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An In-Depth Review from a Thunder Laser Bolt Customer

January 19, 2024

This is a genuine and compelling evaluation by Mr. Richard Arenaro, shared in our Thunder Laser Bolt Facebook fan group. His comprehensive and detailed perspective covers the purchase to usage experience, comparing it with his previous Xtool machines. With his consent, we invite you to explore firsthand the authentic insights from a laser machine user’s standpoint!

The following is the body of his review.

I feel the need to write this because its often the case we’re compelled to take the time to document issues and displeasure products and companies but take a more measured approach when encountering something truly unique.

So begins my journey with Thunder Laser and my purchase of their Bolt Desktop Laser.  Much like the rest of us, I did lots of research before I actually moved forward. Scouring Facebook groups, watching YouTube videos, and private messaging anyone who would indulge my questions. My research on actual, real-world experiences with both the Thunder Laser and the Bolt ranged from exuberant to very positive. Let me be clear: it’s not like there were dozens and dozens of video reviews on the Thunder Laser Bolt, not at all. In fact, when compared to similar but not equal competition, the information was a bit sparse. Yet, the reviews and experiences that were available felt genuine, rather than paid promotions, or perhaps driven by the need to increase a person’s social media presence. I don’t have a particular issue with those types of promotions, but it’s often difficult to separate the noise from the reality.

bolt fan page

For some background, I’m not a laser pro, nor do I have a business that requires a laser. I am a creative hobbyist and tinkerer. However, as with a few of my other hobbies, quality in products and sincerity in marketing and support after the sale are exceptionally important to me. I don’t necessarily need a product that claims to do everything; I want one that is true to its intended design and does what it claims in an exceptional manner. I’m a person who cares about what the plumbing looks like behind the wall. Partly because I’m obsessive that way, and partly because I strongly believe that it’s indicative of what I’m likely to encounter with the product or service in the future. Lastly, I do have prior experience with Xtool’s P2, S1, and F1 lasers. I used them for a good amount of time and decided, for various reasons, they were just not for me. More on that later.

So, let’s fast-forward a bit. In late November 2023, I decided that the time was right to move forward with my purchase of the Thunder Laser Bolt. The sales process required me to set up a session with a Thunder professional. At first, I thought to myself, “Oh no, I really just want to order my laser; I don’t need a meeting.” I’m happy to admit I was wrong. The call was to discuss my purchase and the intended use of the laser. The person I spoke with was friendly, knowledgeable, and genuinely cared about my purchase. We discussed overall use, engraving, and cutting capabilities. Essentially, all the items that I had spent time researching myself were covered in detail on this call.  It lasted 15 or 20 minutes, and I was truly grateful for the experience. Would I have just clicked the “buy it-now” button? Sure. But I’m glad this wasn’t my experience! Score 1 for Thunder Laser for being different. At the end of my call, I received an email with a quote and proceeded to place my order. Incidentally, I was given an end of January 2024 delivery date.

Like any new laser fan, my daily thought was, “Is it here yet?” My impatience getting the better of me, I reached out to my sales associate a few times and received an almost immediate and polite status for my order. To my surprise, I received an email on Christmas Day letting me know that my Bolt had been shipped and was on the way. The email contained not only tracking information but also links to setting up, getting familiar with the Thunder Laser Bolt, support, and shipping contact information. Essentially, all the things you would look for right after receiving an email that your product had shipped. After that initial email and two exchanges with the shipping company for scheduling, my Bolt arrived on January 3, 2024—almost 1 month ahead of schedule! Take note, competitors. Commit to reasonable and truthful delivery times, be responsive to the inevitable inquiries, and then overdeliver. Disappointment is usually not what you actually experience; it’s what you expected to experience. Score another Thunder Laser. With such a large and heavy purchase, the actual delivery will always be an area of concern. It should be noted that the crate was delivered in fantastic condition, and both the freight company and the driver performed flawlessly.

Now the unboxing… Like my previous experience with Xtool, the packaging was not an afterthought. It was intentionally designed, made of top-quality material, and built to properly protect its content. The wood pallets really sealed the deal for me. It is totally appropriate for an item like this and affords stability and needed protections during transit. Unboxing was a snap. Clip the strapping, lift the box, remove the packing, and lift Bolt. This is a two-person lift, so get a friend. Items are clearly labeled, packaged, and organized. Everything you need is in plain view.

