Let’s start with full disclosure: xTool sent me this laser cutter to review (for free) and if you decide to buy it I make a small commission. But if you’ve been here awhile, you know my reviews are always 100% honest, no matter what.
These xTool laser cutters have been blowing up on social media, so I’m going to break down the truth for you – is the xTool M1 a good laser cutter?
First, just a little bit of context for you. I am a stationery designer, mainly for weddings. I co-own a GlowForge Pro laser cutter with a colleague, but it lives at her house for a few reasons I’ll get into shortly. The xTool M1 is the first laser I’ve owned in my own space. I will talk about the GlowForge Pro in a different post!
xTool recommended the M1 for me, and they also have a full suite of other laser options! I would recommend researching your particular needs before deciding on one specifically – I will help walk you through some considerations in this post.
The xTool M1 is a dual laser cutter and blade cutter. This means it has the functionality of a laser cutter/engraver and a blade cutter like a Cricut or Silhouette Cameo. The laser on an M1 is a diode laser, which is different from a CO2 laser. I’ll talk about that in a second.
The xTool M1 has a cut area of about 12×17” and is 10W in power. Some CO2 lasers are more powerful, for instance, my GlowForge Pro is 45W. It can cut things faster, and theoretically thicker, with more power. I haven’t really needed to cut anything that the GlowForge can do that the M1 can’t due to power.
The biggest differentiator in this laser from my Glowforge Pro is that the xTool M1 uses a diode laser and the Glowforge uses a CO2 laser. I won’t go into the science of it all, but basically a diode laser isn’t able to cut clear materials (clear acrylic, vellum paper, translucent acrylics, etc.). It can engrave them, but you may need to use a workaround to help.
This is the main difference in functionality between a CO2 and a diode laser, so it’s a good thing to take into account when researching which laser will be best for you. In general, diode lasers are often cheaper than CO2 lasers, and require a little less venting and power, so they can be better as a starter or small-space laser depending on your exact needs.
I was able to cut pink acrylic and coral acrylic. I know you can generally also cut black acrylic with the M1. I tried to cut clear acrylic and vellum, and the laser simply engraved along the cut lines of the clear acrylic, and didn’t really work at all on the vellum. I did test with opaque masking on each one, to the same results. I know some people can engrave on clear materials, like glass and acrylic with the M1. It’s still got a wide array of materials you can cut and engrave, so I wouldn’t write it off because of that. It just depends on your needs.
Speaking of materials, what is the xTool M1 able to cut? I have so far cut, with great success, the following materials with the laser head of the M1:
I have laser engraved, with great success, the following materials:
The only material I have tried to engrave without success was a ceramic tile – I did 2 engrave passes and it only barely engraved the surface of the glaze. I’d imagine different results with unglazed or different finish tiles.
Now the cool part about the M1 specifically is that it’s got a blade as well as a laser head. So it can cut materials that don’t work as well with the laser, specifically vinyl. I have cut vinyl, vellum, and paper with the blade, all of which worked really well. I own a Silhouette Cameo 4, and the M1 was faster, better registered, quieter, and more dexterous than my Cameo. I’m glad that I won’t have to use it as much in future!
Cutting with the blade on the M1 is similar to cutting with the laser. You do need to use one of the sticky mats that come with the machine though. It’s similar to a Cricut or Silhouette mat, but it’s sticky on both sides. So you stick it down to the base of the M1 bed, and then stick your material on top of the mat.
I cut 50-60 of the same, very intricate tree design with the blade out of vellum. I did notice that it helped to move the design around every 5-10 passes, so that the cuts that went into the mat didn’t create weird bumps or spots. I used a plastic scraper to press down the whole cutting area to work around this as well.
Setting up the M1 was really easy. It ships fully put together, you just have to unbox it and remove the packaging. I am not very strong and was able to lift both the machine by itself, and the box with everything in it.
To set up the machine, you really only need to do a couple of things:
It felt like it should be a lot harder, honestly. The part that takes time is exploring the software and settings needed for each material! It’s a learning process, but they do a lot to help you get comfortable using the machine. I’d imagine you could make your first cuts in about an hour after unboxing, no problem.
