I picked up my Cricut Explore on Saturday and set it up on Sunday. While I haven't played in full detail with it, I thought I'd give my first impressions. You have to remember that I've owned a Black Cat Cougar and I have a Cameo so I'll compare to those. I paid for this machine and I don't endorse or support any one machine. My Cougar was a PITA so I sold it. I like my Cameo but I get tired of always having to tape my paper down and mess with the settings. There is no wrong machine out there. Find one you like and use it.
If you truly despise Provo Craft products, don't bother reading any further. There are plenty of other machines to choose from. I won't censor any hate responses as we all have opinions and are welcome to express them.
If you are looking for a machine that does incredible cutting details this isn't the machine for you. While I haven't done anything terribly detailed and haven't had issues, I know some people love cutting intricate tiny things and I don't think the Explore will do it. My Cameo makes better detailed cuts. *edited* This machine does fabulous intricate cuts. It rivals my Cameo.
This machine is meant for the basic crafter who doesn't want to do tons of editing and designing. The same is true for the software. I like that. Just pick a design and cut it out. I don't always want to spend hours making a design.
The machine itself:
I like that it's heavy and stable. There are tabs where you can slide the mat in and not have to worry about alignment issues. There are four rollers. It's a sleek looking design and love the built-in storage. Nothing looks cheap and the plastic is solid. It holds the mat solidly and is stable. The dual head tabs are easy to open/shut as well.
It is the quietest machine I've owned. My Cameo always sounds horrible and screechy, almost like nails on a chalkboard. It drives me nuts. The Explore has a nice quiet humming as it cuts. It does beep when it goes up and down but it's nice to just let the machine cut. However; I didn't find a speed setting so you are limited to the speed of the machine. The speed isn't slow, but it isn't fast either.
The dual head is wonderful. I love that I can put a marker in (comes with a silver marker) and just draw. The marker fits in perfectly. There isn't any dragging, loss of ink, or smearing. I went and purchased the marker set off of HSN. My Cameo pens are crap so this was a welcome change. It would be great if Provo Craft designed a pen set, but someone will probably find a way to fit regular pens in.
You do have to be on the internet to use it. I haven't had any problems with the software lagging or getting hung up. What I like is that I can sign in on any computer and have it ready to go. I don't need two copies of the software for my laptop and my desktop. I don't have to have tons of designs stored on two computers or have to constantly bring designs over from one computer to the other.
If you want full editing/drawing/scanning/and complete control, this software isn't for you. It is meant for your to pull a design out of their collections, do some basic editing and then cut. However; thanks to everyone asking for full SVG usage you can import a SVG from another program and use it. The SVG does NOT come in true to size. If you buy something from SVG Cuts, you will have to resize everything. I did ask on PC's Facebook page if they would change that. Maybe they will, maybe they won't. I also asked if they would put a centering and some alignment options in. There isn't a basic shapes file either.
There were a couple of times when I wanted to use the pen, but couldn't separate the layers or pieces to draw out the design.
I did import an SVG file from MTC that cut out just fine.
I love that when you get to the cutting stage, the software automatically puts everything on the mat in a way to save paper. I hate dragging everything around to make it fit. You can change that if needed before you cut. If you decide to use different paper on the same mat, change the design colors to fit on the first mat or it assumes you are using a different mat for each color.
So far the dial is accurate. It's nice to just set it and go. I've only done card stock as I don't have any vinyl. You can go in and change the pressure settings or get different cutting materials when you get to the cutting screen. The basics are covered on the front dial. As mentioned, I didn't find a speed setting.
The software has worked on both my Mac and my Windows laptop.
It looks like the Explore has some bluetooth or wireless device inside as my computer picked it up but it wouldn't sync.
Provo Craft did a nice job on this machine. The only thing I wish is that they included the scoring tool in the package. Will it put the other companies out of business? No. Does it have the most amazing software? No. The Explore was meant for the home crafter who just wants to cut out designs and go. That's it.
What remains to be seen is if they keep their promise of a PnC and a wireless solution.