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Cricut Expression vs. Personal vs. Making Memories Slice vs. Explore
on November 29, 2009
Expression vs. Slice
There is no comparison - if you can only get 1 machine get the expression - it's worth the extra money...why?
I have the Slice - that was my first machine (I got it 2 weeks ago) only because it had the designs I wanted (tags) and also had some cool accessories and it's my first die cut machine. You have to hold it down to use it, there aren't that many cartridges and if you wait for sales - they are both about the same $. If you need a machine to cut a couple of things here and there and go for the slice. (Read my Slice review for more details).
Expression vs. Personal
The personal cricut only cuts to 5.5" - and it's pretty much like the Slice - around the same price point as well. It does NOT compare with the capabilities of the Expression. Expression cuts in larger sizes, more feature - the LCD screen is more detailed, it's a far more sophisticated machine (think of composition notebook vs. laptop) - also spoke with a cricut user at a store - she said that the Personal wastes a lot of paper
Expression vs. Sizzix - I didn't even really look at the Sizzix, I get they're cheaper, and they have a lot of cartridges and they're cheaper...there's a reason why the machine and cartridges are cheaper - they're VERY BASIC (it's like comparing 3rd grade education to graduate school), reviews on the Sizzix weren't very "WOW" and if I'm going to invest $$ - I rather get something WOW - the functionality and capabilities of Cricut products (even the personal) is far superior than the Sizzix
Expression Features that makes this machine SUPERIOR:
Cuts 1/4" - 23.5 inches (most machines cut from 1/2" and at 1/2" increments - this is 1/8" increments - and about 7" max)
Cartridges - very intricate shapes - when you find them on sale - it's WORTH IT! Plus they have the licensed shapes (Spongebob, Dora, Hello Kitty, Disney...)
Each cartridge seems to hold ALOT of options and information. There are so many varieties
Layering options available (exp - trees - it will cut the "bark" then i set another option to cut the individual leaves - a little bit of spray adhesive and tweezers, BAM - I have a fully functional colored tree)
Design is clean, tight and slim, it's very light and portable (not that I intend on schlepping it, but if I had to, I will)
you can leave it - program and walk away
What I wish came with the machine:
For the $$ - There should have been extra blades + 12" x 24" mat (it can cut up to that, so why no mat?) + spatula!
It seems really silly to nickel & dime customers for equipment they need to make the machine useful - I have a spatula from my Slice tool kit (slice doesn't include that either)
What I've done/thoughts so far (I've only had it for 2 days):
AWESOME - I can program what I want it to cut and walk away! with the Slice, I have to hold the machine in place.
SPEEDY!! It might be worthwhile to buy an extra mat anyways to load your next set of media while you're removing it off the first mat. (This would be important if you're into efficiency)
MUST read directions of the machine first! Then load the cartridge and read those directions! YOU HAVE TO SET ASIDE A SOLID HOUR OF FOCUS TO USE THIS MACHINE! There are so many functions/features you don't want to miss anything.
Had I read the directions first i'd figure out how to load the paper. It's aligned on the bottom left corner (DUR)
You can use ANY size paper as long as it's 3" x 3" - just set the paper size and it'll know and plan for you to minimize waste
Cardstock set blade at 3 - pressure at medium - speed (doesn't really matter)
Paper - set blade at 1 - pressure low - speed (doesn't really matter)
Foam (set blade at 6 - pressure max - speed SLOW) I feel like I need the deep cut blade (another accessory) - the cuts aren't very clean but it works (I'm using the "Printing 101" Cartridge - making alpha puzzle pieces to teach my kiddo letters)
Speed - the slower the better it seems like but for thinner media it doesn't matter
Make sure to have enough table space - you'll need space behind the machine for the feeder
Projects in the future:
Definitely making cards!
