Cricut’s cutting machines are often some of the most recommended by experienced hobbyists for their versatility with materials and generally user-friendly design. Far more than cutting machines, the Cricut family of cutters can work with cardstock, vinyl, fabrics, paper, and more. Newer models also come with additional smart functionality, which can also aid in creation.
The Cricut Explore Air 2 is one of their newest machines that builds off of the Cricut legacy and offers users a host of functionality at a price that’s more than appealing.
As opposed to the more expensive and expansive Cricut Maker, the Cricut Explore Air 2 focuses on mass-market appeal, unique designs, and a small and portable body to make creating easy and fun.
After looking at other Cricut Explore Air reviews, we’ll be taking a closer look at the Explore Air 2 and comparing it to the currently-offered Cricut Maker, as well as other cutters on the market. After a feature breakdown and pricing information, we’ll also be talking about how hobbyists perceive and enjoy the product, as well as some pros and cons to keep in mind.
Towards the end, we will be trying to uncover whether or not this small, smart cutter is the best product for your home projects and crafts.
Like other Cricut devices, purchasing the Explore Air 2 means gaining access to a myriad of products and services Cricut offers to their customers. Their implementation of brand loyalty in a closed-end system of service is valuable to some, and less so for others. Let’s break down what it means to own a Cricut device:
Generally, Cricut devices are designed to work with Cricut cartridges—which make the creation of projects simple and fun for the end user. Simply pick out the cartridge you want to use, place it in the device, turn the dial to the right material setting, and start cutting.
Cricut devices are also handled for use with Cricut’s Design Space—a proprietary online website and service that allows users to access new designs and even create their own. These designs are offered at varied prices, but access to Design Space’s advanced features is only available with yearly fees under their Cricut Access membership.
Membership is entirely optional, but cartridges generally are not. We’ll be getting into the additional fees required to run the Explore Air 2 a little bit later on, but first, let’s see what the cutter can do right out of the box:
The Cricut Explore Air 2, as expressed by the official Cricut website, can score, print on, and cut out shapes from well over 20 pounds. Cricut has also taken steps to update their products to work simply and easily with smart devices, so the Explore Air 2’s major selling point comes from its functionality in this department.
As opposed to breaking out the USB cable and being tethered to a home computer, Cricut users can use the built-in Wireless Adaptor and download the Cricut app to print, score, and cut from anywhere in the home.
With a cutter hooked up to Bluetooth technology, there’s no need for larger screens and bigger devices, like on the Cricut’s discontinued Expression 2. Instead, computer independence is gained by pairing your new investment with a device you already own.
This makes operation of the Explore Air 2 a breeze. Simply load up the cartridge and fonts you’ll need for your job, turn the top dial to the appropriate setting for materials, and start the job. You can also utilize the services and software given to you by being a member of the Cricut family to load up your unique images and designs to make creation all that more simple.
As far as specifications go, the Explore Air 2 is similar to both other Cricut cutters as well as cutters from other manufacturers. It is a heavy device—coming in at about 20 pounds—but won’t take up much more than 2 feet in length and 7 inches in width. The Explore Air 2 fits comfortably on a desk or home office and is generally smaller than most home printers.
The extra length comes in handy for larger projects, since the Explore Air 2 can be used on materials with dimensions up to 12x24 inches. Of course, larger cutters are available, but perhaps not with the ease of use and affordability the Explore Air 2 provides.
The Explore Air 2 skips lots of hardware control to keep your computer independent and printing from a smart device. Because of this, the cost remains competitive when in comparison to new Cricut cutters and even used, discontinued products like the Expression 2.
As we explored Cricut Explore Air reviews the cost varies. Depending upon the distributor, a brand new Cricut Explore Air 2 will cost you a little over 200 dollars. Where you purchase it will also affect what comes in the box, so make sure you have the right material to get started.
Cricut cutters need cartridges and blades for use, so be sure to pick up the blade depth required for your planned project as well as the associated cartridge. Explore Air 2 devices now come with built-in Bluetooth, but some of the other models (like the Cricut Explore) might not come with this, so double check with your distributor if you’re unsure.
The Explore Air 2 has considerable clout in the secondhand market. Since cutters can often be costly and a bit difficult to use for first-time users, the Explore Air 2 and other Cricut products often end up on the market for resale.
Smaller but important hardware components like the USB cable or an effective cutting mat are necessary for proper jobs, so be on the lookout to make sure your purchase has everything you’ll need.
