Comparison of 4 Inexpensive Vinyl Cutters – GCC, Creation, Refine, Laserpoint

July 1, 2010 · 25 Comments 

Interview with Vinyl Cutter Expert Nick Horvath

Guide to Buying a Cheap Vinyl Cutter (a review of 4 popular machines)

A short while back we ordered in 10 of the most popular vinyl cutting machines in the industry.  We purchased several inexpensive units, mid grade units and top of the line units in the 24” width.  Since we purchased these our very own cutter expert Nick Horvath has been putting them to the test.  We’ve taken his feedback and comprised all types of content that will guide you into what vinyl cutter to buy for your business.  Keep in mind that we do not sell any of the cutters discussed in this particular review, so the information you are receiving is real and unbiased.  However, what we do sell is heat applied film that can be cut on any of these cutters and heat pressed onto apparel.  As you are considering your investment of a cutter, I’d also ask that you give us strong consideration as your supplier for heat applied film.  We manufacture the material and sell it direct.  You can request a sample of our product by emailing me at josh@cadcutdirect.com or watch videos about what we have to offer at http://www.CADCUTdirect.com .  Thanks for reading and enjoy Nick’s comparison of four inexpensive vinyl cutters.

Josh: What is the main difference between an inexpensive cutter (under $500) and a mid-grade unit?

Nick: Mainly the motor.  Inexpensive cutters will have a Stepper motor. Not as durable as a Servo motor on mid grade or pro grade units, and quite a bit louder, but a stepper does the job for cutting vinyl nicely.

Josh: So what does a servo do that a stepper does not?

Nick: It stands up to tough to cut stuff over time.  You really do not want to use a machine with a stepper motor to constantly cut Twill, Rhinestone templates, Sandblast material, etc.  So if that is your main business, look elsewhere.

Josh: What else might an inexpensive vinyl cutter lack?

Nick: These usually will not have an optic eye. An optic eye makes cutting around an image printed on vinyl/paper very easy by reading crop marks that are printed along with your design. There is software to allow cutters without an optic eye to do this, and there is even a model with a laser attached near the blade holder, but it is not as accurate as using an optic eye.

Also – Many of these cutters state a large downforce maximum. I have personally found that while a cutter may state say 500 grams of force that does not necessarily equate to being able to cut thicker materials, nor does it reference the durability of the motor to constantly withstand the maximum force.

Josh: I see, so what cutters have you tested that you consider inexpensive?

Nick: The US CUTTER Refine Series model MH721, Creation PCUT 24, GCC Expert 24, and US CUTTER Laserpoint 24.

Josh: Given that there are many more in this price range, why did you pick these units?

Nick: I feel that this is a good representation of cutters in this price range and to be honest a lot of the other options within this range and even the mid grade range are these units relabeled.

Josh: OK, so tell us about the US Cutter Refine unit…

Nick: The MH721 ($349) has a maximum down force of 400 grams and speed of 48 IPS. It has a LCD control panel that I like, its very easy to use. The only setting that you cannot set on the machine is offset. You need to adjust this setting in your software, which in the case of this cutter is SignBlazer Elements.  It came packaged with the unit.

The cutter does work well with SignBlazer Elements, however I was not able to get this cutter to work with graphics software such as Corel Draw.

Photo of Refine MH-721

The machine also has a USB, Serial, and an LPT port for connection – this is good, lots of options.  An interesting note is that the unit has a red button on each side of the cutter carriage… if the cutter head runs into it, the whole machine resets or locks up – I didn’t like this feature and it seems to be the case with many of the inexpensive brands. My take on it is that the manufacturer was aware that these machines will not communicate perfectly with all software, so they have these buttons as a failsafe in case the machine runs the cutter head to the side of the machine. This way the unit either locks up or resets instead of possibly ruining the motor.  Not sure, but that was my take…

Josh: OK, so what about the Creation P-CUT 24?

Nick: This machine sells for about $350.  It has a maximum downforce of 500 grams and speed of 20 IPS. It also has a material detector, to tell the machine when there is material loaded.

It has USB and Serial ports available.

This unit also has the “red reset buttons” on either side of the carriage.

The cutter was also easy to set up with SignBlazer Elements, but you are not able to set this unit up as a printer in windows, so therefore you are unable to send jobs to it from graphic software such as Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator.

It has a functional control panel with an LCD screen. You are able to set all major settings on this panel.  The unit is a lot like the Refine…I would place them both in the same category.

Photo of Creation PCut

Josh: And how did the Laserpoint 24 compare?

Nick: This machine is identical to the PCUT 24 in almost every way. The only difference is that the control panel is on the right side as opposed to the top right, and it also has a laser pointer mounted next to the blade holder for contour cutting. Also, it only has a maximum of 400 grams of downforce, where the PCUT 24 has a maximum of 500. The Laserpoint 24 is also slightly slower at a maximum speed of 16 IPS.

Once again it has the “red reset buttons” on both sides of the carriage.

It has USB and Serial ports available.