The footprint of the xTool M1 is about 22×16” and it’s about 9” tall. I love this because of my small office space!
I mentioned that the vent hose needs to be attached and vented out of a nearby window. This is because laser cutting can emit toxic fumes, and even the ones that aren’t toxic can be kind of smelly. You’ll definitely want to vent this out of a window while in use.
xTool also sells an air purifier you can use to suck up fumes. They did send me this, but I haven’t set it up quite yet (I’ll update this post with more info once I test it out!). For me, it’s been really easy to vent the hose out of a window in my office while I’m using the M1. My office is very small, so there’s only one real spot where I can keep it to do this, and I may need to reconsider the M1’s final resting place in a different room.
The biggest con to this machine has been using xTool’s software – xTool Creative Space. It’s got everything you absolutely need. However, I am coming at this as a graphic designer who works in Adobe programs all day. So I am used to more robust features. There are also very few tutorials for xTool Creative Space online, so even when features exist, it’s tough to figure out. I filmed a video showing you how to use xTool Creative Space’s basic features.
So what’s wrong with xTool Creative Space? The biggest miss to me is being able to edit anchor points and contours. Again, this is coming from a graphic designer though, so if you’re using this as a beginner you might love it. It’s fairly simple, and doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles.
A great workaround for myself and other designers, though, is to just design in Adobe Illustrator. Or any other program you like! As long as you save your file as an SVG (you will need to outline fonts first!), then you can import it directly into xTool Creative Space and it will be ready to go. I like to save my cut and engrave elements as separate files – all cut elements on one and all engrave elements on another – and bring them in separately to Creative Space. Now that I’ve realized this, I don’t have to deal with my frustrations with Creative Space, and won’t have to really learn all the new features of a brand new program in order to use the M1 regularly.
Playing with settings is probably the biggest learning curve when it comes to laser cutters. Every material will require slightly different settings. You generally have 2 main settings: power and speed. Power adjusts the amount of power in the laser, and speed adjusts how fast it moves.
If you’re not getting a full cut on a material, you might want to go up in power. If you’re getting a clear cut, though, you could try going down in power. If you have too much power, you can go through the material and put wear and tear (literally burn) on the bed of your laser. It’s okay if this happens a little, but you don’t want to just cut everything at the highest power possible.
You will also find that more power can lead to more burn or char on your materials. Some burn or char on certain materials is inevitable, but you generally want to reduce that. So it’s about striking a balance of the right power setting so your laser cuts through the material…but not too easily.
Speed has an inverse relationship to power. The more speed you cut with, the less deep it will engrave or cut. Basically, the laser is spending less time in a certain spot, so it cuts less well. If you want to decrease char, you can increase speed. If you want to cut through a material that isn’t cutting through, you could decrease speed.
Another setting you might want to use on your laser cutter is the number of passes! Sometimes one pass through just doesn’t cut it, or you might have to use really intense power to fully cut a material, and want to avoid burning it. In those cases, you can have the laser automatically cut a 2nd or 3rd pass, right after the first one.
All laser cutters will have slightly different setting options you can change, but these are the most common! On the xTool M1, I have often used the default settings for materials – wood setting for wood, for instance – and had really good luck with these. As I use it more, I might dial in some settings. For instance, I set it to the “Kraft Paper” setting when cutting paper, vellum, or velvet, and it worked great!
Overall, I really like the xTool M1. I think you need to understand what a diode laser is – that it won’t be as fast or cut clear materials like CO2 lasers can do. But for someone with a tiny office, someone just getting into lasers, or for someone who doesn’t cut a lot of clear materials, it’s a great option. xTool also has a full lineup of CO2 and other types of lasers, if those things are important to you!
At the pricepoint of $1,500 for everything you need (currently – and often – on sale for about $1,100), it’s a great starter laser for someone who doesn’t need the full power of a larger laser cutter.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this review – I’d be happy to answer questions in the comments. If you want to invest in the xTool M1, I hope you’ll use my affiliate link here. I will make a small commission on the sale if you use my link, and be ever-so-grateful to you.
Hi, I'm Laney!
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I make wedding invitations and I teach artists how to work smarter, make money, and run a business that works for you.