Are You Team Cricut Or Team Silhouette?
Whether you’re a seasoned expert on all things crafting-related, or just now discovering the joys of DIY-ing, one thing’s certain:
You’re here to get some answers about two highly popular cutting machines.
And believe it or not, you’re not alone in your quest.
By far, the most common cutting-machine-related question I get can be summed up in a single phrase – Silhouette Cameo 3 vs. Cricut Explore Air 2.
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I’ve spent quite some time with both of these machines, and if there’s one thing I can say with absolute certainty, it’s that there’s no universal answer to that question.
Well, I could start with the fact that both cutters were 2019’s best selling models for their respective brands – but that doesn’t even begin to explain it. You’ll have to stick around to find out the rest!
I’ll go into all the details of their design and performance, including cutting quality, software, and ease of use. Plus, I’ll be sure to point out all those tiny details that could either help or hinder your user experience and underline the differences – and similarities – between the two.
Let the battle of the cutting machines begin!
Team Silhouette Or Team Cricut?
There’s no point in denying it – pretty much anyone who’s ever owned a personal cutting machine had to, at some point, answer this question:
Are you team Silhouette or team Cricut?
Even my friends who are into arts and crafts, tend to get into these somewhat heated debates about which brand is „clearly better“ – and why.
I wish that I could weigh in on the debate myself – but I’ve spent enough time with flagship models of both brands to know better. Here’s what I mean by that:
Silhouette was the one to beat, but with the expansion of the Explore family of cutting machines, Cricut slowly made its way back to the top of the industry. For years, no other desktop cutter could quite compete with the Cricut Maker – but that all changed with the Silhouette’s newest arrival, the Cameo 4.
Get familiar with the Cricut Maker here:
The point is, Silhouette and Cricut are the industry’s leading brands that are continually going neck-to-neck – and that rivalry is not going away any time soon.
As long as both brands continue putting in the effort, there'll be a competition – and one without a clear winner, too.
Plus, I feel like we’re comparing apples and oranges here. Both brands have their respective target audiences and products that meet their needs perfectly. So, rather than going deeper down this Cricut vs. Silhouette hole, I say we focus on what truly matters – your crafting needs.
Silhouette Cameo 3 Vs. Cricut Explore Air 2 – A Comparison Chart
Let’s start this Silhouette Cameo 3 vs. Cricut Explore Air 2 comparison with a brief overview of their specs, notable features, and other essential info you might find useful. You’ll find all that – and more – in the comparison chart below.
|Feature||Silhouette Cameo 3||Cricut Explore Air 2|
|Dimensions||22.5x8.5x6 inches||24x9.5x9.5 inches|
|Weight||12 pounds||14 pounds|
|Cutting Width||12 inches||12 inches|
|Cutting Force||210 grams||320 grams|
|Software||Silhouette Studio Software||Design Space Software|
|Compatibility||PC and Mac||PC, Mac, Android, and iOS|
|Highlighted Features||Color LCD touch screen, dual carriage||Fast Mode for two times speedier operation|
|Warranty||One-year warranty||One-year warranty|
Those would be the bare essentials, enough to get you familiar with their basic specs. The ins and outs – and my thorough analysis of the two cutters – are coming up next, though.
Oh, and stick around for my final Silhouette Cameo 3 vs. Cricut Explore Air 2 verdict, too!
Silhouette Cameo 3 & Cricut Explore Air 2: A Closer Look
Whenever I hear people talking about the Cricut Explore Air 2 and its main competitor, the Silhouette Cameo 3, they’re usually split up into two teams – team Cricut and team Silhouette.
And I get where the passion is coming from, I do. However, let’s not forget that both of these cutting machines have outstanding reputations worldwide, among DIY enthusiasts, hobbyists, and professional designers alike.
Buying a new cutting machine is always a significant investment – and doing your homework makes your purchase decision not only smarter but easier, too. That's precisely why I feel that it's essential to go over what these cutters have to offer.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Cricut or Silhouette fan – I’m sure that you’ll find the info I’ve prepared for you helpful either way!
An Overview Of The Silhouette Cameo 3
Whenever I get a chance to talk about the Silhouette Cameo 3, the first thing I would like to mention is its design. You might say I'm shallow, but I always admired its good looks – „sleek“ and „modern“ are words that instantly come to mind.
And while I don’t think that design should be given a priority over functionality and performance, you can’t deny that there’s something attractive about it.
The color LCD touch screen featured on the unit only adds to this streamlined experience, while also ensuring that the machine’s controls feel intuitive and smooth.
Watch this video to start your Silhouette Cameo 3 journey:
Moreover, it has long been regarded as the brand’s top-performing cutter – and that shouldn’t come as a surprise. If you had a chance to go through my Silhouette Cameo 3 review, you know what I mean by that.
It’s capable of stand-alone use, as it features an integrated SD card reader, and wireless operation, thanks to its Bluetooth connectivity. And since it comes with a dual carriage, multitasking is one of its strong suits, as well.
