The Best CNC Router for Hobbyists – Complete Reviews with Comparisons

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Producing factory-grade milled work at home is possible with the help of a CNC router. This machine is equipped with user-friendly software, which makes it easy to design and produce beautiful work pieces. There are CNC routers that are designed for commercial use. These machines are expensive and equipped with the features you need to create high quality pieces. If you’re new to CNC machining or you’re just passionate about it, you can get a CNC router that is designed for hobbyists like you. In this guide, you will hopefully find the best CNC router for your hobbies. 

Comparison Chart

5174sOSw3oL. SL500
Genmitsu CNC 3018-PRO Router Kit GRBL Control 3 Axis Plastic Acrylic PCB PVC Wood Carving Milling Engraving Machine, XYZ Working Area 300x180x45mm
41s9IwRGfAL. SL500
CNC Piranha FX
51hmWp93YzL. SL500
3 Axis DIY Mini 2418 Desktop Small CNC Router Kit Engraver
41HPFwRi9DL. SL160
SainSmart Genmitsu CNC 1810-PRO Router Kit
413BCqd14CL. SL500
STYLECNC STM1325 4’x8′ CNC Router Machine with 4th Rotary Axis for Woodworking

Detailed Product Info & Reviews


1. Genmitsu 3018-PRO CNC Router Kit

5174sOSw3oL. SL500

The Genmitsu 3018-PRO CNC Router Kit from SainSmart is a small CNC router that runs on GRBL. If you want to master CNC work, you should consider getting this machine. It comes with a stepper motor-head, which is ideal for cutting soft materials. 

Product Highlights

  • custom software and integrated mainboard allow for seamless communication between the hardware and software
  • highly versatile CNC router capable of cutting soft aluminum, woods, PVCs, PCBs, acrylics and all kinds of plastics
  • uses open-source software GRBL to control machine’s movement 
  • assembly instructions included in the package and SainSmart’s wiki page makes troubleshooting easier for users 
  • 4cm base height improves machine’s stability
  • improved version of Genmitsu CNC 3018 doesn’t require users to position component, which helps boost working accuracy and reduces difficulty

The Good

One of the best things about the machine is that it’s a great education tool because you can use it to learn more about CNC machining and improve your skills. There are also a lot of forums dedicated to GRBL, so you have plenty of resources when you need help. Since the machine’s an improved version of the Genmitsu 3018, you don’t have to position the components. This helps improve the machine’s working accuracy.  

The Bad

Since the torque produced by the motor is only 0.25N/M, the machine works slowly. However, it is capable of engraving wood, plastic, acrylic, and PVC. You can also improve its flexibility by attaching a laser engraver, which you have to buy separately. 

What We Like

  • ​comes with spare parts
  • ​affordable
  • ​easy to use
  • ​assembly instructions included

What We Don’t Like

  • ​small motor and size limit machine’s speed and crafting abilities

2. Next Wave Automation CNC Piranha FX

41s9IwRGfAL. SL500

The CNC Piranha FX is a three-in-one tool from Next Wave Automation. It’s an engraver, cutter, and 3D printer in one machine.  The CNC carving machine can work with wood and aluminum, print 3D models, cut circuit boards, and engrave leather. It’s perfect for those who want a powerful machine that won’t take up a lot of space in their workshop. 

Product Highlights

  • features a 12” x 18″ working table and 12” x 13” x 3” XYZ travel, making it perfect for carvings, ornamental boxes, plaques, and other small-scale projects as well as precision parts made from wood, plastics, and soft metals
  • comes with design software VCarve Desktop V8 and Vector Art 3-D Sampler Pack
  • equipped with a color touch screen interface 
  • package includes two hold-down clamps and 1/4-inch V-router bit
  • ships completely assembled
  • 3D carving capacity and 3D models library allow you to cut complex inlays and carve corbels 

The Good

The CNC Piranha FX can be used for engraving custom circuit boards because it is extremely accurate. The best thing about it is that it’s compact, so it will not consume a lot of space on your bench. You can create designs using the design software that comes with the machine on your computer and save it to a USB flash drive. This way, your PC won’t be subjected to a dirty shop environment. 

