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Cricut Expression 2 vs Explore (2021): Which Legacy Cutting Machine Is Better?

Legacy cutting machines may not be as advanced as current models, but they can offer an interesting and fun experience for crafters. Here’s a look at two well-loved Cricut machines, the Cricut Expression 2 and the Cricut Explore, along with a detailed comparison of their best features.

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Cricut Explore

The first Cricut cutting machine to introduce Design Space, the original Cricut Explore provides wide customization options for crafters.

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Cricut Expression 2 vs Explore Comparison Chart

ModelCricut Expression 2Cricut Explore
Cricut Expression 2Cricut Explore (Original)
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Dimensions23″ x 9.4″ x 11.3″22.17″ x 7″ x 6″
DisplayLCD ScreenNone
Weight16.6 lbs21 lbs
Max Cutting Area12″ x 24″12″ x 24″
Cutting Versatilityn/aCuts 50+ materials
ToolsBlade, StylusBlade, Pen
Tool HolderSingleDouble
SoftwareCraft Room (discontinued)Design Space
CartridgesRequiredCompatible
ComputerCompatibleRequired
Upload Own DesignNoYes
StorageNoYes
ConnectivityWiredBluetooth, USB

Design and Size

The Cricut Explore is smaller than the Cricut Expression 2.

Cricut Expression 2 vs Explore Design
The interface of the Cricut Expression 2 (left) is quite different from the newer Cricut Explore (right).

You’ll want a bit more room for the Cricut Expression 2 as it’s longer, wider, and taller than the Cricut Explore. Both are light enough to be portable, though the Explore is heavier. However, the more interesting comparison here is how Cricut has considerably improved the design of the newer Cricut Explore placed side by side with the older Expression 2. It simply looks more modern with a brighter white shade and cleaner lines.

The biggest difference between these two Cricut cutting machines is their interface. The Cricut Expression 2 features a full color LCD touchscreen that you can navigate with an included stylus. This lets you do all the editing you need to prepare materials for cutting or drawing. The UI is pretty intuitive and should let you get into crafting in no time.

Lacking an on-machine display, the Cricut Explore has a Smart Set Dial instead. This allows you to choose the type of material you’re cutting, which will adjust how deep the machine’s blade will cut. It goes from paper to vinyl to progressively thicker materials such as cardstock and poster board. There’s also a Custom setting that you can modify using its software. Compartments inside the tray and a storage cup at the top makes the Cricut Explore tidier for organizing crafting tools you use with it.

Cutting Power

The Cricut Explore can cut more materials than the Cricut Expression 2.

Cricut Expression 2 vs Explore Cutting Power
Using the Design Space software with the Cricut Explore lets you access more settings for a wider range of materials.

When it was released, the original Cricut Explore could cut more types of materials than any other electronic cutting machine, which included the Cricut Expression 2. Cricut expanded the number of materials you can use with the Explore to more than 50 thanks to its improved carriage and blades. As it belongs to the newer Explore series, you’ll be able to use more updated tools with it too.

Meanwhile, the Cricut has a much smaller pool of usable materials even if you get the separate Deep Cut Blade. It cuts really well, though, and can slice through chipboard as well as thin foils. However, newer machines like the Cricut Explore can cut faster and more precisely due to the enhancements in their components and engineering.

Finally, Cricut made room for a double tool holder inside the Cricut Explore, while the Expression 2 can only hold one at a time. This leads to more convenient crafting for projects that require more than just cutting.

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Cricut Explore

The first Cricut cutting machine to introduce Design Space, the original Cricut Explore provides wide customization options for crafters.

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Ease of Use

The Cricut Expression 2 is easier to use than the Cricut Explore.

Cricut Expression 2 vs Explore Ease of Use
A built-in display makes the Cricut Expression 2 intuitive even for beginners.

