Potentiometers vs. Variable Resistors: What’s the Difference?

By  //  November 10, 2023

Potentiometers and variable resistors are electronic parts utilized in a large number of utilizations. They share similarities in usefulness yet in addition have particular contrasts. In this article, we will investigate the qualities, applications, and benefits of both, assisting you with understanding when to utilize one over the other.

What Are Potentiometers?

Potentiometers, often referred to as pots, are variable resistors used to control electrical resistance. They consist of a resistive element and a wiper that can move across it. When the wiper is adjusted, the resistance in the circuit changes, making potentiometers useful for tasks such as volume control in audio devices.

How Potentiometers Work

Potentiometers function based on the principle of varying resistance. As the wiper moves along the resistive element, the electrical contact point changes, modifying the resistance in the circuit. This alteration in resistance is directly proportional to the position of the wiper.

What Are Variable Resistors?

Variable resistors, otherwise called rheostats or customizable resistors, are parts that give protection from the progression of electric flow. They come in different kinds, including turning and slide variable resistors, and are utilized for applications where you really want to physically change the obstruction.

Types of Variable Resistors

  • Rotary Variable Resistors: These consist of a knob that can be turned to change resistance.
  • Slide Variable Resistors: These have a slider that moves along a resistive track to modify resistance.

Variable resistors are commonly used in applications where precise resistance adjustments are required, such as in tuning circuits and lighting controls.

The Key Differences Between Potentiometers and Variable Resistors


Potentiometers are principally utilized for voltage division and control. They permit clients to set a particular voltage by changing the wiper’s situation. Conversely, factor resistors are utilized to control how much current streaming in a circuit. They are great for applications where it is basic to change the current.



Potentiometers are ordinarily planned with a three-terminal construction, including the info, result, and wiper terminals. Variable resistors can have a few terminals, contingent upon the kind. Turning variable resistors have two terminals, while slide variable resistors for the most part have three.


Potentiometers are normally utilized in sound hardware, similar to volume controls, as well as in sensors for estimating position and changing voltage. Variable resistors are every now and again utilized in applications requiring exact current control, like in engine speed changes and tuning circuits.

Advantages and Disadvantages



  • Easy to use and install.
  • Suitable for audio and voltage control applications.
  • Availability in various resistance values.


  • Less suitable for high-current applications.
  • May wear out over time with extensive use.

Variable Resistors


  • Ideal for precise current control.
  • Suitable for high-current applications.
  • Durable and long-lasting.


  • May not be as user-friendly as potentiometers for voltage control.
  • Limited options for resistance values.

When to Use Potentiometers and When to Use Variable Resistors

Deciding between potentiometers and variable resistors depends on the specific requirements of your application.

Considerations for Selection

  • If you need precise current control, choose variable resistors.
  • For tasks involving voltage control and audio equipment, opt for potentiometers.
  • Consider the physical space available for the component, as potentiometers are typically more compact.


In summary, potentiometers and variable resistors both play vital roles in electronic circuits. While potentiometers are reasonable for voltage control and sound applications, variable resistors are favored when exact current control is required. Understanding the distinctions between these parts will assist you with settling on informed decisions for your electronic tasks.


  • When should I choose variable resistors over potentiometers?

Variable resistors are preferred when precise current control is needed.

  • Are there different types of variable resistors?

Yes, variable resistors come in various types, including rotary and slide variable resistors.

  • What are the advantages of potentiometers?

Potentiometers are easy to use, suitable for audio and voltage control applications, and available in various resistance values.