Looking for an xTool M1 review? I’ve completed a few projects and am sharing my thoughts on the setup, capabilities, ease of use, and more. The company that makes the xTool products provided the xTool M1 to me for free to review, but I was not paid to write this post.
My xTool M1 review—is the xTool M1 worth it?
Hey all! Today I am super excited to share a product review. I don’t do a ton of product reviews, and a sponsored product review is even less common. But I couldn’t pass up an offer from xTool when they reached out to me to see if I was interested in reviewing an xTool M1 machine.
I’ve been considering investing in a Glowforge this year. I have a few friends who have them, and they all have good things to say. I have also seen a few other creators with xTool machines. But they don’t have near the brand recognition that Glowforge has.
So when xTool approached me, I did a lot of Googling and reading Reddit reviews. Was this something I would like using? Was it something I could recommend to my readers? That is always my barometer for products I use and brands I work with.
The short answer is yes—I can recommend the xTool M1. But if you’re anything like me, you do a lot of research before making a big purchase. So I’m going to outline all of the research I did before committing to this partnership.
Plus I’ll outline some other things I want to share from the initial set up process, first several projects, and comparisons I’ve read about re: xTool vs. Glowforge.
Like videos instead? See my M1 unboxing and tutorial YouTube video!
Table of contents
This is a really long post. So if you’re looking for something in particular, just click one of the hyperlinks below to go directly to that section!
- What is the xTool M1?
- What type of laser is xTool M1?
- What materials can the xTool M1 cut?
- Can the xTool cut metal?
- What is the maximum thickness the M1 can cut?
- What materials can the xTool M1 engrave?
- Does xTool M1 have air assist?
- What is the difference between xTool D1 and M1?
- How does the xTool compare to the Glowforge?
- What are the price differences between xTool M1 & Glowforge Basic?
- Unboxing & setting up my xTool M1
- Learning & making projects with xTool resources
- Completing my first few cutting projects with my xTool M1
- Testing out the M1’s engraving capabilities
- xTool M1 review pros & cons
- Buy the xTool M1
What is the xTool M1?
The xTool M1 is a laser and blade cutting machine. It uses a laser beam to engrave designs onto a variety of materials and can cut materials into specific shapes. The M1 model is equipped with a laser head that can produce a high-quality and precise engraving or cutting result.
- D1 is a diode laser machine, while the M1 is a diode laser machine and a blade cutting machine. Both can do flat and rotary engraving and flat cutting with the laser. The M1, however, can also cut materials like vinyl and felt with a blade.
- The working area on the D1 is slightly larger at 17×16 inches; the M1 working area is 15×12 inches.
- The M1 has a live view camera that the D1 does not; D1 is more of a streamlined, no-frills machine.
- The D1 has a 20W option with its Pro version; the M1 maxes out at 10W. This increase can open the door for more cutting power, but I didn’t look too much into the differences in max cutting width between the D1 Pro 20W and M1 10W.
- D1 is compatible with LightBurn; for the xTool M1, you cannot use LightBurn directly unless it works with G-code. The preferred software for xTool M1 is xTool’s Creative Space. (This is directly from xTool’s website.)
- The M1 supports the smoke purifier and extractor fan attachments, but they don’t come standard with the machine. The D1 does not support those two attachments.
- D1 is cheaper, starting from $469; M1 pricing starts at $999.
The xTool M1 is typically used in a variety of applications, such as woodworking, signage, and custom gift making. It has a camera that provides a real-time preview of your project area and is suitable for household use.
What type of laser is xTool M1?
The xTool M1 uses a diode laser. What’s a diode laser? Well, I had to learn, too! 🙂 It’s a type of laser that uses a p-n junction—or semiconductor—to produce light. Diode lasers are widely used in various applications due to their compact size, reliability, low cost, and ease of operation.
They are often used in consumer products such as CD and DVD players, barcode scanners, and laser printers. They can also be used for industrial applications such as laser marking, engraving, cutting, and welding, among others.
What materials can the xTool M1 cut?
The M1 laser cuts wood, paper, foam, opaque acrylic, fabric, felt, leather, rubber, and stone. As for blade cutting, the M1 can cut vinyl, leather, and felt. This is a similar capability to another cutting machine I own and love, so it is not the primary reason for my interest in the xTool machines.
I really wanted the cutting and engraving capability for thicker woods and other nifty materials that my other cutting machine can’t handle.
xTool does not recommend working with clear acrylic and food. They say on their website that you can work with food if you haven’t worked with anything else. But if it’s not the first time using your machine, you’ll likely soil the food with dust.
Can the xTool cut metal?
