Cricut Explore 3 Review

If you have the Cricut Explore Air 2 then you may be wondering how much better a cutting machine can get.

Then you find the Cricut Explore 3 and realize it can be twice as fast and even cut up to 12 feet in a single go when using Smart Materials. That is well worth considering and it can also be an incredibly versatile cutting machine. 

Whether it is worth the investment of getting the latest model largely depends on how you use it and how much easier it would be to use for the cutting you do.

In this review, we will look at the pros and cons of the Cricut Explore 3, the key features, and why it is considered such an improvement on previous models


This should be the crux of your decision-making on whether to invest in a Cricut Explore 3. Just to check whether it is worth the investment, there are several pros that should make your choice relatively straightforward. 

These are largely centered around its use of Smart Materials and include its quick speed and longer cuts, yet its aesthetic design should also not be overlooked.  

  • Quick Speed - When cutting Smart Materials such as Smart Label Writable Vinyl, Smart Label Writable Paper, Smart Vinyl, and Smart Iron-On, the Cricut Explore 3 has been found to be twice as fast.

    This is compared to its predecessor, the Cricut Explore Air 2, when using Fast Mode which should be worth bearing in mind.

    If you exclusively use Smart Materials then this could save a substantial amount of time for your projects.

  • Longer Cuts - One of the more prominent differences between the Cricut Explore 3 and its predecessor is how you are able to cut much longer designs.

    If you felt restricted by the maximum cut size that the Explore Air 2 had to offer then this is really worth thinking about.

    As the cutting mat is unnecessary for Smart Materials, the limitation that comes with it is gone and you could cut a whole 12-foot roll of vinyl if you wanted to in a single project. 

  • Aesthetic Design - For a cutting machine you want to admire on its own, the Cricut Explore 3 truly benefits from an exceptionally aesthetically pleasing design.

    With plenty of built-in storage, this cutting machine still appears to be compact and undeniably sleek with a deliciously fun pastel color scheme. 


Then there are the cons and if you have an Explore Air 2 then the considerable price jump may put you off. Though the speed has been improved, this is purely on Smart Materials when using Fast Mode. 

Finally, to get the most out of the Cricut Explore 3 you would be expected to buy the add-ons and the overall cost can soon mount up. Let’s take a look at these cons in more detail. 

  • High Price Jump - The Cricut Explore 3 is a formidable cutting machine and it is an improvement on its predecessor. However, the price jump is quite excessive, especially when you compare it to the gap in price between the Maker and Maker 3.

    There are certain aspects that can explain the huge jump in price and these include the sleek design and removal of the wheel which largely eliminates user error. 

  • Limited Fast Speed - Yes, the Cricut Explore 3 is twice as fast when cutting Smart Materials as its predecessor but that speed upgrade is limited to simply those materials in Fast Mode.

    It is a plus point that this cutting speed is a vast improvement yet if you wanted to continue using the mat for cutting then you are probably advised to stick with the Explore Air 2. 

  • Add-ons Are Expensive - While the price jump from its predecessor is a bit excessive, the price still represents decent value for money for a cutting machine for a beginner.

    There is one drawback and that is how expensive the add-ons prove to be when they can really help you get the most out of your Cricut Explore 3.

    For one, there are the six different tools you can buy which can prove expensive and the only one it comes with is the Fine Point Blade.

    If you want to do some foiling, scoring, or writing then you will have to pay more for the add-ons.

The Key Features

The primary thing to remember about the Cricut Explore 3 is how it has not really changed much but improved the way it works so it becomes even quicker, easier, and more versatile than before.

That includes the built-in storage, how easy the embellishing is, and how many different materials it can work with.

Cricut Explore 3 Review

Built-In Storage

The Cricut Explore 3 features a very handy cubby where you can organize your tools to keep them within arm’s reach.

You can also store your replacement tips inside the door which is excellent for accessibility.

The built-in storage means that every time you use the cutting machine, you do not have to venture far to find the equipment you need which saves time and effort.

Easy Embellishing

As if embellishing was not easy enough, there are now six tools you can use with this cutting machine for writing, scoring, embellishing, and, of course, cutting.

These tools are sold separately but are worth investing in to get the most out of the Cricut Explore 3. 

Material Versatility

You should expect the Cricut Explore 3 to cut vinyl, HTV, poster board, and card stock, which it does. Yet you should also consider the range of over 100 different materials that is can also cut. 

Such versatility means you can try it on whatever you want and truly experiment. Sure, Smart Materials can be a bit more expensive yet you can also cut them at double the speed when using Fast Mode compared to the Explore Air 2, and cut them to 12 feet in length. 

Why Is It Such An Improvement?

Due to its excellent compatibility with a range of Smart Materials, you should find that the Cricut Explore 3 is a big improvement on the Explore Air 2.

This is a far more sophisticated cutting machine which is twice as fast on Smart Materials when using Fast Mode and has the capacity to cut lengths of up to 12 feet.

Compared to the Explore Air 2, that is quite a leap from 24” which seems quite paltry. 

This is also an incredibly versatile cutting machine that can work on over 100 materials yet is well priced for anyone wanting to try for the first time.

Both occasional users and hobbyists should easily be able to use the Cricut Explore 3 and you do not need to be an expert to get the most out of it.

For an intuitive cutting machine, its advancement is not too far-fetched to become complex, and its Design Space software is also accessible for beginners. 

One major difference between the predecessor, the Explore Air 2, is the lack of a Smart Set Dial.

This is certainly an improvement when you consider how many materials you can use.

The drawback with the dial was that, though it did allow you to swiftly select from the most commonly used material to which the machine would then calibrate itself, that’s not so useful when you have so many to choose from. 

Forget about limiting yourself to common materials as the Cricut Explore 3 has replaced the dial with smart recessed buttons and you can easily select the material in Design Space, if it does not already auto-calibrate. 

Final Thoughts

For such a sleek design, the Cricut Explore 3 really does pack in the features to become a vast improvement on its predecessor.

When dealing with Smart Materials, you can expect this to be twice as fast using Fast Mode and you can also use it with over 100 different materials. 

This is an ideal cutting machine for anyone looking to get involved with the hobby as it proves intuitive to use, and the built-in storage is a nice touch which makes it even more of a joy to use.

However, if you already own an Explore Air 2 then the huge price jump may well put you off, as will the added expense of getting all those add-ons. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are Smart Materials?

These were brought in with the Cricut Joy cutting machine and let you cut without the need for a cutting mat. Just load them up and off you go, which is pretty smart.

What also works is how effective they are for those long cuts as they are easier to use than traditional materials that would be used with a cutting mat. These Smart Materials also prove exceptionally useful when it comes to applying and weeding. 

What Does the Cricut Explore 3 Do?

As one of the latest cutting machines, the Cricut Explore 3 can work with over 100 materials which means it can cut vinyl, card stock, and iron-on.

You can also expect it to work with particular materials such as bonded fabric and glitter paper with exceptional precision.

The Cricut Explore 3 is quick to set up and you can have your project cut and prepared to weed in under ten minutes without having much prior experience with a cutting machine.

Michael Moore

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