Finding the Best User-Friendly Cutting Machine
Cutting machines technology is constantly going through innovations, and as a result it is becoming more and more challenging to decide which brand or model you should go for.
Cricut and Silhouette are two companies that always find their place on top of any list, and I bet that you too have been considering these two brands as well. Am I right?
Which one is better?
It is hard to say, even for the crafter as experienced as I am.
Both companies have been here for years and boast a remarkable reputation. Both have produced some of the best and most popular and sought for cutting machines on the market too.
I have thus decided to take two of their popular models and compare them in detail. Maybe that will make it easier for you to choose the one that best suits your needs.
Today the clash will be between the Cricut Explore Air cutting machine and the Silhouette Curio crafting printer. Both are best-sellers worth considering, not only in my opinion as there is an army of fans to vouch for each of the two.
So let's see who will win in this exciting duel: Silhouette Curio vs Cricut Explore Air.
Silhouette Curio VS. Cricut Explore Air: Side by Side Comparison Chart
Before we get down to the detailed review, I want to provide you with a short insight that will help you get acquainted with these two crafting machines.
|Feature||Silhouette Curio||Cricut Explore Air|
|Dimensions||17.2 by 5.5 by 7 inches||25.4 x 10 x 9.2 inches|
|Weight||7.5 pounds||10.9 pounds|
|Cutting Width||8 inches||11.5 inches|
|Cutting Force||210 grams||350 grams|
|Cutting Depth||2 mm||2 mm|
|Software||Silhouette Studio Software||Design Space Software|
|Print & cut||Yes||Yes|
|Carriage System||Dual carriage||Dual carriage|
|Matless Cutting Capability||No||Yes|
Are you hungry for more information?
Stay tuned and read my cross-check comparison that highlights all the similarities and differences of these amazing cutting machines. The winner takes it all and you’ll find out which machine deserves the title of the best at the very end!
Silhouette Curio Vs. Cricut Explore Air: Getting acquainted with the two
We have already established that it would be almost impossible to decide which of the two brands is better - Cricut or Silhouette. All we can do is get to know all that we possibly can about their machines. Unfortunately, that is not an easy task by any means as both companies offer a wide range of products.
We have to start somewhere though, and this is why the following section will present two of their popular machines.
Silhouette Curio Defined
Silhouette Curio functions as a standalone device, and that is one of its most significant advantages. As a result, you will not lack any features that pricier units have to offer. It is not the smallest unit out there, but you can still move it around without too much fuss.
Learn more about Silhouette Curio in the official video:
You'll have no trouble mastering the basics if you buy this machine, and that means that even the complete beginners among you will learn to use it in more than a reasonable amount of time. If you are a new user, there is no need to hesitate.
On the other hand, the advanced users might feel a bit disappointed and find the unit a bit slow and not powerful enough. After all, this is not a heavy-duty machine, and if you want to tackle some demanding projects or cut through extra thick or hard materials, you might want to skip this machine and look for your crafting companion elsewhere.
Want to see the official Silhouette Curio presentation? Here it is:
On the bright side, the list of materials this machine can cut through is not that short, and it includes all the most common ones that you will work with on a daily basis, including paper, foam, wood, vinyl and even leather. Therefore, even though it is light-duty it is quite versatile too.
Furthermore, the dual carriage system allows you to cut and draw simultaneously. It is also capable of embossing, scoring, sketching, and etching.
There is one more downside to this cutting machine, and in the era of wireless technology, it is quite a grave one and hard to swallow. Namely, Silhouette Curio has to be connected to a computer. It does not have wireless technology, nor the possibility to buy an adapter that would compensate for it. You are stuck with the USB cable- and in my opinion, it is a bit outdated.
Speaking of technology, I must say a word or two about Silhouette Studio Software. It took me only a few minutes to install it and a few additional minutes to figure it out and start my work. I would say that it is yet another great plus for the newbies and amateurs alike.
I think I have said enough, but if you want to find out everything there is about this model, hop to my Silhouette Curio in-depth review, and you will surely find the answers to all of your questions.
Cricut Explore Air Defined
The Cricut Explore Air is one of the first members of the famous Cricut Explore family that draws the attention of many crafters, especially those who are taking their first steps in the world of the cutting machines.
Here is the official Cricut presentation of the machine:
If you are an inexperienced user, it might be an excellent choice for you too. It is easy to use and straightforward without too many bells and whistles that would get you confused or discourage you.
