What’s the Difference Between the Cricut Explore Air 2 and Explore 3?

Learn All About the Differences Between the Cricut Explore Air 2 and the New Cricut Explore 3. Find Out Which Machine Is the Right Fit For You in This Detailed Blog Post.

Did you know that the new Cricut Explore 3 can cut up to two times faster than the Explore Air 2. If you saw the new Explore 3 and you are wondering how it’s different from the Explore Air 2, then this post is for you

Cricut Explore 3

What is the Cricut Explore 3? 

Let’s get started with the basics in case you’re new to Cricut. The Cricut Explore 3 is an electronic cutting machine that can be used on over 100 materials. 

Cricut Explore 3 by popular US craft blog, Sweet Red Poppy: image of the Cricut Explore 3.

Along with the Explore Air 2, the Explore 3 can draw, cut, and score on over 100 materials. Compatible with 6 different tools, the crafting possibilities are endless with this incredible machine. 

Why isn’t the Explore 3 Called the Explore Air 3?

Cricut decided to not include the Air in the new machine, since using Bluetooth with its machines is now a standard feature. While this was a new technology when the Explore Air and Air 2 came out, we all expect Cricut machines to run on Bluetooth. 

Cricut Explore 3 by popular US craft blog, Sweet Red Poppy: image of the Cricut Explore 3.

What’s the Difference Between the Cricut Explore Air 2 and Explore 3? 

While the Explore Air 2 comes in a variety of colors, the Cricut Explore 3 is only available in one color right now. I’m hoping for some new colors later this year.

New Explore 3 pictured on left, Explore Air 2 pictured on right.

Cricut Explore 3 by popular US craft blog, Sweet Red Poppy: image of the Cricut Explore 3 and the Cricut Air 2.

The most obvious change is that the Explore 3 does not have the material dial or cartridge slot like the Explore Air 2. I love the sleek look of the Explore 3.

Cricut Explore 3 by popular US craft blog, Sweet Red Poppy: image of the Cricut Explore 3 and the Cricut Air 2.

Without the dial, you need to manually select your material using the material selection in Design Space. 

Without the cartridge dial taking up space, Cricut expanded the tools storage cup, giving you more room to stash your tools and blades. 

Cricut Explore 3 by popular US craft blog, Sweet Red Poppy: image of the Cricut Explore 3.

Next, you may notice that the cut button is different. On the Explore Air 2, the cut button is this “C” but on the Explore 3, it’s a more universal play button. 

Cricut Explore 3 by popular US craft blog, Sweet Red Poppy: image of the Cricut Explore 3.

A small upgrade that you may miss is this little ledge on the Explore 3’s lid. It’s designed to hold your tablet or phone while crafting. 

Another thing you may not notice is that the Explore 3 has its name written on the tool housing. This makes it easy to know exactly which machine you are using. 

Cricut Explore 3 by popular US craft blog, Sweet Red Poppy: image of the Cricut Explore 3.

Both machines feature additional storage in their tray.

Cricut Explore 3 by popular US craft blog, Sweet Red Poppy: image of the Cricut Explore 3.

Finally, you may be able to see that the texture of the two machines are different. The Explore Air 2 features a glossy top while the Explore 3 has a textured finish. This prevents your machine from collecting fingerprints. 

What Blades and Tools Are Compatible With the Explore Air 2 and Explore 3? 

Every single blade and tool that you can use with the Explore Air 2, you can use with the Explore 3. 

Cricut Explore 3 by popular US craft blog, Sweet Red Poppy: image of Cricut Explore 3 tools.

You can use the Fine-Point Blade, Bonded-Fabric Blade, Deep-Point Blade, Foil Tool, and Scoring Stylus with both the Explore Air 2 and Explore 3. 

The Explore 3 is just an upgraded version of the Explore Air 2. 

What Materials Can the Explore Air 2 and Explore 3 Cut?

With both machines, you can cut over 100 materials like vinyl, bonded fabric, Iron-On, and cardstock. 

Cricut Explore 3 by popular US craft blog, Sweet Red Poppy: image of Cricut infusible ink, Cricut strong bond, Cricut premium vinyl, and Cricut paper.

Both machines are able to use the same blades with all of the Cricut cutting mats to create the same custom designs. 

Now, the Explore 3 is able to cut Smart Materials without using a mat. And since you’re not limited to the size of a cutting mat, Smart Materials, enable you cut up to 12 feet in a single cut! I can not wait to create some large-scale projects with this new feature. 

Cricut Explore 3 by popular US craft blog, Sweet Red Poppy: image of the Cricut Explore 3.

Right now, Cricut carries Smart Vinyl, Smart Iron-On, and Smart Paper Sticker Cardstock. 

In addition to saving you the time of putting materials on a mat, Smart Materials allow the Explore 3 to cut two times faster than the previous model. 

I was a little skeptical of this until I put it to the test. The Explore 3 really cuts 2 times faster than the Explore Air 2. 

Cricut Explore 3 Accessories

To go along with the release of Smart Materials, Cricut updated their portable trimmer and released this new roll holder. 

The portable trimmer now measures just over 13 inches to accommodate the Smart Materials. While this is designed to go with the new materials, you can use it no matter which machine you are using. 

Cricut Explore 3 by popular US craft blog, Sweet Red Poppy: image of a Cricut paper cutter.

The roll holder sits on the tray of the Explore 3 to keep rolled materials aligned during the cut. 

Cricut Explore 3 by popular US craft blog, Sweet Red Poppy: image of Cricut Explore 3.

The built-in trimmer ensures a straight edge at the end of your project every single time. 

Cricut Explore 3 by popular US craft blog, Sweet Red Poppy: image of a Cricut Explore 3.

As your project cuts, the roll holder neatly feeds your Smart Material in and out of the Explore 3. Once it’s done cutting, your Explore 3 will position the end of your cut just above the trimmer. Before you unload your project, just slide the trimmer across for a clean, straight cut. 

Should I Get the Cricut Explore Air 2 or Explore 3?

I love all of the Updates Cricut gave us with the Explore 3. If you’re trying to decide between getting the Explore Air 2 and Explore 3, I’d definitely recommend going with the Explore 3. Not only can the Explore 3 do everything the Explore Air 2 can, but also saves you time with Smart Materials. 

Purchase the Explore 3 HERE.

Cricut Explore 3 by popular US craft blog, Sweet Red Poppy: image of a Cricut Explore 3.

Deciding between the Explore 3 and Maker 3? Check out my full comparison post HERE

Cricut Explore 3 by popular US craft blog, Sweet Red Poppy: image of a Cricut Explore 3 and a Cricut Air 2.

What’s your favorite upgrade Cricut made with the Explore 3? Let me know in the comments below. 


Unlock the Secret to Crafting with Your Cricut

Need more Cricut help? Join over 25,000 customers who are getting the most out of their Cricut machine using the Sweet Red Poppy’s Guide to Cricut! Get access to 160+ pages, 30+ printabe cheat sheets, tips & tricks from the expert, projects, and bonus SVG files.

Cricut Explore 3 by popular US craft blog, Sweet Red Poppy: image of a woman standing behind Cricut products and holding a Sweet Red Poppy Cricut Guide.

If you have any questions about the Cricut Explore 3, be sure to leave them in the comments below!

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