Cricut Explore Air vs Silhouette Cameo 3

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

Silhouette Cameo 3

>>Click here to read the Amazon Reviews

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 print 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 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.

Silhouette Autoblade

Silhouette Autoblade

A big factor in users choosing the Silhouette Cameo is the Silhouette Studio Designer. The Studio software is powerful software that allows users to either buy, import, or create their own designs from scratch. If you have graphic 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.

Cricut Explore Air Overview

Cricut Explore Air

>>Click here to read the Amazon Reviews

The Cricut Explore Air is another popular die cut machine on the market. It’s easier to use compared to the Silhouette 3, and can cut and draw up to 12 inches by 24 inches. Similarly 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.

Cricut Smart Set Dial

Smart Set Dial

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 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.

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.

 Silhouette Cameo 3Cricut Explore Air
Silhouette Cameo 3Cricut Explore Air
Cutting Width12 inches x 10 feet12 inches by 24 inches
Cutting Force210 gramsn/a (stronger)
Print and CutYesYes
PixScan TechnologyYesNo
Smart Set DialNoYes
Dual Carriage headsYesYes
Cut WirelesslyNoYes
Works Without ComputerYesNo
Works Without InternetYesNo
SoftwareSilhouette Studio DesignerCricut Design Space
Amazon Price> Check price> Check price

What machine is stronger, the Silhouette Cameo or the Cricut Explore?

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 KNK Zing, 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:

MaterialSilhouette CameoCricut Explore
Foam FailedPass
Leather, SoftFailedPass
Leather, hard FailedPass
Chipboard FailedPass
Chipboard, dense FailedPass
Magnet sheet FailedPass

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 us 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 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?

When it comes to the Silhouette Cameo vs Cricut Explore and deciding which one is better, it all depends on your needs.

Why the Cricut Explore is better

Cricut Explore Air


If you want a die cut machine that is easy to use that isn’t complicated, consider the Cricut Explore. The Cricut is stronger than the Cameo, but the Design Space Software requires an internet connection and isn’t ideal for creating designs from scratch.

>> Click here to see the Cricut Explore reviews and discount price

Why the Silhouette Cameo is better

Silhouette Cameo 3


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.

>> Click here to see the Silhouette Cameo reviews and discount price

What machine do you think is best? The Silhouette Cameo or Cricut Explore? Leave us a comment!

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  1. Lisa M

    I LOVE my Explore, though I do wish the capability of cutting without internet were available. For me that’s the only downfall as compared to the Cameo. I wouldn’t leave Cricut for that because I fully expect that to be a program release in the not too distant future.

    1. Den

      My sentiments exactly.

    2. ben

      unfortunately I bought explore without fully evaluate the software – They do need your internet to sell all the images and by all means to prevent the user cut with their own design – don’t expect them to change the business model.
      Cut force is just one of the element that probably not used excessively

  2. Christine Zook

    I have the Explore and Explore Air. Now, you can now design offline with the Ipad with your “saved” images and can now print or cut anywhere on your mat with the new “snapmat”. I have the silhouette too and this is so much better than pixscan! I have the pixscan mat and never used it. too much trouble! but love Snapmat! there are several videos on youtube with instructions on how to use it! one of them is and another great one for cutting pictures!

  3. Crafter

    I love the depth of the cuts for the Explore but love the software and designs on the Silhouette. I end up using the cameo the majority of the time as the software and designs are much better.

  4. Cynthia

    I’m torn! I have the Explorer and Cameo 3. I love the why the Explorer cuts and how quiet and easy to use it is but Silhouettes software is light years ahead of Cricuts. I wish they would merge and just make the software compatible with Cricut and not require Internet to use, then we’d be talking! Love the Explorer but need the Silhouette software!!

  5. Annette

    I make designs in Indesign or Photoshop and can make jpg, gif, png or bmp. I will not use software from the cutter. Is the cricut an option?

    1. Personal Die Cutting (Post author)

      Hi Annette, Cricut Design Space gives you the ability to upload most .jpg, .bmp, .png, .gif, .svg, and .dxf files for free, and converts them into cuttable shapes. So once you create the design in Indesign or Photoshop, you can upload them to the Cricut software. Hope that helps. More information here:

  6. Joy

    Can I use an ipad for the silhouette cameo 3 or do I need a laptop/pc?

