Updated to include Glowforge Aura and xTool P2 and S1! Laser machines are exploding onto the market as a popular tool for crafters! The ability to laser cut and engrave a wide variety of materials is something that intrigues many creators. When it comes to choosing a laser cutter, Glowforge and xTool are two very popular options. But which laser cutter is right for you? I own a Glowforge Pro, xTool P2, S1, and M1, and I have compared them in terms of their features and cost. Keep reading to see which laser cutter you should buy!
What is a Laser Cutter?
A laser cutting machine is a machine that uses a tiny but powerful focused beam of light (laser) to cut, engrave, and score various materials at the width of a human hair.
They are relatively new to crafters, but have increased in popularity in the last few years. Laser machines for crafts gained interest on platforms such as Kickstarter, and are finally hitting the market in mass quantities.
Glowforge was the first consumer-grade laser cutter popular with hobbyists and professionals alike. There have been many complaints about the price of a Glowforge machine for entry level crafters. Enter: Makeblock. They have exploded onto the market with affordable laser engravers and cutters (including the hybrid M1 laser and blade machine and the brand new 55W P2 CO2 machine) that you can use to make a variety of crafts, including laser engraved wood, acrylic, and other popular laser cut crafts.
In July 2023, Glowforge blew into the craft laser market with an entry level, affordable laser called the Glowforge Aura. It is similar to the xTool M1, and I’ll compare the basics below!
Both the Glowforge and the xTool desktop laser cutters are a crafter’s dream! They are precise, impressive, and most importantly, user friendly for the general public. BUT, there are some MAJOR differences between Glowforge performance machines, the Aura, and the various xTool laser machines that you need to know before you buy one.
Which is the best laser cutting machine? I own a Glowforge Pro 3D Laser Printer as well as a xTool M1 10W Hybrid Laser and Blade Cutting Machine. AND, I just got the brand new xTool P2 55W CO2 laser machine and xTool S1 40W Diode Laser Machine! Glowforge Aura is also available at Michaels and Joann.
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If you’re looking for affordability, you should look at xTool laser machines. And although I used to recommend the Glowforge for performance, the P2 is a more powerful machine. But there are a ton of details to compare! Before you spend a lot of money on a laser machine, I want you to know ALL of the facts – so let’s get started!
What is the Difference Between Glowforge and xTool?
I’m going to cover a LOT of information! If there’s a feature or product detail that you’re most interested in, you can jump ahead to that section by using the links below:
Glowforge vs. xTool M1
For a quick comparison of the machines, here’s a Glowforge v. xTool M1 comparison chart:
Glowforge Aura vs xTool M1
And now that the Glowforge Aura has released, here’s a quick comparison of the features between it and the xTool M1 diode laser. They’re pretty similar, with a few major differences.
Glowforge vs. xTool P2
Here’s a quick look at the specs of the Glowforge Laser Printing Machines in comparison to the new xTool P2 50W CO2 Laser Cutter and Engraver. They are both CO2 lasers and are much more similar than the diode laser in the M1. (Prices and shipping and handling subject to change).
You can also read more details about each of the machines at these posts:
First, let’s compare the size of the Glowforge and xTool M1 and P2.
Size and Weight: Difference Between Glowforge and xTool
The Glowforge is approximately 38 inches long x 20.75 inches deep x 8.25 inches high, and weighs 55 pounds. It’s quite a large machine and takes up a good deal of desk space. In fact, I purchased a Husky tool chest with drawers to place my machine on. My desk wasn’t quite big enough.
Despite the large footprint of the Glowforge, the actual cutting (printable) area of the Glowforge is approximately 11 x 19.5 inches. If you upgrade to the Glowforge Pro, you do have the option of cutting with the passthrough slot. The passthrough allows you to cut materials of any length.
The xTool M1 approximately 22 inches long x 18 inches deep x 9 inches high. It is so much smaller than the Glowforge! It weighs just over 20 pounds, which was light enough to unpack and move around by myself. I compare it to a large desktop printer in size. In fact, I put the M1 on the Ikea Alex drawer cart that my printer was on!
Glowforge Aura is 20 x 20.5 x 5 inches high. It is approximately 19 pounds, so also very light! The major difference is in the thickness, which means the depth of materials you can place in the Aura is much smaller.
