Cricut Maker vs Explore: What's Different, Wha's the Same, What's Best For You | Machine Feature Comparison | Cutting Machines

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Cricut is the BEST ever craft tool. I kid you not. Cricut changed how I craft for the better (read my story here). And as of August 20, 2017, there is a new Cricut on the scene — the Cricut Maker. I am pretty frugal, so I thought long and hard about whether I really need another Cricut. I spent a lot of time researching the new cutting machine and I found that the Cricut Maker has some significant differences. So let’s put these cutting machines head-to-head — Cricut Maker vs. Cricut Explore — and see how they compare.

Trying to decide between the Cricut Maker and Silhouette Cameo 3? I have a comparison of that as well over at Cricut Maker vs Silhouette Cameo 3: What’s Different, What’s Best?

Cricut Maker vs Explore: What's Different, Wha's the Same, What's Best For You | Machine Feature Comparison | Cutting Machines

ALERT: The Cricut Maker and Explore machines go on SALE periodically at the Cricut Shop! Always check there for current pricing!

Cricut Maker at the Cricut Shop
Or get it on Amazon here!

Cricut Explore Air 2 at the Cricut Shop
Or get it on Amazon here!

But before I get too far, let me introduce the Cricut to those who are unfamiliar. Cricuts are computer-guided cutting machines. They cut precisely and FAST. They cut over 100 materials up to 12″ x 24″ in size. They are essentially little CNC machines, but oh so much easier to use than the big ones that cut plywood and metal. Cricuts are the ultimate DIY cutting machine.

The Cricut Maker takes this to a whole new level by introducing several new blades — a rotary blade, a knife blade, a wavy blade, a perforation blade, an engraving tip, and a debossing tip. The rotary blade allows you to cut fabric without any backing material and the knife blade lets you cut thick things like leather and thin wood. You can read about the other blades (wavy, perforation, engraving, and debossing here!) The new blades glide and roll, and are very adaptive. The rotary blade can even be used to cut super thin and wrinkly materials, like tissue paper and crepe paper. (Hello, crepe paper flowers!) The Cricut Maker can control the direction of the blade and the cut pressure to match your material It’s a game-changer for makers like me and you.

This post is NOT sponsored nor affiliated with Provo Craft, the makers of the Cricut machines; it my 100% honest opinion and review. This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission but it won’t cost you a penny more)!  Read my full disclosure policy.

Cricut Maker vs. Cricut Explore: How Do They Stack Up?

Cricut Maker Cricut Explore
List price $399 (on sale right now - lowest price ever!) $299 (on sale right now - lowest price ever!)
Fine-Point or Deep-Cut Blade (You can cut all the same paper and vinyl on the Maker that you can cut on the Explore)
Rotary Cutting Blade (This is what cuts fabric without the need for any backing)
Knife Blade (This is what cuts leather and wood)
Scoring Tool (This produces a better score) (can only use the scoring stylus, not the scoring tool)
Sewing Patterns (Via Cricut Access)
Machine colors Champagne/grey (standard color), rose, blue, and lilac Lots of colors to chose from (I have a rose and mint one)

Is Anything Else Different?

Some more differences between the Cricut Maker and the Explore:

  • The Cricut Maker has a built-in shelf on the machine for your iPad, iPhone, or another smart device (you can see it in my picture at the top of this post).
  • The Cricut Maker has an upgraded 3 Amp. power cord that allows you to charge a mobile device on the right side while the Maker is cutting or writing. The Explore machines do not do this (they have an output of 2.5 Amps).
  • The Cricut Explore has a special place to plug in old Cricut cartridges. Cricut Maker has no cartridge slot. I’m fine with this as I have no cartridges! If you have cartridges, you won’t lose them — all cartridges, projects, and uploaded images are linked to your Cricut ID in the Cricut Cloud via Cricut Design Space, not to a machine. (Update: Cricut has an adapter that you can plug in if you need to use physical cartridges. Or just email Cricut support photos of your cartridges and they’ll help get them into your Design Space account free!)
  • The tools storage area has a larger capacity on Cricut Maker (there are two compartments instead of one). The Cricut Maker’s tool holder even has a rubber bottom for sharp blades.
  • The Cricut Maker weighs more than the Explore Air 2 because it is 10x stronger. The Maker is about 30 lbs, while the Explore is 21 lbs.
  • The Cricut Maker does not have the Open button or the SmartSet material dial found on the Explore.
  • The Cricut Maker has the awesome Adaptive Tool System which can hold a variety of blades and pens (and they are adding new blades all the time). The Cricut Explore Air 2 has a Cut Smart 2 cartridge for holding blades and pens (no new blades are going to be added beyond what is currently available). Both have two clamps.
  • The deep-cut blade cuts up to 1.5mm, while the knife blade (Maker only) cuts up to 2.4 mm.

