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5.26.2009

Chirp! Chirp! Comparing Cricuts.


{Reported by Emilie Ahern}

About two years ago I awoke at 5:00am on the day after I slaved over a hot stove and refereed family arguments around the Thanksgiving dinner table. Why 5:00am? The Cricut. After months of researching, asking scrapping friends and trying out various cutting machines I had decided on a Cricut. I purchased a tidy little bundle of Cricut supplies that morning, headed home and I never looked back.

Since that time, Provocraft has come out with more and more Cricut options, including software, tools, heaps more cartridges and even two new versions of the Cricut. So we felt it was high time to explain the differences between each Cricut machine and examine the pros and cons of each. The accessories, cartridges and tools will be review at a future time. Much of the stats are taken from the Provocraft website and the reviews are my personal opinion.

General Overview
In the good old days, scrappers wanting die-cut letters and images had to travel to the local scrapbooking store and use a large manual roller with a bulky die. This afforded only one size of image or letter and was not convenient or available for home use. Cricut Electronic Cutters are machines which allow crafters to cut die cut shapes and letters in various sizes for personal home use.

The Cricut machines do not utilize a separate computer. All of the information you need to cut your shapes is in the machine and is accessed through a cartridge. Each cartridge (purchased separately) offers an assortment of shapes, letters, and phrases and the cartridges are generally manufactured by theme or by font type. Because Cricuts do not depend on a computer, they are portable.

Each Cricut works in the same general manner. Insert the desired cartridge into the allotted slot on the machine. You place paper onto a sticky mat, which is manufactured specifically for the Cricut. You then feed this mat into the machine. You select the images/shapes you want by punching them into a keypad of sorts on top of the machine, select the size you want to cut at and hit a button to cut. After peeling your cut items from the mat they are ready for use. Easy enough, right?

Each Cricut has the capability to cut cardstock, mid-weight paper and vinyl. Special deep-cutting blades can be used to cut through chipboard and other heavier materials (soon to be tested and reported on here).

Now that we know what they each have in common, let's discuss each Cricut machine and their distinct advantages and disadvantages.

*Please note that all MSRP amounts are going to be based on prices from one site, www.cricut.com . You can find cheaper prices, sales and online discounts through research.


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Cricut Personal Electronic Cutter (a.k.a. The Cricut)

Now that there are three versions of this personal die-cutting machine, most people refer to this as simply "The Cricut". This was the model I purchased 2 years ago. It is incredibly easy to use and is very portable. This Cricut can cut images from 1" up to 5.5" tall and up to 11.5" long.

Pros:
- The easiest Cricut to use. I am fairly confident that just about anyone could pick this up and start using it without much instruction.
- Least expensive Cricut model.
- Has a built in handle for carrying.
- Highly portable.

Cons:
- This Cricut model can only cut images from the cartridge in one direction. This means that certain shapes can not reach 11.5" long depending on their established orientation.
- The smallest size available for cutting fonts and images is 1". Many times I have wished for smaller.

MSRP: $299.99




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Cricut Create


This is the mid-sized Cricut machine. It is basically a revamped version of the original Cricut with a few additional features. The Cricut Create machine is the same size as the original Cricut machine, yet it allows cuts from 0.25" up to 11.5" on a 6" x 12" cutting mat.

Pros:
- Portrait mode (to rotate images for a taller cut)
- Fit to Page mode (to cut the largest cut possible)
- Auto Fill mode (to mass produce cuts...this is great if you're making 50 invitations with teh same design.)
- and Flip function (this makes it possible to flip your image before cutting)
- Highly portable.

Cons:
- there are no notable cons when compared to the original Cricut.
- when compared to the Cricut Expression the cons are size constraints.
- more difficult to operate than the original Cricut because of additional functions.

MSRP: $399.99


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Cricut Expression

So, this is the Mack-Daddy of Cricut machines. It is much longer in size than the other Cricut machines and there-in lies it's greatest benefit. You can purchase two larger sized cutting mats measuring 12" x 12" and 12" x 24". That means you can cut characters from 0.25" up to 23.5" .

Another marked difference is a pop-up LCD screen which shows exactly what you're typing for your next cut. This is very helpful to eliminate user errors of hitting wrong key or failing to hit the shift key, etc.

Pros:
- The larger mat size comes in seriously handy. You wouldn't imagine how often I use it to cut 11" circles, large punctuation or to create you own scalloped edged cardstock.
- Portrait mode (to rotate images for a taller cut)
- Fit to Page mode (to cut the largest cut possible)
- Auto Fill mode (to mass produce cuts...this is great if you're making 50 invitations with the same design.)
- and Flip function (this makes it possible to flip your image before cutting).

