You have seen plenty of reviews describes this machine for cutting and crafting as fast, user-friendly, versatile and low-maintenance, but is it all it is cut out to be? Pun intended. Well, our team decided to research it and bring you this comprehensive Cricut Explore Air 2 review. We reviewed its key features, performance and ease of use in comparison to similar models such as its predecessor and the Silhouette Cameo 3 that are available in the market.
We also looked at the kind of materials it accommodates and the accessories included in the package to determine whether it provides good value for money. What we discovered is that this electric cutter largely works as advertised. Read on to learn more about our findings and answers to the most pertinent question in the FAQ sections that we have included in our Cricut Explore Air 2 review.
Cricut Explorer Air 2 is probably the most popular model among the cutting machines in the Explorer series. It is fairly priced and includes premium features usually available with high-end products. These include a high speed, automated settings, powerful long-lasting blade and various color options. We will review these key features and more in this guide to help you understand how this machine works and what to expect when you buy it.
Cricut Explore Air 2 is capable of crafting most projects that hobbyists and advanced designers create in a precise and timely manner. It accommodates over 100 types of materials ranging from the lightweight cardstock to thicker materials such as faux leather and custom apparel. This is made possible by a powerful German Carbide blade with impressive sharpness ad lifespan, decent cutting force, fast mode option which increases the speed by doubling it, a time-saving dual carriage, an effective mat, and wireless support for remote application. However, it requires you to be online to connect to the compatible Design Space. The cutting size could also be larger to accommodate larger or longer work sheets. These two features might be deal breakers for career designers and advanced crafters who have regular work, a large workload or complicated and intricate patterns to create. While they may find this model a bit restrictive for their demanding needs, Cricut Explore Air 2 will more than suffice for the casual hobbyist or for home use. It is also ideal for students and small gigs such as party and greeting cards, handwritten cards, stickers and gift wrappers. It is highly rated by users, including experienced designers who love the precise cuts it delivers when they craft jobs on a small scale.
Cricut Explore Air 2 has a capsule shape with an elegant profile. Buyers can choose from a variety of 8 different colors. The front features the Smart Set Dial which calibrates settings automatically for materials that are compatible with the machine. There is a tool storage spot, the Smart Set dial, “Open” button and the power button at the top of the unit. The other side of the top also features other buttons for Load/Unload, Logo for starting the cut and Pause button.
The exterior also has the power port and the USB port which connects to your computer with the included adapter.
The interior is where you will find the storage units labeled “A” for pens, markers and scoring stylus and “B” for blades. It also has the mat rollers and belt and the hidden compartment that opens to store scrapers, pens, blades and other cutting tools. You would be surprised by how many users are not aware of the existence of this spot.
It is marketed as capable of cutting more than 100 types of materials and when you think of all the designs you can create with it, this is not far from the truth. Some of the materials you can use are cardstock, specialty paper, faux leather, vellum, iron-on-heat transfer, adhesive foils, and vinyl decals. It features an integrated Smart Set dial with a list of compatible materials and adjustable pre-programmed settings for them. Whether you are designing custom apparel, greeting cards, lace stationery, stickers, spider webs or party gifts, you will find the right setting for it.
Cricut Explore Air 2 comes with a scoring stylus that creates intricate fold lines when designing envelopes, boxes, 3D papers and acetate pinwheels. It also includes pens and 370 fonts for writing handwritten cards.
Cricut Explore Air 2 is equipped with the German Carbide blade which lasts thrice as long as a traditional blade. This type of blade goes through a special hardening technique to make it sharp, durable and resistance to breakage. It is ideal for cutting materials of light and medium weight such as adhesive vinyl, cardstock and HTV (Heat transfer vinyl). A sharp blade makes clean cuts with no frays and without removing iron-on from the sheet.
Another supported tool is a bonded fabric blade for polyester, burlap and silk. Ideally, you should use this type of blade only for bonded fabric projects to increase its lifespan.
Let’s take a coser look at the features that influence the machine’s cutting process.
