Brother ScanNCut2 Review: A Rival to Cricut & Silhouette?

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Brother’s ScanNCut2 is an electronic cutting machine that does not require any cartridges, dies or monthly subscriptions.

Released in September 2015, the ScanNCut2 is Brother’s next generation upgrade to the original ScanNCut. It comes in two separate models, which have a significant price difference between them (around $200).

This is an alternative to other similar vinyl cutting machines, such as the Cricut Explore Air and the Silhouette Cameo. The ScanNCut is very popular with artsy craft fans, particularly those who like to design on paper or in scrapbooks.

Interested in buying this machine?

Here’s what you need to know with our comprehensive Brother ScanNCut2 review.

Introducing Brother ScanNCut2

“See It. Scan It. Cut It.”

That’s the motto of the Brother ScanNCut machines.

They are famous for being the only vinyl cutter to offer built-in scanning.

Here’s a nice introduction:

New Features of ScanNCut2

So, how does ScanNCut2 improve on its predecessor?

A Brand New Larger Screen

The cutter comes with a brand new LCD touchscreen that is 30% larger than the previous model.

new larger display touchscreen on Scan-N-Cut 2

The new larger display touchscreen on Scan-N-Cut 2

A welcome upgrade that makes tinkering with your designs simpler.

It Supports Wireless Design Transfer

No more tripping over cables or resigning yourself to life next-to-the-computer.

The wireless support allows you to send files from the ScanNCut Canvas software straight to the machine. But the great thing is you can do this on your tablet, too.

Also Supports Direct Connection via USB Cable

If, for convenience’s sake, you do want to transfer designs direct from ScanNCut Canvas via a USB cable, you can do this.

Downside is you’ll have to buy the USB cable separately. It’s not included (boo).

New Scanning Color Recognition

Choose between grayscale or RGB color mode when you scan designs.

Convert SVG Files Pain-Free

This was a choreĀ in the past.

With the latest machine, you can import SVG files without having to go through any ugly conversions.

Brand New In-Built Designs

As you’d expect, there’s a raft of brand new in-built designs that can help you get up and running on the machine without having to learn the ropes via custom designs and scanning.

Some of them are good, some of them are bad.

How many designs you receive will depend on which model of the ScanNCut2 you purchase.

Yes, there are two of them: CM350 and CM650W.

Some premium features are only available on the CM650W model, which we will explain in detail below.

Two of the main premium inclusions are larger scanning capability (12 by 24 inches) and support for PES files.

ScanNCutCanvas Software

ScanNCutCanvas is cloud-based application where you can edit, resize, and design your own cut data.

Unlike some of the rival cutting brands and their software offerings, ScanNCutCanvas is completely free. There are no monthly subscriptions attached.

This tool lets you convert SVG files in to the FCM format that ScanNCut uses.

It comes with various tutorials, templates and step-by-step instructions to have you launching your own projects in no time.

Many users have remarked that ScanNCutCanvas isn’t as user-friendly (or as comprehensive) as the software offered by, say, Cricut or Silhouette.

This is a valid criticism.

Experienced designers will prefer using their own professional-grade software to carry out intricate work (Illustrator, CorelDraw, etc), before sending the designs over to ScanNCutCanvas for conversion and to be fed in to the machine.

One thing we love about this software is that it is suitable for tabletsĀ since it is based in the cloud.

If doodling on the sofa is your idea of work, you’ll love this feature.

Materials and Cutting

The ScanNCut2 has a maximum cutting width of 11.7″.

It uses a German carbide blade which it boasts has excellent ‘Japan design quality’.

(We’re not sure how a German blade produces Japanese design quality!)

From what we’ve seen, it’s a solid cutter that can handle materials up to a depth of 2mm in thickness. You can adjust your pressure settings and cut speed via the display screen for maximum performance.

The machine is traditionally very popular with seamstresses, tailors, quilters and sewers.

It works well with light fabrics and has good precision as well as good consistency.

ScanNCut2 also lets you add seam allowances (in quarter inch increments) to help piece together fabric pieces for quilts.

ScanNCut2 CM350 vs. CM650W

As we mentioned, there are two versions of the new ScanNCut: a CM350 model, and a CM650W model.

What’s the difference?

The ‘mainstream’ machine is the CM350. This is what you’ll find stocked on Amazon or at the largest retailers.

The CM650W is a premium machine that has several new features targeted at hardcore cutting enthusiasts who are willing to pay extra for all the bells and whistles.