The cutting area of the M1 laser machine is 12 x 15 inches, which is a little smaller than the Glowforge Basic and Pro, and a little larger than the Aura at 12 x 12 inches. The Glowforge Aura DOES have a passthrough slot, which means that you can process items as long as you want when the slot is open.
The xTool P2 is slightly larger than the Glowforge at 39.4 x 25.1 x 10.6 inches. It has a cutting area of 23.6 x 12.1 inches, which is a great size! Although the depth of the machine is 25.1 inches, it fits perfectly on a second Husky workbench that I bought. The handle on the front of the lid is what makes the machine larger than the desktop. The base of the machine is approximately 22.5 inches.
This conclusion is based on size alone. Unless you have a large craft space or studio, the xTool M1 packs a punch despite being contained in a small size.
If you want to find a reasonably priced workbench that fits a desktop CO2 laser easily, the P2 fits in the same space as the Glowforge but has more cutting space.
What Type of Laser is the Glowforge v. xTool?
The power behind the xTool M1 and Glowforge Aura is a diode laser, as opposed to the CO2 laser of the Glowforge and xTool P2. Diode and CO2 lasers use two entirely different scientific methods to create laser beams, which creates differences in their capabilities.
Diode lasers are MUCH less expensive than CO2 lasers. It is the main reason that diode lasers are becoming popular in the DIY and crafting market. Diode lasers last longer, are more durable, but are less powerful than CO2 lasers.
Because they are so much less powerful, they are much slower than CO2 laser machines. But both lasers have limitations to the thickness and material that you can cut, regardless of which one you choose.
The xTool M1 diode laser machine is available in 5W and 10W laser optical strengths, which is powerful enough for most home crafters. The S1 improves on that base power with 20W and 40W models (I have been recommending the xTool S1 to everyone who wants a budget laser craft machine.) The Glowforge Aura comes in at 6W of laser power. However, they are much less powerful than the Glowforge Pro CO2 laser tube power, which is 45W.
The Glowforge Basic and Plus models have 40W of laser tube power. The xTool P2 is the most powerful at a laser power of 55W, which is huge! That strength is not necessary for most projects, but it can handle thicker materials than the Glowforge.
The xTool M1 10W laser can cut a variety of materials including wood (up to 8mm thick) and acrylic (up to 3mm) in one pass. Glowforge Aura can cut colored acrylic and wood up to 1/4″ thick.
Glowforge Basic and Pro can cut many materials 1/4″ and less in one pass. For engraving, you can insert objects as thick as 2 inches. The Glowforge performance machines can engrave to a depth of 1/2 inch, depending on the material.
Because the xTool P2 is so much more powerful, it can cut 20mm acrylic in one pass – that’s over 3/4 inch! It can cut solid wood up to 18mm, and plywood up to 12mm (really thick plywood has a tendency to light on fire). It can also engrave at over 600mm/s. That 10W increase in power definitely shows in cutting material thickness and speed!
In addition, the xTool P2 can engrave materials up to 2.5 inches, and up to 8.5″ thick with the Riser Base added. This is a HUGE difference!
As far as diode lasers go, I have a 10W xTool M1 machine. I tested it against the Glowforge, and there really is no comparison with speed and power. That said, if I didn’t have a Glowforge, I wouldn’t have known any different and would have been impressed by the M1.
All of that said, CO2 and diode lasers are different enough that I can’t compare them fairly. It all comes down to what kind of power you’d like for your projects.
WINNER: xTool P2
A CO2 laser is more powerful, is faster than a diode, and can cut thicker materials. The xTool P2 is 10W more powerful than the Glowforge Pro. The end. For a easy overview of CO2 vs. Diode laser materials, here’s a handy chart for you:
Precision and Accuracy of Craft Laser Machines
Time for some detailed technical specifications!
The laser beam produced by the M1 is 0.08 x 0.08mm (.08mm in diameter), which is quite impressive for an affordable laser cutter. It is accurate within .01mm, producing an image quality of 500dpi.
