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The Arts-And-Crafts Debate Of The Decade
When the Silhouette Cameo 3 was first released, many – me included – were quick to notice that it boasted a lot of features that closely resembled those of the Cricut Explore Air.
As a result, the whole Cricut Explore Air vs. Silhouette Cameo 3 became the burning arts-and-crafts question of the decade.
Everyone – and I do mean everyone – was trying to figure out which cutting machine is better – the Cricut’s Explore Air or the Silhouette’s Cameo 3. But as you can probably imagine, the answer was nothing short of complicated.
Even now, years after these cutting machines first entered the market, many crafters and DIY enthusiasts are still wondering the same thing. Everyone seems to have a formed opinion on why one’s better than the other – but the universal agreement is yet to be achieved.
And it got me thinking:
As similar as they were in certain aspects of their performance, they still had plenty of notable differences. So, why not focus on that?
By pointing out what sets them apart, and what unique features they offer to the user, we eliminate the need to highlight one over the other. Instead, the focus shifts to picking the one that’s a better fit for your personal needs.
Let’s get to it!
Cricut Vs. Silhouette: Two Top-Of-The-Food-Chain Brands
If you ever owned a die-cutting machine before, chances are your choice ultimately boiled down to one of the following two brands – Cricut and Silhouette. The two are, after all, at the absolute top of the food chain in the cutting machine industry.
But how does one go about comparing the industry’s leading brands?
They wouldn’t be as popular among consumers if what they had to offer wasn’t praiseworthy. Both expert crafters and casual hobbyists can pinpoint things that they love about each of these brands. Even more so, they’re equally as opinionated when it comes to pointing out the flaws.
If you ask me, though, I often feel like these brands – and their leading products – are tailored to suit the needs of different skill levels and types of users altogether.
The question shouldn’t be who makes better cutting machines. It should be:
Which brand resonates with my crafting needs, project types, and skill level the best?
I know, I know – you’re either a fan or Silhouette or a die-hard fan of Cricut. When it comes to this type of discussion, there’s hardly ever a middle ground.
But if you want to approach this comparison objectively, and with an open mind, you’ll have to check out all your preconceived notions about these two brands at the door. After all, both Cricut and Silhouette are known for designing cutting machines that are:
- Well-made and modern-looking
- Easy to use and beginner-friendly
- Versatile and highly customizable
- Wireless, thanks to Bluetooth technology
That said, for a budget-minded consumer, one brand might have a slight edge over the other. Cricut is known for its not-so-affordable prices – and Silhouette takes the cake in that department.
Cricut Explore Air Vs. Silhouette Cameo 3: Comparison Chart & Specs
Okay, first things first – it’s only fair that I give you a taste of what’s to come before I throw a bunch of info your way. So, take a moment to go over the comparison chart below. You’ll find some much-needed info in there, including basic specs, highlighter features, warranty details – and more!
|Feature||Cricut Explore Air||Silhouette Cameo 3|
|Dimensions||25.4x10x9.2 inches||22.5x8.5x6 inches|
|Weight||15 pounds||12 pounds|
|Cutting Width||12 inches||12 inches|
|Cutting Force||350 grams||210 grams|
|Software||Cricut Design Space||Silhouette Studio Software|
|Compatibility||PC, Mac, Android, iOS||PC and Mac|
|Highlighted Features||Dual carriage, Smart Set dial, Cut Smart technology||Dual carriage, color LCD touch screen|
|Warranty||One-year warranty||One-year warranty|
Now that we have that covered, it’s time to move on to a more detailed analysis of the two cutting machines. From getting to know them, to learning what sets them apart, you’ll find my full take on both Cricut’s and Silhouette’s flagship models.
Keep on reading for my final Cricut Explore Air vs. Silhouette Cameo 3 verdict, too!
Cricut Explore Air & Silhouette Cameo 3: A Deeper Dive
That comparison chart you just saw does give you a little insight into the fundamental info about these two cutting machines. Is that enough to help an average user make an informed decision?
