Is It Worth Your Attention? Should You Get It?
If you’re a DIY creative person, who loves custom made stickers, prints, and all sorts of crafty stuff, there’s no chance that you haven’t heard of Cricut and their products.
One of their key areas of excellence are portable die cutters - machines that have transformed the industry from the ground up, and made custom crafting available to regular people.
Currently, people have become fed up with uniform and branded products and are looking for something with a more personal touch.
Today I give you my Cricut Maker review - one of the most popular competitors in this industry.
- About Cricut
- Cricut Maker Grades Table
- Cricut Maker: A Step by Step Review
- The Toolkit
- Scoring Wheel and Double Scoring Wheel
- Pen Set
- The Special Features
- Overall Performance
- Final Thoughts
Cricut (the brand owned by Utah-based powerhouse Provo Craft & Novelty, Inc.) seems to be one of the brands that dictates the standards in the industry.
All of their die cutters lean heavily into the indy “arts and crafts” territory and offer ambitious and creative designers all the necessary tools and functions to put their creations into existence.
And, they all come at a price that is very approachable to an average consumer.
However, this broad appeal and affordability usually come with a certain set of limitations, and Cricut is no exception.
All these things are important to understand because Maker line of products (started back in 2017) probably paints the best picture of all the achievements and a couple of drawbacks this company is the most famous for.
Cricut Maker represents a bit of a novelty in the world of die cutters. Namely, this is one of the rare units you can find in this price range that comes with a full-blown rotary blade, which suggests we will face off a genuine beast in terms of fabric cutting.
However, Cricut has gone out of the way to position its latest product out of this narrow niche. If you are to believe the hype built around this product you are to expect a very versatile experience that includes some pretty interesting materials like vinyl and basswood. Furthermore, there’s an ever-increasing number of designs and fonts you can download from the manufacturer's website.
The marketing focus was also heavily focused on the unit’s speed and power, which are the features I am more than interested to test in real life.
Well, I definitely am. Let’s not waste time and sink our teeth into this reasonably affordable and admittedly pretty handsome piece of cutting equipment together!
Cricut Maker Grades Table
In a rush? Here’s what I think about Cricut Maker, on a small handy specs table with grades.[ninja_tables id="5322"]
If you want to know why it scored these grades, and what’s the reason for them, please read on - the detailed review below has all the answers for you!
What’s in The Box?
- Cricut Maker machine
- Premium Fine-Point Blade & housing
- Fine-Point Pen
- Rotary Blade & drive housing
- FabricGrip Mat 12″ x 12″
- LightGrip Mat 12″ x 12″
- Power adapter
- USB cable
- Welcome book
- 50 free ready-to-make projects, including 25 sewing patterns
- Materials for your first projects
- Free trial membership of Cricut Access
Specs and Highlight Features
- Dimensions –6″ x 7.1″ x 6.2″ (57 x 18 x 16 centimeters)
- Weight – 24 pounds (11 kilograms)
- Adaptive Tool System – A professional cutting technology that supplies the machine with 10 times more power than similar die cutters
- Knife Blade – A blade that was specially designed for cutting thicker materials like wood and leather
- Rotary Blade – A versatile cutting tool that makes an excellent job of regular fabrics
- Washable Fabric Pen – An incredibly useful addition that allows you to mark darts, notches, allowances and any other thing that crosses your mind
- Sewing Pattern Library – An excellent way to kick off your efforts without having to bother yourself with design.
- Exclusive Design Apps – You can use them on your PC, Mac as well as your smartphone
The Materials You Can Cut
Well, this one's tough because with over 100 supported materials a better question would be "What are the things I cannot cut?"
Still, you have to be aware that this is an arts and crafts unit, so you should set your expectations to moderate. As long as you stay within the range that’s constrained with paper on one side and basswood, balsa wood and leather on the other you will be good to go.
Unfortunately, anything harder than that (e.g. lighter metals) is way out of this cutter’s depth.
Cricut Maker: A Step by Step Review
To know just how versatile Cricut Maker is, it is time to delve deeper into its nuts and bolts and see how the machine performs when put to action.