Besides the powerful blade, there are other convenient features that complement the cutting process. They include a cutting mat withs a reformulated design that provides a firm grip of the material being cut to avoid the sliding issues commonly associated with other mats.
Cricut Explore Air 2 has cutting size of 11.5 X 23.5 inches which is spacious for most DIY projects, and a maximum cutting width of 2 mm for light and medium-weight materials.
One of the most marketable qualities of this upgraded model is its high speed. It has fast mode option to increase the cutting speed twice and save time. This is ideal for thin materials and simple cuts but a higher speed for complicated designs may reduce the precision of the cut. Also, remember that increasing the cutting speed will also increase the level of noise generated.
Cricut Explore Air 2 cutting force is set to 210 grams which may not seem much if you compare it to the more advanced 4000 grams of Cricut maker. But this cutting power which is applicable in most of the cutting machines in this pricing range is reasonably decent. It can cut through various types of material of 1.5 mm thickness with a standard blade and 2 mm when paired with a deep-cut blade.
Cutting force determines how easily a machine can cut materials with more powerful models having a higher cutting force.
Cricut Explore Air 2 works with the Design Space software. The initial version of the software could only be accessed online but the Company has now made it possible to use it as a downloadable offline app on iOS and Android devices. You can digitize your handmade designs, replicate them as much as you wish and then upload them on the software for printing.
This model generates much more noise compared to Cricut Explorer Air but it is not so loud that you would find it disruptive. The noise increases as the cutting speed doubles in fast mode.
This cutting machine is capable of connecting to wireless networks as well as smartphones, laptops and computers. This gives you flexibility to create designs wherever you are. The Bluetooth capability has been improved to pick signals fast. Cordless connection also eliminates any chances of tripping over cables which could cause the machine to fall or break.
New crafters will be pleased to learn that Cricut Explore Air 2 includes a test project and online tutorials to familiarize themselves with the machine and get them started on designing various items. Buyers can choose from readily available templates as well as create custom designs using the software.
It is also known as a double tool holder. This time-saving feature attaches two clamps or tools so you can use both simultaneously; one for writing and the other for cutting. It frees you for other activities so you don’t have to babysit the machine as it does these tasks. However, it does not include a rotary blade such as the one that comes with Cricut Maker.
This model is a relative space-saver with dimensions of 24 inches in length, width of 9.5 inches and height of 9.5 inches. It weighs 14 pounds.
Cricut Explore Air 2 comes with a limited warranty of one year. The manufacturer advises buyers not to use the machine for commercial purposes to avoid voiding the warranty.
It is currently retailing at less than $20 which is within most users’ budgets. The machine comes with a premium fine point blade and housing, power adapter, a black fine point pen, USB cable, a 12 x12 inch light grip adhesive cutting mat, welcome book, access to Design Space software, and a 2-week free trial to Circuit Access, a library with more than 100,000 images and fonts.
There are some other features that make this cutting machine a great choice:
Cricut Explore Air 2 uses the same cartridge system used by the older Cricut models. So, if you own a previous edition, you won’t need to replace the existing cartridges with different ones. This saves you extra costs and is one of the qualities that make this model low-maintenance.
Cricut Explore Air 2 is available in a variety of 8 color options. These are raspberry, mint, blue, black, fuchsia, lilac, gold, and rose. This allows you to purchase a cutter that highlights your personal style and complements your working space.
In addition to a free trial to the expansive library, new users also receive 50 ready-to-make projects and materials for a practice project so they can start designing right away.
The contents and pricing differ according to the type of bundle you have purchased for your Cricut Explore Air 2 machine. For instance, the Basic Tool Set bundle consists of scissors with a stainless steel tip blade with removable cover, reverse grip tweezers, mat scraper, spatula, and a weeder for removing tiny cuts from the crafting sheet. Depending on availability, the bundle may include a portable trimmer, an iron-on protective sheet, blue true control knife, removable premium vinyl sampler, everyday iron-on sampler, transfer tape, and a 3-pack of 12 x 12 cutting mats.