So, let’s take this Cricut Explore Air vs. Silhouette Cameo 3 comparison to the next level:
It’s time to get to know these cutting machines on a more personal level and learn about what matters the most to you – their overall performance.
Cricut Explore Air: Overview
One might consider the Explore Air the middle child of the Cricut Explore family – I know I do. The new-and-improved version, Explore Air 2, does feature some essential upgrades, but as you’re about to see, the Explore Air doesn’t fall that far behind, either.
Sure, a few years have passed since it first entered the market back in 2015. Yes, it’s been that long!
However, I have to say that it still holds its ground in the arts and crafts department – and it’s still favored by hobbyists and DIY enthusiasts, too.
Somewhat bulky, but modern-looking, this cutting machine comes fitted with quite a few convenient features. Among those worth noting are the Bluetooth-enabled wireless operation, time-saving dual carriage, and outstanding compatibility that covers PC, Mac, iOS, and Android.
More importantly, you can forget about the complicated – and flat-out confusing – settings required to achieve that perfect cut. On the far right of the device, you’ll find a handy little thing called the Smart Set dial.
What does it do, you ask?
Rather than leaving you to figure out the cutting settings for different materials on your own, the dial takes care of it for you. The parameters are automatically calibrated.
For the most common materials – paper, vinyl, and the like – adjusting the cutting depth and pressure is as easy as turning a knob. Moreover, you have the freedom to create your custom settings, too.
And once you pair it up with the Cut Smart feature, the Explore Air becomes virtually unmatched regarding precision and delivering clean cuts time and again.
Software-wise, the Cricut Explore Air uses the Cricut Design Space – a highly functional, feature-rich, cloud-based software. One of the most recent updates made it possible to access the Design Space – and all of its features – while you’re offline, too.
Here’s a video tour of the Explore Air you should check out:
Silhouette Cameo 3: Overview
Earlier this year, Silhouette launched Cameo 4 – the new-and-improved version of their most popular cutting machine, the Cameo 3. Of course, I’ve reviewed it in detail – read about it here!
Here, see for yourself:
But even though it’s no longer the Silhouette’s newest model, the Cameo 3 remains a personal favorite of crafters and DIY-ers worldwide.
If you had a chance to take a look at my Silhouette Cameo 3 review, you know where this popularity comes from – and what makes it an option worth considering.
If not, the first thing that you should know about Cameo 3 is that it’s an electronic cutting machine capable of Bluetooth-enabled wireless operation, and stand-alone use with its integrated SD card reader. Plus, multitasking is an option, too, since it comes equipped with a dual carriage.
It sounds pretty impressive, right?
Furthermore, it’s compatible with Silhouette’s PixScan technology and the Scan and Cut feature, which further increases the functionality and versatility of the machine.
The former allows you to send the pictures you took with your camera or smartphone directly to the cutting machine. The latter makes it possible for you to send images to a printer, and back to the Cameo 3, where you can cut them according to your preferred settings.
Plus, it comes fitted with a color LCD touch screen, which makes it that much easier to navigate all of its options, access the machine’s settings, and more. It even lets you watch mini-tutorials and edit your designs on-board!
Oh, and let’s not forget the AutoBlade – a handy addition that sets the correct cutting depth based on the material you’re using.
Behind all this is the Silhouette Studio software, which can be downloaded from Silhouette’s official website. But even though it has its many benefits, including the free „Basic“ version, it does have its disadvantages, too:
It comes with a learning curve – and it feels a bit lacking compared to what Cricut’s software has to offer.
But despite some of its flaws, it’s still an outstanding choice. It’s sleek and modern, versatile, and up to the task for most of your arts and crafts projects.
Watch this Silhouette Cameo 3 setup guide:
Cricut Explore Air Vs. Silhouette Cameo 3: Analyzing Their Differences
Both of these highly advanced, smart cutting machines do an excellent job of not only making all your crafting projects more fun but effortless, too.