Compartments on the Cricut Maker - Cricut Maker vs. Cricut Explore

What’s the Same?

  • Both machines let you upload your own files, meaning you can use my designs with your Cricut!
  • Both the Cricut Maker and the Cricut Explore Air have wireless Bluetooth technology
  • Both the Cricut Maker and the Cricut Explore cut paper and vinyl! (The Maker can use the same blades that the Explore can use.)
  • Both machines use Cricut Design Space, although the Set material and Load tools and mat steps look slightly different on the Maker because it does not have a SmartSet material dial.
  • Both machines come in a variety of colors.

Which is Best for Me?

In the battle of Cricut Maker vs. Cricut Explore, which is best? Because I love to sew and just generally make things with fabric and leather, the Cricut Maker is likely going to be more useful for me in the long run. I want to make ALL the things. If you are primarily a papercrafter, the Explore will probably suit your needs just fine! If you are a sewer (sewist?) or want to do more intricate cutting and scoring, go for the Maker.

Cricut Maker at the Cricut Shop
Or get it on Amazon here!

Here’s the best deal I know of on a Cricut RIGHT NOW:
Cricut Explore Air 2

I hope this helps you decide whether or not you need the Maker or the Explore. If you have questions, let me know!


P.S. Want to learn more and make the most of your Cricut? check out my Cricut Coach Playbook, filled with over 65 printable one-page diagrams that show you how to do all the popular tasks in Cricut Design Space!

Cricut Coach Playbook: A Collection of Easy One-Page Diagrams for Popular Tasks in Cricut Design Space

Want to remember this? Pin it to your favorite Pinterest board!

Cricut Maker vs Cricut Explore: Which One is Best | Cutting Machine Comparisons and Features | Which Cricut Should I Get? Cricut Maker vs Cricut Explore: Which One is Best | Cutting Machine Comparisons and Features

Cricut Maker vs. Cricut Explore - this head to head comparison will show you everything you need to know about both machines so you can make an informed buying decision. #cricut #cricutmaker #cricutexplore #papercrafts #papercrafting


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  1. Jennifer, is the cricut maker the same size as the Explore Or is it a bit larger/longer do you know? Thanks

    1. Hi, Laurie! They seem to be the same size. The cover I made for the Cricut Maker fits on my Cricut Explore the same way. The Maker is definitely heavier, though!

  2. Very informative post! I’m looking at getting my first cricut and even though I “think” the Explore would be enough, I don’t want to limit my possibilities straight out of the box you know? Your post is from August, what could you add about likes and dislikes to either machine now that it’s been a couple months?

    1. Hi, Angela! I love the Maker. If I could only have one, I’d pick the Maker. I am still using my Explore, don’t get me wrong, but the Maker does more. Both machines are getting great workouts at our house. I’ve kept my Explore next to my desk and I use it daily. I put the Explore in our sewing studio, and my son has been using it almost every day to cut out felt and plush. When my craft room is done, both will be in here. šŸ™‚

  3. Hi Jennifer! This is the first time I’m visiting your blog. I found it in a search when I was looking for advice as to whether I needed a Cricut Maker when I already have an Explore. Thank you for your input. I’m still not sure I want to or should spend the extra money for a Maker, as I don’t know if I’d use it enough to justify it. I am a sewer, but mostly quilts and things like that, and I already have an Accu Quilt GO. I think I’ll take your advice and wait a while to see what others think of the Maker.

  4. Hello, I’m a fairly new SAHM and I’m looking tp get crafty amd possibly makw some extta money. I was wonderingif you could help me decide which to purchase . I believe starting off ill just be ,aking personalized items, shirts, and such. Would you say the cricut is only good for ppl that sew?

    1. No, I do not think that the Cricut Maker is only good for people who sew. I think this is a common misconception. You can make SO MUCH STUFF with it and never sew at all.

  5. I am purchasing either the Air 2 or the maker for my daughter for Christmas. Right now we are using the old personal cutter that someone gave us when we upgraded. We absolutely fell in love with it and now want to upgrade. I am so much on the fence between the two newer machines. I just don’t know if I can justify the extra money for the Maker. Plus I would have to purchase the cartridge adapter to use all the cartridges I purchased to go with the one we use now. The reason we want to upgrade is mainly because of the size restriction (5Ā½ “) on the personal cutter, and the fact that you can’t purchase too may die sets anymore because everything is on-line. And, oh yes the use of the pens in the newer models. I don’t foresee a need to cut fabric – but then again who knows… Seeing that we are fairly new to all of this , do you think I should just stick to the Air2??

