I’ve completed a few projects on the xTool M1 and am sharing my thoughts on the setup, capabilities, ease of use, and more. This review contains affiliate links.
My xTool M1 review—what can this machine do?
Hey all! Today I am super excited to share a review of my very first laser cutting machine. I was absolutely thrilled when xTool reached out to see if I was interested in reviewing an xTool M1 machine—so thank you to xTool for gifting me this 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 (yet).
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 include 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.
- xTool M1 overview
- What is the xTool M1?
- What materials can it cut?
- What is the max thickness the M1 can cut?
- What materials can the 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 with xTool resources
- Completing my first few cutting project
- Testing out the engraving capabilities
- xTool M1 review pros & cons
xTool M1 overview
- Laser cutting machine that uses a 5W or 10W diode laser to cut and engrave; blade cutting functionality available as well.
- Unboxing and setup process is fast; extremely user-friendly, with a live camera view of project work area.
- Work with materials like wood, opaque acrylic, fabric, cork, leather, and much more.
- The M1 10W can cut 10mm wood or 3mm opaque acrylic in one pass.
- Create small- to medium-sized projects with a working area of 12 inches by 15 inches.
- Use attachments (sold separately) like a rotary engraver to engrave cylindrical things like tumblers.
- Air assist attachment is purchased separately and is a must-have to ensure the cleanest possible cuts and engraving.
- When comparing to the Glowforge Aura, the M1 wins with its power powerful laser at a similar price point.
- Safe to use indoors; either pair with a smoke purifier attachment (sold separately) or vent out a window.
Like videos instead? See my M1 unboxing and tutorial YouTube video!
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.
The xTool M1 uses a diode laser. 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.
The xTool M1 is typically used in a variety of applications, such as woodworking, signage, and custom gift making. It can do both flat and rotary engraving (like on a tumbler) and flat cutting with its laser. The working area is 15×12 inches, and it has a live view camera.
What materials can it 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. And this is perfect for that!
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. Also according to xTool, the M1 doesn’t cut through metal, but it does engrave some metals (see examples in this article).
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.
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 M1 laser can engrave wood, paper, foam, opaque acrylic, fabric, felt, leather, rubber, stone, plastic, and parts of metal (stainless steel, coated metal, and anodized material).
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?
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.
xTool introduced Air Assist for the M1 machines in late 2022. However, it does not come standard with the M1 machines. xTool says that it is more of an accessory on DIY and home laser cutting machines. I would disagree.
When I first got this machine, I didn’t have an air assist. I later got the attachment, and I have to say, it’s a game changer! I absolutely think you should invest in an air assist when you purchase your machine. It greatly reduces scorching in cutting and engraving for a cleaner look. See my article for more: Air Assist on an xTool M1…is it Worth it?
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.
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. See my article Which xTool Machine is Right for You for more on machine comparisons.
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.
When I first wrote this article, Glowforge only had their suite of CO2 laser machines (stronger and more expensive machines). So it was a difficult comparison to make. However, Glowforge has since come out with the Glowforge Aura, which they market as a “craft laser machine” great for beginners.
Therefore, I’d say that the Glowforge Aura is the closest to the xTool M1. So let’s talk about what you get with both machines. Like the xTool M1, the Aura uses a diode laser. But the M1’s is stronger—the power on the M1 maxes out at 10W, while the Aura maxes at 6W.
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 Aura machine for most of the projects I’ll want to complete while getting started. Let me yammer off a few points I think are good to know.
- Both the xTool M1 and Glowforge Basic machines are sleek-looking and awesome for home use; they both laser engrave and cut.
- The M1 has blade functionality to cut things like vinyl (like a Cricut machine would), while the Aura skips the blades, cutting mats, and weeding and does it all with its laser.
- Both have live preview cameras and autofocus functions when making projects.
- xTool M1 has a precise carving precision of .01mm, while Glowforge “uses a beam of light the width of a human hair to cut and engrave with incredible accuracy to one-thousandth of an inch.” I’d say their precision is likely comparable.
- The working areas of the machines are roughly comparable.
- Glowforge Aura can cut materials up to 1/4″ thick, and engrave materials up to 3/4″ thick with the cutting tray removed; the M1 can cut can cut 10mm wood or 3mm acrylic in one pass.
- 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.
What are the price differences between xTool M1 & Glowforge Basic?
One of the biggest comparison points for me was the price. And that really doesn’t help narrow things down, either. These machines are always on some sort of sale. As of writing this, both machines are hovering right around $1,000.
Glowforge has more household name recognition, and I think they are no doubt a great product. Given that they are nearly identical price points, I think that going with the M1 is a no-brainer given that it provides more power. You can get a 10W diode laser with the M1, while the Aura provides only a 6W. This extra power can make a bit difference in what (as well as how efficiently) you can cut things.
To me, choosing a laser machine is 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.
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.
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.
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.” Keep in mind that these were also all done before I got my air assist attachment.
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 share in this article: 16 Free Houseplant Trellis SVG Files.
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 without air assist, 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 without air assist. 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 without air assist.
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. For the first one below, 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. 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 (without air assist), 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 (below, right photo), 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 article 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 article first! I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you for referring your sale. I appreciate it!
My experience with the xTool M1 has been very positive—it is a versatile crafting machine, especially for the price. Its ability to handle a wide range of materials and the ease of setup make it an excellent choice for beginners, but its capabilities make it good for experienced crafters, too.
I hope you found this review helpful. If you’re inspired to try out the xTool M1 or have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or reach out. Happy making!