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 both machines, 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) that you can use to make a variety of crafts, including laser engraved wood, acrylic, and other popular laser cut crafts.
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 and xTool laser machines.
I own a Glowforge Pro 3D Laser Printer as well as a xTool M1 10W Hybrid Laser and Blade Cutting Machine. For authenticity purposes, my comparison will be primarily regarding those two machines. However, xTool has additional lines of laser engravers and cutting machines that I will reference as well!
If you’re looking for affordability, you should look at xTool laser machines. For performance and speed, the Glowforge is a better machine. But there are a ton of details to compare! Before you spend a lot of money on a craft machine, I want you to know ALL of the facts – so let’s get started!
Glowforge v. 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:
For a quick comparison of the machines, here’s a Glowforge v. xTool comparison chart:
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.
Size and Weight: Difference Between the Glowforge and xTool M1
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!
The cutting area of the M1 laser machine is 12 x 15 inches, which is a little smaller than the Glowforge.
WINNER: Makeblock xTool M1
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.
What Type of Laser is the Glowforge v. xTool M1?
The power behind the xTool M1 is a diode laser, as opposed to the CO2 laser of the Glowforge. 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. However, it is 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. xTool just launched a 40W CO2 laser machine, but I haven’t been able to test it yet.
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 can cut many materials 1/4″ and less in one pass. For engraving, you can insert objects as thick as 2 inches. The Glowforge can engrave to a depth of 1/2 inch, depending on the material.
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: Glowforge Pro
A CO2 laser is more powerful, is faster, and can cut thicker materials. The end. Doesn’t matter if it’s a Glowforge or another CO2 laser.
Precision and Accuracy of Craft Laser Machines
Time for some 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 (0.2 mm) 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).
The M1 produces a smaller beam, but the Glowforge has a much higher printing quality.
What Software Does Glowforge and xTool Require?
Glowforge has a printing application that has a Basic (free) version and Premium (paid) version. Both are the same platform, but the premium subscription includes additional features. I do have the premium subscription and use it to add shapes when needed to my designs.
xTool laser machines use xTool Creative Space (D1 and M1) and Laserbox (Laserbox Rotary CO2).
Both machines can connect to your computer and the software using Wifi, but the Glowforge app MUST be connected to the internet to work. You can connect the xTool to your computer via cable.
Both softwares work with Mac and Windows based computers.
WINNER: Glowforge Pro
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.
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 the xTool M1 and Glowforge
Lasers are definitely more dangerous than other craft machines, but both the Glowforge and xTool have built in safety features.
The machines will automatically stop if the lid is opened when the machine is cutting or engraving. This is helpful in keeping little fingers out as well as keeping materials from being moved.
Both the Glowforge and M1 are enclosed machines and block light, so you don’t need to wear safety goggles when the laser is operational.
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 the M1 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, and I just added the air assist to my xTool M1 10W. For either machine, I would recommend an inline fan and/or a face mask if you are sensitive to smells or small dust particles.
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.
If there was a slight edge, it would go to the Glowforge because the air assist is included inside the 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 M1 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 laser may not last as long as your xTool laser. 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.
WINNER: xTool M1 (when considering laser lifespan.) It’s a TIE for regular maintenance.
Materials You Can Cut or Engrave with Glowforge vs. xTool M1
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 can cut and engrave wood, bamboo, some colors of acrylic, MDF, leather, and more. It can engrave paper, cardboard, fabric, felt, sticker paper, glass, ceramic, stainless steel, slate, and more.
Here’s a handy chart to compare materials that the Glowforge and xTool M1 can cut and engrave:
The major difference between what the Glowforge and M1 can cut or engrave is: ACRYLIC. This is an important distinction, and comes down to the diode v. the CO2 laser. The xTool can only cut or engrave certain colors of acrylic. I’ve had most success with black and green, to be honest.
WINNER: Glowforge Pro
It is disappointing that you can’t cut or engrave most acrylic with the xTool M1. 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. 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
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 this post) at $899 for the 5W and $999 for the 10W (prices subject to change.) Shipping is FREE with the purchase of the M1 (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. These prices are also subject to change.
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. xTool also has a line of materials that will fit inside the machine available on their website.
WINNER: xTool M1
Despite that the xTool M1 isn’t as powerful or as fast as the Glowforge (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.
Additional Details to Consider Before You Purchase a Glowforge or xTool
The xTool M1 has the additional rotary tool attachment 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.
Glowforge v. xTool: Which Machine Should You Buy?
Just to reiterate, the xTool M1 is a totally different type of laser, so you can’t quite compare it. When you compare diode v. CO2 lasers, it’s obvious that the Glowforge is a machine with WAY more power. A diode laser will never be as powerful or as fast as a CO2 laser.
If you are a beginner or hobby crafter, and you don’t own a laser machine – honestly, the xTool M1 might be the machine for you. It’s very easy to use, and it is a good machine to introduce you to the world of laser crafting.
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 10W M1 is a great machine to consider!
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 Glowforge or similar CO2 laser. 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, the xTool isn’t for you. Actually, no diode laser is going to cut it for you (haha, laser joke). You really should look into a 40W or more powerful Co2 laser. xTool does make one, but as I said before, I haven’t used it yet.
For the money, the xTool M1 10W is a GREAT BUY. The affordable price is the main selling point, in my opinion. It would make an amazing gift for a beginner laser crafter, especially if you’ve been scared off by the price of a Glowforge. You can buy every accessory for the M1 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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org – although email gets to me faster!
- 100th Day of School Shirts to Make This Year
- 25+ Valentine’s Day Crafts to Make with an xTool Laser Machine
- Make a Laser Cut Valentine Card
- Glowforge vs. xTool: Which One Should You Buy?
- 10+ Christmas Crafts To Make With a xTool Laser Machine
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: