The Battle for the Throne of the Best Die-Cutting Machine
The power of a hobby or a creative outlet should not be taken for granted.
Die-cutting has unquestionably established its ground in the following fields: as a favorite creative hobby, an enjoyable pastime, and finally, an entrepreneurial undertaking of many people.
No matter the category you would sort yourself into, whether you consider yourself a crafter, a dabbler, an enthusiast, or an aficionado, I assure you that you found yourself in the right place.
As I am sure you know, I have many things that pique my interest, and I try to engage in many creative hobbies, but die-cutting holds a special place in my heart.
The limitless possibilities that this hobby allows for truly motivate me to push my creative boundaries, and in the end, I always have something to showcase my hard work.
After countless creative endeavors such as personalized presents, cards and invitations and scrapbooking projects, what I as a seasoned crafter appreciate is a mighty die-cutting machine.
Today, I’ll put two die-cutting giants face to face - Cricut Explore Vs. Cricut Maker. They both hail from the same manufacturer, so you will get to see the peculiarities and nuances of both options.
Stay tuned to see which one ultimately deserves to be crowned as the winner of this competition!
Cricut Explore Air Vs. Cricut Maker - The Outline of Details
To paint you the most concise picture of these two products by Cricut, here is an outline of the most important details and characteristics.
|Feature||Cricut Maker||Cricut Explore Air|
|Dimensions||24 x 7.1 x 6.2 inches (58 x 24 x 15 cm)||25.4 x 10 x 9.2 inches (64.5 x 25 x 23.3 cm)|
|Weight||14 pounds (6.6 kg)||10.9 pounds (4.9 kg)|
|Downward force||4 kg||200 g|
|Software||Cricut Design Space||Cricut Design Space|
As indicated in the chart, there is a lot I’ll be discussing today.
So, without further ado, let’s get to assessing the machines!
Cricut Explore Air Vs. Cricut Maker: The Ground Rules for the Comparison
In order to solidify the foundation for pitting two products from the same manufacturers against each other, I will first introduce you to each of their basic descriptions.
Cricut, being a household name in the world of die-cutting gadgets and machines, needs no special introduction, as it has already garnered a large base of faithful customers who are ready to swear on their products.
Before we move on, you might want to check out the best upcoming Cricut deals.
Now, let me then first dive into Cricut Explore Air, and then I will turn Cricut Maker inside out.
Cricut Explore Air - Investigating its Prowess
There is a universal question that I often hear whenever my friends or acquaintances start thinking about getting into die-cutting: Can you recommend a machine that is beginner-friendly?
With constantly evolving technological advancements, gadgets getting gadgets, and so on, it seems as if machines become intensely hard to use.
In all honesty, ever since Cricut Explore Air came out, I had no doubts about the machine I would recommend to a complete beginner.
If you are wondering why I described this machine as beginner-friendly, now is the time I specifically explain this. Cricut Explore Air contains a Smart Set, a feature that has pre-loaded material settings.
Check out Cricut Explore Air’s video to uncover more neat tricks about Smart Set:
Let me rave about another cool trait of this machine - transportability. It’s significantly lighter than its opponent, and although it lacks a handle, the Cricut family made sure to send it off to you with a bag.
There is also an option for a wireless connection. You can connect your Explore Air via Bluetooth, and it can be accessed from an iOS or Android device.
Unlike its predecessors, Explore Air can stomach through an astonishing variety of materials while employing both the pen and the blade simultaneously, which makes the entire process a lot less complicated.
Finally, check out how Cricut Explore Air performed in another battle, in my Cricut Explore Air Vs. Silhouette Cameo 3 review.
Spotlight on Cricut Maker
From the very moment that this machine came out, it was gilded with epithets such as revolutionary, the most powerful, or simply put - the best.
This is how Cricut officially announced Cricut Maker:
Its unique and innovative design allows for completion of any project that you have in mind, precisely because it has the following: its rotary blade, designed specifically to cut through any fabric.
A bonus to the prowess of the rotary blade is even more blades that make this machine the super-sleek, sophisticated giant that it is:
The knife blade, used specifically for cutting through thick materials. Medium-weight and thinner materials demand the supreme fine point blade.