More foam shapes (Spongebob cartridge) - and letters
Cardstock animals to teach my kiddo (same with food / etc). (Animal Kingdom Cartridge)
I want to try to use other medium - fabric, adhesive, magnetic sheets, stamp, embossing
I want to get the design software to make my own "cuts"
Helping my kiddos with their school project - making adhesives to stick on walls
Getting sticky textured cardstock to make our own "stickers"
If you get Expression - Buy spatula (unless you already have one)
If you plan on doing projects larger than 12" buy the 12" x 24" mat
Buy an extra set of mats anyways - it'll help keep your machine cutting while you're working =)
Get a set of replacement blades if you intend on using this machine ASAP and ALOT (I've cut 9 foam sheets - 8 1/2" x 5 1/2" and 2 cardstock sheets) and I feel like my blade is getting iffy - or it just might be foam
...Buy the Cricut bags (except maybe the duffel) most do not fit the expression - duffel will only fit expression if you expand it and it's not really "protective" - and doesn't hold much of anything, but if you're set on getting a bag - that's the only one that will work
...do this if you need silence - the machine is LOUD - think of your microwave running or the exhaust fan
...PAY FULL PRICE FOR CARTRIDGES - I got a ton for 60% off - really reasonable if you're willing to wait
I'm going to be making friends with local people who use Cricut and maybe do a cartridge exchange (borrow) b/c not many of the cartridges are repeat use for me - and the ones that are I've bought - I wonder if this is an item that the public libraries have...
...PAY FULL PRICE PERIOD! Most of the national chain stores WILL NOT take their coupons on the machine, but if you are patient, the machines will go on sale - or scope out online venues. Most national chain stores will let you use their % off coupons on the accessories
I gave away my E1 and got an E2 - I sadly - like most reviewers regret doing so before using an E2. Well the E2 is terrible and had glitch after glitch. I miss my E1. I have over 30 cartridges so I'm tempted to get another E1 - but probably won't. I'll just use that money to invest in more cuts with the Silhouette. DO NOT GET AN EXPRESSION 2 - or you might end up sad like me. However, My E1 went to a school so I don't feel as badly. They love it and are having a good time making things for their students.
I've used a Silhouette for over a year and I actually love that machine more. It's a higher price point but the ease of use helps pays for itself. Silhouette's Design program is so much easier to use than CCR and offers a lot of flexibility. I think Cricut might have lost a customer (at least for their machines). They make the best mats hands down. I use their mats in my Silhouette.
If you've followed my reviews in the past - you'll know that The E1 was my first love - then I thought newer must be better and bought the E2 - big mistake. The tech/software issues alone made me almost chuck it out the window a few time. I ended up upgrading to the Silhouette Cameo as it was easier to use, less tech issues, and more sophisticated designs and also their subscription plan was amazing.
Apparently Cricut realized they were losing customers and has revamped the machine and created a subscription plan. I'm game to see if this actually holds up to all the hype.
For those of you who have a cricut now - read this blurb (if not, skip to the next section) - If you have projects on CCR - Explore will NOT work with CCR. You can't export your CCR project files and upload them to Cricut Design Space (CDS). I hope this is a feature their software dev people can fix b/c I don't want to have to recreate what I have. Also if you have linked cartridges from CCR/Gypsy/Cricut account - it will load on CDS (small win).
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CRICUT DESIGN SPACE vs SILHOUETTE DESIGN STUDIO - This is actually really important b/c no matter how fancy your machine is, if you can't create what you want - then what's the point.
PRO-TIP - read the FAQ from the cricut page about CDS before you start - there are functionality that are the same, but the way to e is different than CCR. If you're used to the mat layout (which I am) - set your canvas "basic" and select the 12x12 or 12x24 mat so you can layout your items.
CDS's subscription is really affordable. For $100/year you have access to essentially the entire Cricut library minus a few license cartridges - which is fine for me - a cartridge is roughly $30 on clearance/sale, so for the price of a couple, I have access to tens of thousands of images. YES. PLEASE! I'm guilty of having to buy 1 cartridge b/c I needed 1 specific image. I'm happy "renting the images vs owning them"
I loved SDS b/c you get a subscription plan that allows you $x/month to buy each design. They often have sales on their designs which makes those monthly allowance go very far. However - for Halloween, I burned through my allowance and then some b/c I had a zillion decorations to make. Total Bummer. CDS's option gives me access to everything and anything I can possibly want (except for a few licensed items). Those credits also disappear if you don't use them in the upcoming few months (which has happened to me a few times).