I already pointed out that one was designed to compete with the other. Still, there’s no denying that there are some notable distinctions between the two.
Underlining these differences, and drawing your attention to them, is a crucial step in this Cricut Explore Air vs. Silhouette Cameo 3 comparison. It will show you what makes these two cutting machines unique – and maybe help you figure out which one’s a better fit for you, too.
If you’re in a rush, take a quick look at the table below – all of their differences are neatly summed up!
|Main Differences||Cricut Explore Air||Silhouette Cameo 3|
|Software||Cricut Design Space||Silhouette Studio Software|
|SVG File Support||Yes||No|
|Blade Strength||German carbide blades||Stock blades|
|Cutting Force||350 grams||210 grams|
|Controls||Smart Set dial||LCD touch screen|
Difference #1: Software
There’s going to be a difference in software that these two machines use. It shouldn’t come as a surprise – we are looking at Cricut vs. Silhouette here, after all. Cricut cutting machines use the Design Space software, and the Silhouette Studio is reserved for Silhouette machines.
Something I noticed, though, is that the difference runs much deeper than the name itself. The best way to sum them up would be features vs. user-friendliness.
Cricut Design Space is far more approachable to the average user – simple, straightforward, and above all, user-friendly. It can be picked up by pretty much anyone, regardless of their experience with Cricut cutting machines.
Some choose to view this as a downside, but I think that a simple, easy-to-use software certainly has its charms – as long as it’s not limiting, that is.
Here’s an overview of the Cricut Design Space:
Those who are a bit more tech-savvy, and don’t shy away from a slight learning curve, will love the freedom of creativity and the feature-rich nature of the Silhouette Studio Software, though.
That said, there’s one thing that gives the Design Space an edge here:
You can import .svg files free of cost.
The „basic“ version of the Silhouette Studio, while supporting .jpg, .png, and .bmp files doesn’t extend that support to .svg data. That’s the functionality you’ll have to pay an extra $50 for – and with the Cricut software, it’s free.
Difference #2: Blade Strength & Cutting Performance
I know that we’re here to compare the Cricut Explore Air vs. Silhouette Cameo 3, but when it comes to their cutting performance and blade strength, the truth is, there’s no real comparison here.
One is clearly better at ensuring precise cuts than the other – and more powerful, too.
Which one, you ask?
All other features aside, Cricut’s cutting machines, the Explore Air included, are known for one thing – their unmatched precision and cutting power. Featuring premium-quality, German carbide blades, the Cricut Explore Air not only outperforms the Silhouette and its stock blades but outlives them, as well.
The differences in performance don’t end there, either.
As a part of its design, the Explore Air also comes equipped with Cut Smart technology. This patent-pending feature is the secret behind all of its high-precision cuts, even when you’re working with shapes that are as small as 0.25 inches.
Lastly, the Silhouette Cameo 3 is, generally speaking, somewhat less precise, slower – and weaker – than its rival. The numbers don’t lie:
Compare its 210-gram cutting force to the mind-blowing 350 grams packed by Cricut, and you’ll see what I mean.
Difference #3: Controls
Now, when it comes to the way you control your cutting machine, Cricut and Silhouette have two very different – yet equally convenient – approaches. You won’t find any buttons on here, though – only seamless, intuitive controls.
Let’s start with the Cameo 3, which comes fitted with a color LCD touch screen. It’s relatively large, responsive, and designed to minimize the chance of user error. Every bit of info you might need is right there on display – with additional info, settings, and even tutorials being only a touch away.
The Explore Air, on the other hand, doesn’t have an LCD touch screen. However, as someone who’s used Cricut’s cutting machines quite a bit, I can assure you that it’s not something you’ll miss that often.
The Smart Set Dial, although basic in its appearance, lets you access the unit’s automatically calibrated settings for the most commonly used materials. And if you set it to „Custom,“ you’ll gain access to even more parameters and customization options in the Cricut Design Space.