    1. I would STILL recommend the Maker, even if you don’t plan to cut fabric. It has the ability to apply more pressure when it cuts, so it’ll be more versatile. You can cut thin wood and metal with it when the knife blade comes out at the end of the year.

      1. Thank you for the recommendation. The more I research the more indecisive I am getting. I just realized that none of the machines work stand-alone at all anymore. This means internet connections is required to do anything. Living in a rural area internet connection is not always an easy or cheap thing to access. I have also been reading a lot of horror story reviews complaining about the “design space” software and its inabilities, costs, etc. Also said you lose a lot of the options on the cartridges when you upload them to designs space. Do you have any of these issues?

        1. Just stumbled on your blog. I am also in a very rural are & I do not have internet. Except the cell phone, which is too tiny. Must you have internet to be able to even use a Cricut?

          1. Yes, to use the Cricut Explore or Cricut Maker, you need to have Internet access to get to Cricut Design Space, which is where you make your designs to cut. I’m hoping that Cricut adds an offline option to Cricut Design Space in the future, but I don’t know if that will happen. You can use a smartphone, like an iPhone or Android to access Cricut Design Space — I know a lot of people who do that.

  6. Hi Jrnnifer,

    You said, “The Cricut Maker does not have the Open button or the SmartSet material dial found on the Explore..” How crucial is this? Does it make a huge difference? I’ve never had a Cricut at all and I’ve used a friend’s Cricut Expression just a handful of times. However, I figure, why not go for the gusto? My only question is this….Is the Maker the gusto?

    šŸ™‚ Krista

    1. Hi, Krista! These things are NOT crucial. I was just trying to be thorough in pointing out all differences. It’s not at all important that the Maker does not have these — it doesn’t have them because it’s evolved beyond them. The Maker is definitely the GUSTO! I love my Maker.

  7. Hi Jennifer ā€“ my wife does a lot of crafts, primarily woodworking. She had told me that she would like to get a Cricut because she wanted to make stencils to put letters and numbers on her wood signs/plaques. She won’t be using it much for fabric or leather.
    Which Cricut do you recommend?

  8. The Cricut Maker take the mat all the way in and out again, and then the cutting tool goes all the way to the far right and does a little dance before the machine is ready to cut. Why??? Maybe I’d be more patient if I knew the reasons behind it.

    1. It does this to make sure there is room behind the machine BEFORE it starts cutting. I think this is a very good idea and I wish the Explore did this, too. It’s a reminder to make sure you’ve got the room before a project gets ruined.

  9. I hope to get the new cricut maker i sew a lot and teaching my 9 year old to sew I think t he pattern cutting will be cool. I want a cricut the little toy of the cricut that you received the other day. what are my chances? I’m also in my second month of the 30 day craft room organizing challenge. It is taking me longer, I’m not lazy but seem to always have to go some place. I’m painting the kitchen currently. my Epson printer broke they are sending me a new one but I wonder what type of printer do you use?

  10. Hi! I am looking to purchase one of the cricuts. I’m mainly going to be making signs and putting designs on bottles and shirts. Which would you think would be a good choice for me?

  11. Thanks so much for taking the time to write up this review. It was very helpful and I will be saving up for the “Maker” now thanks to this detailed report.

  12. Hi, I just came across your blog while trying to make a decision on which machine will be best for me. I’m interest in make shirts and cups for my daughter sweet 16. Also i love to be crafty so will the explore limit me from that im new to this whole cricut world

  13. Hi! Thank you for your informative post! I am about to purchase a Cricut but I don’t know if I should spend the extra money for the Maker. I plan on making stuff for my classroom and for my son (shirts, puzzles, etc.) Do you think the Explore is sufficient enough, or would it be worth it to upgrade to the Maker?

    1. Chances are the Explore is all you need unless you expect to be cutting felt (or other fabric) or things like crepe paper. In that case, I’d spring for the Maker.

  14. Can you not use the accessories like the knife cutting blade(for wood) on the explore if you purchase them separately?

    1. Hi, Angela! No, you cannot — the Circut knife blade, as well as the rotary tool and the scoring tool, have special gears that work only with the Cricut Maker.

  15. Hi Jennifer! Thanks so much for explaining everything. Iā€™m leaning towards the explore ($) because I only do vinyl and paper. However, if I wanted to cut a simple pattern for a stuffed toy for example, would I be able to do this on the EXPLORE?

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