It is mostly praised for its simplicity of cutting that it owes to its Smart Set Dial. Thanks to this practical knob located on the outside of the machine, you can adjust the blade depth and pressure to match the material you have chosen to cut and get consistent results every time.
Here comes the tutorial video that will help you get started:
This Cricut Explore machine is characterized by fast cutting and precise and intricate cuts. Although it is slower than its successor, Cricut Explore Air 2, the speed is satisfactory due to the effective blades.
If you thought that this machine is a compromise when it comes to the materials it can cut, you are wrong. It can cut over 60 materials all thanks to the high-quality German carbide premium blade. It is also capable of writing and scoring and does not limit you in that regard either.
Here is an interesting tutorial for Cricut Explore Air:
The Cricut Design Space Software the Explore Air uses is a powerful software. The best news is that you can connect to your Design Space with a smartphone, iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows, or Mac computer too. It also features an embedded Bluetooth so creating on-the-go will not be a problem.
Learn the basics of the Design Space here:
This software comes with a breath-taking library of images that contains over 3,000 easy-to-use projects for you to use. That is sure to speed up your performance as well. The best part is that they are all free!
How are Silhouette Curio and Cricut Explore Air different from one another?
One glance at my side by side comparison chart has already made it clear- Silhouette Curio and Cricut Explore Air are very different cutting machines. It really pays off to read full reviews if you want to decide which of the two will work better for you.
If you lack time to do what I have just advised you, here is a chart that lists all the important differences.
|Main Differences||Silhouette Curio||Cricut Explore Air|
|Dimensions||17.2 by 5.5 by 7 inches||25.4 by 10 by 9.2 inches|
|Weight||7.5 pounds||10.9 pounds|
|Cutting Width||8 inches||11.5 inches|
|Wireless Connection||No||Embedded Bluetooth|
|Software||Silhouette Studio Software||Design Space Software|
|Versatility||Cut, Draw, Emboss, Etch, Score and Stipple||Cut, Score, Engrave and Draw|
Let’s get down to details:
Distinction #1: Size
People say that size does not matter, but most of the time they are wrong, and the difference in weight and dimensions of these two cutting machines proves that notion.
Cricut is not only larger than Silhouette Curio but it is also a lot heavier. Therefore, if you are searching for a portable unit or the one you can easily move around your house Curio Might be a better solution for you.
You can check the actual numbers in the chart I have provided, but I only need to add that Cricut Air has a manageable size, too.
Distinction #2: Cutting width
The difference in size signals the difference in power of these two machines. It does not necessarily need to be like that, but in this case, the larger machine (Cricut Air) is the more powerful one as well.
Being physically smaller, Silhouette Curio offers a smaller cutting area as well and can manage objects up to 8 inches wide. Cricut Explore Air can cut objects that are up to 11.5 inches wide which provides you as a user with far more options when choosing a project.
It might not be an issue though for those of you who are more inclined to smaller projects such as designing tags, envelopes or other smaller items. If later on your interest shifts towards larger scale projects, you can always buy a larger tray and increase the cutting area to 8.5″ by 12″.
Both machines require you to set the cutting blade depth manually depending on the material you are currently working with. Yet, Cricut Air has a practical Smart Set Dial which simplifies the process of setting the right depth, speed, and pressure significantly.
The storage compartments that Cricut Explore Air contains are also a bonus.
Finally, Cricut Air has one more advantage- it can cut through materials up to 2mm thick while Silhouette Curio is limited to only 1 millimeter unless you buy the Deep Cut Blade (sold separately).
Distinction #3: Wireless Connection
Wireless or Bluetooth connectivity is a must nowadays, especially when aiming to attract younger users. It is therefore not clear why Silhouette did not consider this fact when designing their Curio cutting machine.
Luckily, the Cricut did not make the same mistake. Cricut Air comes with an embedded Bluetooth that allows you to create without any restraints.
If you opt for Silhouette USB connection will be your only option, and here is a tutorial on how to set it up:
All of you who are secret admirers of the Silhouette brand should not feel despondent, lack of Bluetooth technology can be easily overcome by simply buying a long-enough cable!
Distinction #4: Software
Cricut Design Space software is very straightforward and offers a user-friendly interface that even kids can manage. Do not let that trick you though, as it is a highly powerful software in comparison to what other brands in this niche have to offer.