Setup

Before I get into setup, I must state that I’ve heard and seen videos of the Bolt’s clean design and build quality, but nothing really prepared me for what I actually experienced. This thing is amazing! Every part of this machine is so well built. The doors, access points, honeycomb tray, literally everything. As a bonus to my obsessiveness previously mentioned, all the cables of the unit (rails, gantry, and camera) were all proper length, tied, and almost disguised so much that you don’t even notice them. Amazing!

Aside from the inherently simple and obvious “setup,” there’s a video and tons of information in order to get you up and running. I must stress that you don’t need to configure lasers, align mirrors, run laser fire tests, or assemble anything. This frustrated me with the P2 setup. I also found myself realigning the P2 more than I should need to. With the Thunder Laser Bolt, you unpack, clip some restrainer ties in the machine, plug it in, and follow the directions for configuring Lightburn, etc., and connecting to your computer. I’m using a Mac, so I went with the recommended Ethernet option to connect the unit and then used the included USB cable to control the camera. As with any other laser, you will need to align the camera within Lightburn. The process was simple and well documented, and all the files are included with the Bolt. 

So how did it perform?

As I stated earlier, my past experiences have been with Xtool’s P2, S1, and F1 lasers, and they have been mostly decent. Most comparable to the Bolt would be their C02-based P2 laser. So, for the purposes of comparison, I will refer to that unit. To be clear, the P2 is a good machine. But in my opinion, the Thunder Laser Bolt is on another level. Let me cover a few points:

bolt machine laser customer review
xtool p2 laser machine

Built quality and features

Again, the P2 is a good machine. It’s reasonably well built, but certainly the parts are not up to the quality of those used in the Thunder Laser Bolt. I’ve owned and worked with both, and there is simply no comparison. Again, I’m a hobbyist; I’m not running a laser-based business. But I can imagine that the smart choices made by Thunder will serve that population equally well.

Every area of the Bolt that might need servicing has its own access panel and is easily accessible. I have not had to service the Bolt, but each component is clean, free of clutter, and identifiable. I’ve seen videos on replacing components on the P2, and it’s not for the faint of heart. Quite frankly, I don’t see how this will be sustainable over the long run. By comparison, the P2 individual parts are not very accessible, and the 12 or so screws inside and outside of the laser just to access the laser tube are very frustrating. Not to mention the not-so-easy to snap off plastic cover that houses the laser tube. To me, these are design failures. In practicality, the Bolt, which uses an RF-based laser and is low-maintenance, is designed to be easily accessible. Whereas the P2, which uses a tube-based C02 laser (requires anti-freeze, etc.) and which, in general, is likely to be accessed considerably more, is covered in plastic and secured by many poorly placed screws. I had to access the laser area of the P2 more than 5 times, and it was very frustrating. Sure, I can leave off half the screws, but why should I have to? I was told by Xtool that it was designed that way for safety. I could not disagree more. More screws don’t equate to better safety. The Bolt is all metal, has a secure key-based entry system, and the laser cover simply flips open. In my opinion, poor accessibility increases the likelihood that you’ll ignore standard maintenance and cleaning, thereby decreasing safety. I could cover a few more of the design decisions, but they fall under the same themes.

Intentional design from a user and serviceability standpoint is critical. The Thunder Laser Bolt hits all those points. Just a quick mention here. I don’t want to get into a feature list comparison because those things already exist. But proof-based focusing and a camera are great choices. I realize that others may never use the camera. But I resent a company telling me I don’t “need” a camera (take note of the Xtool S1). Let me decide based on my experience and use case. ( Excellent choices, Thunder.

Performance

Engraving

In two words, absolutely stunning. Even to a hobbyist like me, the difference (at my own personal skill level) is striking. Cleaner, more detailed, and WAY faster engraving is what’s in store for you. The P2 engraves well, but there is simply no comparison. I’ve seen the Thunder Laser Bolt work at the hands of artisans, and I’m flawed. But even for hobbyists like me, the difference cannot be overstated. The internal exhaust is efficient and works perfectly, and I’m often left wondering, “Where’s the smoke?” This is not the case with my P2. The smoke and residual soot left behind by the P2 are considerably greater. I know settings can be adjusted, but again, I’m comparing my base knowledge and applying that to my experience with using two products.