Then, Cricut Maker offers the deep point blade and the ability to reach an impressive 60° cutting angle and, ultimately, the bonded fabric blade for the utmost precision.
With this dazzling set of blades, you might think that they’ve outdone themselves; just take a deep breath, because I am not finished.
Take a look into working with patterns and fabric and Cricut Maker:
Besides the impressive set of blades that come with this machine, there is also another notable feature that I absolutely adore - the sewing pattern library.
The sewing pattern library allows you to choose from and use more than a hundred patterns! This versatility needs to be lauded.
Now, Cricut Maker should not be strictly used for die-cutting. Although its first and foremost use is that one, it can be applied in various other fields - like engraving and embossing.
This video brilliantly showcases just how adaptable and flexible this machine is when it comes to engraving:
If I intrigued you with this description, read the whole Cricut Maker review.
Where is the Dividing Line between Cricut Explore Air and Cricut Maker?
You could probably observe, from the presentation of today’s competitors, that they are not quite what we would call “twins,” or machines for the same category of crafters.
That’s why I will highlight the core differences between the two. Once you acknowledge them, it’ll become clear which of the two machines is right for you.
|Main Differences||Cricut Explore Air||Cricut Maker|
|Size||25.4 x 10 x 9.2 inches||24 x 7.1 x 6.2 inches|
|Weight||4.9 kg||6.6 kg|
|Noise||quiet||a bit louder|
|Cutting force||200 g||4000 g|
Difference #1 - Speed
The first criterion I chose to compare the two to clearly show one of the biggest differences is their speed.
I did not grade this according to any formal technical specs, but simply observed their performance and measured time!
My findings are:
Cricut Maker is almost three times as fast as Cricut Explore Air and was able to finish my test project in two minutes, whereas Cricut Explore Air needed almost six.
Check the speed of Cricut Maker for yourself here:
Pretty spectacular, huh?
Now take a look at the Explore Air, to see the difference:
Clearly, if this is an important factor to you, Cricut Maker will give you blistering performance, and allow you to save up your time significantly!
Difference #2 - Cutting Force
Cricut Maker offers 4000g of cutting force, which means it is able to cut through virtually any material, from paper to thick and stiff fabrics.
This categorizes it as a professional machine, appropriate for one’s industrial needs, or a serious home business.
But seriously, the Rotary Blade specially designed for this machine, combined with 4kg of force, will cut anything that you want.
On the other hand, 200g of Cricut Explore Air cutting force comes off as rather modest when compared to this powerful die-cutting machine.
Of course, I can’t help but proclaim Cricut Maker the winner here - the cutting force is its greatest trump.
However, Cricut Explore Air, with its cutting force, will not fail you when it comes to cutting a diverse set of light and medium-weight materials. It is a real pro for paper and vinyl projects!
For instance, see a short tutorial on how to cut fabrics with Cricut Explore Air:
Difference #3 - Accessories
I’m thrilled that ten times the power and three times the speed do not also mean ten times the budget for accessories, as the Adaptive Tool System enables you to use any of your previously-owned accessories with Cricut Maker, too.
However, vice-versa is not the case, and there have been some accessories that cannot be used with Cricut Explore Air.
Namely, 4 accessories are specially customized and manufactured for the Cricut Maker:
- Rotary Blade, the biggest upgrade of all the Cricut blades; incredibly precise, powerful, and fast
- Knife Blade, which accounts for the power of the Cricut Maker, for the most demanding materials. I must admit, while I find the Rotary Blade perfect, this one has a flaw - it requires a Bluetooth connection (therefore, it is not available for use with phone applications)
- Scoring Wheel, that creates a single line
- Double Scoring Wheel, creates a double line. Both of the scoring wheels allow you to exert up to 9 times the pressure compared to the previous versions of Cricut machines!