Here is how to install it:
First of all, it grants you access to dozens of pre-made projects, so you need to find the one you like and press the "Make It Now" button. The design space can be accessed from your smartphone, Windows, or Mac, and that means you can work while out and about.
Thanks to the 2.7.1 update for the Design Space iOS app, the Design Space software is now cloud-based, and you can work offline too.
Learn all about the Design Space in the following video:
Silhouette Studio is as easy to use and user-friendly as the Cricut Design Space, and that makes it more than suitable for beginners too. However, it has its depth as well, and if you dig a bit deeper, you will be surprised by all the possibilities this software brings to the table.
The following tutorial will help you understand the Silhouette studio software better:
If you download the Silhouette Connect software, you can use your Curio cutting machine with Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw too.
The Pixscan feature enables you to transfer any picture you like from your phone and turn it into a pattern your Curio is going to cut, emboss, stipple, or etch for you. I would not just call it a positive feature but rather a selling point!
Here is a video that will teach you how to use Silhouette Pixscan:
Unfortunately, Silhouette Studio has a few minor flaws as well. I have found that the package has some occasional, slightly annoying bugs. The future seems bright though as Silhouette keeps working on new updates & features, and I hope that they will soon eradicate all the negatives and become even better.
Distinction #5: Versatility
We have established that Cricut Explore Air is more robust and powerful and thus offers more possibilities in terms of your choice of materials. However, Silhouette Curio has a secret weapon that could turn the odds in its favor.
Namely, Curio allows you to emboss, while Cricut Air does not have that option. It can also stipple and etch, so your choice of potential projects is almost limitless (Do mind that the stippling/etching tool is sold separately).
However, you can also engrave with your Cricut Air machine.
Here is a tutorial on that:
Embossing & debossing, as well as scoring, can be applied not only on paper or cardboard but even thinner materials as well. Curio is a real jack of all trades in the die-cutting machines world.
Here is a video that will teach you to stipple and etch with your Curio crafting machine:
I have also found an official tutorial from Silhouette for you to watch:
Is There Something that Silhouette Curio and Cricut Explore Air have In Common?
The square, rough edges of the Curio, and the oval, soft lines of the Explore Air stand in contrast and imply that these two machines are as different as they can be.
Noone could mix these two up - they are not anything alike!
Because of this, I had a tough time trying to find something that these two cutting machines have in common. Believe it or not, I have come up with something!
Here is a comparison chart for you who are eager to find out more about the similarities of these two popular cutting machines:
|Main Similarities||Silhouette Curio||Cricut Explore Air|
Resemblance #1: Carriage system
Both Silhouette Curio and Cricut Air feature a dual carriage system; this means that you will be able to multitask and use two tools at once. You will save your precious time and time is money, right?
Resemblance #2: Price tag
The Silhouette and Explore Air are both budget-friendly and affordable, which makes them ideal for occasional crafters who are not too keen to invest some serious money into their leisure-time hobby.
Explore Air is a bit more expensive, but that does not come as much of a surprise because it is more powerful as well.
Resemblance #3: Warranty
Both Cricut & Silhouette are well known and highly-praised companies with years of tradition and an army of satisfied users. There are passionate fans on both sides that are ready to fight to defend the good name of each company and stand witness to the quality of their cutting machines.
As a bonus, both companies offer a 1-year warranty and excellent customer service in case anything should go wrong once you purchase their products.
Silhouette Curio Vs. Cricut Explore Air: The winner takes it all
These two machines might share the purpose and aim at the same interest group, but apart from that, they are not much alike.
If you limit your crafting to smaller, delicate projects, Curio is a basic, budget-friendly unit that will satisfy your needs. It is versatile, lets you use a plethora of materials, and offers numerous features you can try out and learn to enhance the quality & potential of your creative endeavors.
It does have some downsides I find hard to get by, such as the lack of Bluetooth connectivity and constant need to use a USB cable to connect to a computer and do your work.
Cricut Explore Air, on the other hand, is more powerful and can handle some larger-scale projects. It features an embedded Bluetooth technology which most of us cannot do without nowadays.
Both machines have their flaws and advantages - you couldn't expect otherwise in their price range. You need to decide which of them suits your needs better, though.
I am quite satisfied with both of them, so if you can afford it, why not give them both a try as well?