All the Ins & Outs of This Cutter
Are you a passionate crafter?
Do you want to take your hobby to a whole different level with a crafting machine?
If you answered “Yes” to any of the listed questions, you should definitely stay and read the rest of this text. Why?
Well, I’m going to review one of the newest crafting machines on the market - Cricut Explore Air 2. It is popular - there is no doubt about that - but is it really worth your attention, or more importantly, your hard-earned money?
My Cricut Explore Air 2 review will go into even the smallest details and list everything there is to know before you make your final decision and invest your hard-earned cash, so stay tuned!
Is the Cricut Explore Air 2 for You?
Things worth considering before you decide to buy the Cricut Explore 2
The decision to buy a crafting cutting machine is just an initial step in a long journey toward finding a machine that fits all your needs and will complete your crafting world of creative fun!
Things You Need to Consider Are:
1. Ease of Use
The ease of use depends on your level of experience, so, you first need to answer the question - are you experienced or a first-time user?
Cricut Explore Air 2 is not a professional machine; it is meant to be used by crafters and hobbyists in the comfort of their home. You might start small greeting cards business with it, but it is more appropriate for expressing your occasional bursts of creativity.
It is good to know that this crafting machine is quite straightforward and thus suitable for paper crafting newbies as well. That takes us to the next logical question.
Is the Cricut Explore 2 easy to set up?
The answer is - the machine comes with everything you need to start working ASAP, including the ready-to-make projects and quick cuts.
The Design Space used to be web-based, and you had to have a constant internet connection - but recently a new update for the Design Space iOS app (2.7.1) made it possible for you to cut and design while offline too.
You will be pleased to know that this software is highly functional and quite useful although not as powerful as CorelDraw or Adobe Illustrator. On the bright side, beginners will surely appreciate its simplicity.
3. Cutting Force
One of the most important specifications of die cutters is their cutting force as it tells you how well the device can cut through a material of your choice. So, is the amount of pressure the Cricut Explore 2 applies enough for your usual projects?
If you often use tough materials like leather, you will want a machine with a high cutting force. If you, on the other hand, work only with thin materials such as paper or cardboard, you can buy a machine that applies less pressure too as they tend to be more affordable. Do note that machines with cutting force less than 900 grams are not versatile and can often leave you with scored edges instead of clean lines.
Explore Air 2 packs 210g of cutting power and although that is nowhere near the 4Kg that the Cricut Maker provides, it is more than enough for hobbyists. It can achieve a cutting depth of up to 1.5mm with the standard blade, or 2mm depth if you load a deep-cut blade.
It does not seem much to you? It is enough to cut through more than 100 materials at once, as you will see later on.
4. Cutting width
Before you buy a die cutting machine, you need to make sure that it's cutting wide corresponds to your needs. Does the die-cutting machine of your choice have a cutting width that allows you to finish your projects?
The Cricut Explore Air 2 measures 12 inches in width and 14 inches in length, and that means that you get a cutting width of 11.5-inch by 23.5-inch. It is one of the best deals among desktop machines of this type, and it can get many jobs done, but it is certainly not the largest cutting width available out there. Take that into account before you commit to this specific machine.
5. Material Types
If the cutting machine you choose cannot cut through the materials you use most often, what is the point of having it? Therefore, make sure that Cricut Explore Air 2 is capable of cutting through the type of materials you use most before you buy it.
Most machines have no problem cutting through paper, fabric or vinyl but more advanced units can also handle:
- Sheet material
The best die cutters create delicate lace patterns neatly and uniformly.
What Can Cricut Explore Air 2 Do?
The Smart Set Dial enables you to choose the material and its thickness, but it only offers a few options; in reality, Cricut Explore Air 2 can do so much more.
Namely, even though the Poster Board is the thickest material you can choose on the dial, Explore Air 2 can actually (according to the official Cricut web page) cut through chipboard or birch wood too. In fact, there is a list of about 100 materials that includes:
- Tissue paper
Cricut Explore Air 2 is a home die-cutting machine made by a renowned company named Provo Craft & Novelty, Inc. This US-based company has been in business since 1969 and has created a range of products used for scrapbooking, card making, paper crafting, and other creative projects.
This particular model is a new and improved version of the famous Cricut Explore Air machine that has already paved the way on the home craft cutting market. The Air 2 is now capable of cutting at almost double the speed, and as time is money, you will appreciate that it offers two-speed modes; the normal and the fast one. The fast mode will deliver even on the shortest of deadlines.
At first glance, the Cricut Explore Air 2 will hardly draw your attention. Its minimalistic design does not even begin to reveal what this machine is capable of.
You will surely appreciate the plethora of images that includes over 3,000 easily available projects you can rely on at any time. We should stress that these ready-made designs are free, which is another great plus.
Furthermore, Cricut Explore Air 2 is compatible with smart devices such as smartphones, tablets, and PCs, which means you can work on your project even when you are away and thus finish them much faster. Check out our complete review for more info on this and other important features.
