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RDAs vs. Tanks

All over the internet, you can find re-hashing of the same tired "RDA’s vs tanks” article. They all point out the differences between the two and end by saying “it’s just about what you like”. Well, that’s obvious and I won't waste your time with such frivolity. Of course, they each have their pros and cons, which I will mention. But I am not here to simply give you a list of features and leave you unsatisfied and alone in your thoughts to decide. I've already thought long and hard about this so you don't have to. This is my opinion column, so you're getting my cold, hard opinion.
 
First of all, Atomizers aren’t THAT interesting. If you put a hot coil against wet cotton, the liquid in the cotton turns to vapor. Tada! That’s the genius idea that launched this entire phenomenon. Every atomizer is simply a contraption that aims to put a wet wick (usually cotton) into contact with a hot coil. 
 
Do you want me to bore you with the details? Fine. I'll be quick.

Sub-ohm tanks are easy and convenient. Pop in one of these pre-made coil heads and you're good to go. It's the "plug and play" atomizer.

 

Tanks allow you to screw disposable coils into the base. They already come with cotton built in. Fill the tank and it's good to go. Tanks are plug and play. They require that you buy packs of disposable coil heads that contain the whole coil/wick configuration.

An RDA (Rebuildable Dripping Atomizer) is just some hardware with posts allowing you to clamp down your own coils.

 

RDA's have positive and negative posts and you can do whatever you want from there. This usually involves clamping down coils and then jamming cotton into the coil. RDAs require some set-up and are a little more involved, but everybody agrees they produce superior vapor and flavor. 
 
When I got into vaping, I was so confused why anyone would bother with RDAs when tanks seem so much easier. Who wants to fuss with building coils?
 
Take a seat, because I'm about to drop a knowledge bomb right into your lap.
 
You don't have to build coils
You can get pre-made coils at pretty much any vape shop. Or you can buy them online. They cost anywhere from $1–$20 and last forever. That's right. I said forever. That's a slight exaggeration, but what I mean is, with an RDA you can maintain your coils rather than replace them. Once you get your coil build set up, you don't HAVE TO change them. Or with a little tender loving care, you change them so rarely it's not an issue.

You can buy these pre-built RDA coils at any vape shop for about a dollar apiece.

 

Let me explain.
 
You change your coil when you get "burnt coils", right? When it starts to taste funky. When this occurs on a tank, there is nothing you can do but toss it in the garbage and replace it with a new one.
 
“Burnt coils” is a misleading term. Coils don't burn. Cotton burns. And the caramelized resin that can accumulate on the coil can crust over and burn. But the coils themselves don’t. With a little maintenance— by not allowing this gunk to build up— you can use the coil indefinitely. (ish)
 
With RDAs you have direct access to the coils, so you have the option to scrape any gunk off and wipe them down. You can’t do this with the pre-built disposable coil heads tanks use. You don’t have much access to the coils, and can’t replace the wick. Once the wick is burnt, it’s trash. With an RDA, if you burn the wick, you pull it out and stuff new cotton in there. For this reason, RDAs are the cheaper of the two. A $3 bag of cotton will last at least a month, as opposed to having to spend $15 every other week on disposable coil heads.

Bigger and better coils are available online. These are from OhmlandCoils

 

I prefer the nice, expensive pre-made coils that come 2 for $20 or so online.

However, most vape shops carry the bargain bin pre-made coils that go for about a buck apiece. The cheap ones work fine, but I find them too thin and wispy. They usually have tiny little openings that make wicking difficult. And they bend around everywhere. And unless you are into coil-building— as thankfully, some are— just buy some coils. I've built my own coils. It's not that hard. But I'm glad the market provides so that I don't have to. 

You can buy a spool of wire for a buck and have coils for the rest of your life. This will work just fine. But come on.

 

The bigger, more expensive coils have more surface area and a wider opening. They tend to be more rigid, which makes wicking and cleaning a lot easier. Plus, you’re more likely to take care of more expensive, high-quality coils than the flimsy ones.

Spend $20 and get some nice coils. And take care of them

 

I re-wick every other day or so. And part of this routine is giving the coils a good scrape and a little rub-down with some paper towel. The whole thing takes about 5 minutes and I don’t see it as an inconvenience. The stainless steel coils I'm using right now are a few months old and you can still see the silver. Some people re-wick rarely if ever. 

I apologize for the disturbing images below. These weren't even anywhere close to the worst pics I was able to find. 

This is completely avoidable. Rewick every few days and keep your coils clean.

 

What kind of flavor do you think they're getting here? Some of you know. By keeping your coils clean and re-wicking often, you will always have much better flavor.

The coil heads for sub-ohm tanks are meant to be disposable and don't give you the same kind of access to the coils. Once they get gunked up, there's not much you can do about it.

I tried the "clean them with Everclear" trick, which will clean them, but I found that you have to vape about a whole tankful before that funky taste goes away. I decided it was easier to just buy new coils

Nothing you can do about this until you taste the funk. Trash it and pop in a new one.

 

The main difference between RDAs and tanks is flavor. If I got the same quality of flavor from a tank I'd have little interest in using an RDA. If you're not familiar with what I'm talking about, it's not a subtle difference that only a highfalutin wine tasting snob might pick up on. I often have the same e-juice in my tank and RDA, and it's a fairly dramatic difference. If you've vaped your favorite flavor ONLY using a sub-ohm tank, you haven't really tasted it. You've only kind of tasted it. Like hearing your favorite song playing in a room down the hall. 
 
Once you get over the fear of tinkering, the only drawback I can see to using an RDA is that you do have to carry juice around. That, and they're not as "road-friendly" as tanks.
 
As promised, I am not going to end by saying "it's a matter of preference". No, I'm taking a hard stance and you can do with it as you like.

RDAs are better but have a good tank for when convenience is more important than flavor. 

Right now, some of you are thinking, "Sam, you idiot, don't you know you can get the best of both worlds with an RDTA?" Perhaps. I bought one and ended up never using it. It leaked everywhere and I thought it was kind of goofy. Maybe I'll give RTDAs another shot and report on my findings.