Cricut Explore Air 2 Review

The Cricut Explore Air 2 is a DIY-solution and a smart-cutting machine. It’s pretty compact at 20 inches in length and 6 inches wide. It can cut over 100 materials including cardstock, vinyl, iron-on, glitter paper, and leather. You may need to buy an additional deep cut blade for thick materials though. With the box, you will get the machine, setup guide, Cricut cardstock, a standard grip cutting map, pen, blades, and a USB cord. 

Setup is easy- simply plug the square end of the USB cord into the back of the machine and the rectangular end into the laptop. Plugin the power cable in a power outlet and the machine. 

An overview of the product

The Cricut Explore Air 2 comes with the machine, a German carbide premium blade, USB and power cord, a pen, a 12*12 inch cutting mat, and a cardstock sample.

Explore Air 2 features a dual carriage technology or Cut Smart 2 carriage that allows you to write, cut or score in a step. This technology also enables faster speeds. The blade housing, blade, and accessory adapter come pre-installed. B holds the blade that cuts the projects and A is where the pen goes. There is a dial on the right corner where you can change your settings depending on what you want to make. 

You can design your projects using your laptop, tablet or smartphone using Design Space- a freemium cloud-based software that lets you edit, customize and preview projects. There are ready-to-make projects and Cricut images libraries you can use or you can upload your own designs for free. With the iOS update 2.7.1, you can actually design on Design Space even when you’re offline.

Why choose the Cricut Easy Press 2 over other cutting machines?

Automatic settings for different materials can be accessed through the smart set dial on the front of the machine for the most commonly used materials. Design Space has custom material selection which you can use if you’re unsure of what to select on the dial.

The maximum cutting size of the Cricut Explore Air 2 is 12 inches (width) * 24 inches (length). In reality, this translates to 11.5*23.5 inches. It’s not the largest vinyl cutting machine out there but it is enough for the average hobbyist. 

Design space is not nearly as useful as Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw but it is’ easier to use and good for beginners to design. It contains a lot of ready-to-make projects and quick cuts to help you get started asap. We love the fact that we can upload images and convert them for free and this feature is sure to be loved by advanced designers. And it’s cloud-based, so you can design on your iPad while lounging on the sofa and send your creations wirelessly to the cutter. In fact, the 2.7.1 update for iOS makes it possible to edit designs when you’re offline. 

You can use creative fonts that are already on your computer or you can even install them from Creative Market & Pixel Buddha. As for the images, only SVG is accepted so you can head to Creative Market or design something on your own.

Additional features and specifications of Cricut Easy Press 2

This machine features a cutting speed in a fast mode which cuts 2 times faster than the previous models. 

One major difference between the Explore Air 2 and the Cricut Maker is that the former has a little slot to store cartridges. This is useful if you have cartridges and want to link them to Design Space.

If you want more versatility while drawing, the Cricut Explore Air 2 pen adapter allows you to use extra pens such as the Crayola markers, Sharpie Ultrafine point pen or ballpoint pens. 

The loading process is slightly longer in the Cricut Maker compared to the Explore Air 2 as the material just goes in part of the way in the latter. 

  • How does the (enter machine name) perform?

We used glitter vinyl to cut a floral image and it just weeded beautifully, the cut lines were smooth and there were no jagged bits. 

There is not much of a difference with the templates and existing fonts between the Explore Air 2 and other Cricut machines. But it falters a bit when it comes to downloaded cursive fonts. We used a Cricut glitter vinyl to test a custom font text. It has cut reasonably well but missed some cuts so we ended up losing some of the details.

The Plus Points

Design

Bulky aesthetics are not attractive in the time of sleek iPhones and Cricut understands that. The Explore Air is minimal and sleek looking compared to the boxy Silhouette machines. It’s small enough to be portable yet sturdy enough to handle tough materials. The doors of the machine as if they’re greeting us! Make sure you use a sturdy workbench. Many crafters have a designated spot for their tools. 

Colours

We already mentioned that we really like the simple design of the machine and the colours available are like cherry on top of the cake! The Explore Air 2 is available in 8 colors including cobalt, fuschia, merlot, sunflower, raspberry, boysenberry, persimmon and peacock! DIY’s like us appreciate having a nice looking machine and this means you can match the machine to the colour of your room.

Smart Set Dial

The smart set dial makes cutting different materials easy. It automatically adjusts the settings for you. The most common material settings are shown on the dial. Set the dial to custom and in Design Space, you can choose from an entire library of materials. 

