First of all, if you’re reading this you’re probably thinking about purchasing a Cricut – yay! But when you see that there are different types your next question is, “What’s the difference and which one should I buy?”
Not to worry, I’m going to break down the Cricut Explore Air 2 vs. Cricut Maker comparison below as clearly and simply as possible so you can confidently make a decision at the end of this post which is right for you.
Now if your question is whether you should buy a Cricut machine at all then that is easy! YES! This machine will seriously change the way that you craft forever. Prior to buying my Cricut, I would hoard DIY projects on a Pinterest board, but never do them. But, when I purchased my Cricut, I actually started doing them because it makes it so much easier and fun to finish handmade projects in a fraction of the time!
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Goals of this post:
- Decide which Cricut machine is right for you
- Save you time and confusion by simplifying the decision as much as possible
- Clarify any questions you have on the differences between the machines
Only have 5 seconds because the kids are screaming at you? Scroll to the bottom to read my final verdict. However, I do recommend reading through the post to make sure which machine is right for you.
Personally, I like to review tables and bulleted lists much more than long paragraphs of text, so that’s typically the style I use when writing these types of posts to keep things as simple and clear as possible. I hope you find it helpful.
Back to the old Venn diagram days of elementary school, I think they are actually helpful when summarizing the capabilities of the Explore Air 2 vs the Cricut Maker:
Essentially, the Cricut Maker can do everything the Explore Air 2 can and MORE!
Cricut Explore Air 2 vs. Cricut Maker Comparison
I have an Explore Air 2 now. Do I need to upgrade?
If you have an Explore Air 2 already, do NOT feel like you immediately need to upgrade. It is kind of like when the latest iPhone comes out and you can get sucked in by all the hype of the new features, but your current one still works perfectly well.
So, if you really want the latest and greatest features you can upgrade, but don’t feel like it is a necessity because Cricut will stop supporting your current machine because that’s not the case at all.
However, I will say that I ended up upgrading to the Cricut Maker and absolutely love it, so you will definitely not regret it when you do. Plus, the Maker is now starting to go on sale compared to when it was first released so it may be the time to start considering the upgrade if you’ve been thinking about it.
Best deal I’ve found for the Explore Air 2
Click here to get the lowest price on the Cricut only
What’s new with the Cricut Maker? aka What can it do that the Explore Air 2 can’t?
- It’s got a rotary blade so it cuts fabric and patterns WAY better than the Explore Air 2! This bad boy is definitely the star of the Cricut Maker and an amazing improvement on previous machines. The rotary blade cuts difficult materials like felt and fabric flawlessly (I am still amazed everytime!). I used to never cut felt before either because it was always a pain with inconsistent results on the Air 2, but now with my Maker it is one of my favorite materials to cut!
- To clarify, the Explore Air 2 can cut fabric but it requires a backing or stabilizer like Heat n’ Bond added to the fabric when matting and is no where near as effective because the blade pulls on the fabric and doesn’t give it those clean cuts like a spinning rotary blade does.
- You can use colored or patterned paper when you print + cut. Life changing? No. Nice to have? Absolutely. The way I envision using this is that you can now print a graphic like Happy Valentine’s Day on a cute heart pattern paper and then die cut around it. So, you don’t have to waste your ink printing the background on white paper, which is great.
- The knife blade allows you to cut with 10x more pressure and through thicker (up to 2.44mm thick), sturdier materials than the Explore Air 2. So, if you like to be able to cut wood with your machine, then you should absolutely buy a Maker.
- Adjustable tool system – this fancy phrase basically means that the Maker was built to grow with you as a crafter and fit a whole host of new tools that Cricut has up their sleeves. I have heard rumors of up to 40 new blades they are talking about creating. So, if it will bum you out to not be able to use newly released attachments and blades, go with the Maker.
Now for the physical design changes of the Cricut Maker:
- Charging port/device display holder – allows you to charge your phone or iPad as well as display it easily when creating projects.
- More storage space for tools. The Maker now has an additional storage cup (2 instead of 1) and a larger storage drawer built in.
- Got rid of the smart dial to select the material type: At first I wasn’t sure if I would like this change, but I can now say that I love it! Why? Instead of having to get up and adjust your dial on your machine, you can easily make all material changes from your computer as you’re setting up your design to cut. Plus, it teaches you to use the wide range of custom materials instead of just the ones that can fit on the smart dial.
- No open button. You can watch how it opens in the video above, but basically you just pull up on the cover slightly.