SDS is a program you download onto your machines, CDS is web based. This means you have to be on the internet to use it. I like that SDS is offline and I an do this if I'm stuck in a remote cabin. And it's not tied to the bandwidth of my internet - which can get patchy at times. There is a bit of a learning curve, if you have basic MS Word skills, you'll be ok.
One thing I loved about CCR that SDS didn't have was the function to do layers on a project - CDS does have that feature but it's not as easy as just selecting tabs. I miss that. I guess you can do that on the ipad app.
The software is also configured to lay your shape on a mat to maximize your paper. So you technically don't need to lay them on the mat perfectly. It doesn't have an algorithym to change the angle of the shapes so it fits between things. My workaround is to lay the shapes how I want it to be cut on the mat and weld them together - so I can minimize all the white space. CDS then treats that as 1 image and cuts as many as you want.
SDS has grid lines but not numbered/ruled which can be a little tricky at times. I like the gridlines are consistent (inches) on the CDS which makes guessing the size of my outcome to be exactly what I want. (SDS also offers an upgrade version for their design software - for a price - which I've bought, but it's still not as robust at CDS).
WHAT I WISH:
I wish they also had another subscription program that you can purchase the individuals that aren't part of the subscription library at a discount.
If only Design Space had all the buttons/functionality of CCR - then this would actually be perfect.
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WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THIS MACHINE:
Right out of the box - it worked. All I had to do was login with my Cricut account to Cricut Design Space. Suprisingly - I anticipated a 2 hour block to update firmware on the machine and the process of loading/reloading the app on my computer. It was a 5 minute setup time.
Comes with a bag!!! For the price price point - it's really lame to have to drop $20-$50 for a cover/bag. I rather use the funds for more material or accessories. The bag isn't a cheap dustcover. It's actually a legitimate sturdy canvas bag, with pockets, and handles to haul this badboy out and about.
The machine is surprisingly light especially since it's bigger than the cameo.
It's really clear that some thought was put into re-creating this machine. I love the light (E2 has this, E1 did not, Cameo does not). It helps for smaller detail projects. And who doesn't love something shiny...There is a little cubby hole on the top for you to stick your pens/tools for when you're using the machine. Inside the door there are 2 compartments. One for extra blades and the deep cut housing unit. Another compartment for pens/tools.
The machine may be made out of plastic but the parts that really matter are solid. The blade housing is heavy/sturdy.
I love the mat guide - The silhouette is guilty of having mats slip mid project - which results in having to redo the same project b/c the cut was wrong.
The smart dial takes the guess work out of the depth of the blade and the speed of the cut. I don't know about you - but I can't remember what setting I use for Martha Stewart Cardstock vs Michaels Brand vs Cricut if I haven't worked on a project in a while. My post-its don't stick on.
The speed of this machine is also very impressive - I usually am able to take off projects off 1 mat while another is being cut - but this thing is so fast that my projects end up waiting for me
THIS MACHINE IS EERILY QUIET...I thought the machine was just moving the mat around and not cutting until I looked closely - I no longer need to set craft time based around noise violation ordinances.
The machine is lifted up a bit off the table which means my cords doesn't get in the way of the mat. I also don't need to make sure I have 2ft of clearance behind the machine. This used to be a must for all my machines (E1 and Silhouette) so it wouldn't get caught on something for projects.
WHAT I WISH:
The machine should come with a scraper tool - that's a necessity. If you don't have one, check out the Slice (Making Memories) tool kit. I still swear by mine - it's inexpensive and has almost everything you can possibly need.
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I was talking to a mom friend of mine who said she spent $200 on supplies to make a banner. She had to buy foam letters as a set - and if it didn't have enough of a certain letter, she had to buy another one. She was essentially stuck with what she could get her hands on at the store. When I told her about the Cricut, she about died. I could have made her banner for under $20.