Fast Mode

The Cricut Explore Air 2 features a fast mode that allows you to cut and write almost two times faster depending on the machine settings and images you want to cut. To use fast mode, simply turn up the dial to the appropriate material between Vinyl and Cardstock+ and select ‘Fast Mode’ in Design Space.  

Storage

The machine has great storage so that everything is on hand. There is a cup that holds tools plus two accessory compartments. The smaller compartment at the bottom holds additional housings and the accessory adapter. The best feature though is this magnetic strip; you’ll always know where to find your replacement blades! The larger compartment is good for storing a variety of Cricut tools.

Cutting

Most competing machines have a cutting force of 210g of cutting power. The Explore Air 2 can go up to 350g. The more the power, the easier and smoother the cuts will be. This also explains its ability to cut tough materials. While it cannot be compared to 4Kg that the Cricut Maker provides, the power in the Explore Air is enough for hobbyists.

Cricut mentions that the Explore Air 2 can cut over 100 materials, while we didn’t test all of them, we can attest to its multi-functionality. It does it’s best work on paper, vinyl, and cardboard. For everything else, you will have to adjust the settings and practice before you get the cuts right.

The cutting mat has also been improved to work with many materials, including vinyl, cardstocks, iron-on, pattern paper, and more. 

Design Space Templates 

The smart dial eliminates complex settings and takes the guesswork out of the process. Design Space offers the largest library of materials compared to any cutting machine.  The available library contains numerous ready-made projects and designs which you can use. 

Design Space also offers a subscription plan that provides access to premium fonts, designs, and projects. We are a little conflicted about this since the machine doesn’t come cheap and many competitors offer designs free of charge. So if you’re comfortable with creating designs yourself then do so  You will be pleased to know though, that at least, the prices are somewhat reasonable as well as that the service is not mandatory and you are not obliged to pay anything if you don’t want to.

Test Project

All the newbies among you will be delighted to know that Cricut Explore Air 2 comes with a test packet. Inside the machine, the accessory adapter comes pre-installed in clamp A and the blade and blade housing in clamp B.  It is a sort of orientation session that will help you get acquainted with the machine and get the most out of it.

In any case, Cricut has so many teachers and hobbyists online who have created courses and tutorials so you’ll never feel a dearth of inspiration. But do start with the test project provided so that you end up learning the basics of the Cricut Explore Air 2.

Accessories

While the Explore Air 2 does not come with many accessories, you can buy them separately. You can make amazing art and cards in different colours with Cricut pens. A scoring stylus can be used to make 3d paper art which gives your artwork more depth and professional finish! And the Explore Air 2 has a double tool holder meaning you can use any two of these tools at once. This means you can cut & draw or cut & score in a single pass, without having to switch out tools in between.

Blades and Cutting Depth

The Cricut Maker has an amazing cutting depth of 2.4mm, while the Silhouette Cameo has 1.2mm. This machine is somewhere in the middle with a cutting depth of 1.5mm with the standard blade. If you want a deeper cut, you can purchase a deep-cut blade which will give you a cutting depth of 2mm.

The blades used here are the same ones used in previous versions and are ultra-resistant. So if you live in a humid area, your German carbide steel blades should be alright for a long time. The cutting size is fair 11.5 X 23.5 inches. This is ample space for most crafters.

The Downsides

Explore Air 2 is up to two times the speed for iron-on, vinyl and cardstock. There is a tradeoff between speed and noise! This machine is certainly noisier than the original Explorer Air. So if it’s a complicated design, it’s best to leave it running at normal speeds as the more the machine moves, the more noise it will make.

How does the Cricut Easy Press 2 perform?

We tried the Explore Air 2 for an iron-on project with mosaic patterns for this review. Setting the machine on custom makes things easy as you can then go to the Design Space search bar, type in the material and choose your settings. Once the design is cut and scored out, we moved on to the ironing on with the Cricut EasyPress. We used a teflon sheet to protect the bottom pumpkin and used the Explore Air 2 on 330’ for 30 seconds. Once it’s ready to cool, we peel the layer right off and viola!

But we’ve tried out making mugs, picture frames, fabric pennants, glitter iron-on sweatshirts and more over the past 2 years. 90% of the time, we’ve seen professional results. For a serious crafter, the joy of getting sharp edges and perfectly circles is just immeasurable and is hard to get with handwork alone.

Final verdict

In our opinion, the Cricut Explore Air follows in the footsteps of the silhouette Cameo 3 and is an incredibly versatile device. It is a good option for beginners to vinyl cutting and terrific addition to your home crafting room. It’s great for small jobs or hobby projects. It’s also a bonus that accessories are affordable.

If you have the previous version of this machine, you may not want to upgrade since the only differences are more colours and a faster speed.