The Bad

The machine only works with Windows 7 and above. It doesn’t work with the Touch Probe, but an upgrade is expected soon. 

What We Like

  • ​sturdy machine
  • ​compact
  • ​accurate
  • ​user-friendly softwareinstructions included
  • ​extremely accurate cuts

What We Don’t Like

  • ​heavy
  • ​currently doesn’t work with the Touch Probe

3. DIY CNC Router Kit 2418

51hmWp93YzL. SL500

The CNC Router Kit 2418 from Beauty Star is a professional grade kit that includes ten mill engraving bits and a CNC router. It is ideal for seasoned users who want to upgrade their machine and take their craft to the next level. The large working area gives you lots of room for your work. 

It can also handle a wide range of materials such as soft metals, PVC, PCB, wood, acrylic, and plastic. The machine is equipped with a 775 spindle motor that can deliver a speed level of 7000 RPM, allowing you to experiment with various materials and projects. 

Product Highlights 

  • equipped with a 240 x 180 x 45mm X/Y/Z working area, 2418 GRBL control software, NEMA 17 stepper motor and high-speed 775 spindle motor
  • customized software and integrated mainboard allow users to engrave a wide range of materials
  • supports Linux and Windows 7, 8 and XP
  • backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee 

The Good

One of the best things about Beauty Star’s CNC Router Kit 2418 is that it works with most operating systems. It also has an efficient structure that allows the customized software and mainboard to communicate seamlessly. Although the machine can’t carve jade or metal, it can still handle a wide range of materials such as wood, soft metals, and acrylic. 

The Bad

The machine requires professional mechanical know-how, so it’s not an ideal option for beginners. If you have advanced or intermediate knowledge of tinkering, you can go ahead and assemble the machine on your own. 

What We Like

  • ​affordable
  • ​compatible with most OS
  • ​powerful stepper motors
  • ​motor’s optimal speed makes the machine extremely flexible

What We Don’t Like

  • ​have some plastic parts
  • ​not ideal for beginners

​4. Genmitsu CNC Router Kit 1810-PRO

41HPFwRi9DL. SL500

The Genmitsu CNC Router Kit 1810-PRO is another CNC router kit from SainSmart. This machine is perfect for complete beginners that are just starting to learn about CNC. You can also add exquisite pattern, curved swords, and other features if you love woodworking. 

The machine can be used to engrave models that you’re designing and coding. The Genmitsu CNC Router Kit 1810-PRO is a great educational tool that you can use to try your ideas on an affordable machine. Since it’s an improved version of the Genmitsu CNC 1610, it has the same excellent performance as the 1610, but it’s more affordable and compact. 

Product Highlights

  • 180 x 100 x 45 mm engraving area allows you to experiment with various materials such as PVCs, plastics, soft aluminum, woods, PCBs and acrylics
  • runs on Arduino and uses open-source software GRBL, an industry-standard, so you can access a lot of resources and support when you need help  
  • 1.8″ engraving depth makes it ideal for those who want to learn more about CNC 

The Good

The Genmitsu CNC Router Kit 1810-PRO comes with assembly instructions, so it’s easy to put together. Its powerful features make it a great CNC router for aluminum. The lead screws are durable, and the platform is sturdy. You can turn the screw by hand to move the spindle and the platform around. Since the machine is built on GRBl and Arduino, you can find plenty of tutorials, new ideas, additional training, and support online. You can also add a laser module to the CNC router to take your CNC engraving skills to the next level. 

The Bad

The CNC router doesn’t come with CAM software. You have to download other software to produce the G-codes for automated controlling. There are other software programs that you can find online such as Carbide Create, Inkscape, and Easel. These programs are user-friendly. 

