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A Guide to Vape Tanks and Atomizers: Which is Right for You?

Your tank is one of the most important parts of your vaping setup. It’s what turns the e-liquid into vapor, and the part your battery is there to provide power to. But not all tanks are equal. There are so many types of vape tanks on the market – from basic clearomizers through to sub ohm tanks and RTAs – that choosing the right type for you isn’t as easy as you might hope. To find the right vape tank or atomizer, you need to know the key differences between each type, their pros and cons, and think about what you’re looking for in a tank.

 

Tanks vs. Atomizers – What’s the Difference?

 

Before we look at the different types of vape tanks and atomizers, it’s worth clearing up a source of some minor confusion about the terms. The terms “tank” and “atomizer” are often used interchangeably, but in reality there is a difference between them.

 

An atomizer is the part of your setup that actually turns the e-liquid into vapor. Most of the time the term is used, it means the complete unit that fills this role. This would include the entire coil head that you screw into a tank, often called an atomizer head. The term essentially always refers to a coil and a wick enclosed in some sort of chamber.

 

A tank is a combination of an atomizer and a reservoir for your e-liquid. The “tank” portion is really the part that holds the spare juice to feed it to the atomizer, but most people say tank to refer to the whole unit. Sometimes – as if to make things even more confusing – people say “tank atomizer.” The only devices that are atomizers but don’t work alongside a tank are “dripping atomizers,” which have a coil and wick that you directly drip e-liquid onto before vaping.

 

With that in mind, we can get on with looking at the different types of tanks and atomizers.

 

Types of Vape Tanks and Atomizers

 

Clearomizers

 

Clearomizers are the most basic type of vape tank, and are usually found atop the sort of basic vape pens you’d pick up at a gas station or convenience store. They tend to have fairly small tanks (from about 1.5 to 2 ml) and higher-resistance atomizer heads, and are generally quite simple in their construction. The atomizer head usually attaches at the bottom, and a stem leads directly up from it to the mouthpiece. To refill them, you simply unscrew the mouthpiece and fill directly into the tank. The name comes from the fact that their bodies are almost entirely clear, and they were the direct successor to the “cartomizer” cartridges you find on cigalike devices.

 

Pros

 

  • Really easy to use.
  • Cheap.
  • Compatible with simple vape pens.
  • Mouth-to-lung style suits just-switching smokers.

 

Cons

 

  • Vapor production could be better.
  • Flavor is usually muted.
  • Usually need an adapter to work with 510 threaded mods.
  • Can’t hold much e-liquid.
  • Not great for higher VG e-liquids.
  • Usually have plastic bodies.
  • Don’t support high-power vaping.
  • Not as widely available anymore.

 

Standard Tanks

 

Most vape tanks are really just like bigger versions of clearomizers. They feature a glass container for your e-juice, and the atomizer heads attach to the base of the tank in the same way as it does on clearomizers. The big difference is that while clearomizers are thin and fairly basic in design, tanks often hold a lot more e-juice and have higher-quality coils that can cope with thicker e-juices. They also use 510 threading, rather than eGo threading like many clearomizers.

 

Standard tanks are very similar to sub ohm tanks, but are a distinct option because they have higher-resistance coils, and are more likely to be well-suited to mouth-to-lung vaping. They do often feature airflow control, too, so you can adjust the draw to suit your preferences more than on a clearomizer.

 

Pros

 

  • Easy to use.
  • Industry-standard 510 threading – will work with most mods.
  • Great for mouth-to-lung vaping.
  • Good performance at medium wattages.
  • Can have large tanks.
  • Often have adjustable airflow.
  • Excellent flavor.
  • Work with most e-juices.
  • Usually affordable.

 

Cons

 

  • Most won’t support high-wattage vaping.
  • Vapor production is less than sub ohm tanks.
  • Less options on the market than for sub ohm tanks.

 

Sub Ohm Tanks

 

Sub ohm tanks are essentially the same as standard tanks, except they support coils with resistances under 1 ohm. The tanks are put together just like standard tanks, but most of them feature airflow control, and tend to have atomizer heads with bigger “ports” for your e-liquid to soak the wick. This means the e-liquid replenishes more quickly, which improves performance at higher wattages. Sub ohm tanks tend to be better for direct-to-lung vaping (rather than smoking-like mouth-to-lung puffs), and most vapers who switch to sub ohming reduce the amount of nicotine in their e-juice because they’re more efficient.

 

Pros

 

  • Excellent vapor production.
  • Fantastic flavor.
  • Work with most mods on the market.
  • Suitable for high-wattage vaping.
  • Generally easy to use.
  • Best for direct-to-lung vaping.
  • Almost all offer adjustable airflow.
  • Works with any type of e-juice.
  • Hard-hitting and satisfying.
  • Usually feature big tanks.
  • Many support temperature control vaping.

 

Cons

 

  • Won’t work with most vape pens – you need a mod.
  • Not ideal for mouth-to-lung vaping.
  • Clouds might be too big for some.
  • Uses more e-juice.
  • Higher-wattage vaping drains your battery more quickly.