Cricut is notoriously a bit stingy with warranties and often only cover products purchased new by licensed distributors. The 1-year warranty is good for manufacturer defects, but little else.
Hobbyists concerned about troubleshooting and long-term operation will most likely need to rely on online communities rather than Cricut itself, but Cricut devices aren’t especially prone to issues. In fact, public perception of Cricut cutters has always been fairly positive.
As we read through various Cricut Explore reviews, it’s clear that it’s a favorite among many people and they enjoy the following highlights.
The Explore Air 2 defines itself as a smart device as opposed to a computer-centric cutting machine.
Built-in Bluetooth functionality is a relatively new feature for the Cricut cutter family, and since most computers also come with Bluetooth capabilities, it is possible to keep the Explore Air 2 completely separated from your home office at all times. This functionality also allows you to take the device with you to other locations for certain tasks.
The Design Space application is also a major selling point for the Explore Air 2, which is often updated and allows for seamless use of the cutter and its varied features. While it is usually best to pair this with an iPad, iPhone can also make use of the application. Just be sure your device is supported by the latest firmware to ensure you don’t have to use the USB cable anytime soon.
Volume is also a positive with this device, as its smaller frame makes it less of a noise polluter in the home. So long as you’re using fresh blades with the right depth, there should not be any issues with tearing or too low of pressure.
We’ll be delving more into this during our pros and cons, but the biggest hindrance to the Cricut family is its frustrating lack of support for third-party cartridges, designs, and applications.
Even if you pay for full access to Design Space with the Cricut Access membership plan, you won’t be mixing and matching cartridges with other models anytime soon. The Silhouette Cameo, a popular competitor to the Explore Air 2, is far more accommodating of Cricut accessories and products than Cricut is of Silhouette products.
Still, the efficiency of the product and ease of use of Design Space keep customers loyal to Cricut and more interested in purchasing the premium Cricut Maker.
Opinions vary wildly on some of the more nuanced features and specifications on the Explore Air 2, so for quick reference, consider these pros and cons before making a purchase:
The Explore Air 2, much like the Maker, Expression 2, Explore Air, and otherwise, is a cutter that’s designed for simplicity.
The Bluetooth functionality is especially handy for when you need to print specialty pieces or don’t want to deal with the hassle of booting the computer up. The Design Space application is especially handy and comes with the community and features that other cutting machine manufacturers simply cannot compete with.
Affordability is also on the side of the Explore Air 2 since secondhand models and new models alike run at a cost that's comparable or cheaper than its competition. Even when compared to a larger Cricut model like the Maker or defunct Expression 2, the functionality differences may give the Explore Air 2 an edge even when compared to other products within the Cricut family.
However, that family is constricting as much as it is helpful.
Little issues with adaptability to third-party products or custom designs are frustrating in the long term. Custom shapes cannot be cut out directly. Image resolution drops significantly on custom images. Printing and then cutting out shapes is limited to a single page shape.
None of these problems aren't an issue for novice hobbyists or anyone who’s just looking for a simple cutting machine without the hassle. We’ll be breaking down the types of shoppers that will best utilize the Explore Air 2 at the end, but for now, take some time to consider how customizing you’ll need your cutting machine to be.
Operation costs are another noted issue with any Cricut device. Since you need cartridges, Design Space, or a combination of the two to run the cutter, the 200 dollar price tag can be a little misleading. This is where the limited third-party functionality can take a toll.
For quick reference, remember the following when comparing the Explore Air 2 to other products:
The Cricut Explore Air 2 is truly one of the cheapest and easiest ways for someone to start using a cutting machine. Crafts, birthday cards, letters, decorating around the home…these products can do it all in far less time, and with far less hassle.
Whether or not the Explore Air 2 is right for you, however, depends on a few things. We feel as if there’s no better product to enter into crafts than with a Cricut cutting machine—and no better Cricut to start with then the Explore Air 2. At the same time, functionality and customization quirks keep it from being the go-to choice for experienced enthusiasts.
There are several variants of the Explore Air 2 to also consider, like the slower but more affordable Explore Air, but you’ll generally be pleased to pick up this cutter in whatever color best matches the aesthetic of your home.
To get a better feel for the Cricut and the types of products possible with it, be sure to pick up one of the starter cartridges with your purchase. Getting familiar with the usage of the cartridge and application will help you better navigate the functionality of the Explore Air 2 and get you moved on to more complicated projects in no time.
We wouldn’t say the Cricut Explore Air 2 is right for everybody—but for those specific users, this product will serve as the backbone for many creative and innovative projects to come.