This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, I will earn a small commission to help keep my blog up and running but it won’t cost you a penny more). Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
One of the first big items that I owned was one of the original Cricut cutting machines. I had it probably for 10 years and rarely used it. I needed to upgrade desperately, but the newer machines were pricey and I wanted to actually use it! So I did some research to see if the Cricut Explore Air 2 was worth it. After finding some good tutorials and YouTube videos, I took the plunge and bought the Cricut Explore Air 2. Continue reading for an honest opinion of the Cricut Explore Air 2 and why I love it (and what I don’t).
Cricut Explore Air 2 Information
Cost: The current list price of the Cricut Explore Air 2 machine on Cricut.com is $299.99, but you can find reduced prices from Amazon for just the Cricut machine or for a bundle with more supplies included.
Ease of Use: Beginner to Intermediate
What’s in the Box:
(I purchased the standalone product from Michaels, I did not purchase a bundle. This is the list of everything that came in the box.)
- Cricut Explore Air 2 machine (in blue)
- Sample paper (3 types of cardstock and Iron-on sheet)
- Standard grip cutting mat (green)
- Blade and housing (pre-installed)
- Pen and accessory adapter (adapter pre-installed)
- Power cord & USB cord
- Fits maximum of 12×12 sheet of paper
- Double tool holder (one for cutting and one for pens/scoring)
- Built in Bluetooth for a wireless connection (USB cord also provided for wired connection)
- Cuts twice as fast as original Cricut Explore Air (for vinyl, iron-on, cardstock)
If you are looking for a comparison of the different Cricut Explore products, check out this handy chart from Cricut.
What I Like About the Cricut Explore Air 2
- Size and Speed: It includes 12×12 cutting mat sheet (I previously had the original Cricut which only cut up to 6×12) and the speed is extremely fast. The only difference between the Explore Air and Explore Air 2 is that the Explore Air 2 cuts twice as fast as the first version. When you are creating repetitive shapes or projects, the speed is helpful!
- Design Space online creator: You can use free cut files, purchase individual pieces and full cartridge sets, plus upload your own cartridge sets that were previously purchased to your account. You must use Design Space to create anything on your Cricut. However, you can actually see what you are printing now and visualize the proper size of the die-cut on your mat before making the actual cut. This reduces the amount of trial and error and wasted paper. Also, the terminology is similar from previous versions of the Cricut machine. To help you remember each term, I made a helpful quick reference sheet that you can get at the bottom of this post.
- No more Cartridges: These are a thing of the past since you can purchase everything through Design Space. There is also a spot to plug in and use old cartridges.
- SmartSet Dial: This dial makes life 1,000 times easier! (Anyone who has ever had an older version of the Cricut can attest to this!) The SmartSet Dial allows you to choose the paper type and it has an automatic pressure and speed preset. On the older versions of the Cricut is was always a guessing game of speed and pressure on two separate dials. I was never quite sure what settings I should have for different paper types.
- Bluetooth connection: This allows you to connect your Cricut to your computer OR your tablet (iPad and Android apps available). It makes creating designs so easy! If you prefer, you also get a USB cord to hook up to your computer.
- Print and Cut option: This is one of my favorite features on the Cricut Explore Air 2. The ability to bring in a photo or image of my own, print it and cut it all through Design Space. There are easy to follow steps to create custom die-cuts. Now the options are endless!
- Import your own designs: Now with Design Space you can import your own designs and cut files. It does take some time to learn how to create your own SVG cut files (using outside programs), however, you can then truly customize your layouts and projects. A great course created by my friend JenniferMaker is the best one around for learning how to create your own Cricut designs. We’re talking creating 3D items and an in depth course on how to create your own SVG files. It’s called the Cut Above Course and it’s only open during certain times of the year. You can check if the course is available here.
What I Don’t Like About the Cricut Explore Air 2
- CricutAccess subscription and Design Space account: You must have a Design Space account to use your Cricut Explore Air 2. You do NOT have to pay for the CricutAccess subscription fee to use your Cricut. I was very confused about this at first. When I did my research, it seemed that you had to pay a subscription fee to use Design Space. That is not true. There are plenty of free files and images you can use. Plus with the ability to upload your own pictures and designs, it makes using the product easy and free! If you do want to purchase the CricutAccess subscription it will give you access to more content (fonts, designs, and projects). The subscriptions range from $5 to $10 per month and you can find more information here.
- Saving paper: With the Explore Air 2 being so high-tech, I expected the “Material Saver” mode to be extremely efficient. However, when I made some of my own Project Life tabbed divider cards, I had to create a workaround to save paper. I wrote a whole post about how to conserve paper using your Cricut plus included a walkthrough video that is on my free resource library.
- Print & Cut limitations: Although the Print & Cut feature is one of my absolute favorites, it does have some downfalls (so far). Print & Cut only works easily on white paper. I have found a few workarounds on YouTube, but even then there is limitations, so for now I will stick with white paper. Also, the Print & Cut feature only works with printers that use 8.5 x 11 paper. That is fine, except that there is also a “gutter” area of the paper, so you really have less space than an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper. However, as with any technology, there will always be improvements. I’m hoping Cricut will be able to find a way to update the Print & Cut feature as time goes on.
My Honest Opinion of the Cricut Explore Air 2
Since I upgraded from one of the original Cricuts to the Cricut Explore Air 2, this change was amazing for me! The Design Space is awesome and user friendly. It does take a little time to learn it, but they use the same terminology that they’ve always used since the original machine.
I love that you aren’t limited to cartridges and you can use the free and paid individual files or create your own. Plus the Print and Cut feature is one of my favorite parts of the Cricut (even with its limitations). Overall, I would say that I am extremely happy with the Cricut Explore Air 2 and will continue to use it often.
To help with the Design Space learning curve, I’ve also created a helpful terminology tip sheet. You can get access to it plus other freebies in my resource library that I created just for my email subscribers. Sign up below to get instant access.
Let me know what you think about the Cricut – what are some of your favorite features? If you are thinking about buying one, what else would you like to know? Leave me a comment below!
Until next time!
P.S. I did not get paid by Cricut to do this review. I purchased this machine myself from my local craft store. To help others, I wanted to write an honest review of the Cricut Explore Air 2. Before I purchased the Cricut I did a lot of research to find reviews that were helpful. I hope it helps you too!