The Cricut Joy machine is a great compact desktop vinyl cutting machine. If you already have this machine, you may be wondering if it is worth upgrading to the Cricut Explore 3, or perhaps you are new to Cricut cutting machines and want to know if the extra money for the Explore 3 is worth it.
We will look at both these machines to see what is the same and what is different, helping you understand the differences between the Cricut Explore 3 and Joy to choose the best device for you.
The Explore 3 and Cricut Joy Main Features Comparison Table
|Explore 3 Features||Joy Features|
|13”x12′ Cut size when using Smart Materials||4.5”x20′ Cut size when using Smart Materials|
Fine Point Blade, Deep Point Blade, Bonded Fabric Blade, Scoring Stylus, Foil Transfer Tool, Cricut Pens & Markers
Cricut Joy Blade, Cricut Joy Markers & Pens, Cricut Joy Foil Transfer Tool, Cricut Pens & Markers
|Matless Cutting when using Smart Materials||Matless cutting when using Smart Materials. Have to use a Cricut Joy cutting mats (card cutting mat and standard mat) when cutting any other materials|
|Intuitive Control Panel||No Control Panel|
|Cuts much faster than Cricut Joy|
The Explore 3 and Joy Similarities
The Cricut Joy and the Cricut Explore 3 are two of the more recent cutting machines released by Cricut, and as would be expected, they will share specific characteristics.
We'll explore these similarities and the differences to see which one is the overall winner if you compare Cricut Explore 3 vs. Cricut Joy.
Ease of Use
The Explore 3 and Joy are very easy to use, and due to the simplicity of materials that the Joy can cut, many find that the Cricut Joy is the more straightforward machine to learn how to use.
With both cutting machines, you will have to choose all the materials in the software, which streamlines the creation process.
With either machine, you should be able to start crafting your designs a few minutes after plugging in and connecting to the Cricut Design Space software.
Materials & Functions
The Cricut Joy and the Cricut Explore 3 can work with over 50 materials, including paper, cardstock, and vinyl (HTV and adhesive).
They both work brilliantly with standard materials and are not designed to work with thicker leather or balsa wood.
If you wish to cut thicker material, I highly recommend you purchase the Maker 3 instead. Check out our Explore 3 vs. Maker 3 post here if you are interested.
Both the Explore 3 and Joy are capable of writing, cutting, and foiling.
Built-in Bluetooth is yet another shared characteristic. This allows you to transfer your designs from a computer or a tablet to the machine.
As the Cricut Design Space software is cloud-based, you can customize and edit your projects anywhere. All you need to do is to download the Cricut Design Space app.
The Explore 3 and Cricut Joy is only available in one color choice. The Explore 3 is available in a matt green color option, while the Joy is only available in blue.
The Explore 3 and the Joy can both be cut without using a mat when cutting Cricut Smart Materials.
This feature is excellent if you are a die-hard Cricut fan who only uses Cricut branded materials. Still, for many who like to use other materials, this feature has no real benefit and is limited.
If you want to cut non-Cricut brand materials with either machine, you need to use a cutting mat.
Note, however, that the Cricut Explore 3 does not come with a cutting mat, so this has to be purchased additionally if you wish to cut materials that are not the Cricut Smart Materials.
Similarly, if you want to create cards with the Smart Card Inserts for the Cricut Joy, you will need to purchase the Card Mat in addition to the machine.
Differences between the Explore 3 and Joy
Now that we know how they are similar, let's look at what is different about them to understand why they are priced differently.
The first and most obvious and biggest difference between the Explore 3 and Cricut Joy is the size.
The Joy is super cute and compact and weighs in at 3.9 lbs (1.75 kg). Its dimensions are a mere 8” (l) x 4” (w) x4” (h) (20.32 cm x 10.16 cm x 10.16 cm).
The Cricut Explore 3 is quite a bit bigger as it weighs 10.68 lbs (4.85 kg). Its dimensions are 21.18” (l) x 6.99” (w) x 4” (h) (20.32 cm x 10.16 cm x 10.16 cm).
Overall the Cricut Joy is half the weight and half the size, if not more of the Cricut Explore 3.
This is quite a huge difference and will be a point to consider if you are short on space and need to easily and quickly store your cutting machine.
Double Tool Holder
The Cricut Explore 3 can work with a lot more tools than the Cricut Joy. Due to this, the Explore 3 has a double tool holder that houses separate tools compared to the single tool holder that the Cricut Joy has.
