Arts and crafts is a time for enjoyment, whether it is for personal or professional endeavors. Regardless of its use, investing in the wrong die cutting machine can be time consuming, expensive, and frustrating. There are many options available today to choose between for your craft cutting needs, both manual and electronic. If you are considering an electronic cutting machine, you may not want to overlook some good older products. We will review one of these machines, the Cricut Expression 2, as well as compare it to similar products to help you decide what die cutting machine is best for you.
What Is The Product?
The Cricut Explore Air Wireless is an electronic die-cutting machine for home use that cuts a wide variety of materials for arts and crafts purposes. Materials can be cut from ¼ inch to 23.5 inches. You use the simple Smart Set dial to configure the cutting machine to your specific project. It comes with a 12" x 12" cutting mat that grips the material in place during the entire process. The mat also has measurement markings on it (1-inch) to help you properly align your project.
There are many good die-cutting machines to choose from that are beginner-friendly or good for those who just want a basic machine, which may make choosing the right one for you a bit difficult. Many of the best cutting machines also offer bundled packages, but choosing a machine based on the included items isn’t the smartest way to buy. Instead, we recommend looking at the pros and cons.
The Cricut Explore Air Wireless is a great machine for people who are not tech-savvy or tech-crazy. Since this machine uses Bluetooth technology, you aren’t tethered down by cords. You can even use this Cricut machine with your iOS or Android tablet.
This incredibly portable machine is compatible with all Cricut cartridges. This is great if you’re a previous Cricut owner looking to upgrade their die-cutting machine. For new users, though, this feature is practically useless. Cricut cartridges have been discontinued and are both expensive and hard to find secondhand.
Smart Set Dial
The Smart Set dial offers a quick and convenient way to set up your machine for specific craft materials. On the Cricut Explore Air Wireless dial, you can select from thicknesses ranging between paper and poster board. If none of these settings will do, there is also a custom setting. This dial is super easy for beginners to use, versus the alternative of manually setting the machine’s pressure, depth, and speed.
With 100 different materials to choose from, the Cricut Explore Air Wireless is an extremely versatile cutting machine. You can cut, score, and write on basic materials like paper, cardstock, or vinyl. You can also work with specialty materials like glitter paper, magnet sheets, sticker sheets, and more. With the help of the dual-carriage, this machine can cut and write or cut and score all in one step.
Similarities To Cricut Expression
Like the original Cricut Expression, you can craft a variety of projects using the following materials:
- Thin foil
Also, like the Cricut Expression, it has the capability of cutting a batch of one image fast using the Auto Fill and Quantity features. You can quickly create projects, such as “thank you” cards, party favors, and invitations.
Build Volume: 25.4”x10”x9.2”
Cutting Capacity: ¼” – 23 ½”
Cutting Mat Size: 12” x 12”
Cutting Speed: Variable
Create Own Design Capable: Yes
Can you use third-party material?: NoTarget Audience: Hobbyists
While the Cricut Explore Air Wireless is discontinued, you can continue to purchase it online at Amazon, ebay, and other online platforms. Prices vary based on what is included in the package. It may or may not include the starter kit, additional cartridges, or a larger mat (12” x 24”). Prices range from under $90 to around $200, depending on the condition, bundled items, and seller.
The Cricut Explore Air Wireless has been replaced by the Cricut Explore Air 2 Wireless. While this machine has some updated features, it currently retails for between $200 and $300. If you’re looking to save a little money while still having access to plenty of quality features, the older Cricut Explore Air Wireless is a great option.
Using Your Own Designs
With Cricut’s Design Space software, you can choose from over 500,000 premade images or upload your own. This software accepts any .jpeg or .svg image, as well as any of your own fonts you want to use.
Whether you want to design your own projects from scratch or find inspiration from others in the Cricut community, Design Space is a must for any serious crafter.
However, this software is a subscription service. Currently, rates range from between $8 per month and $10 per month, depending on the terms of your subscription.
With the Cricut Explore Air Wireless, you can use three different specialty blades:
A larger mat is also an optional purchase and is great for larger projects. The Cricut StandardGrip Large Mat is 12”x24” and typically sold as a set of two. If you’re handling heavy or slippery materials, you can invest in the Cricut StrongGrip Cutting Mat. For delicate materials, we recommend getting one of the Cricut LightGrip Mats.
How It Compares
Ease of Use
This is a nice machine for beginners and good for home crafting use. It is not designed for large productions, such as t-shirts. It cuts the basic materials, however if vinyl is your primary material, it is not the best choice. Reviewers report the image you want to cut needs to be traced with a fine black line for the machine to see and cut it. Some also report a large learning curve in figuring out how to use the machine.
Inserting the cutting blade is a simple drop into the machine. Reviewers report assembly to be easy.
The machine works fast, and most reviewers report positively about the machines results. However, some reviewers report issues with the blade getting dull too soon as well as issues with cutting corners due to the way the mechanism is built.
Brother offers a one-year limited warranty for parts and labor and a two-year limited warranty for electronic components and printed circuit boards.
Ease of Use
Overall, the machine is easy to use; however, there are some setbacks. Reviewers complained about software issues and the requirement to pay ten dollars monthly for the software online to work and not being notified of it at the point of sale. You have to be connected to the internet in order to cut, and if your internet is spotty, your projects will not be properly cut. Also, intricate designs are time consuming.
Set up is easy unless you are one of the few unfortunates with the software issues.
Reviewers report the machine is made well.
Cricut offers a one-year warranty only when purchased from an authorized seller.
Before concluding our review, we thought it would be good to include a note about proper care of the machine. It is important to carefully review the manual of the Expression 2 for cleaning instructions. Many reviewers note that complaints about issues with the device, such as the blade and the mat, stem from not taking proper care of the machine as instructed. The manual details how to clean all the machine's parts. If you are more of a visual person, you can also find many videos on YouTube. If all else fails, you can always contact customer service online or otherwise for additional assistance. Cricut has an FAQ section on its website that can be searched. You might be able to search your question about cleaning or anything related to your machine.
If you are passionate about arts and crafts, whether you are new or experienced in crafting, you will appreciate the portability, ease, and speed of the Cricut Explore Air Wireless. With its great variety of included images, all the features offered, we give this machine an easy four out of five stars rating. In a world of ever-evolving technology, sometimes it is nice to have a reliable machine.