 

Rebuildable Tank Atomizers (RTAs)

 

Rebuildable tank atomizers (RTAs) are a lot like sub ohm tanks but with one crucial difference. Instead of using pre-made atomizer heads, you build your own coils to use on the device. Where on most vape tanks there would be a spot for the atomizer head, RTAs have an accessible chamber instead. This has two or more posts for you to connect your own coil, which you can make out of kanthal or another material like nickel or titanium (for temperature control vaping), and features small ports so you can set up a wick to draw e-liquid in from the tank.

 

The performance is generally in line with sub ohm tanks, but the benefit is that you can tailor the performance to your preferences. If you’re happy with a more hands-on vaping experience, RTAs are just like sub ohm tanks but much cheaper to use in the long-run, because wire and wick is cheaper than replacement atomizer heads.

 

Pros

 

  • Perform as well as or better than sub ohm tanks.
  • Cheaper to use in the long-term.
  • Airflow control is always included.
  • Industry-standard 510 threading.
  • Work with any type of e-juice.
  • Big tanks are common.
  • Convenient to use after initial setup.
  • Satisfying.
  • Better for direct-to-lung vaping, but can often be set up for mouth-to-lung too.

 

Cons

 

  • More challenging to set up. Not suitable for beginners. We have a useful guide to setting up the wicking here.
  • Use a lot of e-juice.
  • Replacing coils when you have issues isn’t as quick a process.
  • Won’t work on vape pens.
  • You’ll usually be vaping at higher wattages, so they’ll reduce your battery life.

 

Rebuildable Dripping Atomizers (RDAs)

 

Rebuildable dripping atomizers (RDAs) have many of the money-saving benefits of RTAs but don’t include a tank. The “deck” with the posts for connecting your coils is essentially the whole device, and it’s covered with a cap and mouthpiece section. This gives great performance, but you can only drip so much e-juice onto the deck at once. This makes them a little less convenient to use than RTAs, but the setup is slightly easier because you have more space to work with and setting up the wicks is easier.

 

Pros

 

  • Excellent performance.
  • More space to build coils than RTAs.
  • Really cheap upkeep and often affordable to buy too.
  • Airflow control is standard.
  • 510 threaded.
  • Any type of juice is suitable.
  • Great for direct-to-lung vaping but can be set up to work mouth-to-lung.
  • You can change flavors regularly.
  • Perfect for high-wattage vaping and big clouds.
  • Flavor is hard to beat.

 

Cons

 

  • Challenging setup – not for beginners. We have a guide to building here.
  • Dripping regularly can be inconvenient.
  • They use a lot of e-juice.
  • You’ll need a mod to use them.
  • Not the best for conserving battery life.
  • Leaking can be an issue when you carry RDAs in your pocket.

 

Rebuildable Dripping Tank Atomizers (RDTAs)

 

Rebuildable dripping tank atomizers (RDTAs) are like a combination of an RDA and an RTA, with an RDA-like deck on the top of the device but a tank underneath. This allows you to keep your coils constantly supplied with juice without the need to drip regularly. You can either have your wicks hanging in the tank, or just resting on the deck so you soak them by simply tilting the tank to one side. They have many of the same pros and cons as RDAs and RTAs.

 

Pros

 

  • Perform as well as RDAs.
  • More convenient to use than RDAs.
  • Spacious build decks.
  • 510 threading.
  • Airflow control.
  • Work with any type of juice.

 

Cons

 

  • Not quite as easy to use as RTAs.
  • They use a lot of juice.
  • Tilting to soak the wicks doesn’t always work too well.
  • Leak a lot like RDAs.

 

Making Your Choice: Which is Right for Me?

 

The most basic thing to think about when choosing a type of vape tank is how “hands-on” you want your experience to be. If you want something as simple as possible, we’d recommend a standard or sub ohm tank. These are very user-friendly and perform really well with most e-juices. If getting the biggest clouds and the best flavor is important to you and you don’t mind making your own coils, there are many benefits to rebuildable options. For the best performance, we’d recommend an RTA, RDA or a sub ohm tank, with the former two being cheaper over the long-term.

 

It’s also worth considering the type of e-cig you have. If you don’t want to buy something new, if you have a basic vape pen, a standard tank or (if it supports low resistance vaping) a sub ohm tank is the best option. For smokers just switching, a “mouth to lung” draw style is often preferred, and this is best supported by standard tanks. They’re also more subtle in terms of vapor production, if you don’t want to draw attention to yourself too much.

 

Price may be a factor for you too, but this has to be balanced against convenience. Vaping will always be cheaper than smoking, and so paying for pre-made coils for a sub ohm tank might be better for you than getting to grips with rebuilding, even if it’s more expensive.  

 

Overall, the pros and cons above should give you a good idea of what will work best for you, but for most vapers a sub ohm tank strikes the right balance between convenience and performance. If you’re brand new to vaping, a standard tank may be a better option, but you can find sub ohm tanks with mouth-to-lung coils too, so that could be the best choice.

 

Remember, taking time over your choice now will save you disappointment and give you the best chance of enjoying your vaping experience. So don’t rush into anything, think about what’s most important to you and go for it.  

Lee Johnson is a writer and vaper from the UK. He started vaping in 2012, and since then has contributed to E-Cigarette Reviewed, E-Cigarette Direct’s Ashtray Blog and Vaping360. He strongly believes smokers need accurate information about vaping and other reduced-harm alternatives to smoking. He has a degree in physics from the Open University and a passion for all forms of science.

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