Cricut Maker features a handsome white body with polished aluminum lid, multiple colors available.
The things I am impressed by are the small details you can find built into this sturdy body:
First, there is a big ridge along the machine's edge to support your smartphone or tablet which is a very useful little feature, whether you are checking out your design or watching YouTube tutorials.
Another thing I am also very pleased to see is that the machine packs more than a decent amount of storage space. On the left side of the machine, there are two storage pockets padded with silicone rubber.The other large storage compartment comes in the form of a drawer in the front lid.
The compartment features three main sections. The largest out of the three is located on the right and it makes the perfect storage space. The middle compartment was obviously built with scraper in mind, whilst the left section comes with the built-in magnet you can use to safely store your blades (you don't want them to tumble around).
The thing I was not so thrilled with was a rather small-ish cutting space. Namely, the machine’s cutting area is intended to be 12″ x 24″, but in reality, you won't be able to work with more than 11.5 x 23.5 inches, which is, taking into account the machine's overall bulk, slightly underwhelming.
Sure, what you get in the end is still sufficient for comfortable performance, but it is still very hard to shake off the feeling that the people from Cricut missed a huge opportunity here.
One of the strongest advantages of Cricut Maker lies in its power and versatility. Both these perks are brought into existence by a bundled toolkit that covers some very capable mentions like:
- Rotary Blade
- Knife Blade
- Fine and Deep Point blades
- single Scoring Wheel
- Double Scoring Wheel
- a set of unique pens
Let’s take a quick look at each of these items:
Now that I’ve covered the Maker’s hull, it’s time to move on to the specific tools. The main star of the show here is definitely the excessively advertised rotary blade.
And you know what? For the most part, the hype is real.
The new Rotary Blade was designed to cut through virtually any fabric and cutting through fabric it truly does. I even tried putting three layers of cotton on top of each other and the machine worked like a charm. Still, I don’t recommend going thicker than that.
Anyways, as long as you stay reasonably tamed, even the tougher materials like denim will present no problem.
Also, it is good to know that the blade is not only powerful but versatile and precise as well – a benefit achieved with the blade's rolling and gliding abilities. Be that as it may, the final result is a very sophisticated performance that has no problem dealing with the materials like silk.
Power and precision wrapped up in one package? That’s what I like to hear.
If the rotary blade was a tool meant for precisely cutting the finer materials, Maker's Knife Blade would be a blunt instrument you use on tougher materials whose thickness goes up to 3/32″ (2.4 millimeters). Some of the materials you will be able to plow through include the likes of:
- Balsa wood
- Cricut Chipboard
- Craft foam
However, it is important to underline that, although designed for performance, the Knife Blade is still precise enough not to leave cutting marks on the material.
Unfortunately, this piece of equipment is not without its drawbacks. The power and precision I mentioned above this time come at the expense of speed. Cutting through thicker materials will take some sweet, sweet time.
Also, the Knife Blade only works with the desktop version of the software. So, the best way to use your iPhones and iPads, in this case, would be to fire up Netflix and binge on some show while you're waiting for cutting to be over.
Joking aside, there is only so much performance you can squeeze from the home unit like Maker. The fact that you at least got an option to cut these materials is a huge plus.
Fine Point Blade
Fine Point Blade may not be as impressive as the previous two tools we covered, but it does its fair share of the heavy lifting, being able to make very intricate cuts in thinner to medium materials – things like vinyl, cardstock, and paper.
The thing I would like to point out though is that thanks to advanced German craftsmanship, the blade is capable of withstanding a lot of wear and tear. So, no reason to worry – just put the machine to good use, lay back and enjoy.
Note: The package also includes the Bonded Fabric Blade which is nothing more than the differently-colored Fine Point Blade meant for cutting exclusively through the fabric. This inclusion is meant to extend the lifespan of Fine Point Blade.
