Types of Vinyl Cutters
All vinyl cutters aren't made equal. You will find that the features of cutters will vary, but the most basic feature all of these machines share would the fact that they cut vinyl. Some machines will be able to do the task better and faster than others. Often times cheaper cutting machines may cut slower and be limited to thickness where as more expensive models will not. This all comes back to what will you be using your machine for? If you'll be cutting laminated full color prints, thick reflective film, or even perforated material you shouldn't be looking at a cheap cutter.
The right brand
This is a pretty hot topic in the sign industry. Compared to the market 5-10 years ago there are many low priced cutters available that make the cost of entry to the business incredibly cheap. Such cutters include the roland stika and most recently Walmart has come out with a line of vinyl cutters call cricut. Being in the sign industry there is still a pretty good barrier to get going if you want to make the jump into a higher end cutter. Since we're talking about roland, that is considered a GOOD brand. Look to pay over $3000 for a business class cutter in the 30" range. Other quality brands, graphtec, summa, and gerber.
So we covered the quality factors but there are features that some cutters have that others don't. A bare bones cutter will have a speed adjust and a pen force. Most everything on top of that is bonus. Digital readout displays, catch baskets, saving setting for multiple media are all extra features.
One major feature that high end cutters use is an optical eye. The eye is used for print and cut systems. These systems print full color graphics on printers and put registration marks on the edges. When you load your media into the machine the eye is able to read the 4 corners and plot accurately around the entire graphic.