Cutting

this is the area that I researched most and, surprisingly, had the least amount of available information—pre-purchase. Most reviews focused on the Bolt’s engraving prowess, and rightfully so. It is a beast in that area. The opinions I saw on cutting were very positive, but more secondary in nature. So, prior to delivery, it remained a concern. So how does it cut? One word…fantastic! It slices through 3MM of MDF and plys far better, cleaner, and faster than the P2. I also tried 6MM, and it was just as good on slightly lower speeds, of course. I was doing some engraving tests with standard food cutting boards and decided to slice and dice them before disposal. The end results were exceptionally clean cuts and some carving boards that looked like jigsaw puzzles. Also, acrylic is cut flawlessly with little regard to thickness. Again, I’m not a fan of testing the extremes, and I’m not looking to use this as a table saw. But I’ve personally, and in real-world use and testing, experienced zero issues with cutting material. In both my standard use of the machine and in my workflows, I can see no issues with cutting. In comparison, the results are far better than the P2. The airflow and back flash on the Thunder Laser Bolt are way less, and the cuts are just cleaner.

Other topics

Software

this is the area that I researched most and, surprisingly, had the least amount of available information—pre-purchase. Most reviews focused on the Bolt’s engraving prowess, and rightfully so. It is a beast in that area. The opinions I saw on cutting were very positive, but more secondary in nature. So, prior to delivery, it remained a concern. So how does it cut? One word…fantastic! It slices through 3MM of MDF and plys far better, cleaner, and faster than the P2. I also tried 6MM, and it was just as good on slightly lower speeds, of course. I was doing some engraving tests with standard food cutting boards and decided to slice and dice them before disposal. The end results were exceptionally clean cuts and some carving boards that looked like jigsaw puzzles. Also, acrylic is cut flawlessly with little regard to thickness. Again, I’m not a fan of testing the extremes, and I’m not looking to use this as a table saw. But I’ve personally, and in real-world use and testing, experienced zero issues with cutting material. In both my standard use of the machine and in my workflows, I can see no issues with cutting. In comparison, the results are far better than the P2. The airflow and back flash on the Thunder Laser Bolt are way less, and the cuts are just cleaner.

Support

Hands down, one of the best support infrastructures of any product I’ve purchased—not just lasers. Response times are 95% of the time in minutes, not hours or days. The staff is helpful and knowledgeable, and they focus not on just getting you past the problem but on getting you educated on the topic. Thunder Laser, you stand far above the rest on this topic. Excellent experience! For further context, I contacted them twice about a question I had about the camera calibration.

Venting

Considerable discussion on how this should or can be vented comes up in a lot of Facebook groups. I cannot vent outside, period. A fume extractor was my only option. Thunder worked with me and connected me with Filtrabox. I ended up purchasing a Filtrabox Micro, and it works perfectly. There was no smoke or smell. Results could vary based on usage, and you may need the Filtrabox Compact or larger to suit your individual use cases. But for me, the Micro was a spot-on recommendation. Perfect combination.

Rotary Units

Great success has been reported when using rotaries and engraving tumblers. I can confirm this. I went with a Piburn grip (made for Bolt) and the Roko Tray, and it worked flawlessly. Setup is a breeze; it just works.

Maintenance

As mentioned, the Thunder Laser Bolt is easily accessible in all areas, which makes cleaning simple and effective. Some dusting, air blowing, and wipedowns are all that have been needed. Cleaning the lenses is a breeze.

Cost

What you get in the Thunder Laser Bolt versus the competition cannot be overstated. Quality all around. You have to experience it to truly appreciate it. Machine build, design choices, advanced (useful) features, and exceptional support make this a winner all around. There is no tax and no additional shipping costs. What you’re quoted is what you pay. Who does that these days!?!

Areas for improvement

none on the machine. I’m sure I can ask for more things over time. Who doesn’t want more? I’d love to see more video reviews on cutting and an increased social media presence. Not to the Xtool level or Glowforge, which is oversaturated in my opinion. This will help answer, for example, one of the most asked questions:How does it cut? Website: maybe a little more user-friendly and less industrial. Thunder, your support is outstanding; don’t burry the knowledge center. Same for the accessories area. Make it clearly visible, and have the easy ability to purchase parts. I do know it exists, but maybe organize it to have a more consumer-focused look and feel. Make it a little more inviting. 

Closing

If you’re on the fence about buying the Thunder Laser Bolt, don’t be. You will not be disappointed. My personal time with the Bolt and in dealing with Thunder Laser has been exceptional. In fact, I cannot think of a single thing I would change. What I expected was a really good product. What I got was a truly exceptional end-to-end experience that far exceeded my expectations. Bravo! I applaud you, Thunder Laser.
If this sincere review resonates with you, there’s more authentic customer feedback awaiting. Whether you own or are curious about Thunder Laser Bolt, come and join our Facebook fan group! Engage in discussions, share experiences, and connect with a community passionate about laser technology. Your insights and questions are always welcomed.

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