Cricut Explore Air 2 Grades Table
If you’re on the go, and want my verdict without having to read a lot, here’s exactly what I think about Explore Air 2.
|Cricut Explore Air 2 Review|
Now, if you want to know why Explore Air scored these grades, read on - my detailed review follows!
What’s In The box?
- Cricut Explore Air 2 Machine
- The Machine Software and App
- Getting Started Guide
- German Carbide Blade
- Power Cord
- USB Cord
- Free Images
- Built-in Projects
- Cardstock Sample with a Pen
- Cutting Mat with Standard Grip
Specs and Highlight Features
- Dimensions – 24 x 9.5 x 9.5 inches
- Weight – 14 pounds
- The Smart Set Dial – Ensures correct depth and pressure every single time
- 370 fonts –The making of the “handwritten” cards has never been easier
- German carbide blade – premium-quality cutting tool for all sorts of project
- Scoring Stylus – An incredibly useful feature for perfectly folded cards, envelopes, 3D paper crafts, and gift boxes
- Pattern Library – An excellent way to kick start your creative flows
- Exclusive Design Apps – You can use them on your PC, Mac as well as your smartphone
- Cricut Design App for iOS and Android devices – Create on the go
Cricut Explore Air 2: A Step By Step Review
Now that we are assured that Cricut Explore Air 2 is a machine worthy of our attention, we can invest more time into finding out all its secrets.
People say looks matter, and although I agree, when it comes to machines, there are other, far more important things that you need to consider. Nevertheless, I have given my best to assess the design of the Air 2 die cutter.
Some would say that the unit looks simple, but I say that it has a modern minimalistic design that will complement any décor. It won’t stand out in your room but rather blend in, and I think it is a plus. There are a few color options for you to choose from which is another plus as we all know that every crafter has a favorite color - it goes without saying!
Most of all, and most importantly, the design of this machine is functional. The control panel, located on the outer right side of the device, consists of a power button, Smart Set dial, and three control buttons: Load, Go, and Pause.
On the left side you will find an ultra-practical tool holder as well as a cartridge port and an Open button. The door on the front needs to be lowered for you to open the machine, but they hide a little secret too. Namely, they double as a storage space for all the essential tools that you need while operating the machine.
The inside appears simple, yet there are two round compartments that stand out and draw attention. Those are actually two clamps - one is already equipped with a blade, while the other remains free so that you can use it with optional accessories such as Cricut pens or scoring tools. The cutting space, as I already mentioned, is on the small side - 11.5X 23.5 inches.
What are your first impressions?
I bet that you like what you have heard so far, but there are more good news to come.
Although the die-cutter market has been fierce over the last few years, Cricut Explore Air 2 still holds on to its high position, and its popularity doesn’t seem to decrease much.
The consumers nowadays have a long list of requirements, but Cricut Explore Air 2 has some unique features that keep it floating on the surface. Let's take a look at how Cricut Air 2 manages that.
I already mentioned this practical tool that helps you create perfect creative projects with perfectly neat fold lines.
Ability to Cut Intricate Details
Cricut Air 2 boasts great accuracy, and that enables you to master delicate lace stationery designs as well as ultra-complicated and highly-detailed designs such as snowflakes or spider webs.
Double Tool Holder
Cricut Explore Air 2 is not only built to stun with its looks and performance; it is also designed to save time. First of all, there is the Fast mode I’ve already mentioned, but the Double tool holder is another distinctive feature that is a true time saver as well.
A double tool holder consists of two clamps; one is used for cutting while the other can be used for simultaneous writing or scoring. Unfortunately, unlike Cricut Maker, Air 2 lacks the rotary blade that would enable it to shine when cutting and writing on various fabrics too.
German Carbide Premium Blade
Air 2’s German Carbide Blade is a premium blade built to last for years to come. In fact, it has been proven to last as much as three times longer than standard cutting blades.
You may wonder - why is that?
I’ll get out the secret - it is all thanks to the unique hardening process which enhances its durability.
This powerful tool has been specially designed for you to cut through light or midweight materials. Therefore, it is a perfect choice for cutting poster boards, cardstock, vinyl, and other similar materials.
StandardGrip Cutting Mat
The Cricut Explore Air 2 comes with a specially designed mat that has gone through some changes in order to improve the performance of the cutter itself. This mat is now customized to comply with most of the materials you can use with this device, including vinyl, embossed cardstocks, iron-on, pattern paper, and many more.
I especially appreciate an excellent grip that is sure to keep your materials firmly in place but also enables you to remove the material with ease when the cutting is done. You are surely going to like the clearly labeled grid markings and easy-to-use ruler too as both make the process of using the device and cutting precisely much easier.
Fast and Precise Mode
Sometimes you are in a hurry to get the job done as you are working on a minute notice or your deadline is just around the corner. Sometimes you want everything to be perfect or have a detail-oriented client just waiting for even the smallest mistake to make your life miserable.