- No cartridge port. If you are a long time Cricut user and still have cartridges from one of your older machines, you have to buy an adapter to be able to use them with the Maker. For new users that haven’t owned a Cricut before, you don’t have to worry about this.
QUICK DECISION GUIDE: Which Cricut machine fits your specific needs?
Perhaps my favorite part of this post that you can pin on your Pinterest boards to refer back to are the two graphics below. The first summarizes the feature differences we described above in a quick and easy format and the second helps you decide which machine suits your needs?
Where should I buy my Cricut to get the best deal?
Here’s the best deal I know about for the Explore Air 2.
You can get the Cricut Maker here. Since the Cricut Maker is so new, you won’t find it on sale yet. But, I will update this post if it does. Personally, I recommend buying it through the Cricut website to ensure if anything were to go wrong with it, you can easily work directly with Cricut and don’t have to deal with the third party too. Shipping is free for large purchases like this so you don’t have to worry about that.
You may be thinking “Oh, I should get it at Michael’s and use their 40% off coupon. It doesn’t work apply to buying this item. I tried when I was making sure I gave you the best recommendation possible.
THE VERDICT IS IN!
I highly recommend you buy the Cricut Maker.
It is hands down the best long term investment because you can get a ton of use out of it and it will work with all the latest and greatest upgrades and add-ons that Cricut releases. There’s no denying these machines are expensive, so it’s best to buy one that will last you the longest and is the most powerful and versatile with what it can cut!
With the Cricut Maker, you can cut fabric, felt, wood, and leather SO much better than you ever could with the Explore series machines – I have been seriously blown away!
Plus, it has started to go on sale recently so you can find some great deals on it if you already have an Explore series and are looking to upgrade.
Best deal on the Cricut Maker
My only caveat to this recommendation is if you really just want to focus on paper crafts and are totally content with the current features of the Explore Air 2 (and won’t be upset if they release new blades you can’t use), then go with it and save the extra money.
I hope this Cricut Maker vs. Explore Air 2 comparison helped you come to a clear and confident decision about which machine is right for you. If you still have any questions, let me know in the comments below and I will try to help.
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37 thoughts on “Cricut Explore Air 2 vs. Cricut Maker Comparison: Read This Before Buying!”
I’m a dinosaur! I have a Cricut Expressions, and I love it. Not interested in going high tech. Are there still tricks to be learned for me, and my friends on your site? Love everything so far!
Hi there! I am not super familiar with the Expressions, but if it can use SVGs than there are ton to choose from!
Great information and greatly appreciated! Gotta make my decision now!
You’re very welcome! Let me know if you have any questions 🙂
Mine is ancient too… I have the Cricut Expressions,cartridges, and a Gypsy! …… I need an upgrade…. Do you use an iPad for yours or a laptop? Which one do you prefer to use and for which machines? And will my images from my Gypsy machine and Cartridges transfer over to the Cricut App???? Thanks!
Hi there! I definitely prefer to use a laptop, but there is a Design Space app for iPad. You can link cartridges to Design Space to use with your machine. Hope that helps!
Only have 5 seconds because your kids are screaming at you?
Did we just become best friends? YES I THINK SO. Thank you for the great information! This is a big purchase, so insight from other makers is so valuable!
Haha so glad you found it helpful 🙂
Hi there, thanks for the information it was very helpful. I’m very new to crafting however I do believe that I could highly benefit from the cricut maker. When I purchase my cricut maker machine, do I need to include any other items? I was looking for a bundle deal but haven’t found one yet. Thanks again!?
I looked on the cricut website after I left the first comment. I discovered two bundle deals….Would you recommend the cricut maker essential bundle or the everything bundle?
Love that these women are so knowledgeable with the Cricut Machetes
Can you cut chipboard with the Explore? Or would I need a Maker for that??
Hello. I am on the fence about upgrading to The Maker. I have my old Expression and the Explore Air 1.
You mention with the Maker they will be in the future adding numerous blades. I am so skeptical and nervous that this may never happen, only because when the Expression came out the had blank buttons on it and claimed they would put them to use. They never did and we had to purchase a new machine for upgrade purposss. Sooooo I am hoping that the Maker is it for a long time and we only have to purchase new blades designed for Cutting specific types of materials. So I just hate to spend $400 for something that will only change in a year.
Which bundle is best essential or everything bundle? I went out today and purchased Cricut Air 2 wisteria explore bundle (Joann’s). Thinking I may return it and get a maker after reading your article.