Cons:
- This thing is seriously large. This is not a deal breaker for me, but it is decidedly less portable.
- No carrying handle.
- A find the flip screen hard to flip up, but I have no fingernails. I wish it had a tab for easier flipping.
- The most difficult to operate for no other reason than it has many more features.
- The closing/opening mechanism on this Cricut is not controlled by a button. Whenever I try to open it, I feel like I am breaking it.

MSRP: $499.99


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So which Cricut is right for you?
That all depends on what you want it for...

The Cricut: You want to cut endless alphabets, are a card maker, want a user-friendly and easy-to-comprehend machine.

The Cricut Create: You want to be able to rotate and flip images and want additional helps for creating projects in large quantities and in additional sizes.

The Cricut Expression: You want to be able to create your own decorative border on cardstock, cut vinyl for wall decoration, use the Cricut for your children's school projects/posters, create custom envelopes to go with the cards you create on your Cricut and use the Cricut to make gift bags, boxes and additional craft items beyond cards and layouts.


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Phew! In closing, I am in LOVE with my Cricut. I have tried every other personal electronic die cutting machine and I would not choose anything else. I have recently upgraded to a Cricut Expression and I adore it's additional features and options.

If you are worried about the constraints of being tied to cartridges you must stay tuned for our future article on Sure Cuts A Lot (SCAL) software which allows you to use your Cricut machine to cut any True Type font. It also allows you to uplaod you own images for cutting. Seriously cool.

What do YOU think? Did you find this overview helpful? Do you have a Cricut and love it? Have you heard of the SCAL software before?
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29 comments:

Dalon said...

interesting breakdown of each machine - thank you! I have a Silhouette which I do like, but a friend has a Cricut and has been a little frustrated, but I think it's because she hasn't played with it enough ... am VERY interested in SCAL - I heard it was "out there", but that's all - it is coming? is it available now? that's good news ;-)

ms.cheryl said...

SCAL is available for around $80-$100. Thats all I know about it. I am TOTALLY intimidated by anything that requires a computer. I am the type of learner that HAS to have a demo, not written instructions. I have a cricut and love it. I wish the cartridges weren't so expensive. Now that Walmart is selling cricut you can get better deals but not all cartridges are available from Walmart. I buy most of mine on EBAY. I want the Graphically Speaking cartridge next. ms.cheryl

luv2scrap said...

I have the Cricut Expression, and all I can say is WOW!Ive it for a while now and do not anticipate ever going without mine!
Great site by the way, found you through scraptagious, now have you bookmarked!
Have a Blessed Week,
Shelly
http://mylilscrapspot.blogspot.com

Theresa said...

I have been in the back-and-forth-can't-make-up-my-mind mode about purchasing a die-cutting machine for a couple of years. This was a great review, and helped me make up my mind to go ahead and spring for the Cricut Expression. I especially like the idea of being able to cut large circles and scalloped edges on my papers. Thanks for the review!

Ginger's Camo Page said...

Does any version of the Cricut or some other brand, allow you to upload your own images for cutting?

Emilie Ahern said...

Does any version of the Cricut or some other brand, allow you to upload your own images for cutting?Yes...the Sure Cuts A Lot softwarre allows you to do that.

Tina said...

I am anxious to see what you have to say about the blade that cuts through chipboard. I want to get that, but have not heard any review on it, so I am holding off. I also look forward to hearing about SCAL for TT fonts. That would be great if that works well.

Let us know. Thanks again for all the info you provide to the rest of us!!!

Tina

Joli said...

I was told by Provo Craft that using SCAL will void the warranty on my machine.

What is the difference between the Design Studio and SCAL? I can get Design Studio from Provo Craft directly for $40.

Lynette said...

I bought the Silhouette based on the review here, and after reading this review, I still feel like I made the right decision. According to the documenations, the Silhouette utilizes SCAL to do other shapes, so I am looking forward to you article on that. Thanks for the review.

Jen said...

I don't have any one of the Cricut's at this point...price is out of my range right now, and I'm hesitant to have to spend more on buying the cartridges. Great review though!

marla said...

I enjoyed hearing about the Circuit. I have a Cuttlebug and used it to cut diecuts with and now have a Slice. I chose this machine because of its portableity and size. I dont have room for a Circuit machine because I dont have the room to leave it up all the time.

Kim said...