  7. Jessica

    I’m looking to make shirts with sayings and such. Which would be best for thaf?

    1. Shye

      Did you find an answer? This is what I want to use it for also

    2. Kara Weidrich

      Definetly the Cameo. I have both and that’s the one I use! Good luck!

  8. Suki Ross

    How dense were the products that the cricut cut? And thanks for the article. I’m choosing between these 2 right now.

  9. Cindy Lee Watts

    I’m trying to make a decision between these two machines. I use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to design. Would the Cricut Explore Air be the best choice? I am so torn.

    1. Liz

      Hi Cindy. I too use Illustrator to design. Where you able to choose a machine that works best for you?

  10. Michelle Mahler

    I am torn too. If you can design and upload then why is the software an issue?

    1. Chris Williams

      Its not really an issue other than you have to have internet connection to upload and print/cut. I use Design Space to design simple items as well. On a few occasions (like two days before Christmas), the website that hosts Design Space will slow to a crawl because of the high volume of people finishing up gifts. Some of that could be the Internet being slow too (lots of people in my neighborhood were streaming Netflix movies and stuff – so I noticed internet slowness too). If your internet connection is poor, then you might feel frustrated. I use SCAL4 to do most designs on my PC and then use DS to upload and cut – which addresses most of the traffic issues. Other than that – I have had no issues.

      1. Theresa

        They’ve upgraded design space. It’s still in beta but there’s no more lag like there was in the previous version.

  11. Teresa Picard

    We are looking to add a machine to our high school Family and Consumer Sciences department. Which would be more student friendly to use if mostly used for bulletin board letters, shapes for child development lessons, etc.?

    1. Personal Die Cutting (Post author)

      Hi Teresa, if you have internet, I would recommend the Cricut Explore, as it is easier to use.

  12. stephanie

    Hello! I am looking for a machine to make vinyl signs for my husbands dealership. Which machine do you suggest? I plan on using our logo too.

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions or help!

    1. Personal Die Cutting (Post author)

      Hi Stephanie, I would go with the Cricut Explore Air. It cuts better.

  13. Cindy

    Cricut is a disposable product. I’ve killed 2, simply by not using them- they die. I’ve had my original Silhouette for almost 10 years. I cut nothing but vinyl. It is a workhorse.I bought a Cameo 3 just for cardstock. The old little cricut is good for cutting scraps of vinyl

    1. Mel

      I am looking at making vinyl cuts outs for monograms and company logo and such and vinyl stencils for glass etching. Does the Cameo 3 not cut vinyl as well as the original silhouette? The Explore saves projects on internet. Where are projects saved with the silhouette? I live in Canada. I have android products which i know you can’t use with cricut. Can you use android with Silhouette? Having a hard time deciding which machine would be best.

      1. Janice Schnell

        Silhouette stores on your computer. Thierry designs download to the cloud, but you can move them to your computer, if you do choose.

    2. Anonymous

      Good to know – I was given a new still in the box with the original price tag Cricut –
      The lady who purchased was a hoarder and never used it. Could not get it to work finally threw it out.

  14. Kayla

    Which one is better for uploading your own images? I want to make stencils and vinyl stickers.

    1. Kim

      Silhouette definitely if you make your own designs. The software is very graphically strong!

  15. Bill

    It was mentioned that the Silhouette could handle 10-foot-long material (lined?), but there was no such mention for the Cricut. Would the 10-foot material include vinyl for making boat names to put on the stern of a boat?

    1. Anonymous

      So long as the vinyl comes on a liner you don’t need a mat to cut on the Silhouette. I believe the Cricut requires a mat for all cutting.

    2. Kristi Kay Smith

      Yes, the 10ft refers to vinyl. It’s great as there are few limitations in that!

  16. Marilyn Rollins

    I make cards and the thing I don’t like about Explore is that you can’t make a card 8.5 x 5×5 because the software is browser based. If you upload a scan and print card on more than one page it is very difficult to get things the right size to put together. Easier to print off a PDF and cut out by hand. I’m thinking the silhouette might be better for cards.

  17. Tara

    I live in a rural area & have no home internet, have to use phone hot spots. This being said, would the Cameo be the better option for me?

