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UPDATE: Both the Silhouette Cameo 3 and the Cricut Explore Air are no longer in production.
Silhouette released the Cameo 4 in the Fall of 2019. It is an amazing machine and you can read my full review of the Silhouette Cameo 4. There are some major differences between the Cameo 3 and Cameo 4.
Cricut has since released several new machines. The Cricut Explore Air 2 was released in 2017 and the Cricut Maker was released in 2018. I have full reviews of both the Cricut Explore Air 2 and the Cricut Maker. Plus an in-depth comparison of these two machines.
You can also learn the difference between the Silhouette Cameo 4 and the Cricut Maker in my article.
There is very little difference between to Explore Air and Explore Air 2. The Air 2 has a fast cutting mode allowing it to cut some materials up to 2x faster than the Air. Otherwise they are essentially the same.
This post is still helpful if you are comparing the Cameo 3 and Explore Air.
With the Silhouette Cameo 3 being released with some features that are comparable to the Cricut Explore, one might ask, which is better, the Cricut Explore or the Silhouette Cameo 3? Both are very popular machines, though they do have some key differences.
Silhouette Cameo 3 Overview
The Silhouette Cameo 3 (as of 2016), is the newest die cut machine by Silhouette. It’s not as strong as the Cricut Explore but is able to cut most paper, vinyl, and standard fabric materials just fine. Even though the largest cutting mat is 12″ x 24″, the Cameo 3 can cut lined media up to 10 feet long without a cutting mat. Similar to the Cricut Explore Air, the new Cameo 3 has dual carriages, so you can draw and cut without stopping the machine to swap out the blade or pen. The machine is also blue-tooth enabled as well, allowing users to cut wirelessly.
Other features of the Cameo 3 are the PixScan technology. This technology allows users to take pictures with their camera or smartphone and send them to the Cameo. Another feature is the Scan and Cut. The Scan and Cut feature allows users to print designs from their printer and have the Cameo cut them out.
What is really neat about the Silhouette Cameo, is that you can purchase the Autoblade, which is a blade that automatically adjusts its length based on the material being cut.
A big factor in users choosing the Silhouette Cameo is the Silhouette Studio Designer. The Studio software is a powerful software that allows users to either buy, import, or create their own designs from scratch. If you have graphics experience, then you will love the freedom that comes with this software. If you aren’t as computer savvy, there may be a small learning curve, but there are lots of materials, online groups, and free videos you can find to help you learn.
You can read my full review of the Silhouette Cameo 3. My favorite place the purchase Silhouette machines and accessories is Swingdesigns.com. They have some amazing machine bundles that include free designs, coupons for your next blade purchase and helpful guide books.
Cricut Explore Air Overview
The Cricut Explore Air is another popular die cut machine on the market. It’s easier to use compared to the Silhouette Cameo 3 and can cut and draw up to 12 inches by 24 inches. Similar to the Cameo 3, the Cricut comes with dual carriages, so you can draw and cut with a single pass without having to stop to swap out the pen or blade. The Cricut is also Bluetooth and Ipad compatible (Ipad 2/Ipad Mini and newer), so you can cut wirelessly. The Cricut also has a Print and Cut feature, so you can print images from your printer and have the Cricut machine cut them out.
There are two factors that make the Cricut Explore easy to use. The first factor is the Smart Set Dial. The Smart Set Dial is a knob on the outside of the machine that allows users to easily adjust blade depth and pressure according to the material being cut. For special material or cuts, there is also a custom option to change the depth and pressure to a specific setting.
Another factor that makes the Cricut Explore easy to use is the Design Space Software. Design Space is beginner friendly, so users who aren’t as tech savy will have a better time with the Cricut software. The Design Space Software is an online software, so you will need a good internet connection to use the machine. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to use the Cricut machine without an internet connection. With Design Space, you won’t be able to create advanced designs from scratch, but you are able to import svg files for free.
My favorite place the purchase Cricut machines and accessories is direct from Cricut.com.
Silhouette Cameo 3 vs Cricut Explore Air – the differences
Below you can compare the differences between the Silhouette Cameo 3 and the Cricut Explore Air, and find out which is best for you.
Cricut Explore Air
Silhouette Cameo 3
12 inches by 24 inches
12 inches by 10 feet
Print then Cut
Smart Set Dial
Dual Carriage Heads
Works Without Internet
Cricut Design Space
Silhouette Studio Designer
What machine is stronger, the Silhouette Cameo or the Cricut Explore Air?
While both machines have pros and cons, when it comes to strength, the Cricut Explore is stronger than the Silhouette Cameo. The Cricut Explore isn’t considered a heavy duty cutting machine like the Cricut Maker, but it can cut more materials than the Silhouette Cameo. The Cricut Explore comes with a German carbide blade, making the blades last longer. Deep cut blades are available for both machines.
There has been independent testing done on the Silhouette Cameo vs the Cricut Explore. You can view the strength test online. Here is a quick summary of the results:
It should be noted that the Silhouette Cameo can cut some of these materials, but not at the thickness that was tested. For example, you can cut magnet using the Silhouette Cameo, but you need to use Silhouette’s magnetic paper.
Silhouette Design Studio vs Cricut Design Space
One of the big differences between the Silhouette Cameo and the Cricut Explore is the software that the two machines use.
The Silhouette Design Studio is far more powerful and advanced than the Cricut Design Space. The Silhouette software allows users complete freedom to create their own designs from scratch. The images that can be purchased are also more professional looking, rather than the simple, clip-art looking designs from the Cricut store. There is more of a learning curve with the Silhouette software compared to the Cricut software.
The basic edition of the Silhouette software is free, which allows users to use jpg, bmp, and png files. If you want to use svg files, you must upgrade the software for $50.
The Cricut Design Space software is easier and more simple to use compared to the Silhouette Design Studio software. This is good for users who want to create simple designs and won’t be creating designs from scratch. You can create designs from scratch using the Cricut software, but options are very limited. The Cricut Design Space was designed for importing existing designs created in other programs into the Cricut software. One important difference to know is that the Cricut Design Space requires an internet connection and that projects and linked cartridges are stored in the cloud.
Compatible file types for the Cricut Software are .svg, .png, .dxf, .gif, .bmp and .jpg.
Which is better, the Silhouette Cameo or Cricut Explore Air?
When it comes to the Silhouette Cameo vs Cricut Explore Air and deciding which one is better, it all depends on your needs.
Why the Cricut Explore Air is better
If you want a die cut machine that is easy to use that isn’t complicated, consider the Cricut Explore Air. The Cricut is stronger than the Cameo 3, but the Design Space Software requires an internet connection and isn’t as powerful for creating designs from scratch.
Why the Silhouette Cameo is better
If you want more freedom to create your own shapes, consider getting the Silhouette Cameo cutting machine. The software is powerful, but the downside is that the Cameo cutting force is limited to 210 grams of force, so you won’t be able to cut as many materials as the Cricut. You will also need to upgrade the software to be able to import .svg files. For more cutting force check out my Silhouette Cameo 4 review.
What machine do you think is best? The Silhouette Cameo or Cricut Explore Air? Leave us a comment!