Select the medium you’re working within the cut list, and you’ll be good to go.
See it in action here:
On a separate – but not entirely unrelated – note, one thing both of these machines boast is ease of use. So, if you’re a beginner trying to choose between the two, know that you’ll probably be happy with your choice either way.
On the one hand, you have the LCD touch screen and AutoBlade features of the Cameo 3. And on the other, you have access to a straightforward, no-settings-required dial of the Explore Air. Both do an equally good job at redefining what a beginner-friendly, easy-to-use cutting machine is.
A Closer Look At Cricut Explore Air & Silhouette Cameo 3: Similarities
The two cutting machines were designed to go neck-to-neck. And as you’ll see in this next section, despite their many crucial differences, they do have a few things in common.
Check out the basic rundown of their most notable similarities below, or keep on reading for more detailed analysis – it’s up to you!
|Main Similarities||Cricut Explore Air||Silhouette Cameo 3|
|Versatility||Cuts over 100 materials||Cuts over 100 materials|
|Cutting Width||12 inches||12 inches|
|Deep-Cut Option||High 2 mm clearance||Deep-Point Blade (optional)|
Similarity #1: Multitasking & Versatility
Remember what I said earlier about the essential differences in their cutting performance?
Well, while one is better than the other in the cutting department, the similarities they share shouldn’t go unmentioned.
You see, amidst their many differences, there are things that they both have to offer to the user – multitasking capabilities and versatility.
First off, both of these machines boast a dual carriage – a feature that allows them to use two tools, be it for writing or cutting, at the same time. This ability to multitask is something that saves quite a bit of time and becomes particularly useful when you’re working on last-minute projects.
Who wouldn’t appreciate the convenience of being able to do twice as much work in a single go?
See the double tool holder in action here:
Moreover, they both offer the same outstanding level of cutting versatility, being able to cut more than 100 different materials. That extensive list includes vinyl, iron-on, paper, cardstock, fabrics, and various specialty materials.
Similarity #2: Wireless Connectivity
We all have dreams of having a clutter-free workspace – and we all know how hard it is to achieve it when you’re continually tripping on cables. Sounds familiar?
Well, your dreams might just come true:
You’ll be glad to know that neither the Explore Air or the Cameo 3 plan on bringing any unwanted wires and cables into the picture.
Both models allow for Bluetooth-enabled wireless connectivity, allowing you to cut wirelessly.
There are numerous benefits of going wireless, and the freedom of stepping away from your cutting machine altogether is one of them. Rather than sitting at your desk, you can get cozy on the sofa, work on a few designs, and send them directly to your cutting machine.
And the beauty of it is that you don’t even have to get up to do it!
Similarity #3: Cutting Width & Depth
Both the Cameo 3 and the Explore Air offer the same amount of cutting space – a cutting width of 12 inches, regardless of the material you’re using. The overall dimensions of the two cutting machines are only inches apart, so there’s no surprise there.
The Cameo 3 does allow for a slightly deeper cut, though, featuring clearance that measures two millimeters. The Explore Air falls behind in that department, offering a maximum cutting depth of 1.5 millimeters – and that’s with the Deep-Point Blade included.
However, I’m not entirely sold on its ability to cut more robust materials as well as Explore Air does – and that’s where it all evens out for me.
Wrapping This Comparison Up
I started this Cricut Explore Air vs. Silhouette Cameo 3 comparison by stating that there’s no point in highlighting one over the other – and I intend to finish it on the same note, too.
I know most users will find themselves on opposite sides of the divide, rooting for either Cricut or Silhouette, based on their previous experiences. That’s perfectly understandable.
However, both have something valuable to offer to the user – and I hope that’s what you’ll take away from this thorough comparison.
If you want reliability and precision, the Cricut Explore Air is the way to go. And if you’re interested in the feature-rich Silhouette Studio that powers the Cameo 3, go ahead. You’ll be getting your money’s worth either way!
Which one will you choose – Cricut or Silhouette? Let us know in the comments!