But how do you know who to root for in the battle for vaper’s hearts and minds? In this article, we’ll explain the difference between tanks and pods and take you through their advantages and disadvantages.
Let the face-off begin.
Pods vs Tanks: The Similarities
- Both of them contain coils (i.e. an atomiser).
- They both house e-liquid.
- They both have a drip tip or mouthpiece that you vape from.
What are Vape Pods?
Vape pods are a relatively new kid on the block. I first heard of them through the JUUL device by Pax Labs. Released in 2015, it was a genuinely innovative device.
Pax Labs really swam against the tide with this one. It was a simple, easy-to-use device at a time when there was something of an arms race for bigger, more powerful machines. To give you a little context, there were vape devices that had computer software to customise your vape. It was out of control!
That was the climate that the JUUL stepped into, and it’s fair to say they altered the course of vaping history. The device was a pure minimalist design, without any buttons (draw-activated) or LED screen. It was the first vape on the market in a few years that didn’t have more powerful software than the Apollo Guidance Computer that put the first man on the moon. I’m not even joking.
The other thing that was notable about the JUUL is that it came with pre-filled pods. These pods had juice, a coil, and a mouthpiece. Additionally, the pods were made of plastic instead of glass, which means they don’t break as much. They were self-contained, disposable units that clipped onto the battery. It was all about making vaping as easy as possible—no messing around with batteries, coils, leaking tanks.
Otherwise, the main reason the JUUL stood out so much was that it used nicotine salts. Nic salts meant that juice burned at a lower heat but still delivered a satisfying throat hit. Additionally, this nicotine form could be absorbed much easier in the bloodstream.
In short, nic salts allowed vapers to break away from complex, large, heavy, and frequently expensive machines. The device was popular, and other manufacturers took note. Soon, we entered what vaping historians might one day call The Age of the Pod.
By 2017-2018, devices started getting smaller. Nic salts didn’t need high power devices to produce a satisfying hit, and vapers embraced these lighter, more discreet devices.
From here, the technology forked into two areas: closed system pod mods and open system pod mods.
Closed System Pod Mods
Closed system pods – also known as Pre-Filled Vape Pods — come with an inbuilt coil and are already filled with e-liquid. Popping them on and off your device is very simple.
Closed system pods can’t be refilled. Additionally, you can’t replace the coil. This type of pod is designed to be used and disposed of.
Open System Pod Mods
Open system pod mods can be refilled with eliquid and often allow the user to change coils. However, not all open systems do. For example, the first Caliburn pods came with a locked-in coil. The Caliburn G allowed you to change the coil, while the newest version, the Caliburn A2, is back to locked-in pods.
Vape Pods: Pros and Cons
If you’re trying to figure out if a vape pod starter kit is for you, you’ll need to weigh up the pros and cons.
Ease of Use
There is no doubt about it; vape pods have a shallow learning curve. Pre-filled (closed) pods click onto a device that needs to be charged by USB. That’s about as complex as it gets.
Open pod systems only require the user to grapple with filling up their pod.
It’s straightforward stuff that was designed to create the least amount of friction for people trying to stop smoking.
One of the biggest annoyances that people experience with vaping devices is a leaking tank. Because they have replaceable parts, vape tanks are more likely to leak.
Modern vape pods are more leak-resistant. This property is due to a mix of factors, like plastic vs glass and clips or magnet vs 510 connections.
Vape pods are easier to maintain. Even open pod systems can be considered “all in one” systems that are just refilled and used until the coil goes bad.
They also have replaceable coils are easy to use. Coils can be popped in and out without much hassle.
By contrast, tanks are generally bigger and have replaceable parts. For example, you can change the glass, build your own coils, replace the rubber seals, etc. Many tanks are made with durability and long-term use in mind, so they come with sturdy metal casings.
Pods don’t need high powered devices to deliver a satisfying nicotine hit. Typically they are light and compact, pocket-friendly devices.
Tanks have gotten smaller over the years. A large part of this is due to TPD regulations that stipulated that the maximum tank capacity is 2ml. But even with the smaller chamber size they are bulkier.
A vast amount of vape pods are draw-activated. This set-up simulates smoking much more because the device is fired when you inhale. Of course, many pod devices also have a fire button too.
In general, vape pods are a fair bit cheaper than their tank equivalents. Mostly, it comes down to different construction materials, i.e. plastics vs metal and glass.
Additionally, the main focus for pods is accessibility. Whatever causes the least friction for the buyer is favoured.
Pods aren’t built to last. The pre-filled pods are single-use and generate a lot of plastic waste that ends up in a landfill or the ocean. Even the one’s with replaceable coils aren’t a long-term solution. In general, pods lack the durability of a well-made tank.
Because pods are disposable, they need to be replaced more frequently. These costs can add up. However, many refillable pods are sold as a closed unit with a coil. So the cost difference isn’t too extreme.
Shorter Battery Life
Vape pods focus on accessibility and portability mean that they have smaller batteries. As a result, battery life is reduced when compared to devices that use a tank.
That’s not to say that battery technology hasn’t improved in recent years. It’s worth noting that pod devices are quick to charge, with many models only needing 30-60mins to get back to 100%.
Lack of Customisation
Open and closed pod systems are designed to be as simple as possible. Not everyone wants to build their own coils or change this about so much.
Most Suitable For MTL Vaping
Pods are made for mouth-to-lung MTL vaping. This style of vaping most closely replicates smoking a cigarette. However, direct-to-lung vaping (DTL) is favoured by some.
