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Dab Pen vs. Cartridge: What are the Similarities and Differences?

John Doe

Written by: John Doe

Updated on April 30, 2024

Dab Pen vs. Cartridge: What are the Similarities and Differences?

Dab pen or wax pen, vape cartridge, and vape pod are a few frequently used terms among enthusiastic experienced vapers. However, they could be new and highly confusing for new ones. Dab pen and vape cartridge are two commonly used terms among cannabis (weed/marijuana) vapers. To optimally understand what these terms are and how they are different from each other, you should read the next paragraph thoroughly. As it serves as a prerequisite to observe the rest of the information.

Dab pen and wax pen are two interchangeable terms. A cart is an abbreviation for vape cartridges. A vape is a vaping device with a battery, used to vaporize nicotine liquid and weed products like live resin and THC distillate. A vape pod is a battery device that connects either with a pod or cartridge to supply power to the coil. A pod is a vaporizer that mimics the function of a vape tank, comes with a built-in coil, and connects to a battery or vape pen.

So, now you have got a rough idea of what they are. But, there is still a lot to know about them. Their difference, similarities, and detailed explanations are worth reading. So, scroll on to clear and master the concept of dab pen, cartridge, vape pen, and vape pod.

What is a Dab Pen/Wax Pen?

Dab Pen/Wax Pen

A dab pen is a complete portable vaping device that allows the consumption of cannabis oil and concentrates by vaporizing it. As the name suggests they come in a sleek and slim shape like e-cigarettes.

A dab pen homes a battery, a heating element, and a mouthpiece. The battery powers the vape pen, while the heating element vaporizes the cannabis concentrate and the mouthpiece is obviously where the vaporized concentrate is inhaled from.

There are two types of dab pens available in the market, disposable and reusable. The reusable dab pens have a rechargeable battery and require a dab tool (a slim, long metal tool) to precisely place live resin or wax.

Pros of Using a Dab Pen/Wax Pen


Like other vaping pens, dab pens provide great portability and discreetness.

Strong Flavor

As dab pens vaporize a cannabis concentrate. live resin or wax, they provide a strong flavor profile. This flavor profile mimics the original flavor and aroma of weed.

Heats Quickly

Dab pens heat quickly to provide an excellent vaping experience so that you can enjoy your concentrate without any significant delay.

Cons of Using a Dab Pen/Wax Pen

Frequent Cleaning

As dab pens vaporize wax, they require frequent cleaning to prevent residue buildup and ensure a consistent fresh flavor.

Lower Vapor Production

The vapor production of wax pens is way less than other nicotine vaporizers. This is primarily because of the texture and consistency of their concentrate, wax. So, if you are a fan of smoking big clouds, dab pens are not for you.

High Cost

Wax pens lie on the higher side of the cost. They are more expensive compared to other vaping devices, especially higher-end reusable models. Further, the cost of replacement coils/atomizers and refillable concentrate should not be neglected.

What is a Vape Cartridge?

Vape Cartridge

A vape cartridge is a cylindrical container that mimics an e-liquid tank and contains cannabis or weed oil. They have built-in coils, which can be fixed or replaceable. We have two types of carts available, disposable prefilled cartridges and reusable cartridges which can be refilled with THC oil of your preference.

Vape carts are non-magnetic and require manual fixing with the vape pen or battery. They are usually called 510 Cartridges due to their connecting mechanism. They have 10 connecting threads spaced five mm apart.

Pros of Using a Vape Cartridge

Minimal Smell

Vape carts use cannabis oil which has a minimal smell. It makes carts more discreet and convenient to use.

Control on Dosage

Pre filled THC vape carts provide more control over the dosage. They provide a fixed experience. This feature of carts makes them perfect for relatively new cannabis vapers, as this way they can not get overwhelmed.

Cons of Vape Cartridges

Health Concerns

THC cartridges pose several health concerns. Especially those of low quality. Another disadvantage is their addictiveness.