You can rely on Cricut Explore Air 2 in all of these situations as it boasts both Fast and Precise Mode for every possible situation you can encounter.
You can alternate between Fast and Precise Mode according to your current needs. The former option will set the machine racing and get the job done twice as fast in comparison to most other die cutters in this price range. Do mind that this option works with only a few selected materials such as cardstock or vinyl and therefore you cannot count on it at all times, but I hope that the company will work on this in the future.
Moreover, Fast Mode is quite loud so prepare yourself for that too. It is not unbearable though, and in my opinion, it is well worth it as you will save some precious time, and time is money.
I have already mentioned how the Cricut Explore Air 2 makers failed when it comes to software development. Therefore, the software is undeniably the biggest pitfall of this machine.
What’s the problem? Well, the Air 2 is run by the web-based Design Space which is rather functional and reliable, but to be completely honest, it cannot function without an active internet connection or a smartphone.
On the bright side, most households these days do not lack either the internet or smartphones, so the problem is rarely even noticed by most average users. There is also an offline mode available in the iOS ecosystem for those of you who are tech-savvy and can manage that.
If you put this aside and observe Design Space on its own, you cannot but notice that it is a user-friendly software suitable for beginners and packed with an array of useful features and interesting functions. I still think that allowing users to use third-party design software would be a great plus for the company.
The software I have mentioned offers a dedicated Search box for you to search for the designs and projects that interest you. The available library contains numerous ready-made projects and designs which you can use.
There is also a Catalogue that offers a variety of premium projects, but you need to pop your credit card out to buy those as they are not free.
You can also pay for the subscription plan in order to have full-time access to a plethora of fonts, designs, and projects whenever you need them.
This premium subscription-based service might feel a bit unfair considering you have already paid some serious money for the actual machine, and the fact that many other companies provide the same services completely free of charge.
You will be pleased to know though, that at least, the prices are somewhat reasonable as well as that the service is not mandatory and you are not obliged to pay anything if you don’t want to.
All the newbies among you will be delighted to know that Cricut Explore Air 2 comes with a test project included. It is a sort of orientation session that will help you get acquainted with the machine and get the most out of it.
Besides, the detailed instructions are available online as well, and if you have a desire to learn and improve your crafting, you can take advantage of them as well as the test project to quickly master all that your Cricut Air 2 can do - and that is quite a lot, believe me!
Besides being compatible with your smartphone, IOS device, and PC, the Cricut Air 2 features Bluetooth compatibility as well. What does this mean for you?
It means, for instance, that you can print images and patterns wirelessly, but I am sure that you will soon come up with many more benefits such as wireless cutting and scoring.
Cricut manufacturer does not offer much when it comes to the warranty it provides to its customers. Namely, you receive a 1-year warranty which, for such a tool, is not much to say the least.
Luckily, free access to Help Centre, the test project, and numerous tutorials are all there to help you avoid any issues and be able to use your machine trouble-free.
Finally, we have reached the most critical question:
How well the Cricut Explore Air 2 performs in real life?
Let’s summarize everything!
First of all, as you could see, Explore Air 2 is armed with time-saving features such as Fast Mode, Two tool Capacity, and ready-made designs.
Projects that would take you hours without this practical die cutter will require about fifteen minutes.
The noise this cutting machine produces while working is bearable, even in the Fast Mode, so there is no need to contemplate where to put it.
The German Carbide Blade cuts clear lines and is sure to last long. It performs well on tougher fabrics and materials. Of course, the detailed report listing every single material would be impossible to fit into this review, but I’ll tell you this much - this cutting tool provided precision with all the materials I have tested it with.
It did not damage any material nor created a significant amount of debris you would not be able to manage.
- 2X Faster than its previous version
- Unpretentious design
- Easy to use interface
- A comprehensible starting guide for first-time users
- Online design studio
- It can write and cut in a single step
- Premium German carbide blade
- Auto settings for more than 80 materials
- Connects via Bluetooth
- Compatible with smartphones and tablets as well as MacOS and Windows PC systems
- It works only with the Design Space Software
- Offline app connection only on iOS
- Noisier than its predecessor Cricut Explore Air Machine
- The cutting width is a bit restrictive
Cricut Explore Air 2 Review - Final thoughts
It can be said with certainty that Cricut Explore Air 2 machine works like a charm, the speed being its most valuable asset. I am sure that it will impress you as soon as you start working on your first project.
The upgraded premium blade works with over 100 types of materials which enables you to take your creativity to unbelievable heights. Moreover, you will get all the right cuts clean and neat, no matter what material or speed you choose to work with.
The customizable options allow you to fine-tune the machine to your needs or project demands and get perfect results every time.
The software offers a bunch of preinstalled projects and designs for your utmost convenience, and although Explore Air 2 could benefit a bit from improvements in this department, it is a great cutting machine.
So, is it worth buying?
Heck yay! I can honestly say that it is one of the best die cutting machines in its price range you can currently buy on our market!