However, there are a few pods that allow both.
Read this article for a deeper dive into MTL vs DTL vaping.
Lack of Replaceable Batteries
Most pod devices don’t come with a replaceable battery. Again, battery technology has come a long way over the years, and the batteries these devices contain won’t lose charging capacity in the way that older rechargeables used to.
But if you are out and about, it’s nice to have a fully charged battery to swap out. Typically, this isn’t possible with these smaller devices.
Adjustable Air Flow
Most pods don’t offer adjustable airflow. They’re set at a good level for most people, but they don’t facilitate changing to an airy or tighter vape. To be honest, it’s not something I missed a lot, but if you do have a particular preference, it’s something to consider.
What are Vape Tanks?
Until quite recently, tanks were dominant in the market. Perhaps the most appealing part of tanks is their versatility. Many tanks use a 510 connection. This is a screw-type device, which allows users to match a tank to almost whichever mod they want.
Tanks are far more customisable in almost every way. Depending on the tank, you can have a MTL or DTL coil. Additionally, because they can screw into many different devices, you can change vape settings to your heart’s content.
Finally, tanks typically use glass instead of plastic. Many people report that this gives a superior taste.
Parts of a Vape Tank
Each vape tank is made from a few constituent parts. They contain:
- The Tank: This part is where the e-liquid is stored. It’s usually made from glass or plastic.
- The Drip Tip: The drip tip is the mouthpiece.
- The Coil: aka Atomiser
- The Chimney: The “chimney” attaches to the coil and offers an airway through the tank.
- The Bottom Section: This is the part screws into the mod. Quite often, these are connected by screwing in a 510 connection.
Different Types of Tanks
There are a few different types of tanks that people use. The technology has come on a long way over the years. The first real tank I can remember is the Aspire Viva Nova. People called them clearomisers at the time, which was around 2012, 2013.
What was cool about these tanks was that everything was replaceable. Not just the coil, but all of the other parts. This was really welcome because tanks weren’t too cheap, and if you broke or lost a bit, you’d have to buy a new one.
As the industry lurched toward these products, we started getting a wide variety of different coils. This meant that direct-to-lung vaping was possible. Another upgrade was that they were easy to fill.
Back around the time of cartomisers and early tanks, people used syringes to load their tanks. It was messy and annoying. And occasionally sore when they’d prick you through your jeans when you carried them about.
Anyway, after the Viva Nova, everyone started producing similar tanks. So, let’s look at the different types of modern tanks.
MTL v DTL Tanks
Many people like to draw a distinction between MTL and DTL tanks. But, really, the difference between the two is the coil that you insert into them.
For MTL vaping, use a higher resistance coil. i.e. 1-ohm or higher.
For DTL — or sub-ohm vaping — use a sub 1-ohm coil.
One other notable difference is the mouthpiece. Many DTL tanks come with a wider mouthpiece to facilitate this vaping style. On the other hand, MTL tanks come with a more narrow mouthpiece to simulate smoking a cigarette.
Vape Tanks: Pros and Cons
If you’re trying to figure out if an Advanced Starter Kit is for you, read about the pros and cons of a vape tank.
Direct-to-Lung (DTL) Vaping
Direct-to-lung (DTL) vaping requires a tank with a sub-ohm coil. It’s a different way to vape that directly inhales the vapour into the lungs. Some people prefer this vaping style, but it’s only really doable with a high powered device and a low resistance coil.
While sub-ohm vaping is possible with some pods (providing you use the correct coils), it’s pretty much a vape tank thing. Do you know those monstrous clouds that you used to see everywhere? They’re from sub-ohm tanks.
Vape tanks are great because of their replaceable parts. Many of them allow you to replace the glass, drip tip, rubber sealing, and the bottom part that screws into the mod. This means that a tank can last you a very long time.
It’s not just the different coils and mouthpieces that you can use that make vape tanks cool. They also facilitate building your own RDA coils. You get the coil (wire), Japanese cotton etc., and build your atomiser from them. While this is a fringe practice, it does save a lot of money. It’s a lot more sustainable too.
In an era when you can get an entry-level pod starter kit for around £10, tanks represent a far higher outlay. Typically, this is because they use a better quality of material like glass or metal. Expect to pay somewhere around £20-£30, with a few notable exceptions like the bargain Voopoo TPP X Pod Tank.
Complexity & Maintenance
Vape pods are designed to be easy to use. By comparison, vape tanks are more complicated to operate and maintain. That’s not to say they are super difficult or anything. It’s just that there is a bit of a learning curve and a few things to know and understand if you want them to taste great all the time.
More Likely to Leak
Because they are more complex and use more replaceable parts, tanks are more likely to leak. Good tank maintenance should keep your pocket and hands dry, but there are a number of little things that can go wrong.
Tanks, and the mods they attach to, are generally a bit heavier than their pod counterparts. They also tend to be a bit more cumbersome. Of course, there is plenty of variety within these different types of hardware, but on average, tanks are bulkier in the pocket.
So there you have it, a deep dive into the difference between pods and tanks.
Like with most aspects of vaping, it really comes down to personal preference.
Pod kits are great if you value convience, ease of use, and want a vaping experience that is close to a tobacco cigarette. They’re particularly good for beginners or novice vapers.
Tanks are a good choice if you like more control and customization. Additionally, if you’re into direct-to-lung vaping, they’re the best choice. While they are the more advanced option of the two, they are fairly easy to get the hang of.