In the light of the most recent events in the crafting community, though, it’s somewhat difficult to talk about the Cameo line without at least mentioning the newest addition to the family. Yes, I’m talking about the Silhouette Cameo 4.
Why am I bringing it up here?
It’s to let you know that, if you find the Cameo 3 lacking in any department, you have an alternative – and it doesn’t involve switching over to team Cricut.
Watch this video to see what the Silhouette Cameo 4 is all about:
An Overview Of The Cricut Explore Air 2
The thing that is most apparent about the Cricut Explore Air 2 – even at first glance – is that a lot of thought was put into its design. It’s almost as if Cricut consulted with its customers, and made an effort to incorporate the feedback they were given into their new cutting machine.
Allow me to introduce you to the Cricut Explore Air 2:
One look and you can tell that you’re in for quite an experience – it nails the balance between retro design and modern functionality.
Also, can we take a moment to appreciate the gentle hum that the machine makes? I always found it so pleasurable – the soft „whoosh“ of opening the Explore Air 2 is an experience in itself.
Now, if you’re the type who doesn’t give two cents about appearances, as long as the functionality is on point, know that Cricut Explore Air 2 delivers in that department, too. Even more so, one might argue that it’s superior to its competitor in its cutting performance and capabilities.
It’s equipped with premium-quality German carbide blades, which ensures its precision, and the Fast Mode function, which takes care of its speed. The addition of a double tool holder makes it that much more efficient in completing all your projects.
Plus, it uses the Smart Set Dial to remove any guesswork out of choosing the correct cutting settings.
I only covered the basics here, as I already talked about its performance extensively in my Cricut Explore Air 2 review.
However, I sure hope this was more than enough to give you an idea of what it’s like using this Cricut cutting machine.
Silhouette Cameo 3 Vs. Cricut Explore Air 2: Explaining The Differences
Both of these models have contributed significantly to making crafting and DIY projects fun and effortless, but that doesn’t mean that they’re equal. While I was doing my research and putting them to the test, I discovered quite a few distinctions between the two.
Here’s a quick round-up of those noteworthy differences I mentioned – they should help you get an idea of what sets them apart:
|Main Differences||Silhouette Cameo 3||Cricut Explore Air 2|
|Software||Silhouette Studio Software||Cricut Design Space|
|Controls||Color LCD touch screen||Smart Set dial|
Difference #1: Software
As someone who’s used both of these cutting machines extensively, I can say that the software is where the most apparent differences can be observed.
First and foremost, like all other Silhouette cutting machines, the Cameo 3 uses the Silhouette Studio software. Explore Air 2, on the other hand, employs what is known as Design Space –Cricut’s proprietary software.
However, the differences are more than skin-deep.
I had my reservations about the Silhouette Studio when I used it for the first time. With the most recent updates, though, it became one of the best developed, streamlined software currently on the market.
Here’s how the Silhouette Studio works:
It’s packed with features to a point where it competes with professional photo-editing programs. And for you, the user, that means unmatched freedom of creativity.
One thing that it lacks – and where Cricut’s Design Space shines – is SVG file support:
Whereas Design Space offers this compatibility by default, it’s still a paid feature within the Silhouette Studio.
Besides, Design Space has always been regarded as the more beginner-friendly of the two.
Get familiar with the Design Space by watching this video:
Anyway, I’d like to finish this section off with an observation:
If you’re already familiar – and comfortable, even – with either of the two software, it’s going to influence your final choice. When everything else is set aside, the difference in software is enough to tip the scales either way.
Difference #2: Cutting Speed
Next, this wouldn’t be a complete Silhouette Cameo 3 vs. Cricut Explore Air 2 comparison without pointing out the apparent difference in cutting speed.
While they’re both designed to serve the same purpose – cutting – and enjoy the same benefits of having a dual tool holder, the Explore Air 2 gets the bragging rights speed-wise.
The addition of the so-called Fast Mode function is an essential part of its improved and upgraded design. This feature means that the unit is capable of delivering results in the shortest amount of time possible, cutting at almost double the speed than its competitor.
The convenience of having two-speed modes, „normal“ and fast, is fantastic in itself. However, when it’s coupled with the machine’s ability to multitask – use two different tools at the same time – it becomes virtually unmatched in that department.
Difference #3: Controls
The controls found on the two cutting machines are as much a difference as they are a similarity. The best way to put it would be that they take very different approaches to control the machine, but maintain the same level of convenience.
The Cricut Explore Air 2 comes fitted with a Smart Set Dial located on the front of the machine. I know that it doesn’t look like much compared to the LCD touch screen seen on the Cameo 3, but don’t let its basic appearance fool you:
It comes loaded with automatically calibrated cutting settings for the most commonly used materials – including paper, vinyl, cardstock, and bonded fabric. It doesn’t end there, because you also have access to over 80 other material-based automatic settings within the Design Space software.