The main draw of this machine is the laser pointer, which as stated is for contour cutting.

Josh: How much does that contour cutting capability, the laser point cost?

Nick: The machine is equipped with it.  The unit sells for $419, so I guess you could say that it costs about $70 since this is the difference between the price of this machine and the PCUT.

Laserpoint 24" cutter

Josh: OK, and lastly what about the GCC Expert 24?

Nick: This one is $400.  The cutter has a maximum downforce of 250 grams, and speed of 16 IPS right on par with the others.

It has USB and Serial ports as well and it has the material sensor to tell the machine whether or not material is loaded.

The unit was very easy to setup compared to the others. It can be set up as a printer in windows, which means that you can send jobs directly from graphics software such as Corel Draw and Adobe Illustrator. This also opens it up to work with a wider range of cutter driving software you can use.  This compatibility is a big plus in my book.

The downside to this machine is the fact that you cannot set any of your settings on the control panel, actually this machine does not have an LCD screen on the unit itself. Instead you need to adjust your settings through a program that comes with the unit called VLCD.exe or a virtual LCD on you rcomputer. In this program you can adjust Downforce and Offset. You may also adjust settings in the actual printer driver by right clicking on the unit’s driver in printers and faxes. In this you can adjust Downforce, Offset, and Speed.

During my experience learning the machine I found GCC to have excellent tech support. When I called them regarding an issue, they not only advised me, but took over my computer to help correct/fix the issue – this is very important to note as you will be sure to run into some set up issues with any of these inexpensive cutters.

GCC Expert 24 Cutter

Josh: So summarize the results for us, what would you pick?

Nick: Looking at all these machines and weighing in on all that I would look for if I were starting up or looking for a backup, I think that the best cutter to pick would be the GCC Expert 24.

The flexibility to be able to work with graphic software directly as well as many other cutter driving software by having a printer driver is very valuable.

That is not to say that the other cutters mentioned here are not worth purchasing. I just did not find them as user friendly and easy to set up as the Expert 24. They do all have an LCD screen while the Expert 24 does not but the virtual LCD is actually quite easy to adjust from the computer and may be preferred.

Also, the buttons on the side of the other units scream failsafe to me, and make me feel like they are there because of a shortcoming of the machine rather than as an added benefit.

Josh: Great information…any other final thoughts to share?

Nick: Wrapping up I would say that regardless of the unit you pick look for a cutter that is easy to setup, has the most versatility with which programs it will work with, and has good tech support. This way your new vinyl cutter will be trouble free and if problems do arise, they will be easily resolved.  After all a vinyl cutter is no good if you can’t use it!

Thanks for reading and best of luck with your new cutter purchase – please leave a comment below with your feedback on these machines or this interview.  And be sure to try Stahls’ CADCUTdirect.com for heat applied film direct from the manufacturer.

Comments

25 Responses to “Comparison of 4 Inexpensive Vinyl Cutters – GCC, Creation, Refine, Laserpoint”
  1. Collin says:

    Great review of the 4 of them. Thanks so much for doing a “budget” type test of them. I was pretty set on the US Cutter MH series, but now I am more thinking the GCC Expert 24 is the best bet for my money. Great job! I would love to see more technical testing of the Expert 24 sometime as well.

  2. I have a GCC expert 24 and I can’t figure out how to use it. I have a friend who has another brand come to help me so I could learn to use my GCC but he couldn’t figure out the software either. The only thing I can say about the machine is it looks great but it’s just sitting here collecting dust. I would really like to make some money with it but the software sucks. I’m sorry, there is no other way to put it…

  3. Howard McLean says:

    Thanks for the review, currently I’m researching low end cutters and looking for something user friendly. Just when I think I’m settling on a unit I come across a horror story about it not cutting correctly or working at all. The last thing I want is to buy a cutter and have it not work or be such a hassle that it’s frustrating and give up on it. I’m not very tech savvy or have many tech friends so user friendly would be a huge help. This has been the most useful forum I’ve come across yet, thank you for that, and I’ll surely keep you in mind for products. I’ve been trying to read as much about cutters as possible to gain knowledge, it’s the whole “not knowing what you don’t know that gets me”. I’m torn between the GCC expert 24 and the US cutter MH, are their any software issues I should be aware of, can my standard Dell desktop run this or will I need a dedicated computer for this. My issues are two fold, software ease of use and actual cutter ease of use. Any help is appreciated. Thanks again!

  4. Collin says:

    Hey Howard just to answer your last part, You dont need to have a dedicated machine. Might be a little easier as it is only doing one task but nothing says you have to. I personally bought the GCC Expert 24 based on this review and a couple others. The guy who wrote this review really knows what he is talking about. I have yet to have any issues with running the software you get with the Expert 24. They give you a full license and like said above their customer service is top notch. I had a couple setup issues that they resolved in a matter of a 5 minute phone call. I cannot speak for the MH but I do know it is a very popular cutter and many people are very happy with it. USCutter is great to deal with as well and even have a whole forum to help new users and verteren users. I buy all my vinyl and other supplies form them, they are very reliable. All of the cutters tested are pretty easy to setup and get cutting within a couple hours.

