Cricut Maker vs Cricut Explore Air – Which Cricut Machine Should You Buy?
There are a lot of questions out there about the difference between the Cricut Maker, and the machines from the Explore line.
Do I need to upgrade?
Which one is best for needs?
The one thing to keep in mind that these are all WONDERFUL machines. If you have a Cricut Explore Air 1 or 2 (or the Explore or Explore One), don’t feel like you have some outdated, ancient machine. That is simply not the case! They are still very much current and can do a ton of things.
However, the Maker really is a machine that is in it’s own class, and there are some very awesome new features that will make the decision between the machines a little trickier.
First off, I recommend checking out my article on The Cricut Maker Machine: Everything You Should Know. I tried to give some details about what exactly is new, what it is included with the machine, etc.
For the purpose of this post, I will just be focusing on the differences and similarities between the machines. There is a chart at the end of this post so you can see a quick reference chart of the differences. Here is a video I made for those of you who are more visual.
Cricut has generously sent me the Maker machine (and sent me the Explore Air 1 last year!). All opinions in this post are entirely my own.
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Rotary Blade and Fabric Cutting
I’ve said this before, but I think that the Cricut Maker will be the most appealing to people who sew – or who wish they could sew.
With the previous machines, you could cut *some* fabric – however, you did have to add some backing to it. This wasn’t always fool proof either. Felt was nearly impossible to cut as well.
Now, you can cut tons of fabric! I did a demo of about eight different materials, and they all cut beautifully. There is now a pink cutting mat designed specifically for this purpose.
With the addition of these sewing capabilities, there are tons of patterns that have been uploaded to DS. The ,aching cuts patterns so fast. It makes such a tedious job so much easier. The machine also can make markings with the washable fabric marker.
The Knife Blade is the next best feature (in my opinion) that has been added to the Maker. Keep in mind that this only works with the Maker and not the previous machines.
This blade is designed to cut thicker materials such as leather, chip board, balsa wood, etc. It cuts up to about 2.44mm thick of materials! The Cricut Maker is a much heavier machine because it has been created to exert 4000 grams of pressure – which is pretty incredible. The Cricut Explore Air can cut thicker materials, such as balsa wood, aluminum, and chipboard. However, the Maker can cut them faster, better, and with more precision.
2x Faster Cutting and Writing
This is something that the Maker has in common with just he Explore Air 2 – it has two times faster cutting and writing. Until now, I have been using the Explore Air 1. It does not have the 2x faster cutting, and since I’ve been using my Maker – there is a BIG difference.
Print and Cut Improvements
In the past, you could only really use white paper for print and cut projects. However, with the updates they’ve made to the sensor in the Maker, you can use patterned and colored paper.
Adaptive Tool System
If you’ve been following the announcement of the Cricut Maker, you have probably heard the words “adaptive tool system.” You might be thinking, “What the heck is that?!” Basically, it’s the technology that “intelligently controls the direction of the blade and the cut pressure to match your material, so every cut comes out perfect.”
The Cricut team is working on new tools and innovations to make the world of creating even better, and because they’ve designed the machine with the Adaptive Tool System, as their offerings grow, your machine will adapt with it.
With the Explore machines, you cannot use the new tools (such as the rotary or knife blade), because it just wasn’t designed to expand like that.
There are now two tool cups rather than one. Not only that, but the Maker has one that is deep and one that is shallow. There is also a rubberized bottom that helps protect blades and tips.
Removal of Open Button
No more button to open it with! Instead, you just gently open the lid, and the rest unfolds!
I know some are sad about this, but it really helps with the aesthetics of the machine. The hope is that
it won’t make anyone feel limited with the materials they are using – the possibilities are endless.
The machine just looks so much more sleek. The top has a beautiful metal lid with beveled edges. Other metal finishes can be found throughout the machine.
Phone or Tablet Holder
This is great for those of us who primarily use Design Space on a smart phone or tablet. I’ve loved putting my tablet in this slot!
Obviously, the Maker is quite a bit more expensive – it retails at $399. While you cannot currently use any discount codes on it, you will get 10% off if you subscribe to any Cricut Access Plan – the cheapest one is $4.99, and since it will save you about $39….it’s probably worth signing up for at this time 🙂 You can learn more about the different Cricut Access plans here.
Katie is a Colorado-native, BYU graduated, and most importantly, wife to one and mother to three beautiful boys. She is passionate about sharing her experiences with others – especially about pregnancy, breastfeeding, cooking, and crafts. She is currently training to be a Certified Lactation Educator. She loves spending time with her family and helping others find joy in family life.
Looking for even more Cricut help? Be sure to check out our Cricut Tutorials guide which has all of our best tips, tricks, and tutorials for mastering your Cricut machine!