

Bottom Coil Clearomizer Diagram

A dual coil clearomizer will produce more vapor than a single coil clearomizer with less of a hit. They also tend have a greater throat hit due to the increased vapor production. The vapor will tend to be cooler though, since the two dual coils will heat up less than a single coil clearo. Dual coils also tend to drain the battery faster than a single coil, and sometimes give off dry hits. Since more e liquid is being vaporize in a dual coil setup, it’s important to give the wicks time to catch up and get juice to the coils occasionally.
On the other hand,  single coils don’t drain batteries as fast and will have less of a throat hit. Both will work perfectly well, and it really comes down to the quality of clearomizer and your personal preferences.
At the end of the day, the best way for you to find out which style of clearomizer is right for you is to actually try them. Our sortable clearomizer comparison chart is a great way to compare and discover different clearomizers you may be interested in. If you are looking for information on a particular model, check out our clearomizer reviews. We are constantly updating our review collection, so be sure to subscribe to get the lastest clearomizer reviews right as they are released!
I hope this post was helpful and helped clear up some of the confusion between atomizers, clearomizers and cartomizers. If you enjoyed the post, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Until next time, vape on!
TJ Bowman

Written by TJ Bowman

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10 Responses to Clearomizer vs Cartomizer vs Atomizer: The Real Difference

  1. Casey Curtis says:

    Great info! You had a lot of good examples that explain the differences pretty well. Thanks!

  2. TJ Bowman TJ says:

    Thanks, I am happy to help fellow vapers in any way I can!

  3. E liquid says:

    I will say this. My personal electronic cigarette choice is Green Smoke. I started with them and I plan to continue with them. I sincerely believe that they have a better product. More importantly, they are the only electronic cigarette brand to offer a delicious chocolate flavor. I don’t know about you, but I love chocolate!!!

    • TJ Bowman TJ says:

      I love chocolate flavors too, but I can be kind of picky. I’ll be sure to try out the Green Smoke chocolate flavor though!

  4. Krissi says:

    Thanks so much for all the great info! I just recently quit smoking and started vaping (no cigs for a week now after almost a decade of smoking!) and I’ve been really confused about the difference between cartomizers and clearomizers. You did a great job explaining everything, very informative and easy to understand, thanks again!

  5. Ethan says:

    I’ve recently developed a taste for methanol in my e-cigs! Clearomizers are definitely increasing in popularity, so I might have to try them out :)

  6. Rottweiler says:

    Ive chosen the bottom dual coil clearo style. Im using a vv/vw mod and would like to know about the characteristics between resistance/voltage settings to get the best flavor and performance of my vaping enjoyment. Ive noticed some flavors taste nothing like the name sugests and others do. Or is it the e juice co. recipe.

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