According to xTool, using a laser cutter for metal can be tricky. You can cut completely through thinner pieces of metal—like .06” thickness or thin stainless steel. However, it appears you should use CO2 laser cutters for metal. The M1 engraves metal, though (see examples here).
What is the maximum thickness the M1 can cut?
The xTool M1 10W can cut 10-mm wood or 3-mm acrylic in one pass (that’s not clear acrylic—only a colored or opaque acrylic). A diode laser of 20W is the most powerful type of diode and can cut acrylic up to 8mm in one pass. Read more about cutting acrylic here.
Diode lasers in general can cut 3-10mm basswood in one pass depending on the optical output and power, so make sure you pay attention to what machine you have (mine is the M1 10W).
What materials can the xTool M1 engrave?
The machine has a movement accurate of .01mm, which is compared to the Glowforge Basic and Plus accuracy of .0254mm. It has a compressed laser spot of .08mm x .08mm. Essentially, that means it is super accurate.
Does xTool M1 have air assist?
Yes, xTool introduced Air Assist for the M1 machines in late 2022. However, it does not come standard with the M1 machines. I’d love to get my hands on one to review the difference it makes in the machine’s performance, but for now I’m making projects without one.
Air Assist is essentially a piece that assists the engraving and cutting processes by blowing air at a very high pressure. While you’re engraving or cutting with the laser, the Air Assist is attached to the laser module and blows air in the direction of the laser beam.
This helps to keep smoke and debris away from the engraving, cutting, and general project area. This smoke and debris can lead to burn marks—especially on wood. It can also yellow the wood.
The debris can also reduce the overall power of the laser by coming in between the laser and the object, preventing deeper cuts. And finally, Air Assist can help reduce the risk of fire that will always be present when working with a machine that uses lasers at very high temperatures.
You might be wondering, like I am, why something that is seemingly so important to the cutting and engraving process doesn’t come standard with the M1 machine. xTool says that it is more of an accessory on DIY and home laser cutting machines. I’ll share my thoughts on that in the pros and cons area at the bottom of this post.
What is the difference between xTool D1 and M1?
They have the same laser module output power, laser spot precision, carving precision, routing speed, connecting interfaces (USB/WiFi), operating system compatibility, and control software. Both machines also support the rotary attachment.
Here is an overview of some differences:
I can’t truly compare the two machines because I have not used the D1 line. However, based on the reviews online and videos I’ve watched, it looks like a stellar machine.
Given that it has a much lower price point, the D1 may be all you need. In fact, it might be better for your needs given its slightly larger working space, 20W on the D1 Pro, and a few of the other things outlined here.
How does the xTool compare to the Glowforge?
If you’re reading an xTool M1 review, you might also be toying with the idea of a Glowforge. I was too! But this is another difficult comparison for me to make because, while I have read a lot about the Glowforge, watched about a zillion tutorials, and talked to friends who have one, I haven’t actually used one.
The biggest difference is in the laser mechanism. The xTool M1 uses a diode laser, while the Glowforge Basic uses a CO2 laser (xTool has other machines that use CO2 lasers, but they are more expensive than the M1).
The power on the xTool M1 also maxes out at 10W, while the Glowforge Basic is 40 watts. This means that the Glowforge Basic is a more powerful machine. However, that doesn’t matter if the cheaper xTool M1 (or even the D1!) will do everything you need it to do.
Here are a few things to consider…
Here’s what I’ve decided based purely on the available specs. The xTool M1 stacks up very nicely against the Glowforge Basic machine for most of the projects I’ll want to complete while getting started. Let me yammer off a few points that helped me decide on working with xTool to review the M1 over the Glowforge.
- Both the xTool M1 and Glowforge Basic machines are sleek-looking and awesome for home use; they both laser engrave and cut. The Glowforge Basic does not do blade cuts.
- Both have live view cameras and autofocus functions when making projects.
- xTool M1 has a slightly more precise carving precision of .01mm (compared to .0254mm for the Glowforge Basic); however, I am not sure how much this difference really matters since it’s quite small.
- The xTool M1 is smaller and lighter than the Glowforce Basic, but that also means it has a smaller working area.
- A big difference I read about in reviews is that you can work with the xTool M1 offline, while you cannot do the same with Glowforge.
- Some reviewers think that the xTool software is clunky and more difficult to use; however, Glowforge users have complained that access to premium features in their software requires a hefty monthly fee.
- Some reviews online have noted that xTool M1 requires more additional purchases for it to reach its full potential. For example, the Glowforge Basic comes standard with internal air assist, while the xTool M1 has that as a separate attachment listed at $179.
What are the price differences between xTool M1 & Glowforge Basic?
One of the biggest comparison points for me was the price. The price point on the xTool M1 is much lower, starting at $999; the Glowforge Basic begins at $3,995. That seemed really steep for me until I realized they used completely different laser mechanisms.
