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Cricut Maker 3 Review: a cut above
Simplicity is key to the Maker 3, a machine that delivers pro results with surprisingly little effort.
Quick verdict: Cricut Maker 3
Cricut Maker 3 is a crafty cutter featuring the sleek design and intuitive user experience we've come to expect from a Cricut machine. But the most amazing thing is the way it inspires us to create bigger and craft projects.
What’s new about the Cricut Maker 3?
It would take a dedicated cricuteer to tell the difference between a Cricut Maker and a Cricut Maker 3 just by looking at them. It certainly isn’t a challenge I’d be confident to succeed at. The new Maker 3 machine takes on the best elements of the original, and perhaps you’d argue there wasn’t much from the original that needed improving on.
All that’s new resides under the pearlescent plastic shell; new smarts driven by invisible new sensors that bring the best of Cricut’s recent efforts to machines bearing the Maker title.
The most obvious upgrade is the ability to use new Smart Materials, removing the need to cut on a stiff, plastic Cricut mat. These mats hold regular materials, like vinyl, in position, while also guiding the knife blade with pinpoint precision. A Smart Material sheet is wider than regular vinyl, so it fits snugly in the machine, and it has grid markings on the underside to orientate the moving parts.
But the key benefit of Smart Materials is that the designs you cut aren’t constrained to 30cm in length. In fact, you plan projects with Smart Materials up to 3.6 metres in length. This could mean you can make larger, continuous cuts, or semi-pro cutters will be able to plan more scalable projects. If you need to cut out a bunch of iron-on vinyl patterns for your side hustle T-shirt stall, you can imagine how much time you’ll save by not having to repeat the process for each cut.
Cricut has an option Smart Material roll holder that helps to unspool materials during a cut.
Cricut Maker vs Cricut Maker 3: do you really need to upgrade?
Besides Smart Materials, the other factors that differentiate the original maker from this newer model are harder to notice. Cricut says that the general cutting speed on the Maker 3 is twice as fast as the previous generation, and that it has 10-times the cutting power of the original Explore model.
These facts are probably true, but it would take a daily Cricut crafter to help qualify this. Having used both machines, new and old, the extra speed isn’t something that is immediately perceptible. The cutting project took about as long as I expected them to. I tend to plan fairly complicated projects, so the difference between ‘a long time’ and ‘also a long time’ didn’t stand out to me.
The capabilities of the machines are also similar, with the same range of available blade attachments and a similar 300-plus compatible materials, according to Cricut. Any project that can be accomplished on a 30cm x 30cm mat can be done on both machines. The flexibility of Smart Materials does open up new possibilities, or speed up current repetitive processes, but casual crafters with an original Maker may not see the value in an upgrade until their current machine is beyond repair.
Cricut Design Space: simple setup but not always silky smooth
While this is a review of the Maker 3 machine, it’s impossible to tell this story without explaining how important the Cricut Design Space software is to the overall experience. The Maker 3 is an exceptional machine, but it is in Design Space where the magic happens.
This app, available on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and through the Cricut website, is fantastically simple in its design and layout. There is a wealth of pre-made projects to jump straight into, so a true beginning can be constructing something cool in a short space of time.
The pre-made projects are even better if you invest in a Cricut Access subscription, which increases the included number of ready-to-cut images from 1000 to over 200,000, and the available number of fonts from 15 to over 700. You definitely don’t need to use these images and fonts to create designs, but take it from someone who thinks they are clever enough to make their own; you will always get better results when you do.
It's extremely satisfying going from Design Space to a finished project.
But for as intuitive as I find Design Space, it is a piece of software, which is to say that it has its fair share of gremlins too. There is a learning curve in using the Canvas section of the app, where you create original designs. The toolbar is well labelled but the purpose of each tool isn’t always clear, nor is the outcome always expected.
For example, three prominent tools are ‘Weld’, ‘Attach’ and ‘Flatten’, which all seem to be for doing the same thing - combining layers together. And this is true, but each has a specific function, and even now I’d struggle to explain each without a few experiments first.
Beyond general teething, I’ve also encountered a few annoying bugs, too. Without delving into the specifics of any particular issue, my main gripe is how limited the error descriptions are and the absence of any troubleshooting. I’ve heard that the Cricut support team is excellent, but I’d much rather have a chance to work through solutions before going down that path.
How much does the Cricut Maker 3 cost in Australia?
The Cricut Maker 3 is currently the jewel in the Cricut crown, so it isn’t cheap, but arguably it is affordable. The RRP for the Maker 3 in Australia is $699, though you can usually find it for much cheaper if you shop around. The machine comes with the necessary power and USB cables and a Fine-Point blade, which is the tool you use for cutting vinyls, cardstock and similar cardboard-like materials, like poster board. This is enough to get you started on some cool projects, and may even be the only blade you end up using.
But you should also factor in the cost of other tools and materials, too. For example, the Knife Blade needed to cut balsa wood is $85 RRP and the fabric-cutting Rotary Blade is $80. The other ten or so blades vary in price from about $30 to $60, though as it is with the machine itself, you can usually pick them up cheaper.
The cost Cricut-branded materials also add up, though also tend to be great quality. Rolls of Smart Material vinyl come in a variety of lengths and styles, but typically the price ranges from about $15 to $30 per roll. Keep an eye out for sample packs and bundles though, these often have a great selection of colours, and are great for knocking out a few quick, impressive prints and stickers.
Cricut Maker 3: Is it worth it?
Do you have a burning, existential need to create? Are you a fastidious Type-A personality who hates that your craft projects are never ‘perfect’? Do you just need a decent excuse to lock the door to your study and be ‘busy’ while the kids burn down your house?
If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions then I can wholeheartedly recommend discovering the joy of a Cricut machine. As someone who highly values creativity but who draws like I’m holding the pencil with a chicken’s foot, Cricut makes up for my many shortcomings and genuinely inspires me to get to work on the next project.
Does the Cricut machine you buy need to be the Maker 3? Not necessarily, but I’d recommend you consider it. The Cricut Joy is a nice entry point at $349 RRP, but I feel many will quickly hit the limits of the smaller machine. The Explore 3 is a better comparison, and can handle many of the same projects that a Maker 3 can, but misses out on the power of the Maker 3 and the ability to work with heartier materials, like wood and aluminium.
The Maker 3 is the no-compromises all-rounder that can cut everything the other machines can cut, plus more, and faster. It’s well worth the extra expense so have the flexibility to try different projects as your confidence builds.