This review is my personal, honest and unbiased opinion based on my overall crafting experience, understanding about business and solid beginner’s knowledge about vinyl. New machine will be available for purchase on June 10th, 2021.
I’ll start with two biggest wins:
1. The machine is fast. I don’t know how many people are aware but Explorer Air 2 and current Maker have an option for speeding the cuts up by using fast mode. This is a good option for cutting thick and wide designs. Both machines would shred material (I used it on both – vinyl and cardstock) if the design is intricate. The new machine goes even faster. And the big win is that it can handle fast mode on intricate cut without shredding the material. This part is a huge win.
2. The machine is really quiet. I started with Air2 which I thought was pretty loudish and I thought that make was even louder. When using fast mode on either machine the noise level went up a notch or two. I can’t speak for Maker3, but Explore3 is quite.
Make sure to play this video with volume on.
Now moving on to the more complex part. A lot of people are excited that the new machines are able to cut vinyl in wider size, without a mat, and of course you can just use a roll and let it go. However, this is true only if you are using Cricut brand smart vinyl. I am reading some reviews that smart vinyl is a better quality vinyl and that’s what makes it smart. I highly doubt that Cricut is utilizing different ingredients or adapting new methodology to making its vinyl. After feeling the thickness of Cricut Smart Vinyl I find that it continues to be thicker than that of Oracal 651 and/or Expressions Vinyl series 51. Its stickiness is also not on the same par than either one of these products.
I don’t see any evidence of Smart Vinyl being a better material and/or acting smart. It is definitely smart in one, very big aspect – this material is the right size to slide under the holding pieces on the new machine. That is a big component of why this vinyl can go matless whereas all other materials would need to be on a mat.
This leads to Cricut’s pitch that the new machines are responding to the needs of small business owners who want to be able to cut continuously. The machines will do that for sure, as long as you use Cricut smart material. This brilliant strategic move put a huge damper on other companies that are all currently cutting their vinyl at 12 inches wide. It also forces small business owners to go with Cricut brand, and thus limiting their choices. And if you are going to continue to use other brands and use mat, then the logical question is – how does that solve business owners need to cut continuously?
My co-admin and I have actually ran a test of cutting 651 to semi correct size and putting it through matless. The success was mixed. The machine cut it, but the vinyl didn’t stay on put. My cutting to the 13 inches size wasn’t perfect and that’s def. contributing factor to why the material didn’t stay on as nicely as Cricut Smart Vinyl did. But I am also considering that smart vinyl is thicker than 651 because of its backing material, and the thickness probably is playing a role too. Would need to do more testing to know for sure.
My co-admin and I have both agreed that there will probably be a lot of innovative thinking and heavy 3D printing to reduce the current width of 13 inches to 12 inches which could potentially allow us to cut all other vinyl brands.
In conclusion, the new machines are a mixed bag. There are pluses and minuses. If you are a Cricut brand follower and love its vinyl, you’ll be thrilled with the new machine. Enjoy it in a good health!