PROS / Cricut's Explore Air can draw and cut simultaneously, saving you lots of precious design time.
CONS / The companion app is not compatible with Android devices.
VERDICT / This is a good machine for beginners because of its easy, labeled settings and modern features.
Cricut's Explore Air tackles a number of different materials – everything from paper to vinyl to leather and wood, with the right settings. That opens up huge possibilities for your creativity. You can do much more than cut with this machine. Many die cutters allow you to insert a pen for drawing patterns, but this one is unique in that you can insert a blade and a pen at the same time. You can have the machine draw a pattern for you and then cut it out in one job.
The Explore Air has a simple dial that allows you to select the material: paper, vinyl, poster board, fabric and more. Some crafters may balk at the idea of a machine making many of the decisions when it comes to the materials setting, but taking some of the guesswork out of blade depth is a welcome feature for novices. Knowing the proper blade settings is something that comes with time and practice. There are also half settings – one click between fabric and poster board, for instance – and custom settings to help you get exactly what you need for your project.
If you became part of the Cricut family before the Explore air was introduced, you can still use your existing cartridges. You can also use Cricut's free online software where you'll find existing templates – some free and some for purchase – and the ability to design your own. If you upload a JPG, GIF, PNG or BMP from your computer, Cricut Design Space can help you convert it into a cuttable image. It is not compatible with Make the Cut or Sure Cuts a Lot software though, so if you are used to those applications, you'll have to learn new software, but it is user-friendly.
For portability, Explore Air is a good option. While it lacks a built-in handle, the Explore comes with a basic bag that makes it easy to pack along. One feature that adds greatly to portability is its Bluetooth capabilities. With a companion app, you can send your design from your iPad to your Explore Air wirelessly. Also, since the associated software is web-based, you can access projects from any computer, which is not possible with many other die cutters. While this is one of many die cutters with a mobile application, it is not compatible with Android devices.
Cricut Explore Air lacks a handle and you have to learn new software, but this machine is excellent overall. It makes precise and beautiful cuts on vinyl, cardstock and much more. It's also versatile in terms of blade depth and is easy to use, even for novices. We pulled this unit right out of the box and started making high-quality cuts. This machine offers a lot of value for its price and can make a nice addition to many craft rooms.