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Both priced reasonably cheap, these machines have opened up vinyl crafts to a whole new generation of enthusiasts.
It is cheaper than ever to cut vinyl; and the machines are arguably easier to use than ever before.
But which is the best machine — the Silhouette or Cricut?
Silhouette Cameo vs. Cricut Explore: The Specs
In our guide below, we take a look at the pros and cons of each machine.
Let’s start with the Cameo.
Silhouette Cameo Specs and Features
The Cameo is an electronic cutting machine targeted at consumers and small businesses. It works with both PC and Mac. The top line specs are that it works with over 100 materials and cuts materials 12 inches wide and 10 feet long.
In terms of cutting size alone, the Cameo is very impressive. It’s also backed up by some of the best consumer software on the market: Silhouette Studio Designer.
- Cuts 100+ Materials
- Includes the most powerful cutting and design software in the market, Free!
- Features a full 12 inch cutting width and mat-less cutting for rolled materials.
- Cut any font installed on your computer.
- Cut precisely around pre-printed materials with Silhouette’s Print & Cut feature!
- Create your own designs, or choose from over 50,000 pre-designed shapes in the Silhouette Online Store.
- All designs, either created by you, or downloaded from the Silhouette Online Store, are yours to keep, forever!
Silhouette has excellent software that is technologically powerful, letting you create designs from scratch, import them, or buy from a huge selection of ready-made images (far greater than what Cricut offers).
You don’t need to have your computer handy to start cutting. You can use a USB stick with saved designs in combination with the onboard touch screen.
It cuts more materials than the Explore (100 vs 60). But after 50, who’s counting?!
It offers an incredible cutting size (for a consumer machine of this price) with a cutting length of 10 feet, but this brings us to…
Whilst marketed as a machine that can cut lengths up to 10 feet long, this is much trickier in practice and reliability issues are common as your cuts increase in size.
The ’10 feet long’ maximum length is a technical possibility that you will have problems with if you actually need cuts of this length.
The software has a difficult learning curve when compared to the software offered by Cricut.
The machine is not as accurate on smaller cuts, perhaps a trade-off of the larger cutting sizes whereby the Cameo loses some precision. But not much — it’s still a high quality cutter!
Cricut Explore Specs and Features
The Explore Air is also an electronic cutting machine targeted at consumers and small businesses. It works with both PC and Mac. The top line specs are that it works with over 60 materials and cuts materials 12 inches wide and 24 inches long.
The Explore comes with the Cricut Design Space software, which is generally seen as easier software for beginners to use (but not ad advanced as Silhouette Studio Designer). The price point is dead on par with the Cameo.
- Embedded Bluetooth for wireless cutting
- Dual carriage for cutting and writing or cutting and scoring in one step
- Upload your own images for free (.svg, .jpg, .png, .bmp, .gif, .dxf)
- Cut over 60 materials from vellum to leather
- Smart Set dial for easy material settings, Free Cricut Design Space online software and iPad app
- Cut Smart precision cutting, works with all Cricut cartridges
The cuts are of exceptional quality where the blade rotates with the direction of the cut. It is *arguably* a higher standard than the Cameo, especially on smaller more intricate designs.
The German carbide blade are long-lasting and don’t go blunt as fast as those in the Cameo.
Cricut’s software makes it super easy to upload your own designs, which can be a bit of a hassle with the Silhouette Studio. In general, Cricut’s software is considered much easier to use than Silhouette’s, but not as sophisticated for intermediate or advanced users.
What’s not to like about the Explore?
Okay, a couple of things.
The software that comes with Cricut Explore is cloud based, meaning that if you have any Internet problems, you’re… out of luck.
Cloud based software is notoriously divisive. Some people love the fact that it requires less maintenance and updating. For others, the idea that your Internet tanking can render the software useless is a BIG pain. On balance, we think Cricut’s cloud-based requirement is a negative.
Likewise, Cricut offers far fewer images ready to buy.
In raw cutting terms, Explore can only cut lengths up to 24 inches, which is considerably shorter than the Silhouette’s headline 10 foot specs.
Overview: Should you buy the Silhouette Cameo or Cricut Explore?
Sorry to come up with an inconclusive answer, but it really does depend on your preferences for the pros and cons above.
- Cricut has the better cutting technology, particularly on smaller designs.
- Silhouette has the better cutting specs in terms of size of cuts.
- Both machines work with a huge range of materials, although Silhouette claims more.
- Cricut has better blades that will last longer.
- Cricut has the better software for beginners.
- Silhouette has the better software for experienced graphics designers.
- Silhouette has a much better library of images ready-to-buy.
- Cricut requires a working Internet connection which will annoy some users.
- Both machines represent great value to their respective buyers.
Note: For more information (and some other brands you might want to consider), check out our guide to the best vinyl cutting machines in 2016.
What do you think, guys?
Cricut Explore or Silhouette Cameo?
Let us know your thoughts.