Watch the Smart Set Dial in action here:
As I already mentioned, the Silhouette Cameo 3 features a color LCD touch screen, which certainly fits its sleek and modern aesthetic perfectly. More importantly, it’s intuitive, responsive, and gives you access to settings and any other info with a single touch.
Silhouette Cameo 3 Vs. Cricut Explore Air 2: Highlighting The Similarities
It’s quite fascinating how these two cutting machines manage to be so different – yet so similar at the same time. The similarities may be few and far apart, but they undeniably contribute to the overall performance of the two units – and the user experience, as well.
From the relatively similar footprints to their comparable ease of use, there are certain aspects of their design that are much more alike than one might imagine.
So, make no mistake about it – there are some notable similarities between the two, as well. Here you go:
|Main Similarities||Silhouette Cameo 3||Cricut Explore Air 2|
|Dual Tool Holder||Yes||Yes|
|Cutting Materials||Over 100 materials||Over 100 materials|
|User-Friendly Features||LCD touch screen, AutoBlade||Smart Set Dial, Design Space software|
|Dimensions||22.5x8.5x6 inches||24x9.5x9.5 inches|
|Cutting Width||12 inches||12 inches|
Similarity #1: Multitasking & Cutting Abilities
Among the rare similarities between the two cutters, one stands out as essential for their respective cutting performances – their ability to multitask.
The Silhouette Cameo 3 is well known for its dual carriage – a time-saving feature that allows it to perform two functions in one pass. Whether you’re cutting or writing, you have the option to use two separate tools at the same time.
But did you know that the Cricut Explore Air 2 boasts a double tool holder, too?
The two slots are designed to hold pens, blades, scoring tools – or a deep-cut blade – depending on the nature of your project, all to help you multitask.
Also, have you had a chance to see the extensive – and above all, impressive – list of materials that both units can cut? Both are capable of working with over 100 different mediums, including paper, vinyl, cardstock, iron-on, and fabric.
Similarity #2: Ease Of Use
I thought long and hard about this. I wasn’t sure whether I should list this particular aspect of their performance as a difference or a similarity. Don’t worry; I’ll explain everything in a second.
Each cutter has its respective fan base – we’ve already established that. One thing that they agree on, though, is that both the Cameo 3 and the Explore Air 2 are easy to use, and that’s something they have in common.
However, they achieve this in somewhat different ways.
Even more so, ease of use isn’t something that is easily quantified. There are no exact numbers or specifications here, only a subjective experience of using the cutting machine.
With the Cricut Explore Air 2, the ease of use stems from its Smart Set Dial, loaded with automatic cutting settings, the user-friendly software, and a plethora of time-saving features.
The Silhouette Cameo 3, however, offers the convenience of an LCD touch screen, on-board design editing and mini-tutorials, and the unit’s automatic cutting blade calibration, known as the AutoBlade tool.
You can see my dilemma, now, can you? The differences work together here to create two very similar machines – intuitive, user-friendly, and easily accessible.
Another feature that contributes here is their Bluetooth-enabled connectivity – a huge advantage that allows wireless cutting. So, if you’re looking to ditch wired connections, both cutters can help you achieve that.
Similarity #3: Dimensions & Cutting Width
From a design standpoint, these two cutting machines are worlds apart. As much as I try to remain as objective as possible, one stands out as better looking here. But here’s where their similarities kick in:
The first thing that they have in common is their relatively similar physical footprint.
Measuring 24 by 9.5 by 9.5 inches, the Explore Air 2 is mere inches apart from the Cameo 3, which measures 22.5 by 8.5 by 6 inches. It might sound like a difference, but trust me, once they’re both sitting in your workspace, you realize how insignificant it is.
Even more so, they’re both designed as desktop-sized cutting machines, meant for personal use. Sure, light commercial use is still an option, but it does stretch their capabilities a bit.
As a result of their reasonably similar dimensions, they have one more thing in common – their maximum cutting width. Both machines boast the same 12-inch cutting width, although they differ significantly cutting-length-wise:
The Cameo 3 takes the cake here by offering up to ten feet of cutting length, as opposed to the Explore Air 2 and its 23.5 inches.
Silhouette Cameo 3 Vs. Cricut Explore Air 2: Our Final Verdict
And the best cutting machine is – well, I certainly hope that you get why things are a bit more complicated than that.
So, what seems to be the hold-up?
Whether you’re team Silhouette or team Cricut, there’s no wrong answer here – both of these cutting machines are capable of taking your creativity to a whole new level. The Silhouette Cameo 3 vs. Cricut Explore Air 2 comparison comes down to one thing:
Your needs and wants.
If having an advanced, feature-rich software is a top priority for you, it doesn’t get much better than the Silhouette Cameo 3. And if, on the other hand, you’re looking for a perfect combination of precision and user-friendliness, the Cricut Explore Air 2 is worth considering.
Are you team Cricut or team Silhouette? Leave a comment below!