    1. Janice Schnell

      Yes. I love my Cameo. I had a Cricut. Gave it away.

  18. Rhonda

    I had a cricut & gypsy and loved it. But the gypsy isn’t being made any more &
    all the cartridges I purchased which is quite a few,are no good to me anymore since they were put into my gypsy. I knew that when I purchased it, but didn’t know that they would be obsolete. I refuse to buy another cricut product because I refuse to spend anymore with can find some used Gypsy’s but I would still have to buy carts tonuse it. My daughter has a sillouette & loves it so I’m going that route.

    1. Tina

      Check out this link before you give up on Cricut

  19. Audrey

    Contact cricut about the cartridges on your gypsy. They will link them to your Design Spce account for you so that you don’t lose them. They had me send a list and within a few minutes they had them linked on my account.

  20. Kim Staines

    I started out with a Cricut Explore but b cause of the problems that I had and the unreliability of the server connection and continuous glitches after updates, I purchased a Cameo. Fast forward two years. The Explore hasn’t been touched again and I have added an ADDITIONAL Cameo so I can actually run two machines at a time when I am really busy! I love, love, LOVE my Cameos. The software is like comparing a Corvette to a Volkswagen bug. The Cricut being the bug. I WISH I had done my homework better before buying the Explore. I was more into buying into the hype. Just because it works great for some, does not mean it works great for all. Now I have an expensive dust collector. Do LOTS of research before purchasing!

    1. Darla

      Are you willing to sell your dust collected at a discount but fair price? I’m wanting Explorer Air. I am not computer savvy so I think this would be the best choice for me. My daughter lives out upstate and has the silhouette cameo However she is a graphic designer, I do not have much experience on a computer at all. Please let me know if you were interested in selling your desk collector. LOL
      Thank you for your time

      1. Jenny

        Did you ever find a Cricut Explore to purchase? I have a Cricut Expression that I am thinking of selling.

        1. Janine

          Did you ever sell your expression???

      2. Frank

        Post to EBAY and sell it.

  21. Maud Barratt

    I am considering purchasing a cameo but I only have an iPad 2 would this be suitable with the cameo . I did notice in the comparison with the Cricut that the cameo does not need Internet , what would you be able to do with the machine without this .

  22. Angelique

    I have been doing a lot of research on-line and with ladies I know about the Cameo 3 versus Explore Air. I know I have it narrowed down to these 2 machines but don’t know which one would be better to purchase. I plan on using whichever machine I purchase to cut mainly vinyl for t-shirts and such and cardstock for cards, invitation, banners, and holiday decorations. I would also like to be able to cut certain logo’s like Disney, sport’s teams, etc… I have not really considered myself to be very crafty but it is something I have been interested in and I have been wanting to do more of now that I have small kids. I do have unlimited internet through Verizon but it’s not necessarily “high-speed”. I don’t have an Ipad or Iphone. I only use Android and a laptop w/ Windows7. With that being said, I am definitely not even close to being a “computer wiz”, for sure. With everything I have read…the cameo software is more difficult than the explore, however, with both I’m sure it will take me a little bit to learn. I am mainly asking those of you who have experience with both of these machines and using this information I have given, which machine will be the best for me to purchase? Thanks