    Hope this helps you a little more!

  5. Wayne Moore says:

    I would just like to add, as all of these are sold by the same company they all have the same excellent tech support, and Janice, feel free to call in to get your nice new cutter, cutting!!!! I have the MH721 and MH1351 and I agree the tech support is great and there is also a very avid user community at forum.uscutter.com that is happy to help during off hours.

    Wayne

  6. John the sign guy says:

    I own a GCC Expert 24 along with a Roland Colorcamm PC60. The expert 24 does most of the cutting in out shop. I runs about 5 hours a day with breaks to load material. We picked ours up on eBay new with the stand for $329 with shipping. In service for a year now. Great little machine for vinyl.

  7. Elaine says:

    I got the Goldcut JKseries 721 a few weeks ago, I downloaded Signblazer, but it did’nt have an option for goldcut, so iv’e got it running on the MH721 option.
    I’m still having problems getting it to cut properly – when i first load vynil and go to cut – it shoots the vynil out the back of machine, also i have to leave a lot of space at each side of vynil or it screws it all up, the instructions are terrible – so i read loads of stuff on uscutter forums to learn – i joined uscutter but still can’t send post, and don’t know why..
    This review is brilliant, and i hope there are more – i long for the day i can load some vynil and cut it without a problem of it chewing up or other issues,
    I have’nt got anyone near to help.
    Elaine

  8. grace fuentes says:

    can the expert 24 cut rhinestone templates?

  9. Jay says:

    Thank you so much for this review!
    I feel like I just went to Tom’s Hardware, but when it comes to vinyl plotters I had not idea until now.
    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and expertise.

  10. StevenE says:

    I bought a PCUT 24 inch about 9 years ago. I have had no problems from it. I use it several times a week cutting window decals, heat press vinyl, and paint mask. The only thing i had to replace is the blades. You cannot cut direct from Corel Draw but all you have to is copy and paste to your cutting program, measure and cut and you are done. When i bought mine it was alot more expensive about 3 times the cost listed here but it has paid for itself hundreds of times. I have done signs and banners for a few companies with no problems and have cut very detail decals. I would not be afraid to purchase one again. If you are just starting out it is a good cutter til you can afford something like a Roland, but i haven’t had to purchase a higher priced one because mine is still going!

  11. Vinyl Plotter says:

    I bought one of the cheap ones you mentioned. A PCUT 24 630 . It came with an intermittent power issue. I thought this was due to the power cord or the outlet as the tech department advised me when I tried to return it, while it was under warranty. But, apparently shaking the machine around to put in at another outlet, made it start. I used it for one project and put it away. But, t was counting on having it. Now, I get it out again and it is out of warranty and once again it won’t start no matter what outlet or cord I try. The company tech now tells me it the power supply and suggests replacing this. They sell parts. The power supply is an open frame–so replacing it is really not a user friendly ordeal and really should require a qualified electronics person. However, the one qualified in my area said “The way it is soldered, built, wired and glued over and haivng no schematic…even if he could fix it, it would cost me more for his time than it was worth!”

    All tolled, I may have cut 2 yards of vinyl with it. It cut really intricate work, and was speedy although it sounded like a space ship. I’ve used a roland and gerber and they don’t sound like this…overall, I was quite impressed with the quality of it’s cut –very small intricate letters were perfect and it was fast enough.

    I guess buying cheap is a gamble. That is what I did. You win some. You lose some….and you learn your lesson.

  12. Mr. Anderson says:

    Can the expert 24 cut rhinestone templates?

  13. Danielle says:

    Yes, the GCC Expert 24 can cut rhinestone template material. Given the Expert 24′s stepper motor and the thickness of most stencil material, designs may need to be cut twice-over to ensure that the blade has cut fully through the material. Stahls’ stencil material is thinner than others on the market, making this less likely, but to prevent the need for cutting twice, a stronger cutter (with a servo motor) would be needed.

    Keep in mind that carbide blades will last longer than regular blades when cutting any stencil material.

  14. D-nice says:

    Great review. Thank you for the valuable information. I’ve been looking for a great inexpensive cutter to start out hobby cutting.

  15. SHAN ALI says:

    pakistan price cutter plotter pcutt 630

  16. Hi Shan Ali, Please contact Stahls’ International for information on cutters, heat presses, materials, and more.

  17. Vin says:

    I like that the flexibility is able to work with graphic software directly as well as many other cutter driving software by having a printer driver is very valuable.

  18. Mark says:

    Hi
    Thank you for saving me a Bunch of Headaches..lol… I am Brand new to the Vinyl Business and have been flip flopping between USCutter, SignWarehouse and Redsail Thanks to this posting I have decide to go with the Gcc Expert 24 and I will DEF. be using you folks for MY SUPPLIER…
    Thanks again…
    Mark

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