We find the double tool holder so useful as you can seamlessly create a design with multiple tools.
You don't need to waste time switching between blades, scoring wheels, and pens! Just install the necessary tools for the project and let the machine do its thing.
If you need to swap tools, the quick release for Clamp B makes swapping tools effortlessly.
The Cricut Explore 3 has a handy storage tray that is great for storing all your tools and additional blades that you may have for your machine.
The Cricut Joy does not have this feature but to be fair, as the device only uses three tools, it does not need a dedicated tool storage tray.
The Explore 3 is super fast and can cut up to two times faster than its Explore Air 2.
The Cricut Joy cannot keep up or compete with the speed of the Explore 3, and due to the machine's primary purpose being for quick and simple projects that can be created in under 15 minutes, one would not expect the machine to have a fast cutting speed.
If you think you will want to create many projects at once, then we would recommend Explore 3 as you get to create more projects in a fast time frame.
Not only can the Explore 3 work with the same materials that you can cut with the Joy, but it also has the capability of working with many more types of materials, including bonded fabric, leather, and even cork.
It can cut over 100 different materials, making this a tremendous home-cutting machine for the hobby crafter.
If you wish to create projects with materials like the bonded fabric of leather and cork, you will need to purchase the Bonded Fabric Blade or the Deep Point Blade.
Although both machines can cut long projects, the cutting widths differ substantially.
The Explore 3 has a much broader cutting capacity of 13″ (when using Smart Materials) and 12″ when using a cutting mat, compared to the Cricut Joy that has a width of 4.5″.
Due to the narrow cutting width of the Joy, the size of projects can be limiting to crafters.
The Explore 3 can cut up to 12 ft in length; however, just like being able to cut without a mat, this capability is limited to the use of Smart Materials only.
The Cricut Joy can cut individual shapes up to 4 ft long or makes repeated cuts up to 20 ft long, which is quite impressive for this little machine when using the Joy Smart Material range.
If cutting large-scale projects is your thing or if you make multiples of the same project, then this capability is appealing.
However, as mentioned, you will need to use Cricut Smart Materials for this (and to be honest, we are not the biggest fan of Smart Materials – it is pricey and harder to use compared to other brands).
Print then Cut
Being able to print then cut when using your Cricut Explore 3 machine is a trendy function. The improved sensors on the Cricut Explore 3 allow you to print and cut white or colored paper.
The Cricut Joy is limited with its capabilities as it can only draw and cut. It does not have the same built-in sensors, which means that it cannot use the very popular feature of Print then Cut.
If you think you will want to use this feature for making stickers or even printing onto and cutting designs from printable heat transfer sheets, we recommend that you purchase the Cricut Explore 3.
Intuitive Control Panel vs. No Panel
The Cricut Explore 3 has an Intuitive Control Panel. You manually select your material using the material selection in Design Space, which provides more choices and options for material settings.
With the limited material options that the Cricut Joy can work with, the material setting is decided from the type of project you make when working with Cricut Design Space.
Both machines have the option to connect your machine to your device via Bluetooth, thereby enabling a wire-free working area.
Cricut has gone one step further with the Explore 3 and added a docking slot for your device so you can slot it onto the machine while it cuts or you create in Design Space.
Due to the size of the Joy cutting machine, it is understandable that this feature is not possible.
As mentioned, the Joy can only cut, draw, and foil, which means very few tools can work with the machine compared to the Explore 3.
The Cricut Joy has 3 different tools: the Cricut Joy Markers & Pens, Cricut Joy Cutting Blade, and the Cricut Joy Foil Transfer Tool.
Due to the accessories and tools being designed explicitly for the Joy, you can not use any of the other Cricut tools or pens with the machine, which means you have to purchase these for the Joy only.
The Explore 3 can work with six different tools: the Fine-Point Blade, the Foil Transfer Tool, Bonded Fabric Blade, Scoring Stylus, Deep-Point Blade, and Cricut Markers and Pens.
With the increased cutting capacity when using Cricut Smart Materials, Cricut released a new roll holder with a built-in trimmer attached to the Explore 3.
The roll holder attaches to or sits on the tray of the Explore 3 and feeds the Smart Material in and out of the machine.