It has almost everything you need to design common items, including instant access to several images and fonts when you register your purchase. You will also be able to work on your work efficiently because Cricut Explore Air 2 has automated settings for your projects, wireless connection, multitasking tool holder and 2x speed, if you choose. It is also a popular choice for precise cuts made by the sharp blade included with the machine. Additionally, it is compatible with Cricut cartridges and blades that you can pair with the machine for bonded fabric projects and deeper cuts.
Both machines look similar and share the following features:
The exceptions are that:
To recap, your choice will depend on whether you prefer speed or sound. Buy Cricut Explore Air if you want a quiet cutting machine that will take a while to finish the job, and opt for Cricut Explore Air 2 for a loud but 2x faster machine.
Design: Cricut Explore Air 2 features a capsule sleek profile available in a variety of pleasant pastel colors, well-labeled clamps and a strategically located storage. Silhouette Cameo 3’s profile is streamlined and curved with a large touchscreen and a neat appearance that would fit in any crafting area. User reviews indicate greater preference for Explore Air 2’s layout and design. So, the pretty pastels win over the chic white.
Standard of Cuts: Silhouette Cameo 3 has a convenient Autoblade which calibrates itself to the best settings, and maximum cutting length of 10 feet which comes in handy when cutting repetitive or long projects such as signage. On the other hand, Cricut Explore Air 2 has a sharper blade which offers clean, precise cuts and the ability to double the cutting speed for a fast working rate. It also has a Smart Set dial with a list of compatible materials that can be cut in fast mode. We nominate Cricut Explorer 2 the better option for faster and finer cuts. However, your choice will also depend on whether your project favors speed or a large cutting size since both features will help you complete your crafting quickly.
Software: Silhouette Studio supports offline use and storage and provides a simple interface to create complex patterns and it connects to CorelDraw and Adobe Illustrator with a plugin acquired separately. However, you have to pay for some of the functions that are provided for free by competing software. Design Space software is great for basic designs, you can import SVGs cut designs for free and it is compatible with Cricut cartridges. The main disadvantage is that it requires internet connection and uploaded files are resized before printing.
Storage: Both models provide sufficient storage for accessories to keep your workstation tidy. Explore Air 2 has an open top storage cup and 2 closed accessory compartments with the smaller one bearing a magnetic strip to secure blades from rolling around. Cameo 3 features a long tray above the cutting space, an open left storage for the Autoblade and sketch pens and a front pull-out drawer with 2 compartments and 2 unfolding guides for tools and mats respectively. There was no clear winner in this category because it all depends on the kind of tools you have and whether the compartments are a suitable fit for them.
Ease of Use: The Cricut Explore Air 2 boasts of a Smart Set Dial with compatible materials and their respective settings which makes it user-friendly for new crafters. It also has the better software for simple designs, but you need internet connection to make cuts. Silhouette Cameo 3 has an edge when it comes to loading long cuts at once to save time. It also has superior software for complicated projects despite the extra costs and initial learning curve, and you can access your library offline.
Accessories: Cricut Explore Air 2 mats have received a lot of praise from buyers for affordability, durability and secure grip. For the Silhouette Cameo 3, the toolset stands out for cost-effectiveness. So, this is a tie.
Warranty: The two models also tie in this category because they both offer a limited warranty of one year. One requirement for both is that commercial use of the machines will void their warranty.
You will need to be online and signed in to Design Space to sync and upload content. Otherwise, you can create and save the designs to your computer or iOS device if you have downloaded the app. Please note that the app is not currently available for offline use on Android devices.
You can certainly make stencil if you have vinyl which is compatible with this die cutting machine. You could also use some specific plastic stencil materials. Just ensure that your choice of stencil material is compatible to avoid damage.
If you have read through our Cricut Explore Air 2 review, then you now know all its key features and how you can use them to meet your unique crafting needs. This cutter accommodates over 100 types of materials, provides fast and precise cuts, automatically selects the best settings for your project and features a wireless connection. It also comes in 8 color options to brighten up your working space. You can be sure that it will be a worthwhile purchase as thousands of happy users have recommended it and made it a bestseller. Happy shopping!