Deep Point Blade
As you can probably guess, Deep Point Blade is the less sophisticated sibling of Fine Point Blade that was designed to work with tougher materials. It is made from very durable steel and has a blade with an angle of 45 degrees (as opposed to standard 60 degrees). This unique setup allows you to cut through the likes of:
- Stamp material
- Thick cardstock
- Stiffened felt
- Foam sheets
Scoring Wheel and Double Scoring Wheel
Essentially, these two (labeled Wheel 01 and 02 respectively) are the blades that are intended to be used on paper and cardboard. They are fast, precise, and if you use the Double Scoring Wheel (more on that one later) you get a pretty awesome option to score two parallel lines at once.
Unfortunately, they are not as sophisticated as some of the other tools I’ve seen in this package so do your best to keep the “pretty side” down while you’re scoring.
If you thought that Cricut Maker is all about cutting - you are wrong. The package also includes a set of unique pens that allow you to prepare décor items, create interesting coloring pages, and even write card sentiments. Let’s take a quick look at the pens and their purposes.
- Fine Point Pen – A go-to tool for creating precise water-based drawings
- Washable Fabric Pen – It allows you to make instructional markings on cotton-based fabrics
- Scoring Stylus – A tool designed for helping you with folded paper crafts
- Calligraphy Pen – Essentially, this is the tool you are going to use if you want to do some fancy writing on your greeting cards.
The Special Features
So, we have seen that from the hardware standpoint, Cricut Maker makes a very good first impression tainted with only a couple of minor drawbacks. Nothing less than I expected from such a renowned manufacturer.
Still, the die cutter market has become incredibly competitive over the last couple of years and the quality of the hardware has become only one entry on the long list of requirements the manufacturers need to address in order to appeal to wider masses.
That brings me to the special features – all the small engineering tricks that are implemented to improve the machine's functionality and make the users' lives easier – that have as of recently become just as important as hardware.
Let's take a look at how Maker deals with this issue.
Adaptive Tool System
Adaptive Tool System just has to be one of Maker’s strongest selling points. But, what lies behind this enigmatic buzzword?
Well, essentially, Cricut Maker is able to automatically adjust the angle of the blade and the applied pressure according to the material. The detection is achieved through the gears of the drive mechanism interlocking the gears of the very Adaptive Tool System – a setup that somehow manages to be both simple and ingenious.
If you ever wondered why there is no dial at the front of the machine, this is your answer – Maker does the decision making instead of you.
Now, this can be both a blessing and a curse.
Although the detection of material and choice of pressure are pretty spot on, some craftsmen will always prefer to have more say in the entire affair.
Even so, Adaptive Tool System still makes one awesome feature we would like to see on more units of similar type.
Two Tool Capacity
Yet another unique and awesome feature coming from Cricut’s innovative kitchen.
As you can probably guess, this neat feature allows you to load two different tools simultaneously, which opens up the possibility for some pretty interesting combinations.
But, don’t set your expectations too high. The machine is not capable of simultaneous cutting. It does, however, allow you to change between two different cutting and writing settings in quick succession without forcing you to replace the tools.
And that is more than enough for streamlined and versatile performance.
Fast and Precise Mode
On the paper, Cricut Maker allows you to choose between Fast and Precise Mode. When set into the first option, the machine truly performs twice as fast as some other die cutters from this price range. However, this whole idea feels a bit underdeveloped since the setting works only with selected materials like vinyl and cardstock.
Also, when working in Fast Mode, the machine produces a bit more noise than you’ve bargained for. Even so, this is still a pretty neat way to plow through some of the simpler shapes without wasting too much time.
As sad as I am to say this, but the software running the Cricut Maker is probably one of its biggest & most obvious pitfalls.
Namely, Maker is run by the web-based Design Space which is, admittedly, very fast and reliable (as a matter of fact, a massive improvement over the previous iterations), but it still requires either an active internet connection or a smartphone to make the cuts.
I am perfectly aware that these two things have, by 2019, become common staples in virtually any household in the world, but still, such setup feels limiting to a terrifying degree.
The offline mode is only available in the iOS ecosystem.
On the more positive side, Design Space is a very streamlined and beginner-friendly piece of software that packs enough features for any user to gradually improve the skillset and explore new functions.
There is also an option to import .BMP, .JPG, .PNG, .GIF, .SVG, and .DXF files which means that the number of patterns you will be able to use will be limited only by your Photoshop skills and the things you are able to find on the web.