The Glowforge laser beam is 0.008in (0.2mm) and can position the beam within 0.001 in (0.03 mm). That means it can print in 1000dpi (the average web picture is 72dpi and printed image is 300dpi).
xTool P2 is also 0.008in (0.2mm) and the precision of the laser is 0.01mm. The visual precision of the AI camera is 0.03mm and it can print up to 1000dpi when laser engraving.
I have not seen the tech specs for the Glowforge Aura as of late July 2023.
The M1 produces a smaller beam, but the Glowforge and P2 have a much higher printing quality than other laser engraving machines.
What Software Does Glowforge and xTool Require?
Glowforge has a printing application that has a Basic (free) version and Premium (paid) version. All of the Glowforge machines use the same software. Both are the same platform, but the premium subscription includes additional features and access to more designs. I do have the premium subscription and use it to add shapes when needed to my designs. There is also a premium design catalog and free special monthly premium design.
xTool laser machines use xTool Creative Space (D1 and M1) and Laserbox (Laserbox Rotary CO2).
The P2 can use xTool Creative Space as well as Lightburn.
Both machines can connect to your computer and the software using Wifi, but the Glowforge app MUST be connected to the internet to work. Both xTool machines can connect to your computer via cable.
I don’t love that the Glowforge App requires a premium subscription for access to so many features. xTool Creative Space is FREE and is updated all of the time. It shows that they are loyal to the customers that purchase their machines, and that everyone has access to the same features.
Both softwares work with Mac and Windows based computers.
I have used both programs extensively, and I personally prefer the Glowforge software. It is smoother and more user friendly. xTool Creative Space is a little clunky BUT it is not a bad software overall. AND, I look forward to the Creative Space updates and expect that they will surpass the usability of the Glowforge App soon.
For 99% of my projects, I use imported designs. I design SVG files in Adobe Illustrator and then upload them to the design software. For this function, both Glowforge and xTool software are perfectly fine.
Safety Features of xTool and Glowforge Laser Machines
Lasers are definitely more dangerous than other craft machines, but both the Glowforge and xTool have built in safety features. The xTool has a few more that come with the machine, and a BIG safety feature that you can add!
The machines will automatically stop if the lid is opened when the laser head is cutting or engraving. This is helpful in keeping little fingers out as well as keeping materials from being moved.
Glowforge Basic, Aura, and M1 are enclosed machines and block light, so you don’t need to wear safety goggles when the laser is operational. I also like that the P2 has an auto-locking lid.
The Glowforge Pro has a different class of laser, which requires additional safety features. A laser safety course is required with purchase of the Pro (it’s included with your purchase and you complete it with setup). There is also a light blocking panel if you are using the passthrough slot.
xTool offers D1 laser machines that feature an open cutting area. They have additional safety features such as a flame detector, gyroscope to stop the machine if it were to get moved, and you can also buy a safety enclosure. (I have little kids around, so this machine was never a consideration for me).
Both the Glowforge and xTool machines have built in fans to remove dust particles and toxic fumes while the machines are in use. There is no need for additional ventilation if you can use the included pipes to vent out a window.
I have an inline fan for my Glowforge. A very good air assist is included with the xTool P2. For either machine, I would recommend a face mask if you are sensitive to smells or small dust particles.
You can buy separate air filters for the xTool as well as the Glowforge machines, if you can not vent them out a nearby window. I have not used any of the filters, but I would expect them to work as long as you change the filters inside frequently.
The xTool P2 also has an emergency stop button, AND you can buy a fire safety kit that will automatically detect fire as well as extinguish. It’s a really great concept.
WINNER: It’s a tie between the Glowforge Pro and xTool Machines. Both companies take safety very seriously. If I have to pick one, it would go to the xTool P2 because of the auto-locking lid and the fire safety kit that you can add.
Both machines are safe for home crafters and outside of keeping a fire extinguisher in my craft room, I’ve never felt unsafe with either machine.
Maintenance and Care of Desktop Laser Cutting Machines
Regardless of the laser cutter and engraver you buy, you’ll have to keep up with the machine to keep it running at peak performance.
Both the Glowforge and xTool lenses will need to be cleaned regularly to ensure proper function of the machine. Glowforge recommends wiping the lenses with a ZEISS cleaning wipe. xTool recommends that you wipe the lenses with dry cotton or cotton material moistened with alcohol.