The Glowforge Basic is a more powerful machine, but again—you need to ask yourself if that matters to you. Do you need the extra power for the types of projects you want to complete?
I also didn’t really know if I could comfortably recommend a product that is that expensive to my audience in good conscience (even if I got one for free). Would it really be worth it?
I don’t know, maybe one day I’ll get to review one and compare. Or maybe I’ll decide to buy one in the future and compare. But for now the price seems super steep for my needs.
Glowforge has more household name recognition, and I think they are no doubt a great product. Overall, I’d recommend thinking hard about what types of things you want to make and deciding which machine is right for you—make sure to consider the cheaper xTool D1, too.
To me it’s kind of like the difference between getting an iPhone and an Android phone. I don’t need everything the iPhone offers—I’m an Android user. I pay less and still have a great product that meets all of my needs.
Unboxing & setting up my xTool M1
One of the things I read while combing through reviews was that the xTool M1 comes nearly ready to use. Setup is simple and fast, and you can be making pretty quickly. There are loads of helpful resources on their website, but I watched this video before my machine even came to orient myself.
Basic setup includes attaching the exhaust tube, setting up your blade, and connecting to a power source and your computer. You can get a jump start my downloading the software from their website early to poke around, which is what I did!
When you download the software and open it, you’ll see an opportunity to connect your machine. This is a pretty simple process, too. You can browse the software before you connect a machine, but you’ll need to setup and connect your machine before diving too deep into creating a project.
Next you’ll add the triangular prisms the machine comes with down into the inside of the machine. This elevates your material. You can turn on the live photo view in the XCS software and get started!
The setup process was extremely easy. From opening the delivery box to starting my first project was about an hour. Honestly, opening the box and going through everything took most of the time! 🙂
Learning & making projects with xTool resources
I want to highlight a few resources that you can have a look at both now and after getting your machine—if you decide to get one. I spent some time looking over these resources to get a feel for the support and range of projects possible before agreeing to this partnership.
And I’d recommend you do the same before deciding to purchase a machine. Lots of great information in them, and tons of project inspiration if you want to start off making with existing projects.
- xTool Creative Space, or XCS, has its own project center with lots of ideas and step-by-step tutorials; you can download the software before your machine arrives to poke around
- There are xTool Facebook groups you can join—I joined the M1 group
- Check out the Gallery page for inspiration different ideas for almost all occasions and events
- Looking for an answer? The FAQs page might have it, or you can post a question in the xTool Community
- xTool has both a Learning Studio and a Blog Center with loads of how-to posts
Completing my first few cutting projects with my xTool M1
To show exactly how easy it is to jump in and create, I decided to pick a few different plant trellises I’d designed to test the performance on wood. Because cutting wood was the main reason I wanted the machine, this is what I focused on.
You can also start by just selection a project from the project library in the XCS software. Look for something quick and easy. They have difficulty ratings on the different projects.
For all of the projects I did playing around with the machine, I used xTool-branded materials because I wanted to make sure I was using their recommended settings and not going too “off label.”
1. Mushroom trellis cut from 3mm basswood
To say that I was absolutely tickled and blown away by my first project was an understatement. I made a small mushroom houseplant trellis I’d designed and will be sharing the files for in a future post.
For this, I used xTool brand 3mm basswood. It’s perfect! I also made a few more smaller versions of it so I didn’t waste any of the wood. The scorching was minimal, the project was quick (maybe like a couple minutes), and the results were stellar!
2. Moon phases trellis cut from 3mm basswood
So I decided to try a trellis that was a bit more complex—the moon phase trellis. I used 3mm basswood and the stock settings in XCS for this as well.
This also cut beautifully. It took a bit longer, and there was a bit more scorching. But not enough for me to be upset about. There probably would have been less scorching had I thickened up the circles on the trellis.
3. Butterfly trellis in 3mm black walnut
Then I really upped the ante and decided to try my very complex butterfly trellis design. I used the xTool-branded 3mm black walnut. And this cut took a long time, maybe like an hour. The thinner parts were super scorched, too. The only casualty was that the butterfly’s antennae were singed off.
Oh—and the smell was noticeably worse on this one. Of course I was venting everything out the sliding glass door, but the scorching means it was inevitable that I didn’t smell something. It wasn’t anything I had to leave the room over, though.
You can see the scorching below. The structural integrity (other than the poor antennae) was in tact, though, so I decided to just spray paint this one black. I didn’t want it to go to waste!
