Cricut Expression 2 Review
The Cricut Expression 2 is an older machine from Cricut, but is still very popular among crafters as it’s a good cutter that’s easy to use.
It can’t compare with the newer Explore machines or the Maker for cutting specs and the ability to create your own designs, but it’s great for people that love working with Cricut cartridges and like to use a stand-alone machine without having to hook up to your computer.
The Cricut Expression 2 is an old machine, but we get so many questions about it that we decided it was worth a review anyway.
While Cricut may not be selling it directly any more, it’s still a popular purchase on Amazon and remains a go-to cutter for many crafters.
In our view, the Expression 2 can’t compete with the latest line of Explore machines from Cricut, but it’s definitely got some great selling points regardless.
Let’s find out more…
- 1 Cricut Expression 2
- 2 Cricut Expression 2 Specs
- 3 Cricut Expression 2 Review
- 4 Where to Buy the Cricut Expression 2
Cricut Expression 2
As the Cricut Expression 2 is still such a popular machine, some people are confused about where it places in the Cricut ecosystem.
Like the name suggests, the Expression 2 — or the E2, as the diehard fans call it — came after the Cricut Expression machine, and has a number of good improvements on that cutter.
It comes before the Explore One machine (and, of course, the Explore Air and Explore Air 2) and still relies completely on using images from cartridges. The later Explore machines allow you to upload and create your own images, but unfortunately this technology wasn’t in place for the arrival of the Expression 2.
Cricut Expression 1 vs Cricut Expression 2
For us, it’s a no-brainer.
The Expression 2 has a huge number of important improvements over the original Expression — although there is a clutch of crafters who much prefer the simplicity of the Expression 1.
While both machines cut equally well, the Cricut Expression 2 is much more user-friendly and allows for more creativity.
The original Cricut Expression electronic cutting machine has a tiny screen and a large keyboard area which you need to use overlays for to explore the entirety of its capabilities. It also has dials which allow you to adjust image size and blade pressure.
The Expression 2, however, has completely done away with that in favor of just one large, full-color LCD touchscreen.
The machine comes with a stylus so you can operate it entirely from the LCD screen if you so desire.
It allows you to quickly and easily size, rotate and flip your images, and there’s no need for the annoying keyboard overlays we have to use with the original Cricut Expression machine.
Other bonuses in the Expression 2’s design include the ‘mat preview’ function that allows you to check what the design will look like on your material before it’s cut, and automatic pressure and speed settings for the most common materials.
Neither machine allows you to upload or create your own designs — you either need to use cartridges or buy digital images from the Cricut Craft Room software design store.
Here’s a table summarizing the main differences between the machines:
|Menu functions||LCD screen with keyboard overlays and dials||LCD full-color touchscreen with stylus|
|Mat preview function?||No||Yes|
|Can you resize, flip and rotate images on the machine?||No||Yes|
|Can you create your own designs?||No - cartridges and Cricut Craft Room images only||No - cartridges and Cricut Craft Room images only|
If you’d prefer to check the visual differences between the machines, check out this useful video:
Cricut Expression 2 Specs
What’s in the Box?
- Cricut Expression 2 machine
- 2 pre-loaded cartridges: Cricut Essentials and Cricut Alphabet
- 12″ x 12″ cutting mat
- 3 x port covers
- LCD screen protector
- Blade Assembly
- USB cable
- Power adapter
- Quick Start Guide
- User manual
What Materials Can it Work With?
The Cricut Expression 2 can work with a reasonably wide range of materials, including:
- Light to heavy cardstock
- Thin Foils
If you’re happy to purchase a deep cut blade, you’ll also be able to cut Cricut magnet and stamping materials, and chipboard.
As long as they measure between 0.75 to 23.5 inches. We couldn’t find any official word on the maximum thickness of materials you can cut, but suffice to say it’s pretty thin (up to 1.5 mm when using a deep cut blade).
The reported maximum cutting width of the Cricut Expression 2 is 12 inches wide by 24 inches long.
Of course, in reality, this translates to 11.5 inches wide by 23.5 inches long.