In addition to the lenses, you need to make sure that the insides are kept clean from dust and debris. Both machines require a little bit of maintenance, but really no more than you would expect. It doesn’t take much time away from my crafting. If you plan to produce more projects, expect to have to clean the machine more.
Let’s talk for a second about laser durability/lifespan.
Diode lasers last longer than CO2 lasers. That’s just how it is. That means your Glowforge and P2 laser may not last as long as your xTool laser. (For reference, the P2 CO2 laser is expected to last 6000-8000 working hours).
If you need to replace the laser parts, you have to send your Glowforge machine back to the company. I’ve not had to do it, but it’s quite expensive. If you are making a lot of projects to sell or stock an online shop, that may be something you need to consider.
I have read in FAQs that xTool will send replacement parts, and that you don’t have to send your whole machine back. Points for that!
WINNER: xTool S1 (when considering laser lifespan only.) For regular maintenance, you need to keep up with all of them equally.
Materials You Can Cut or Engrave with Glowforge vs. xTool
Here are some of the materials you can use with both machines. This is not an exhaustive list.
A Glowforge can cut and engrave wood, fabric, leather, paper, acrylic, and more materials. The Glowforge can also engrave glass, coated metal, marble, some phones and laptops, and more.
The xTool M1 and Glowforge Aura can cut and engrave wood, bamboo, some colors of acrylic, MDF, leather, and more. It can engrave paper, cardboard, fabric, felt, sticker paper (laser safe), glass, ceramic, stainless steel, slate, and more.
The xTool P2 can cut and engrave everything that the Glowforge can! It’s due to them being CO2 lasers instead of diode lasers.
Here’s a handy chart to compare materials that the Glowforge and xTool M1 (and now xTool S1) can cut and engrave:
The major difference between what the Glowforge and P2 vs. M1 and S1 can cut or engrave is: ACRYLIC. This is an important distinction, and comes down to the diode v. the CO2 laser. The xTool M1, xTool S1, and Glowforge Aura can only cut or engrave certain colors of acrylic. I’ve had most success with black and green, to be honest.
WINNER: xTool P2, for the ability to cut thicker materials and clear acrylic.
It is disappointing that you can’t cut or engrave most acrylic with the xTool S1 or Glowforge Aura. Acrylic crafts are something that most crafters look forward to when they purchase a laser cutter. But that’s just what the diode laser is capable of. It’s what you can get with an entry level machine. If acrylic crafts are NOT on your to-do list, then you can remove that from your consideration.
Cost of the Glowforge v. xTool M1 and P2
Let’s cover the xTool machines first. The 5W xTool M1 is listed at $1299 and the 10W M1 is listed at $1499. I have seen them online (in fact at the time I wrote and updated this post) at $759 for the 5W and $949 for the 10W (prices subject to change due to sales.)
The xTool S1 is currently listed at $2199.
The xTool P2 is listed at $4999 (currently on sale for $4399, subject to change at any time).
Shipping is FREE with the purchase of the S1, M1 or P2 (subject to change).
Here’s how much Glowforge machines cost (prepare yourselves). The Glowforge Basic Laser Machine is $3995, a Glowforge Plus is $4995, and a Glowforge Pro is $6995*. Shipping is $350, but sometimes they offer free shipping deals. Glowforge Aura is available from HSN and Michaels for $1199 (it appears as though shipping is free). These prices are also subject to change. I have recently seen Glowforge offer a free shipping promotion. The glow forge price for the Pro model is definitely cost prohibitive for a lot of crafters.
The cost of materials that you can use with either machine is about the same. Depending on the crafts you prefer, materials can be costly. Wood and acrylic are not cheap items, and you don’t want to buy cheap quality wood, acrylic, or other thick materials. If you are selling finished crafts, that material cost is translated into the cost of your finished item.
Glowforge has a line of “Proofgrade” materials that are available on their website or at Michaels. I am really interested to check out the new Proofgrade iron on vinyl that Glowforge announced. xTool also has a line of materials that will fit inside the machine available on their website.