Because I used the recommended settings in xTool Creative Space, I was a little confused. Here’s what the folks at xTool had to say about preventing this sort of thing from happening:
“The default settings can be used directly in most cases but some processings still need to be adjusted, especially for patterns with complicated and thin parts. For this butterfly trellis, the output would be better if you lower the power or increase the processing speed. If the operation results in not cutting through, you can cut more times. There is a learning curve on this machine. On the basis of the recommended parameters, you can change the processing power every 5% and the speed changes every 2 mm/s to gradually adjust until the appropriate parameters and times are found.”
Testing out the M1’s engraving capabilities
After the cutting tests, I decided to do some engraving tests as part of my xTool M1 review. Again—all using xTool-branded materials. I also wanted to test out some engraving on metal and wood.
1. Engraving on metal
I engraved a little metal tag for a cat’s collar (which the tag also came with). And I engraved a necklace for my daughter. Both were super fast.
I used the recommended XCS settings and didn’t do multiple passes to darken the engraving. I probably could have done that for the cat tag, but it’s good enough. The necklace was awesome, and my daughter got to watch me design and engrave it, which was really cool for her.
2. Engraving on a bamboo tray
Then I tried to engrave my logo onto one of the xTool bamboo trays. This was…okay. For this one, I didn’t use the “framing” function you’re prompted to do in XCS. And man did it make a difference! Check out the uneven placement below. So make sure you take the extra minute or so to do your framing.
One thing that frustrated me about the bamboo tray is that the settings weren’t already in XCS. I had to reference a little handout that came with the trays and input the settings myself in XCS.
I used exactly the recommended settings, and the engraving turned out pretty good. As you can see, there is some minor scorching on some areas, which isn’t great. This took a while to engrave because the letters were so thick, so that’s probably why. This is fine for me, but I don’t think I’d want to sell this.
However, when the design wasn’t as thick, there was much less scorching. Have a look at this design I threw together—I’m going to use this to set plants on!
xTool M1 review pros & cons
I think it would be best for me to outline some of the pros and cons I noticed during the setup process, while working in the xTool software, and after examining my completed projects.
- I mean…it’s pretty amazing. It’s a laser! It cut through 3mm basswood seamlessly, which is a huge plus for me considering cutting wood is one of the main reasons I wanted to get a laser cutting.
- It was very fast to set up. I downloaded the software ahead of time and watched some videos so I was prepared to jump right now. It was basically just inboxing, attaching the exhaust tube, and syncing with your XCS software!
- You don’t have to use xTool materials; you can go off-brand, you’ll just need to do some tests to get the settings right.
- The price point is lower than some comparable machines—and you may be able to get an even lower price point is the xTool D1 provides all of the capabilities you need.
- It has a blade-cutting capability too, which other laser cutters do not have.
- It cuts and engraves a wide variety of materials that I’ve yet to try; I was extremely happy with how it cut 3mm basswood and how it engraved metal.
- It’s very quiet; I was working away on the computer next to it while it did a very long cut. No issues.
And now for the cons. As far as the XCS software goes, it was not nearly as clunky or difficult as I was expecting based on some reviews online. There are a few quirks, but it was very straightforward and easy to use. But a big frustration for me was that cutting and engraving settings were not all built in to XCS.
For example, stock settings for cutting xTool-branded 3mm basswood was, but the 6mm white oak wasn’t. Neither were the settings for the xTool-branded bamboo trays (though they did come with a handout outlining the settings—just seemed weird they weren’t in XCS.
I had to play around with it to figure out what to do. I did eventually get my 6mm white oak cut, but not without a lot of extra time and some frustration.
And next up—air assist. I do think that this machine should come stock with air assist. Based on the amount of scorching I got on some of my designs—it just seems like it’s not really a nice-to-have thing. If you don’t get air assist, just know that your cutting and engraving capabilities may be more limited.
Unless you don’t mind the scorching on wood. A bit doesn’t bother me, and I did not have any projects ruined by scorching. But I did need to paint my butterfly trellis to cover up the black marks. So I’d factor the cost of the air assist into your price and get one.
And finally, I have to point out the smell. All I am using is the exhaust tube out the slider. So most of the fumes were vented out. It didn’t bother me at all. But my husband said he couldn’t be in the sunroom while I had it cutting and engraving wood.
If you choose not to get the additional smoke purifier and extractor fan, you can always add them at a later date if you find you’re also sensitive to the smells.
Buy the xTool M1
Overall I am amazed that I have a machine like this in my house that I can use to cut so many different things. I know I’ve barely scratched the surface on what this machine can do, so I can’t wait to experiment a bit more!
I’ll update this post as I learn more about the machine’s capabilities and test them out. And I already have a few other projects planned to see how the laser performs. Until then!
If you did find this xTool M1 review helpful and want to buy an M1 or other xTool machine, I’d be grateful if you’d click one of the links in this post first! I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you for referring your sale. I appreciate it!