This is the same maximum cutting size as the Explore machines, and is smaller than the newer Silhouette Cameo 3, which can cut up to a huge 10 feet long.
A cutting mat is included in your purchase of the Cricut Expression 2, but it’s just a standard size one measuring 12 by 12 inches.
If you fancy using that extra wiggle room, you’ll have to buy a large cutting mat as a separate purchase.
Damn you, Cricut, for making us buy so much extra stuff!
Software and Cartridges
On the subject of being forced to buy extra accessories to use the machine, we come to the major issue of the Expression 2: the fact that you can only use Cricut images with the machine, which you have to buy.
That’s right: just like the original Cricut Expression electronic cutting machine, the Expression 2 requires that you either use cartridges or purchase and download digital images from the image store on the Cricut Craft Room software.
The Expression 2 is compatible with all cartridges, including the Cricut Imagine ones, and can be plugged straight into the machine for immediate use. You don’t even need to connect the machine to a computer if you’re using images from a cartridge.
You can also use the Cricut Craft Room software which is free to download here from Cricut’s website. It’s compatible with both Mac and PC.
It is an online application, so remember that you have to have a wireless internet connection to use it.
Craft Room allows you the same functions that you can access on the LCD screen, but on a larger scale. Again, you can only use Cricut images in your designs — whether on your linked cartridges or ones you’ve purchased from the image store.
Cricut Craft Room is definitely not the best cutting software out there — it’s basic and restrictive, and is occasionally plagued with connection and service errors.
Cricut Design Space (the software for the Explore machines) still isn’t a great piece of cutting software, but it’s a huge improvement on Craft Room.
Cricut Expression 2 Review
Now that’s we’re familiar with the Cricut Expression 2 and understand how it works, let’s get down to the thick of it: the Cricut Expression 2 review.
As always, we have a lot of opinions!
It Cuts Well
First things first, probably the most important things to consider before buying a vinyl cutting machine is how well the machine can actually cut.
Happily, the Cricut Expression 2 cuts materials well — particularly larger designs. It’s also good at drawing if you replace the blades with appropriate pens.
Obviously, this is very much a hobbyist machine and is not sophisticated enough for professional work, but we think most crafters will find its cutting specs more than adequate.
In our view, it’s not quite as precise as the newer Cricut Explore Air machines, but this is mostly due to the fact that those machines benefit from premium German carbide blades.
The LCD Touchscreen is a Huge Improvement
When we first bought the Expression 2 many moons ago, we were seriously impressed by the LCD touchscreen and accompanying stylus.
For the time and considering its competitors, this was revolutionary!
Large, fast and in full color, the screen is a huge improvement on the tiny screen and confusing keyboard overlays that we were used to with the Expression 1.
Some users have commented that they don’t find the screen as intuitive as the Expression 1, but we found it very quick to master. Plus, it looks much neater to access design menus via the touchscreen rather than have all the many individual buttons cluttering the top of the machine like with the original.
Just a small point, but we also love the stylus that comes with it — it reminds us of using a Palm Pilot!
Anyway, the new screen allows you to quickly and easily size, flip and rotate your images without having to even open the Craft Room software. You can also select pressure and speed settings for the most commonly used materials automatically via the screen and can customize settings for more unusual materials too.
There’s also a ‘mat preview’ feature that allows you to arrange your images on the mat before it starts to cut. Great for cutting down on material waste and checking everything is in order beforehand.
You Don’t Have to Be Connected to a Computer
Another benefit of the LCD touchscreen is that it’s sophisticated enough that you don’t even need to hook up to a computer to design and cut.
Ideal for craft nights and those with a less than reliable internet connection!
Comes with 800+ Images Pre-Loaded
So you can start cutting immediately once you’ve received your Cricut Expression 2, they’ve helpfully already digitally pre-loaded 2 cartridges to the machine.
These are the Cricut Essentials and Cricut Alphabet, and they include 3 fonts, 40 phrases and 110 layered images.
Sure, they’re not the most dynamic of the cartridges available, but we appreciate the gesture.