Overall a pretty capable if seriously compromised suite.
Sewing Pattern Library
If Cricut has dropped the ball by deciding to make life as difficult as possible to Android users, Sewing Pattern Library is definitely a feature that does a lot to improve the impression.
So, why the hype?
Well, Cricut has engaged in a very fruitful partnership with some of the big brands Riley Blake Designs to bring you 50 ready-to-make projects. And they are not simple run-of-the-mill patterns (for the most part, at least). Some of the designs are very appealing.
Your only job is to choose which ones you are going to use and stitch the pieces once the cutting is over. It's easy to the point of being ridiculous.
Cricut Access is a premium subscription-based service that allows you access to different designs and fonts. Aside from the access to the store, you also get a 10% discount on all purchases from cricut.com.
Now, this may look like a sneaky way on behalf of the manufacturer to bleed your hard-earned money (because it is), and perks like this sometimes come completely free.
But, if you are really into arts and crafts, you will be glad to know that prices are not off the charts. Besides, the service is not mandatory so you always have a way out.
Last but not least, I am very pleased to see that Cricut Maker supports wireless Bluetooth connection, so even if you don’t own an adapter you will be able to connect the unit with your iPhone, iPad or Android device.
At the very end, I have to address another important issue and that is its warranty. Speaking in these terms, Cricut Maker feels a bit underwhelming. Namely, you get a 1-year warranty which is not terrible (better something than nothing) but I’ve expected more from the tool that was intended for plowing through some rather tough materials.
But, once again, the people from Cricut have found a way to mitigate this slight problem. The support you get from the company is truly great and you also allowed access to Help Centre and a bunch of how-to tutorials that will help you set up your machine properly.
As we’ve seen by now, this machine has all the building blocks for greatness. The final thing you need to consider is just how well it performs in real life.
For a start, I am pleased to say that Maker is truly a time-saver, especially when working in Fast Mode. The shapes that would otherwise require hours of manual work will be over in no more than 15 minutes. The Two tool Capacity plays exceptionally well into this story.
The level of noise is manageable. Sure, once you switch the unit to Fast Mode you will be graced with substantially more tumult, but even then the machine is not unbearable. You will still be able to watch your tutorials or turn on the TV for some background noise.
I am especially pleased how Rotary Blade performs on tougher fabrics. When the competitors like Cameo 3 and Explore Air 2 struggle to produce a clean cut, Maker works like a surgeon’s scalpel.
That brings us to the cuts. With so many available materials and different cutting tools, giving you a detailed report on how the unit performs with each one of them would be too exhausting.
On average, though, I was very pleased with the level of precision we got. For the most part, the materials turned out clean and undamaged while the level of debris was manageable.
- Powerhouse fabric cutting performance
- Probably the best option for cutting through thick materials like denim and leather
- Unique tools like Rotary Blade and Knife Blade
- Adaptive Tool System makes cutting that much easier
- Fast Mode for cutting paper and vinyl
- The future tools will be compatible with Adaptive Tool System
- Embedded Bluetooth
- Integrated smartphone/tablet mount
- 100+ supported material
- 50 pre-loaded, ready to make designs
- The ability to import your own designs
- Reasonably affordable
- Neat storage areas
- Still more expensive than most of the direct competitors
- Very slow when working with certain materials
- Rather small cutting area
- The software is web-based which is a very curious decision
- Fast Mode produces a lot of noise
- The Knife Blade is sold separately
- Not all tools feature the same quality
It is obvious that Cricut Maker is a pretty capable, powerful and versatile product that pushes the limits of what can be achieved in the consumer-level die cutter market. Calling it perfect would be far-fetched, though.
For a start, although it is still reasonably affordable, Cricut Maker stands high above the direct competitors price-wise. The quality always comes with a hefty price tag, but that is something you should definitely take into account when deciding which product to purchase.
And then, there are too many small quirks to count, with limiting and iOS-oriented software being one of the biggest offenders.
The question remains - are these flaws big enough to discourage you from buying something that could be best described as powerhouse die cutter that outperforms the competition in almost all relevant fields?
I think they’re not and give Cricut Maker a heartfelt recommendation.