What We Like

  • ​easy to assemble
  • ​open source
  • ​ideal for absolute beginners
  • ​responsive customer support
  • ​decent working table for a reasonable price
  • ​comprehensive user manual
  • ​comes with drivers and software

What We Don’t Like

  • ​no CAM software provided

5. STYLECNC STM1325 CNC Router Machine 

413BCqd14CL. SL500

The STM1325 CNC Router Machine from STYLECNC is a desktop CNC machine with a 4th-axis rotary table that can be used for 3D or 2D machining in small and home businesses. It’s a small yet powerful CNC router kit that you can use sign making, woodworking, arts, and crafts, as well as mold making. The machine is user-friendly and is great for beginners who want to improve their skills. 

Product Highlights

  • equipped with a 300mm 4th-rotary axis and 1300 x 2500 x 200mm work area, giving you plenty of space to do your CNC projects 
  • features a sophisticated water-cooling spindle that produces low noise levels and Nk105 DSP controller 
  • TBI ball screw and Hiwin/PMI linear guide ensure high accuracy and more stable movement
  • equipped with a stable and solid iron cast frame and Mach3 control system
  • aluminum T-slot PVC table features a beautiful decorative design
  • compatible with various kinds of software like Ucancam, Artcam, and TYPE3

The Good

The small desktop CNC machine can be used right out of the box, so you don’t have to assemble the machine. If you’re in the woodworking industry, you can use it for 3D wave board processing and making furniture such as wardrobe cabinets, solid wood doors, tables, kitchen cabinets, computer desks, desks as well as cylinders like sofa and table legs, wooden craft, game cabinets, and auxiliary processing. The machine is so flexible that it can be used in acrylic cutting, logo making, plastic molding, and making decorative products. You can also use it for engraving aluminum mold, wood, foam, copper, PVC, EPS, plastic sheeting, and other non-metallic molds. 

The Bad

STYLECNC’s STM1325 CNC Router Machine is a well-designed tool, and you can do almost anything with complete precision using this machine. However, it works more slowly than other units because of its small size. You only need to be patient because the result will be worth it. 

What We Like

  • ​easy and quick to set up
  • ​portable
  • ​comes fully assembled
  • ​accurate
  • ​solid frame

What We Don’t Like

  • ​works slowly

The Hobbyist’s Buyer’s Guide for CNC Router Shopping

An expensive tag price doesn’t automatically mean that the product is the best. This is particularly true when you are looking for a CNC router for hobbyist. There are many factors that will affect your choice. Here are some of the most important factors that you should consider when choosing a CNC router. 


Choose a CNC router that is user-friendly, especially if you’re a beginner. There are CNC routers that are specifically designed for hobbyists and newbie in CNC machining. These machines have exceptional software compatibility, making them easy to use. Weight doesn’t really matter. 

The CNC router will be placed on the workbench, and it doesn’t matter how many pounds it weighs. Just make sure to get a durable work surface and a spot where you can place your computer. Your PC should be near the CNC router, but far enough away that it won’t be at risk of getting exposed to metal shavings or sawdust. If you don’t want to deal with debris from the material, you should consider getting a CNC router with a vacuum system.

Replacement Parts

Repairs will need to be done when your CNC router malfunctions. You should be able to find replacement parts for the machine quickly and easily. This way, your work won’t be interrupted for a long time. You will be able to resume your task and finish it as soon as possible. 

Software Compatibility

CNC routers require CAD software. Some CNC routers are equipped with G-code, an open-source software program. You may need to upgrade to better software as you take on more challenging workpieces. 

Motor Size

Some CNC routers require you to add an after-market router. Units that are equipped with a spindle motor are capable of controlling bit speed. Machines with a stock handheld router offer less variability. However, when you have a machine with a built-in motor, your only option when it needs repairs is to buy spare parts from the manufacturer. If the spindle motor malfunctions and the manufacturer goes out of business, you won’t be able to use your router machine anymore. 


You have to consider what you’re going to use the CNC router for. Mini CNC routers are perfect for those who want to create small trinkets and learn hands-on CNC. Industrial machines are ideal for those who want to expand their CNC machining business. There are sheet CNC routers that are capable of cutting multiple items from one piece of plywood. Most of these machines are intended for commercial use and more expensive than other units. 