Cricut by far have the best blades and mats. I use Cricut mats on my Silhouette Cameo. The adhesive is JUST RIGHT and doesn't kill my paper when I'm peeling off projects. I also use my label maker to make a sticker that says "top" which I tape onto the clear protector sheet - this way I'll know which side is meant to be on the sticky side - this might not be a big deal, but I'm a little OCD.
Cricut blades are also 1/4 the price of Silhouettes and also more durable. My blades on the Silhouette would break if I used a thicker cardstock, and I had a project that went through 3 blades, I was a little miffed. The cricut blades are great on tougher material like thick cardstock and foam.
Cricut is the only brand I've come across that carries the larger cardstock (24x12) which I bought on Overstock.
If you need tools (tweezers, scrapers, etc.) - Making Memories Slice Tool kit is the best.
Amazon has consistently better prices on blades/mats (you can get in bulk) and also tools.
Cricut's customer service hotline is mostly available during business hours - this was really annoying when I went through my crisis with the E2. Especially being a working parent - I too work those same hours their hotline is open. They need to expand those hours. BUT when you get in touch with a real person, they're super rad.
Silhouette's customer service has always been fast on response via email and phone.
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MATERIALS I'VE USED ON THE EXPLORE - apparently this is the mother of all machines and I can cut all sorts of material. Challenge Accepted.
FOAM: (Do use a brand new mat - otherwise your foam will unstick mid cut and you will turn into a sailor). The nice thing about this software is that you can still customize your cut pressure. After you've loaded the mat, go to the "Material Setting" - then "Add Material" Name it foam, 235. Use the deep cut blade (I've tried variations of settings and deep cut and regular blade before I figured out that I could adjust the setting. DUR. Do know that on one side, it will leave roller marks. So mirror your cuts as necessary.
VINYL: OH EM GEE!! This thing is a dream to cut vinyl with. I uploaded some designs that I liked through the program and it cut them perfectly! My kiddo is obsessed with Mario right now - so I cut out some Mario vinyl and stuck them onto a mason jar - made my own lid insert and voila - instant piggy bank that cost me about $1 to make. I'm thinking this would be a great way to make personalized party favors - fill little jars with candy, or trinkets.
I struggled with cutting on Canvas and Burlap. The material would come undone - even on a new mat, I think I would have to use some type of a spray adhesive on the mat to make it happen.
PENS: I figured since the pens were pretty fine point - that it wasn't able to make an significant drawings - I was wrong. You can set it to run a few times over so it makes a thicker line. I liked that a lot. And it's awesome to NOT have to switch out a pen for the blade - which you have to do with the Silhouette. The computer controls everything - and it's made doing a project effortless and efficient.
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WHAT I LOOK FOR IN A SOLID MACHINE:
I need my end projects to be of quality.
ROI has to be solid (Return on Investment) - which means to me - the time I spend "designing it", cutting it, and if necessary, putting it together. The machine has to be easy to use to minimize mistakes - I hate wasting paper - or having to run the same project 3x b/c the mat slipped or a cut didn't go all the way.
VERDICT...are you ready for it?
I guess is really dependent on you.
Is noise level important? If yes, go with the Explore. As much as I love the robotic symphony that my Silhouette makes, I'm pretty sure my neighbors don't love it.
Are you limited on budget? If yes, go with the Explore - the subscriptions option really gives you a diverse group of cuts all for the same price. The machine is really easy to use as long as you have basic computer skills.
If you do get an explore - I highly recommend getting a bundle, it seems like you get more for not paying a whole lot more.
Am I going to part ways with my Silhouette - NO - but I did end my subscription plan with them and just buy as I need. Their library has many more "sophisticated" and "3d" projects that I really enjoy putting together/
If you were to go out and get a machine - since you've never had one before - I'd go with the Explore. It offers a lot of versatility that you don't have to get nickeled and dimed for - I like that I can do 1 project with little effort and get the kids excited to want to participate. There are tons of licensed materials too - so if you have kids - this is great.
I have a feeling that now that they're done doing the development of the machine, they're going to be spending more time/focus on the software side. Which makes this a solid investment. Every time I've thought of something random to do - the machine has been able to make it happen for me.