X Carve vs X Carve Pro: Worth the Upgrade? [Reviewed]

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Inventables’ X Carve is one of the most popular CNC routers among hobbyists, but the company also offers a supersized model – the X Carve Pro. So, how do these two machines differ, and which is best for you?

That’s what I answer in this X Carve vs X Carve Pro comparison.

I’ll pit these two machines against each other to reveal the key differences, and benefits of each, and conclude by explaining which is better suited to different types of people and applications. 

STANDARD PICK

Inventables X Carve

Inventables X Carve

Available at:

PROFESSIONAL PICK

Inventables X Carve Pro

Inventables X Carve Pro

Available at:

Inventables X Carve vs X Carve Pro: At a Glance

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There are some pretty big differences between the X Carve and X Carve Pro that you need to know about if you’re considering purchasing either machine.

For starters, the X Carve Pro is significantly larger with a much bigger cutting area, making it better suited to large projects with high production rates, rather than your standard hobbyist projects the X Carve is used for.

That’s not the only difference though.

The X Carve Pro also uses higher quality components, such as ball screws instead of the X Carve’s belt drives, and has some nice extras like a pendant-style controller for more intuitive control.

That said, the high price of the X Carve Pro models means that the X Carve is still generally the preferred option for beginners and average hobbyists.

Now let’s take a closer look at each way these two CNCs differ to help you decide which one is right for you. 

Cutting Area

The most notable difference between the X Carve and X Carve Pro is undoubtedly the cutting area. 

The standard X Carve comes in one size with a cutting area of 29.5”x29.5”x4.5”, which is ideal for medium-sized hobbyist projects, such as making signs or small cabinets.

The standard X Carve model

In contrast, the X Carve Pro comes in both sizes, both of which offer a significantly larger working area – 4ft x 2ft, and 4ft x 4ft. This increased cutting area makes the X Carve Pro much better suited to large projects, such as making large furniture like tables. 

Winner: X Carve Pro

The X Carve Pro model

Build & Stability 

While the size may be the main difference between these two machines, there’s also a noticeable difference in the build quality and therefore stability. 

The X Carve is a well-made machine constructed using aluminum extrusions, measuring 40x40x3mm, which offers a good level of stability.

The X Carve Pro is also based on an aluminum gantry, although it’s considerably thicker at 5.5”.

This helps make the machine heavier and, in turn, more stable, helping you achieve more accurate cutting. While they aren’t as anchored down and don’t offer as much torque as CNC mills, the X Carve Pro is one of the most powerful desktop CNC routers around.

Winner: X Carve Pro

Router & Spindle 

The X Carve and X Carve Pro kits both come with a router included, but the router is different for each.

With the X Carve you get a Makita RT0701C router. This is one of the most widely used routers out there, and it’s a really decent piece of kit with a variable speed of 10,000-30,000 RPM.

With the X Carve Pro, you get a proprietary 2HP VFD router from Inventables.

This is another really solid router with air cooling for extended use, and it’s designed to work seamlessly with the X Carve Pro and Inventables’ own proprietary Easel Pro software.

However, it does have a more restricted speed range of 8,000-24,000 RPM.

One important thing to bear in mind is that while you can swap out the Makita on the X Carve for any router of the same size, the X Carve Pro is programmed to work with the VDF router, so it’s more of a technical challenge if you want to swap the X Carve Pro router.

Winner: Tie

Material Capability 

Both the X Carve and X Carve Pro are designed to primarily cut soft materials, ranging from all types of woods and plastics to foams and composites. 

The X Carve cutting wood

You can also cut soft, non-ferrous metals, such as aluminum, copper, and brass with the X Carve machines, and some users claim to have cut steel using them.

To do this, you’ll need to use the right settings, lots of lubrication, and be patient, as it’ll take longer to cut metals than soft materials with these routers. 

One difference in this regard is that the heavier weight, greater stability, and higher quality axis components of the X Carve Pro mean you’re going to be able to achieve more precise metal cutting with this machine. 

The X Carve Pro cutting wood

If you’re going to be cutting a lot of metals, I recommend reading my X Carve Pro vs Shapeoko Pro review, where I explain how the X Carve models match up to other popular CNC routers in this regard. 

Winner: X Carve Pro

Axis Motion

The improved linear motion of the X Carve Pro is one of the biggest upgrades made to the standard model. 

The original X Carve uses a belt drive system with stepper motors to drive the X and Y axis, along with a direct drive system and lead screws on the Z-axis.

As shown in my X Carve vs Shapeoko 4 comparison, this is pretty standard for CNC machines in this price range and offers smooth and stable, though not exceptional, motion.

In contrast, the X Carve Pro uses 25mm ball screws with linear guides to move each axis.

Ball screws offer significantly higher quality motion than belt drives and lead screws, meaning the Pro is able to achieve much greater precision – down to 0.001”.