Company Support

You should be able to get support and help from the company when you encounter problems with the CNC router. There are a couple of companies with online forums where you can interact with other members or ask questions. Some companies have excellent email customer service. 

Drive System 

Should you choose a ball screw or a lead screw? It is cheaper to use the lead screw. The router and gantry will slide on the screw system. A lead screw is ideal for non-load situations. You will see the tolerance difference between a ball screw and a lead screw when you are cutting a dense material or metal. A lead screw will wear out sooner than a ball screw. A ball screw doesn’t lose its tolerance over time and seems to run more smoothly and last longer as well. Machines with a ball screw system are usually expensive. 

CNC Router Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs

(Q) What does the axis in CNC routers mean? 

(A) Axis pertains to how many directions the CNC router can move. CNC routers with a 3-axis capacity will move across the Z, Y and X liner axes to move toward the material you are working on. 

(Q) What is the average lifespan of a CNC router? 

(A) A CNC router’s durability is associated with the machine’s initial quality. Other factors, such as how often the machine is used and how well it is maintained, will matter as well. Home CNC router usually last about 10 years. In general, these machines last longer than 5 years. 

(Q) What are the most common problems associated with homemade CNC router kits? 

(A) One of the most common issues associated with homemade CNC router kits is the machine design’s lack of stability. DIY hobby routers cannot withstand the counter forces that transpire while machining metal because of cheap parts. Cheap CNC kits can’t cut metals accurately.

Manufacturers often mention that their machine can cut aluminum precisely. Inexperienced users may think that router kits are precise in processing aluminum. However, the machine only nicks the surface of the material without producing beautiful milling results.   

If you want to mill metals, you should invest in a reliable CNC router that has high stiffness. Milling machines that are equipped with professionally mounted parts are stable when milling metal. It’s not a good idea to assemble a CNC router that you will use at home if you don’t have technical knowledge, but you want precise results. It’s better to invest in a professionally assembled CNC router. 

(Q) What software do you need?

(A) The software that you should get depends on your purpose for using a CNC router. There are different software programs for various kinds of work. As such, you should understand the craft that you want to do and the machining techniques that will help you produce it.

This is because software programs have different features and prices. Depending on your work, you may get a mid- or low-range title that offers everything you need. You can also import AutoCAD drawings into a software design package as a DXF file. If you’ve been using AutoCAD drawings all this time, you won’t have to redo everything. 

(Q) Do you need to learn G-code or other programming languages to operate a CNC router?

(A) You don’t have to learn a programming language to use a CNC router. There are design software titles that allow you to design, import, and manipulate drawings and photos. The software will produce the code that the CNC router will use to engrave or cut out parts. G-code provides a source code composed of axis movements and inches or millimeter. 

Final Verdict…

The CNC routers reviewed here are the best combination of performance, price, quality, and features. However, the one that came out on top is the Genmitsu 3018-PRO CNC Router Kit from SainSmart because it offers the best balance of performance and price. This unit is an ideal option for those who want to master CNC work and do some light milling and smaller woodworking using a CNC router.

It runs on Arduino and uses GRBL, the open-source software that controls the machine’s movement. GRBL is an industry-standard, so you can access a lot of resources and support when you encounter a problem. The Genmitsu 3018-PRO CNC Router Kit is extremely versatile as you can use it to cut PCBs, PVCs, soft aluminum, plastics, woods, and acrylics. It’s also very easy to assemble as it comes with assembly instructions are provided. 

If you are looking for a cheaper option, you can try the MYSWEETY DIY CNC Router Kit 1610. It has a large working area and a spindle motor that generates remarkable speeds. The engraving machine can engrave wood, plastic, PCB, and PVC materials. It has stainless steel screws that are tightly fastened to the frame. 

The machine is also equipped with double copper nuts that effectively reduce backlash when you’re working. It uses an open-source program called GRBL Controller, which allows you to control the router during the drilling and milling process. Moreover, it can accommodate different kinds of software and is compatible with Coppercam and Artcam2008.

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