Despite that the xTool M1 isn’t as powerful or as fast as the Glowforge performance machines (refer back to the diode v. CO2 laser), it wins for affordability HANDS DOWN. The xTool M1 is a steal at under $1000 if you can catch it on sale. With sales tax and shipping added, a Glowforge Pro would be over $8000. Ouch.
The Glowforge Aura at 6W of power is more expensive than a 10W xTool M1 (which also has a blade cutting function). You’re paying for the name.
For value, you can get a 55W laser from xTool for a little over $4000 on sale or a 40W laser from Glowforge for about the same price. I would purchase the 55W every time.
Additional Details to Consider Before You Purchase a Glowforge or xTool
The xTool machines have the additional riser base and rotary tool attachment (RA2 Pro) that you can use to engrave round items such as tumblers or glasses. It’s something that Glowforge does not offer.
In addition to the rotary attachment, the M1 is a hybrid machine that includes a blade cutting system. I wouldn’t choose it over my Cricut machine, but it does work.
The Glowforge Aura doesn’t have a blade cutting function or a riser base, and it is a thinner machine and can only engrave materials up to 3/4″ thick.
Unique Features of the xTool P2
The xTool P2 has a few features that make it stand out in comparison to Glowforge. If you are interested, make sure you read my more detailed review post.
- Dual 16MP cameras for panoramic and close up views
- Curved Surface Engraving
- Riser Base for items up to 8.5″ tall
- Automatic Conveyor Feeder for Passthrough
- Rotary Engraving with the RA2 Pro
Glowforge v. xTool: Which Machine Should You Buy?
Just to reiterate, the xTool M1, S1, and Glowforge Aura are a totally different type of laser, so you can’t quite compare them to the others. When you compare diode v. CO2 lasers, it’s obvious that the xTool P2 is a machine with WAY more power. The only diode laser that comes close to being as powerful or as fast as a CO2 is the xTool S1.
Is xTool Better than Glowforge?
Technically speaking, yes. Glowforge machines have 40W or 45W of laser power, and the xTool P2 has 55W of laser power. The xTool P2 packs a more powerful laser wattage for less money.
If you are a beginner or hobby crafter, and you don’t own a laser machine – honestly, the xTool M1 or Glowforge Aura might be the machine for you. They are very easy to use, and are good entry level machines to introduce you to the world of laser crafting. If you have a little bit bigger budget but still want a diode, the xTool S1 is my first choice! In my opinion it’s a lot more machine, but still affordable in comparison to a CO2.
If you’re a pretty experienced crafter, but want to try out laser cutting and engraving. If you want to make personal items or gifts for family and friends – again, the xTool S1 is a great machine to consider! I wouldn’t consider the Glowforge Aura because it has less power and is more expensive. Plus, you have to pay for a premium subscription for full feature access in the Glowforge App.
If you are an experienced crafter and you will consider adding laser crafts to your busy Etsy shop, website, or craft shows, I would recommend a xTool P2 with the Rotary Attachment as well as the Riser Base. If you are working in large product batches, want to make ALL the acrylic projects, have lots of heavily engraved items, or just need to pump out projects quickly, you want a CO2. Don’t even consider a diode laser. You really think you should look into the 55W xTool P2 Co2 laser, and it’s my first choice.
For the money, the xTool S1 20W is a GREAT BUY. The affordable price and available accessories are the selling points. It would make an amazing gift for a beginner laser crafter, especially if you’ve been scared off by the price of a CO2 laser. You can buy every accessory for the S1 and a selection of supplies for less than 1/2 of the price of a basic CO2 laser. That’s a pretty big deal if you’re just getting started with laser crafts.
If you are in the market for a larger, more powerful desktop laser machine, I would personally buy the xTool P2. I love the accessories available for the machine, and how powerful it is. And it’s so much more affordable than a Glowforge Pro. In fact, even with the riser base and RA2 Pro added to the cost of the machine, it’s still so much cheaper than a Glowforge Pro. You definitely get more for your money!
Let me know what you think and if you buy a laser cutting machine! I would love to see what you create! You can comment at the end of the post or email me at: email@example.com – although email gets to me faster!
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If you or someone you know is considering a laser cutter purchase, make sure you pin this image to your favorite crafting board on Pinterest: