17 May 2014

Review: The Cricut Explore

** PLEASE NOTE: This review is about the original Cricut Explore not the newer Cricut Explore Air nor the Cricut Explore One **

Hello there, a few weeks back Aimes, Caryn, Stephanie and I were all invited to the UK Blogger event for the new Cricut Explore machine in London. I have to be honest and say I didn't have a clue what to expect. I knew we would have a chance to see the new machine in action and it was also a great opportunity to finally meet the girls in person but that was all.

Well the event itself was SO much better than I had expected. It started out with an introduction to the machine and a talk from Cricut CEO Ashish Arora. What enthusiasm this man has! You could tell that as a company they really wanted this new machine to be the best it could be. We were then joined by two bloggers from the US - Kim and Mandi who shared their experiences of using it as part of their businesses. We were shown how to set up the machine and treated to lunch followed by demonstrations on how to use the machine and also had lots of time to have a play ourselves.


I was a little sceptical about the machine I have to say. I had never used an electronic die-cutter nor even seen one in the flesh. I had seen them on TV and thought they were great but for the cost of them I didn't want to spend hundreds of pounds buying cartridges on top to only be able to cut those images on to thin cardstock. I wanted to be able to cut a wide variety of materials as well as be able to cut any shape/image I wanted.

Well this is where the Cricut Explore comes in. Baring in mind I am an electronic die-cutting newbie here so I don't know all the technical terms, this is a machine that has a wide variety of uses. It cuts about 50 different materials including cardstock, vinyl, leather, denim, paper ... the list goes on and on. Apparently the machines in the past had trouble cutting even thicker cardstock and also it was difficult to know how to set the machine for the thickness. There is now a dial on the side so you simply turn it to whatever material you are using.


It also has the ability for someone to upload their own designs and cut these too, this is an important feature for me. I want to be able to get the most out of it for the price. The Cricut Design Space has tons of pre-designed images and shapes that you can buy for 79p as well as free ones too. There is also whole projects that you can make as well as a ton of different fonts you can cut. It will also cut any font that you already have on your computer too. There is also the ability to draw and cut at the same time. So it can write words and then cut them out. The possibilities are endless! You can also use it with any cartridges you may already have from older machines too.


As part of being at the event all the bloggers were kindly given a machine so that we could properly review it. I didn't know this would happen when I accepted the invitation but of course I was delighted! So for the last few weeks I have been having a play with it. I haven't had as much time to play as I would have liked, to do a proper in depth review but I wanted to share my initial thoughts with you.

The machine is easy to use and set up. It does require a computer (a Mac or PC) with a good internet connection. It is connected via USB. I do believe Cricut are working on it being wireless at some point which for me would be very helpful. The Design Space is easy to navigate around and the machine basically tells you what button to press when as it lights up. To a newbie like me that is great! When I first had a play with it I was mesmerised watching it cut so easily. If you had any problem using a traditional die cutter due to problems with your hands this would be great as apart from pressing a button it is hands-free.
 
I do have two issues with it currently though. The first isn't really an issue sort of but it is (if that makes sense!) ... I do not have the workspace/desk space for it to stay connected to my computer. This means that if I want to use it I have to get it out of the tote bag in came in, pop it up on my desk and connect it all each time. Obviously not everyone is going to have that problem but it is something to think about. If it was wireless that would solve half of the problem (but like I say, Cricut are working on this). ETA: I have just been told by a lovely blog reader of mine that a wireless adapter has just been launched in the US for the Explore so hopefully it will be available here soon - yay! ETAx2: It will be available at Amazon on 1st June :D
 
The other problem I am currently having with it, is that the cutting mat is extremely sticky. This means that when I am cutting cardstock (it seems to be ok with vinyl but I haven't tried a massive variety of other materials yet) I am having trouble removing it from the mat. I am told that once it has been used for a short while this will go and whatever I cut will come off easily. ETA: I have been told by some lovely readers a good way to reduce the stickiness is to stick it to a t-shirt a few times, like you would to get some of the stickiness of masking tape/washi tape. I'm off to try that now! :D

 
Unfortunately I haven't got any completed projects to show you yet but hopefully I will have soon. I did cut a design yesterday (in the photo above) that I am hoping to use as a stencil for my cards so we will see. I do, however, envision that I can use it for a multitude of things not just for card making. I would like to share some of the projects that were made for the event by Cricut ...



The machine launched in the UK over at the Create and Craft Channel yesterday and will be available from other retailers including Amazon and Hobbycraft, from the beginning of June; it retails at £249.99.

I wanted to leave you with a photo that we took on the day ...

L>R top row: Mandi, Aimes, Caryn, Kim and Kristy (from Cricut)
L>R bottom row: Me, Stephanie

I also just wanted to say a huge thank you to Cricut and Ranieri for an amazing day and also for the chance to have a play on this amazing machine! :D

* EDITED TO ADD: Cricut have now come out with various new machines since the original Cricut Explore was released. There is a new Air version - this is connected via Bluetooth (not wifi). I wanted to point this out as I mentioned in my post that Cricut were working on it being wireless, I believe they meant wire-less (in terms of no cable), as appose to connecting via wifi connection. Not all PCs are Bluetooth enabled so please check before purchasing, this includes the Bluetooth adapter available for the original Explore).
 
*Disclosure: I was kindly given this machine free of charge from Cricut & Ranieri, however ,all opinions remain my own and the review is honest*

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review! I have a cricut Expression, and this was appealing. Like you, I am not keen on spending lots of cash (more, anyways!) on another machine. I was curious as to how this would play out! Thanks!
    Tip for the sticky mat...this occurs with the newer mats, I find. And as I watching various Cricut Youtube videos, there was one that caught my eye, by CricutDan. He said to put the mat onto your chest a couple of times. It helps take the stickiness out, but still maintain the stickiness for the project cutting. This is what I do for all my Cricut mats. It works. Hope it helps you.

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  2. Michelle,

    Here in the US, a bluetooth adapter for the Explore has just been released so hopefully it will be available in the UK as well when the machine actually launches. This will eliminate the need for the USB cord and needing to have the machine right next to your computer.

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  3. Wow, lucky you again Michelle! I've got a Sizzix Eclips & love it, I'm sure you'll be fine when you get the hang of it. To "unsticky" the mat a bit, try "pouncing" some lint-free material (an old t-shirt is ideal) on it, that usually works.

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  4. oh wow, i think i need one. Thankyou for the review, it was very helpful as i to have never tried an electronic machine. x

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  5. wow thanks for the review - i wasnt aware cricut has brought a new product out. I loved the idea of cricut of the version before, but with the amount of money and cartidge i wasn't too sure. This one sounds amazing though!
    Might have to ask santa this year for this :)

    Will look forward to seeing some of your finished products.

    x

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  6. Looks amazing, lucky you! Do you know if it works on felt? It would be great if it did, as then I could cut out all Chloe's decorations on it - save my sore fingers!! xx

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