The Cricut Explore Air 2 vs Explore: What makes it different, how it stands up to the original Explore, and why you should upgrade this Christmas!
If you’re one of my instagram followers, you would’ve seen me share an exciting package that arrived on my doorstep last week. I was lucky enough to be one of the first few chosen to try out the brand new Cricut Explore Air 2. I was over the moon, and today, I get to share all of my amazing findings with you. Let’s jump right into it, shall we?
Cricut Explore Air 2 vs Cricut Explore
Cricut Explore Air 2 vs Explore: Appearance
Both machines look the same from the outside with minimal differences. The biggest difference is obviously color – I have the standard, original Cricut Explore which was a white body with a leafy green bottom. The new Cricut Explore Air 2 comes in four colors – mint green, soft pink, baby blue, and cream/gold. (The mint and gold are my two favorites!)
Because I have an original Cricut Explore, I use a bluetooth adaptor. The new edition has this functionality built right in, so I don’t have to worry about wireless use.
When the machines are open, the insides are very similar as well, with the only exception being the color of the CutSmart carriage. The new Explore Air 2 is silver, whereas my original machine is white.
Cricut Explore Air 2 vs Explore: Using the Machine
Everything operates the same way as the original Cricut Explore, with the exception of a new cutting mode called Fast Mode, which cuts up to 2x faster. I’ll discuss this more when I get into the three test cuts/prints I created. If you are familiar with any of the Explore machines, you will be happy to know they haven’t redesigned the user friendly interface, and it’s still super intuitive to use.
The one big difference that I noticed was that when I hit go on my computer to send a design to my old Explore, it took a lot more time for the machine to react and start flashing the load sign. The new machine picked up the wireless signal about 15 seconds quicker than my standard machine. 15 seconds may not seem like a whole ton of time, but if you have a lot of cuts to make, it starts to add up.
Cricut Explore Air 2 vs Explore: Cutting and Writing
I tested three materials to see how the cutting speed and quality held up against my original Cricut Explore. First, I found a very intricate and detailed image in the Cricut Design Space. I made three versions, in various sizes to be used on different media. To ensure all everything was as equal as possible, I used a brand new blade in both machines, identical cutting materials, and brand new mats for both.
Cutting without Fast Mode
First, I cut a small version (2.5″) of this lacey doily out of vinyl on both machines. For this run, I didn’t turn on Fast Mode, because Design Space warned me to only use it for less intricate designs. The new Explore Air 2 finished this cut almost 25% faster than my original Explore, and shaved 58 seconds off the cutting tie – and that was in regular mode. Also, it’s hard to tell from the photo, but the new Explore Air 2 made smoother cuts and resulted in less spots being “lifted” off the backing. (In the photo below, the original machine is on the left, and the new Air 2 on the right.)
Writing with the Pens
Second, I tried using the pen. I used the Midnight pen in both machines, but this time turned on Fast Mode, just to try it out. The original Cricut Explore drew my design in 5 minutes and 18 seconds, while the new Explore Air 2 took only 3 minutes and 32 seconds to draw my design. That’s over two minutes difference! As you can see from the image below, they are both identical in quality. (Again, older on the left, newer on the right.)
Cutting with Fast Mode
For my last cut, I used glitter iron on. I usually find glitter iron on the biggest pain to work with – I find it tears easily and doesn’t always have a perfect cut, especially when dealing with very small and intricate designs. So, I cut the same image, and again, the new Explore Air 2 beat the old Explore by 2 minutes and 11 seconds. (Exact cutting times were 4 minutes, 22 seconds, and 6 minutes, 33 seconds.)
Cricut Explore Air 2 vs Explore: Cut Integrity
The last thing I wanted to do was test the integrity of the cut. It’s all fine and dandy to cut something quickly but if it isn’t cut perfectly, what’s the point right? So I entered myself into a torture few would do – I weeded that horrible design. And not only did I weed it once, but I weeded it twice – once for each machine (I’m all about the science, folks.)
The cut on my original Explore wasn’t too bad – I only had one small tear, and it was on the vinyl that I was weeding away. I did have to pull at a few pieces, but they did come apart eventually. When all was said and done, it took 17 minutes to weed the design cut by the original machine (minus the few seconds it took me to change the
One Direction music videos I my daughter was watching on YouTube).
I forgot to start my timer when I started weeding the second piece. But I know it was much, much quicker because I only listened to
Drag Me Down and half of Best Song Ever the first part of a very informative and educational TedTalk. I would estimate about 6-7 minutes total. The pieces just pulled apart so neatly, and there was no resistance at all. It was really a perfect cut.
Cricut Explore Air 2 vs Explore: Conclusion
The new Cricut Explore Air 2 is the bomb diggity. (Wait, do people still say that?) It really is faster, and still maintains (and in some cases improves upon) the excellent cut quality that everyone has come to expect of the Cricut Explore line of products. Would I recommend upgrading? If you…
- can, I absolutely would.
- use your machine very frequently (like if you use it for business for instance), it will save you a lot of time in the end.
- are using any other machine than a Cricut Explore, than you definitely have to upgrade – I’ve used the Expressions, the Mini, and even a Silhouette Cameo, and none even hold a candle to the Cricut Explore line of products, especially not this new Air 2. (If you want more info on my comparisons between my Cricut Explore and Silhouette Cameo, visit this post, and you can watch the video below for more info on the new Explore!)
So go ahead, put the Cricut Explore Air 2 on your wish list, or if you happen to married to a crafter, snatch one of these up and wrap it with a big bow for your loved one on Christmas. I promise you, you will never regret the switch.
Just ask my Silhouette Cameo – if you can find him under all the dust, that is.
*I received the Cricut Explore Air 2 at no cost, in exchange for my honest review and comparison of the two machines. All opinions are my own and 100% my own. This post contains affiliate links.*
Steph @ Crafting in the Rain says
Great review Sarah! I did some of the side by side stuff too, but didn’t get around to drawing. I’ll have to try that next!
Ooh, I cant wait to check your out! I’m loving it so much 🙂
You’re the bomb-diggity (and all the cool people still use that phrase). Thanks for such a great review. It has really helped me with my decision (and I’m a guy)!
Glad to help!
Sam Forrester says
Always helpful to see side-by-side comparisons Sarah. Sometimes the new machine is really just not worth the extra money! But in this case I do think the new features are worth the splurge! Thanks for an honest look at the two machines.
anita hildebrandt says
i make signs and am buying all my mylar re-usable stencils from the usa. was wondering if the new cricut 2 will cut mylar?
I’ve never used it – you would need to look at the thickness of the material. The newest model, the Maker can cut much thicker materials, so depending on the thickness you intend to cut, you may want to go up to the Maker.