Helpful Features for More Efficient Cutting
There are a few features that really stand on the Expression 2 that make the cutting process so much easier and more efficient.
Here are a few of our favorites:
- Mat Preview: allows you to arrange and see your images on the mat before cutting begins
- Fit to Page: Maximise your image automatically
- Auto Fill and Quantity: Great for batch cut jobs of the same image
- Guiding Brackets: allows you to perfectly align your images on the mat
Light in the Cutting Area
Another feature that the Cricut Expression 2 boasts that the original doesn’t is a light within the blade housing.
We’re not really sure what the point of this is — but it is handy to supervise your blade as it cuts.
Of course, with an old and pretty outdated machine like this, you can expect a few negatives.
Here are the major issues with the machine.
You Can’t Create Your Own Images
As you might have guessed from everything we’ve written so far, while we mostly like the functionality of the Cricut Expression 2, we hate the fact that you’re so restricted to only using Cricut images.
Not only is this policy really creatively restrictive, it can also make owning a Cricut Expression 2 pretty pricey.
We first bought this machine as students, when money was tight. The machine itself isn’t exactly cheap, and then having to buy lots of cartridges on top of that initial outlay was a real kicker.
Don’t get us wrong — we love the cartridges (especially the Disney ones!) but we want the opportunity to create and upload our own designs as well.
Thank goodness the latest Explore machines allow you to create and upload your own SVG files for cutting!
This is really nitpicking for faults at this point, but we think it’s worth pointing out anyway.
A while ago, Cricut used to sell wireless adapters that would allow us to connect wirelessly to the Expression 2 from our computers when using the Craft Room software. This meant that there were no trailing USB cables everywhere and was simply a bit easier to use.
We bought one a few years ago when we bought our Expression 2.
Unfortunately, thanks to low demand, Cricut have decided to discontinue the adapters so you’ll have to hook it up to your computer if you’re using Craft Room today.
You Need an Internet Connection to Use Craft Room
We have a few issues with the basic functionality of the Cricut Craft Room software (it can be pretty buggy) but one of the most annoying is the fact that it requires an internet connection to use.
If you don’t have internet for whatever reason, you’ll need to use cartridges and the LCD screen.
Overall Verdict on the Cricut Expression Machine
While the Cricut Expression 2 doesn’t compare as favorably with the newer Cricut machines, it’s still undoubtedly a good craft cutter and was very ahead of its time when it was first released.
It cuts well and is easy to use — the two most important components of a good cutting machine.
If you love using Cricut cartridges and aren’t particularly interested in creating your own designs, the Cricut Expression 2 is pretty much perfect. Sure the Craft Room software can be buggy and a little annoying, but the LCD screen on the machine itself is sophisticated enough for you to use the Expression as a stand-alone machine.
But if you want a machine that allows you to get creative and design your own images, the Expression 2 will be a little basic and restrictive, as you can only use it with purchased Cricut images and cartridges.
UPDATE: How Does It Fare In 2020?
We feel much the same way about the Expression 2 in 2020 as we did all those years ago when we first reviewed it — that is, that it’s definitely been overtaken by the latest Cricut releases like the Explore Air 2 and the Maker, but that ultimately it’s an incredible machine.
It’s still incredibly popular and it’s really no wonder — it cuts well, it’s easy to use and it’s a great choice for crafters who aren’t bothered about creating their own designs.
Plus, you’re often able to find the Expression 2 for some impressively rock-bottom prices.
Where to Buy the Cricut Expression 2
As they’ve turned their focus to the new Explore line, Cricut have inevitably stopped selling the Expression 2 directly from their website.
Fortunately, it’s still very much available from a number of different sellers on Amazon!
Cricut Expression 2 Bundle Deals
Unfortunately there are no Cricut Expression 2 bundle deals available right now, but there are a host of accessories that you might like to purchase together with the machine:
OK — now that’s everything you need to know about the Cricut Expression 2!
What do you think of this machine?
Looking for a more recent die cutting machine? Visit our Best Vinyl Cutters Guide for a comparison of the best machines on the market today. Also check out our VCM Reviews for more excellent vinyl cutters.