Hi, I find the explanation very helpful. I have an cricut explore air 2. I wanted to know if I can cut foamy with it or a ticker material.
Hi Erica, I know this has been quite some time since your post, but I’m heavliy debating which machine I want to get. Your article is very helpful. I’m still kind of stuck because it seems like the maker is mostly benifical to someone who sews, I do not lol. So in your opinion is that true? I love crafting, I’m just unsure of if I would get into doing the thicker material crafts enough to justify the extra money it would cost. With either purchase I would likely get the everything bundle because it seems like a better deal, would also like to know your opinion on that. Thanks!!!
Does it have to be an ipad/iphone or can it also be a tablet/android phone?
Thank you for this comparison, it was way more helpful than the other posts Ive read comparing the two products. I really appreciate when bloggers keep things easy to read but also informative. I think another thing to also realize when deciding between the two (as a person looking to buy their first Cricut) is that if you can afford the more expensive and newer one you should, I have always found that as confidence grows in the things you work on, you can start to branch out and get more creative. The Cricut Maker seems to allow you to take everything to the next level once you get comfortable and you wont have any restrictions like you could have with the Explore Air 2. You may end up wishing you had gone for the Maker and now have to spend more money to get it… I’m all about saving money in the long run and not having to buy things twice. Thanks for the great post!
So glad you enjoyed it. That is a great point and very true in my opinion!
Hello, your comparison was informative. But it did not really explain what you could cut on both machines. Could you send a list. Thank you Jean
You may find this article helpful: https://svgandme.com/cricut-beginner-faq/
Do I have to use cricut design space with the maker?
Yes, this is the cut program that you use to “talk” to your machine. However, you don’t need to design within there. I always create my designs in Inkscape and then simply upload to Design Space to cut.
Wonderful article for someone like me who was struggling to make a decision! Decision made now: Cricut Maker. Do you have any articles on how to convince my husband to buy me one?! ☺️
So glad you enjoyed it! Haha cracked me up with the comment about convincing your husband.
So I recently found out about Cricut products & im still not sure what I want to buy but I KNOW I want one lol
I have two home businesses & have considered the Cricut to make cups with my info in it or add info to prizes or purses or even car stickers, so on. Of course I’d like to move up to fabric & all that but eventually. Would you recommend the circuit air 2 or maker?
My birthday is coming up so I need to know. What’s easier to understand?
Does the new cricut maker cut bigger than 6.75 x 9.25 for print and cut images?
No, both are limited to that size. However, the Maker can print and cut on colored paper now.
Is the cricut maker compatible w android phones or tablets
I believe so – check in your app store if you have the Cricut Design Space app and if so then yes!
I am debating on the purchase of Cricut maker. I had the original Cricut with cartridges, but sold it for the Brother Scan nCut. I have a small craft business making card and a variety of paper crafts. I like my Scan n cut as I can Scan several stamped images an cut without using dies, making it quicker and easier. I was hoping to do the same with fabric as it’s supposed to, but can’t without tearing. Even with a backing. My question is, does the maker come with images already loaded (shapes and objects) as the Brother does, or must everything be uploaded? Thanks!
Based on what you explained, I think you would LOVE the Cricut Maker and it’s cutting capabilities! You work with it through Design Space that has basic shapes and all your computer fonts available to use with it. It also has a variety of free images available as well as premade designs that you can purchase or use for free with their monthly subscription. I tend to create my own designs in Inkscape (a free program) and then upload to Design Space. This actually be a great option for you because you can create SVGs in Inkscape and then use them on your Scan N Cut or Cricut. You can learn more about Inkscape in our free training here: members.svgandme.com/register-inkscape-webinar Also, you can play around with Design Space even before purchasing a machine by creating a free account here: design.cricut.com
I’m a teacher! I’m mostly interested in paper and making vinyl decals. I don’t have a need to cut fabric or anything like that. Would you still recommend the maker or will the explorer be sufficient?
Unless you really can’t afford the Maker, I tend to recommend people purchase it because it is a really high quality machine and I think it’s best to have the ability to use future blades and accessories they come out with.
Hi. So I would like cut out paper piecings from svg files or create my own designs. Do I need to load to Design Space and pay a monthly fee to use it that way?
Thank you for this, I think the maker is the way to go! As someone starting out, what accessories do you think would be a must for mainly vinyl and heat transfer vinyl?
Quick question (might be a silly one as I am a beginner). Will the Cricut Explore Air 2 cut vinyl’s for ceramic mugs, shot glasses, and glass favors?
Thanks in advance!