Here’s a useful CM350 and CM650W comparison chart:

ScanNCut2 CM350 ScanNCut2 CM650W
Price $$ $$$
4.85″ Large LCD Touch Screen Display Yes Yes
Wireless Network Ready Yes Yes
ScanNCut Online Activation Card Optional
Note: Amazon sells a special ScanNCut 2 bundle with a Rhinestone Kit included with online activation.Ā 
Included
Wireless Connection via PC/Tablet Yes Yes
Direct Connection via USB Cable (Note: Wire is not included) Yes Yes
Built-In One Point Designs 531 962
Built-In Quilt Designs 100 140
Total Built-In Designs 631 1102
Built-In Fonts 7 15
Scanning Color Recognition Yes Yes
24 Inch Scanning Ability No Yes
SVG File Import Capability Yes Yes
PES File Import Capability No Yes
6 Color Pen Set (includes black, red) No Yes
2 Color Pen Set (Black, red) Yes No
2 Erasable Pen Set No Yes
Pen Holder Yes Yes
Standard Mat Yes Yes
Middle Tack Adhesive Map No Yes
Standard Cut Blade Yes Yes
High Tack Fabric Support Sheets (2 pc) No Yes
Iron-On Fabric Contact Sheet (2 pc) No Yes
Touch Pen and Spatula Stand No Yes
Lifetime Phone Support Yes Yes
Lifetime Online Support Yes Yes
CheckĀ Price > Click Here NA

Should I buy the CM350 or the CM650W?

Brother claims that the CM650W model adds an extra $550 in additional value over the CM350 model.

A closer look at their figures, however, and it’s clear that $426 of this extra value is assigned to the extra built-in one point designs: it has 962 versus the ordinary model’s 531.

Would you pay an extra $200 for a superior selection of built-in designs?

If so, then go right ahead.

But if you are mainly interested in cutting your own designs, then we see little reason to upgrade to the CM650W model.

Unless… you want to take advantage of the CM650W’s 24 inch scan feature, or its integration with PES files. Curiously Brother has assigned no ‘extra value’ to these features, whilst instead talking about the freebies of erasable pen sets instead.

Some of the extra features included with the CM650W are certainly worth having, but unless you want all of them, it’s probably going to be more cost effective to simply buy the CM350 plus any individual extras as and when you need them.

The CM650W is considered a specialist model.

It’s difficult to find in stores and you will have to go through one of Brother’s authorized dealers to buy it. Stock of theĀ CM350 is much more widespread.

Amazon only stocks the ScanNCut2 CM350, including an option that throws in a useful Rhinestone Trial kit.

Brother ScanNCut vs. Silhouette Cameo vs. Cricut Explore

While it is easy to compare the ScanNCut with Silhouette’s Cameo and Cricut’s Explore Air, there are some obvious differences between the machines.

The ScanNCut2 is more of a standalone machine. It doesn’t come with the same sophisticated software as the Cricut or Silhouette machines. The emphasis is on loading in your existing designs, or using pre-set designs, or making use of the scanning facility.

From a purely software “What can I do with this machine?” perspective, the Cameo and Explore are more flexible.

However, they do not provide the built-in 300 DPI scanner which many would argue is the ScanNCut’s greatest quality. Particularly for those who like to design on paper instead of on screens

The ability to scan designs and automatically create cut lines will be appealing to many — although it does come with a learning curve.

The ScanNCut2 is a cutting machine that does not require cartridges, dies or a monthly subscription. Neither does it require a PC for use.

While it might lack some of the features and integration of the illustrious Silhouette and Cricut brands, it makes up for that with a superb all-in-one solution for anybody with handmade drawings or scrapbook designs.

ScanNCut2 Pros

Here are some good reasons to buy the ScanNCut 2:

  • It’s the only machine with built-in scanning — Much of the ScanNCut2’s appeal is based around the ability to scan and go. Great for scrapbookers.
  • Multi-device and wireless support — We love being able to design on our tablets and send the work straight to our machine.
  • Excellent precision cuts — It’s reliable and consistent.
  • Software is free — While ScanNCutCanvas is pretty basic, it is free and does not require a subscription.

ScanNCut2 Cons

And here are some good reasons to consider other vinyl cutters:

  • Limited for vinyl cutting — If you are here to cut vinyl, you will be sacrificing a lot of capacity in terms of working area. The ScanNCut2 can cut up to a maximum of 12″ x 24″, compared to Silhouette’s Cameo mammoth 12″ x 120″.
  • ScanNCutCanvas software is basic — Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw it is not.
  • Slightly more expensive — The Brother cutters are around 10-20% more expensive than the top Silhouette or Cricut machines, which often have better bundle deals on sale.

Our Verdict

We think users will opt for or against the ScanNCut2 based on its primary feature; that around which its entire brand is built — the ability to scan your designs.

If you are the type of designer who loves drawing on paper, or in scrapbooks, then you’ll really appreciate the ability to feed those designs straight in to a great performance cutter.

Likewise, if you are a seamstress, tailor, quilter or sewer, you’ll love the flexibility of the ScanNCut2 for dealing with fabrics.

If you are mostly a software based designer, or somebody who needs larger cuts than the ScanNCut can handle (a small business or commercial cutter, for example), then we’d recommend checking our complete vinyl cutter guide for some more suitable options.

Current Price

For the current best price on Amazon for the ScanNCut2 CM350 model, check here.

For the CM650W, here is a tool to find your closest dealer location. (US only)


What do you think of Brother’s ScanNCut2? Better than the Cameo and Explore Air?

Let us know how you’re getting on with your machine!


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