Does anyone know if the Express cuts felt?

Rhayne said...

I think I am seriously jealous. Unlike so many other scrappers, I don't have thousands of dollars to spend on scrapping each year. A friend of mine received the Expression for Christmas and is kind enough to let me use it. It's a lot of fun and I dream of someday being able to get my own :o)

Veronica said...

I have the original "Bug." I like it. I am a little intimidated by the "SCAL" but maybe, would be willing to try it! My kids have used the "Bug" for school projects and so far, we're good! ;-)
Now, I'll wait for the review on SCAL!

kgscrapper said...

I have the original Cricut (and 30 plus cartridges) I love it. My best friend bought the Expression and we share. I got CDS for Xmas and also bought SCAL. I haven't used either program a lot, but so I like the extra creative freedom. I am anxious to read your review of SCAL, and hopefully learn something new.

Jenn said...

I love my cricut expression, although I haven't had it long and feel like I need a class on it!

I have SCAL, but haven't used it yet, still getting used to "normal" funcitons!

raindropecho said...

I have a Cricut Expression and the SCAL software and I love them. I don't think I would like my Cricut as much if I hadn't bought the SCAL software because I would be spending THOUSANDS of dollars on cartridges, but with the SCAL, there is limitless possibilities using fonts/dingbats AND free SVG files. Love the SVG files!

Rosemary said...

I have the 'baby' (as the original is called) and couldn't understand the hype of needing a larger machine. That is until a few months of seeing what the Expressions did. Yep, I have it, but will not get rid of baby. I keep it hooked to my computer for easy use with Design Studio. I don't always use Design Studio, but it's super nice to have. If you are concerned with the price of the Expressions, know that it has come down quite a bit from it's first appearance. Actually, for just about $100.00 more, you can get the Expressions over that of the 'baby'. Does anyone really pay full price for cartridges?? Not me. I recently purchased SCAL and only cut one thing with it..lol..Now if I can only understand Inkscape to use with it..lol.Oh, I love my Expressions and can't see me without one now...

Tricia said...

I really wanted a Cricut when they first came out but hesitated and am still hesitating. I have the Cuttlebug which I know is extremely limited by comparison. One of these days I'll come off the fence and make a decision about an electronic cutter. Thanks for the great reviews!

Vicki said...

The overview was very helpful. I always wondered what the difference between the 3 was. I do not have a cricut, I have a silhouette which I would never ever consider getting rid of but I love that there are Disney cartridges for the Cricut. Very helpful, thank you!

jill said...

I'm excited to learn about the SCAL. That has been my main reason I haven't invested in a Cricut yet--I am a font addict and wanted a HUGE variety of options without the price. You had me sold and saving up for a Silouhette machine before but now I am waiting to compare after I learn about the SCAL.

Thanks!

Christine said...

I've have a Cricut and heard of SCALA. I sure would like to know more about it!!!

Blessings,
Christine

Angie said...

My Dh bought me the cricut expression this past Christmas, and I love it. I agree with all the pro's and con's listed. I am so glad I'm not the only one that feels like she's breaking it everytime I open it.

Maria said...

I finally took the plunge this year. I have the Cricut Create and I love it! It has cut everything I have tried and my kids have used it for projects too, which is a plus. Someday I think I might want to upgrade to the expression, just because of the extra sizes I could cut, but the Create really does do everything I hoped it would!

Anna said...

i do not have a cricut.....but I have friends with cricuts who are so generous to share with me.... (i have a slice - it's perfect for my small scrap space known as the dining room table) anyhow all I wanted to do was share this address with you..... it's a yahoo cricket cheat sheet group.... http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CricutCheatSheet/?yguid=341401055 Even thought I don't have a cricut - I am a member here for the COOL cheat sheet :) xo - thanks as always for your amazing reviews....

Christel said...

I have a Cricut (Baby Bug) and I love mine. I only own the George and Basics cart so far since I also have the SCAL software. I haven't made scrapbook layouts using SCAL (yet) and would love to know which particular fonts work best for cutting out titles and such (hint hint :)

Michelle said...

My MIL has the orginal Cricut and I LOVE IT! If I had the money I would invest in one of them. Thanks for the great review!

Cassie said...

I heard a lot of great things about SCAL and I'm glad you're reviewing it. I had the original Cricut, but upgraded when the new one came out. I love the Expression.

Holly said...

I have the Cricut Create and LOVE it!! I use t for cards, scrap pages, kids books, altered things and if I could think of more uses for it I would add them to the list. Can't wait for the SCAL review.