Giving the Cricut Expression 2 a large touchscreen display was a huge improvement over the smaller screen and keyboard inputs of the first Expression. You’ll be able to use the included stylus to navigate its interface and access different settings. The menus and editing screens let you choose from any of the 800 pre-loaded images, then resize, rotate and flip them with simple taps. Best of all, you can preview what it looks like on the mat so you can arrange you material properly before cutting.

As such, the Cricut Expression 2 is designed to be a standalone cutting machine which doesn’t require a computer or mobile device to be used. Up until 2018, you were able to use the Cricut Craft Room software with it to access more images and edit designs that way. Sadly, the software has been discontinued, so you’ll only be able to use cartridges with the Expression 2. This will be severely limiting if you’re looking for variety, since cartridges are not easy to find nowadays.

In comparison, the Cricut Explore depends on the Design Space software. You won’t be able to use it without connecting it to a computer, going online, and logging into your Design Space account. This means having no Internet connection will bench your Explore. The Design Space software is also a bit more challenging to learn.

Other Features

The Cricut Explore lets you upload or create your own designs.

Cricut Expression 2 vs Explore Other Features
Access to thousands of designs combined with the option to create your own gives the Cricut Explore a lot more creative potential.

Perhaps the best thing about the introduction of Design Space to replace the previous Craft Room software is that it now gives the Explore series and later machines the ability to create, upload and customize your own designs. This makes creating personalized gifts and items even better since you’re no longer locked into using images that are only available within the software.

In addition, being able to upload custom designs means more savings too. As the Cricut Expression 2 only cuts images from cartridges, you’d have to buy ones that aren’t locked to another person’s account yet in order to access new designs. Not only is this bothersome and costly, it also narrows down what you can cut with the Expression 2 significantly.

Verdict

The Cricut Explore is more versatile while the Cricut Expression 2 is simpler to use.

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Cricut Explore

The first Cricut cutting machine to introduce Design Space, the original Cricut Explore provides wide customization options for crafters.

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First off, we’d recommend any of the newer Cricut cutting machines over either of these legacy models. They’re just more powerful, more flexible, and more accessible than older generations of Cricut machines. Moreover, their added costs are very much worth it, since most older models are only being sold as used or refurbished items, and even then they won’t save you that much.

That said, if you’d prefer going for previous generation Cricut machine, you’ll enjoy more flexibility with the Cricut Explore, as it’s still compatible with the current Design Space software. It’s faster and cuts more materials, and you’ll have an easier time getting new materials and accessories for it.

If simplicity and convenience is your priority, however, the Cricut Expression 2 lets you simply plug it in anywhere to begin crafting. You won’t need a computer to edit designs, as that can be all done on its LCD screen.

FAQs

๐Ÿ“Œ Which is better, the Cricut Expression 2 or the Cricut Explore?

If simplicity and convenience is your priority, the Cricut Expression 2 is better because you can simply plug it in anywhere to begin crafting. But if you want more creative flexibility, you’ll enjoy the Cricut Explore more as it’s still compatible with the current Design Space software. It’s faster and cuts more materials, and you’ll have an easier time getting new materials and accessories for it.

๐Ÿ“Œ Which one is easier to use, the Cricut Expression 2 or the Cricut Explore?

The Cricut Expression 2 is easier to use than the Cricut Explore as it’s designed to be a standalone cutting machine which doesn’t require a computer or mobile device to be used.

๐Ÿ“Œ Which one has better cutting power, the Cricut Expression 2 or the Cricut Explore?

The Cricut Explore can cut more materials than the Cricut Expression 2. Cricut expanded the number of materials you can use with the Explore to more than 50 thanks to its improved carriage and blades. As it belongs to the newer Explore series, you’ll be able to use more updated tools with it too.

๐Ÿ“Œ Can I connect the Cricut Expression 2 to my computer?

Up until 2018, you were able to use the Cricut Expression 2 with the Cricut Craft Room software in order to access more images and edit designs. Sadly, the software has been discontinued, so you’ll only be able to use cartridges with the Expression 2.

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Derick Bondoc

Managing Editor at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about gadgets, gaming and snacks.