It is always a hassle to get high-quality cannabis oil carts and refillable THC oils from legal dispensaries. Further, the government policies regarding THC affect the availability of carts. However, under normal circumstances, cartridges are easily available online or in offline vape shops.

Dab Pens and Cartridges: Key Differences and Similarities

So, now we have developed a good understanding of wax pens and carts. Let’s move a step further and dive into their key difference and similarities.

Product Utilization

The primary difference between a wax pen and a cartridge is their method of utilizing concentrate.

Dab pens heat up a small amount of live resin or wax on the heating coil to turn it into vapor. On the other hand, cartridges are filled with weed oil. The total amount of cannabis oil available in the carts gets heated up by the coil and turned into vapors. Then these vapors are inhaled through the mouthpiece.


Customization has always been an exciting feature for experienced vapers. In this regard, the ball goes into the court of dab pens. They allow more control over the voltage, temperature, and puff intensity.

However, carts provide a more consistent experience, as they are designed to operate at a certain temperature and voltage.


While discussing cost, we need to imagine both scenarios of buying a disposable and reusable vaping device.

Usually, the oil cartridges come at a lower price than the dab pens. But we need to change the whole cartridge each time, so it eventually costs more. Hence, there is still wisdom in investing in a high-quality reusable wax pen, as each time you only need to refill the wax. However, the reusable dab pens usually come at a higher side of the price range, but they are still worth the investment, as in the longer run you can buy your own concentrate and use it multiple times.

But this scenario too gets balanced if you buy reusable 510 cartridges. Because then you will only need to buy the oil to refill.

In conclusion, if you buy refillable oil carts, then its cost will be similar to the cost of reusable dab pens in the long run.


Both carts and dab pens are similarly convenient and portable.

However, most dab pens come with a dab cart size of a quarter gram to half a gram or rarely a maximum of 1 full gram. Hence, they need more frequent refills than oil carts. So, you need to keep concentrating and have a dab tool with you every time you leave for vacations or on the go. It makes reusable dab pens a little less user-friendly than the oil carts.

So, In terms of convenience and portability, the ball goes into the court of oil carts.

Cannabinoids and THC Content

cannabinoid is a chemical group present in the weed. This group contains many compounds like CBD, CBG, CBN, or THC. Both oil carts and dab vape pens contain THC and CBD, which are two main cannabinoids. THC is an abbreviation of tetrahydrocannabinol but widely refers as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. It has long been recognized as the main psychoactive ingredient that causes the “high” feel. While CBD is responsible for controlling the psychoactive activity of THC[1].

Both oil carts and dab vape pens contain a high content of cannabinoids. However, distillate has an edge here over oil carts. It contains 90-99% of the primary cannabinoids. While in dab pens the THC content typically ranges from 45-95%, and contains up to 90% of the CBD compound, depending on the original strain.

Take away, distillate oil cartridges have a higher quantity of cannabinoids, which means potent effects and a more intense high.

Aroma and Flavor

The aroma and taste of wax pens are stronger than the oil carts. distillate carts get their aroma and flavor from artificial methods and sources. While live resin or wax has a flavor that mimics the natural flavor profile of weed.

Dab Pens vs Cartridge/Vape Pens: What Should I Use?

The answer to this question solely depends on personal preferences. You need to ask yourself, what are you looking for? taste, potency, vapors, convenience, or control over the contents of the concentrate?

Your answer to these questions will be your guide towards the appropriate vaping device with concentrate, either a dab pen or cartridge, which of course needs to be connected to a vape pen to power the coil.

However, if you are seeking taste/flavor, and aroma with customization for long-term use on a friendly budget, a reusable deb pen could be your choice. It provides all of them in a friendly.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a consistent controlled intake of the concentrate, convenience, discreetness in taste and smell, on a friendly budget, reusable oil cartridges with a reusable vape pen could be a perfect choice for you.

John Doe
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