Winner: X Carve Pro

Controller & Electronics 

In the case of the X Carve, you get Inventables’ own X-Controller, which is based on an Arduino board flashed with GRBL firmware.

The control board comes in a plastic box to protect it from damage and heat. 

The X Carve Pro also has a GRBL control board, although it comes in a larger case that resembles a desktop PC case. The case comes complete with fans, a heat sink, and a power supply unit.

Both X Carve models use NEMA 23 stepper motors. 

While there’s no difference in terms of the control board, one difference is that the X Carve Pro comes with a pendant-style controller that connects to the main controller and allows you to easily start, pause, and emergency stop work.

This makes the X Carve Pro more intuitive in terms of control.

Winner: X Carve Pro

Software

There’s nothing to separate the X Carve and X Carve Pro in terms of software as both come with a three-year subscription to Inventables’ proprietary Easel Pro. 

If you’re not familiar with Easel Pro, it’s a high quality and extremely intuitive all-in-one CNC software which allows you to create 2D, 2.5D, and 3D designs, convert them into g code, and operate your X Carve CNC machine.

A screenshot of the Easel Pro software

Easel Pro is designed for beginners and is marketed by Inventables as the “world’s easiest CAD/CAM software”, so it’s a great choice if you’re just getting into the hobby. 

Both X Carve machines are also compatible with a variety of more advanced CAD/CAM software, such as Fusion 360 and even Mach 3 (although you’ll need to switch out the stepper drivers and controller for Mach3-compatible components to use the latter).

Programs like these are good options if you want to use your X Carve for commercial work.

Winner: Tie

Upgradeability 

There are a variety of different upgrades you can make to the X Carve to improve your router’s performance. 

For example, Inventables offers a belt and motor upgrade kit that comes with a stiffer 9mm belt and three upgraded motors, which helps to improve material cutting rates and in turn boost speed and reliability. 

Another upgrade is the Z-axis upgrade kit.

Not only does this add an extra 2” clearance on the Z-axis so you can work with thicker materials, but it also comes with risers and stiffeners to help improve rigidity. 

If you want to go all out you can go for the full upgrade kit.

This includes all the belt, motor, and Z-axis upgrades and can greatly improve the performance of your machine. It’ll set you back $499.

Many hobbyists like to attach laser modules to their CNC machines, and this is possible with the X Carve thanks to the JTech Photonics laser module that’s specifically designed for this router.

This allows you to accurately engrave a wide variety of materials. 

An image of the X Carve laser engraving

In contrast, Inventables doesn’t offer any upgrades for the X Carve Pro, largely because the base kit is far more complete, so they aren’t really necessary. However, I’ve yet to see any laser module designed for the X Carve Pro, so this is something to bear in mind if you’re a fan of engraving.

Winner: X Carve 

Assembly

The X Carve is a beginner-friendly machine that’s designed to be easy to put together, and it is.

However, as most of the parts come unassembled, it does take a fair bit longer to assemble than some other popular hobbyist routers, such as the Shapeoko 4. If it’s your first time building a CNC router, it could take up to eight hours to get your X Carve up and running. 

With the X Carve Pro some parts come preassembled, such as the gantry and Y axis, so in that sense, it’s more simple.

However, bear in mind this machine is significantly larger than the original X Carve which will extend assembly time, and the size and weight mean it’s easiest for two people to assemble the Pro version.

Winner: X Carve

Price & Value for Money

There’s a big difference in price between the X Carve and X Carve Pro models.

The original X Carve costs $2,047, which is pretty affordable considering the quality you get. This is also slightly cheaper than other routers of similar quality, such as the Shapeoko 4. 

The 4ft x 2ft Carve Pro costs $8,495, while the 4ft x 4ft model costs $9,995, so even the cheaper model costs more than $6,000 than the original X Carve. 

The higher cost of the Pro models is due to the larger cutting area and higher quality components, and these will be out of range of most casual hobbyists. These models are more aimed at people looking to take their CNC work to the next level by starting a small business

Winner: X Carve 

Who is the X Carve Best for?

As you will have gathered by now, the X Carve Pro is a superior machine in most aspects – which is to be expected, considering it’s a direct upgrade on the X Carve.

However, the vast differences between the two mean that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all for every user – each suits different types of people better.

There’s no doubt the original X Carve is best suited for beginners and casual hobbyists. Its good mix of affordability and quality, smaller size, and intuitive software mean it’s a great CNC router for the average hobbyist.

Who is the X Carve Pro Best for?

On the other hand, the X Carve Pro is clearly better suited to professionals and small business owners.

Its larger size makes it more suited for large projects and high production rates, the improved components provide faster, more accurate cutting, and the price means it’s not accessible for most CNC hobbyists.

You can purchase both the X Carve at Matterhackers’ store, and the X Carve Pro today through the Inventables website.

STANDARD PICK

Inventables X Carve

Inventables X Carve

Available at:

PROFESSIONAL PICK

Inventables X Carve Pro

Inventables X Carve Pro

Available at:

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