    1. Paulette

      I own the Cricut Expression and an Air 2. I also own the original Cameo, Cameo 2 (not the most current version) and a Portrait. My Cricut is not being used but I really do believe it is the best machine but the software is horrible, even with the beta. My original Cameo was the worse machine I have owned (and I had a Robocraft before it). They replaced it a few times and each machine was worse than the original.They were never able to get it to work and personally, I felt they really didn’t care. I purchased a Portrait and Cameo 2 bundle and the Cameo 2 is still in the box. I love my Portrait – never had a problem with it!! The silhouette software (Designer ED to use SVG’s) is wonderful and a powerhouse. The Silhouette store is pretty good but if you will need Disney or branded items, u might want to look at what Cricut offers and how you can use those licenses. The internet is not necessary to use the Cameo, but you can copy/import anything you need from it.You can save to your hard drive and open from there or copy and paste – your preference. Pay careful attention to what materials you might need currently and in the near future as the Cameo is not a very powerful machine (but is excellent for cards and vinyl). Banners would be better on the Cameo as Cricut is limited to 24 inches/ 2 ft. Be careful with Sport Teams as they have everything copyrighted. Cricut is awesome with Disney but I am not sure if you can use it professionally but should be ok for items for the children. Don’t be fearful of Cameo’s software as there are a lot of youtubes, groups and classes you can take. I wouldn’t count on any help from Silhouette, but hopefully you won’t wouldn’t need it. You can check out this site for further info on using the Cameo – . The software really isn’t difficult, just read up on it and watch a few videos and you will be just fine. Cricut also has groups and videos – youtube is awesome for both machines. I have used the Design Space for Cricut and am not impressed. Yes, it does some things for you, but once you move past being a newbie,you will need to use a 3rd party software to design with. Thee are good packages available from reasonable to very expensive. With Cameo chances are for what you have stated that you would only need the Designer edition which can be purchased for approx $40. There is a professional version for $200, but it really is for commercial or serious home businesses. Always keep in mind the best machine is the one that will do what you need and you will be comfortable with. Both machines are on sale constantly and can be purchased for $329-$349 on sale almost weekly. Michaels has the Cricut at $349 everyday pricing and the Cameo is on sale quite often. Joann’s and Amazon run sales and Amazon changes prices often to stay competitive. HSN is the king of bundles so always check there. The other stores will have freebies sometimes or a special bundle, but usually HSN wins out for the bundles. Online shops also have specials from time to time. This may be too late to assist you, but hopefully it might help someone else. Have fun!

    2. Carolyn

      Did you end up picking a machine? I want one for the same purposes and wonder what your take on it is?

  23. Anonymous

    I’m still trying to decide which one is best for me. I already have a very old Cricut Expression and I vowed never to spend any money with Provocraft after the legal action they took against SCAL. However, I’m impressed b the range of materials that the Air can cut but I have now been told that the Cameo etches glass. Does anyone have any know,edge if this?

  24. Tinker

    I’m torn between which one of these two machines to buy. I currently use an ancient Cricut Expression and several years ago vowed never to let Provocraft have another penny of my hard earned cash after the legal action taken against SCAL. however, I’m impressed by the strength of the Air and was leaning towards that she to I heard that the Cameo can etch glass? Does anyone have an know,edge of how this is done?

  25. Amanda

    Hello, I am really torn on which one to get, I want to be able to play with designs and add and take things away. Which would you recommend to do that? Thanks for your help.

    1. Paulette

      Cameo’s store and subscriptions will allow you to play as much as your heart desires. Cricut has a store but it isn’t as well stocked, but it has Disney. From time to time Silhouette has had branded artwork also (Batman, Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, Wonder Woman are currently available.). Silhouette also has artwork from crafting industry giants such as Echo Park and Lori Whitlock (among others). The subscription there is tiered and you can purchase as little as you want or a huge package. Cricut has a few options also, but not as much. You purchase what you want with Silhouette but Cricut will allow you to design (try) before you buy.

      You can check out both shops before you purchase a machine and I would suggest you do and also try both software’s. Cameo is a full package design deal while Cricut’s offering is more limited. Both machines are good so ultimately the best one is the one which will do what you want and that you will be comfortable with. Hopefully you aren’t in a rush and can take time to experience both. These are the beginner machines (and the most popular), but there are several others available if your needs go beyond the capabilities of these two.

  26. MARIA

    I have a question….I am about to purchase a machine just cant decided which one will work best because I have never used any of them. I am a planner and will mostly use to print, design and cut downloaded designs. Please help from those whom are experienced. I would love to design shirts but that is not in the plans for now. Mostly cut card stock and normal sticker labels. Advice anyone? I will use my computer (laptop) to download and will definitely need Bluetooth just like my printer.

  27. Dawn Bristlin

    I have a Cricut Explore and lately been frustrated w difficulty creating words from letters. I understand negative spacing and welding, but just can’t get a right font etc. my big complaint is customer support. I like to talk w a perso, and that’s 8 to 8 m-F only…when I’m working. Online chat appears to overseas and I don’t think they’ve used the machines before. Thinking of investing in Cameo 3. Does anyone know how their support is?

  28. Michelle Mosler

    I am trying to decide between the two. I have a MacBook Air. Will either machine work with my computer?


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