Here is some useful and interesting info by Cricut with regard to the Knife Blade:
As mentioned, some accessories can also be used with both machines, such as:
- Fine-Point Blade, for extra-precision
- Deep-Pont Blade, for more demanding materials
- Fabric Point Blade, a slightly upgraded fine-point blade (to be honest, I don’t see any difference, except that it is pink)
My favorite Cricut accessories that are compatible with these machines also include:
- The Weeding Kit, a must for beginners
- Cricut Premium Vinyl, with its amazing quality and bright colors
- Cricut Felts, which are better suited for the Maker
So, Cricut Maker manages to be compatible with all the older tools and accessories, while keeping some only for itself and its special features!
The calculation regarding accessories is clear: standard quality + upgraded features = a win for the Cricut Maker.
Difference #4 - Design
Size-wise, Cricut Explore Air is larger than Cricut Maker, but the latter is heavier. No winner there: I expected the upgrade to be smaller and compact, but also more portable!
When it comes to the actual design, both machines represent recognizable Cricut Style: oval sidelines, white base with some highlights. I prefer the variants of Cricut Maker (lilac, blue, champagne, rose, and mint), though.
Both machines have a handy storage compartment on the front left side - the only difference is that it has a lid on Cricut Explore Air, and it’s open on Cricut Maker.
The front right side differs, as Cricut Explore Air has the Dial Set, which the Cricut Maker lacks, and therefore, has an elegant and clear view on the right side.
What are the Common Denominators between Cricut Explore Air and Cricut Maker?
As you can see, the machines do have a lot of dissimilarities, but there are some resemblances you must not overlook. I’ll make sure to break them down feature by feature.
|Main Similarities||Cricut Explore Air||Cricut Maker|
|Software||Cricut Design Studio||Cricut Design Studio|
Similarity #1 - Wireless Connectivity
Cricut has started the tradition to embed Bluetooth connection with its Explore Series, and, as expected, continued with Cricut Maker.
Bluetooth connectivity works without any flaws and enables you to transfer your projects from and to the machine quickly.
However, keep in mind that the only available OS for your computer is Windows 10.
Similarity #2 - Price
Surprisingly, these two products belong to the same price range.
I must admit, I expected Cricut Maker to be more expensive, and shout out to Cricut for making this professional machine affordable to the average users.
The thing is: considering all the extra features and upgrades that Cricut Maker has, I think that the price of Cricut Explore Air should have been lowered.
For the price, Cricut Explore Air is missing a few characteristics of its successor.
Similarity #3 - Dual Carriage
One of the most useful and effective features of die-cutting machines is the dual carriage.
Why is it so useful?
Because it allows you to perform two tasks at the same time, thus multiplying your productivity and saving your precious time.
For example, you can draw and cut simultaneously.
I found this feature especially useful for Cricut Explore Air projects, as it is specialized for paper and vinyl crafting - the dual carriage is the real breakthrough with these kinds, allowing you to make a ton of scrapbooks, stickers, greeting cards and tags in the blink of an eye.
Similarity #4 - Software
I have to admit I was not crazy about the Design Space Studio by Cricut.
However, they have improved a lot, and now there is also an Android App available in the Google Play Store (which was not the case until recently).
If you are interested in the new version of the app, view it here:
I am waiting for an official offline mode to be introduced, and they will completely satisfy my needs, as right now, you can only use the software online.
Other than that, it is good and easy to use.
Here is the official Cricut presentation of this software:
It offers enough control to explore and use your creativity, but also contains intuitive guidelines and settings.
Settling the Debate: Cricut Explore Air Vs. Cricut Maker
To sum it up, Cricut Maker completely justifies its price, as it is almost unbeatable (until its toughest opponent came to the market earlier this year - Silhouette Cameo 4) when it comes to the cutting force. The 4kg of downward force simply means power, efficiency, and mass production.
But it doesn’t mean that you should buy Cricut Maker just because it is more powerful. There are times when the simpler option is better for you. Much depends on how you plan to use your die-cutting machine.
Hence, if you’re a specialist in paper and vinyl projects, work at your own pace, and enjoy every step of it, without rushing too much - Cricut Explore Air will be your valuable companion!
In other words: It’s a tie!
You will choose whether you want speed and additional power, or you prefer the simpler, premium Cricut Explore series quality.