When the machine finishes cutting your project, it positions the end of the cut above the built-in trimmer so you can cut your material before unloading your project and material from the machine.
The Cricut Joy does not have a dedicated roll holder and cannot use the newly released holder used by the Explore 3.
What's Included and What's Not?
Now that we’ve highlighted the common features and differences, don’t go out and buy one yet. Let’s have a look at what is included in the box for the Cricut Explore 3 and the Cricut Joy.
|Cricut Explore 3 Box||Cricut Joy Box|
|Cricut Explore 3 machine||Cricut Joy machine|
|Welcome card||Welcome card|
|Premium Fine-Point Blade + Housing||Blade + Housing|
|Power adapter & USB cable||Power Adapter|
|Material for a practice cut||Materials for a test cut|
|Free trial subscription to Cricut Access™ (for new subscribers)|
100 ready-to-make projects online
|Free trial subscription to Cricut Access™ (for new subscribers)|
50 ready-to-make projects online
|StandardGrip Mat, 4.5″ x 6.5″ (11.4 cm x 16.5 cm)|
|Fine Point Pen, Black (0.4 mm)|
The Explore 3 and Cricut Joy can both cut Cricut's Smart Materials. Currently, Cricut offers Smart vinyl, Smart Paper and Smart Iron-On.
The Cricut Joy retails for $159.99 compared to the Explore 3 retail price of $299.99.
With the increased capabilities and functions and the more significant number of materials for the Explore 3, you will need to decide if the extra $140 investment is worth it.
Suppose this is your first vinyl cutting machine. In that case, you may need to carefully consider if you will want to progress to creating larger projects and from the many other materials that the Cricut Joy cannot cut.
As you use your machine and gain more and more confidence, you will want to start creating projects from thicker materials or larger-sized projects, which means that you will want to upgrade to the Cricut Explore 3.
However, if you are confident that you only want to work with paper, cardstock, and vinyl, the Cricut Joy may be perfect!
Feeling Unsure which Cricut Machine is For You?
If you wish to see the best Cricut machine available, look at our new Cricut machine buyers guide to see which of the Cricut machine/s are best for you.
Not sure if a Cricut cutting machine is for you, then read our best vinyl cutter guide to see what other vinyl cutters are available.
Pros and Cons
First of all, you can't go wrong with a Cricut cutting machine, and both the Explore 3 and Joy have many advantages and are suited for different crafters.
When it comes to downsides, there is some room for improvement in the Design Space app. It is pretty basic, which might be fine for beginners, but you might want more options to edit and customize the graphics.
Some people might find the Explore 3 machine a bit loud. But with the cutting speed of the Cricut, it is not surprising that there is some noise.
The size of the Cricut Joy may be on the small side for many, especially those crafters who are more experienced. But if this is not your first machine and you are looking for a compact and portable cutting machine, the Joy is perfect!
Both machines have their limitations in terms of cutting power and depth. This limitation is further extended to the Joy as it is only suitable for cutting the more standard craft materials like paper, cardstock, and vinyl.
With that said, you are not likely to notice any difference with everyday materials like vinyl, paper, and cardboard stock between the two machines.
The benefit of both machines is the ability to cut long projects as this speeds up the time to create and cut projects which is an incredible time-saver when crafting.
Cricut Explore 3 vs Cricut Joy
The Final Verdict
I think both machines are great and are winners in their own right! Here is why…
If this is your first Cricut machine, but you are not entirely sure if crafting with a cutting machine is for you, then we highly recommend that you invest in Cricut Joy.
The cost to purchase the machine is not a significant investment to start with and allows you to try out the craft without the pressure of having to love the art only because you shelled out a lot of money for the cutting machine.
Suppose you find that you love crafting with a Cricut and want to move on to different material-type projects with the ability to use other tools. In that case, you can always upgrade to the Explore 3 and have the Joy as your quick crafting machine.
If you know for sure that this is the craft for you and that you will want to work with over 100 different materials and have the ability to use a variety of tools, then the Explore 3 is the machine to consider.
Not only will you be able to cut faster with a wider cutting area, but you will be able to use the other features like Print then Cut and cut thicker materials using a Deep Point Blade.
So I hope that answers your question about whether you should buy the Cricut Joy or Explore 3. If you are still confused, drop us your questions in the comments below.
Which one will you get? Will you stick to paper and vinyl crafts or venture into creating projects using the 100 different materials?