Silhouette Cameo 3 vs Cricut Explore Air 2

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It’s the ultimate battle of the craft cutting machines… Cameo 3 vs Explore Air 2.

Which will come out on top?

Silhouette released their hotly anticipated Cameo 3 in July of this year, whereas Cricut held off until mid October before releasing their batch of Explore Air 2s.

You can check out our full reviews and ratings of the Cameo 3 here and the Explore Air 2 here.

When it comes down to choosing the winner of Silhouette Cameo vs Cricut, most crafters find themselves on polar opposite sides of the divide. You’re either a Cricut fan or a Silhouette lover — there’s not much room for ambiguity here!

But these latest releases are certainly tempting all manner of crafters, and they’re certainly in competition for market share.

silhouette cameo vs cricut

Let’s see which one is the right fit for you.

Here’s a quick teaser:

Silhouette Cameo 3 vs Cricut Explore Air 2

NameSilhouette Cameo 3Cricut Explore Air 2
Image Silhouette Cameo 3 Reviewcricut explore air 2
Max Cutting Size12" x 10'11.5" x 23.5"
Bluetooth Connectivity?YesYes
How many materials can it work with?100+100+
SoftwareSilhouette StudioCricut Design Space
VCM Ratingbest budget vinyl cuttervinyl cutting machines
Amazon Price>> Check Best Price>> Check Best Price

Silhouette Cameo vs Cricut: Features

Let’s take a look at the specs of both individual machines first.

Maximum Cutting Size

Both machines are personal, desktop size cutters so their maximum cutting sizes are relatively small — at least in comparison to larger, commercial sized cutters.

The Explore Air 2 has a maximum cutting size of 11.5 inches wide by 23.5 inches long. Relatively compact but perfectly serviceable for the majority of hobbyist crafters.

Unfortunately, cut sizes with the Cricut are limited even further if you use the Print Then Cut function with imported files (instead of buying them direct from the Cricut Image Library). How small the cut size depends on the browser you’re using.

Here’s a guide that advises on the maximum size for Print Then Cut according to browser.

The Cameo 3, on the other hand, packs a bigger punch. It’s maximum cutting size is 12 inches wide (realistically, more like 11.5) by 10 feet long. That’s a good deal longer than the Explore Air 2 can handle and ideal for crafters creating signage or particularly long designs.

How Easy Are They to Use?

If you’re a beginner, choosing whether to buy the Cameo or Explore Air can be tricky. One thing that can be said for both machines, however, is that they’re super easy to use.

The Cameo 3 has a large, intuitive touchscreen that is designed to minimize user errors and encourage confidence in beginners finding their way.

It also has an AutoBlade setting which automatically calibrates the correct blade settings according to what material you’re using — no more fiddling about with cutting depths!

The Explore Air 2 is also perfect for beginners.

The Smart Set Dial on the front of the machine has settings automatically calibrated for the most commonly used materials — including vinyl, cardstock, paper and bonded fabric — while you can select automatic settings for over 80 other materials within the Cricut Design Space software.

Both machines also benefit from Bluetooth connectivity, meaning that you don’t need to be plugged into the machine to design and cut.

We love that we can be design on our iPad while laying on the sofa and then easily send our creation over to the craft cutter without getting up!

cameo 3 vs explore air 2

Cutting Specs

In the battle of Cameo 3 vs Explore Air 2, there is one machine that clearly provides the best cuts.

The Cricut Explore Air 2 consistently delivers precision cutting from its premium German carbide blades, even for the most intricate of designs.

It’s also noticeably faster than the Cameo 3 at both cutting and drawing, thanks to its Fast Mode, which can be used on vinyl, cardstock and iron-on materials. Fast Mode works up to twice as fast in the Explore Air 2 than in its predecessor, the Explore Air.

It also benefits from a dual carriage which allows for writing and scoring or writing and drawing to be completed in one step, instead of 2.

The Cameo 3 also enjoys the benefits of a dual carriage, but it’s cutting isn’t quite up to the standard of the Cricut.

Cutting force is a little weaker and it’s not quite as precise on more intricate designs. It’s also a slower worker.

Both machines can cut over 100 different materials, which is great news for creative crafters and those that love to experiment.

Here’s a good video from Ken’s Kreations about the differences between the machines (as well as against the Brother ScanNCut 2!):

Cameo 3 vs Explore Air 2: The Look

While we all know that you should never judge an electronic craft cutting machine by its cover, there’s no doubt that aesthetics are important — especially if they’re sitting on your desk all day.

Which ‘look’ you prefer is entirely a personal choice.

Here’s the Silhouette Cameo 3:

And here’s the Cricut Explore Air 2 in all its different colors:

cricut vs silhouette

Via Facebook

They’re both of a minimalist design so it really boils down to the colors. The sleek, chic white of the Cameo 3? Or the pretty pastels of the Explore Air 2?

Cameo or Explore Air?

The choice is yours.

Difference between Silhouette and Cricut

It’s also worth exploring the differences between the brands themselves, rather than just the individual machines.

Software and community support are vital in finding success with craft cutting.


The Explore Air 2 comes with the Cricut Design Space software.

It certainly doesn’t pack the punch of heavyweight programs like Illustrator or CorelDraw, but it’s easy to use and certainly ideal for beginners.

For more advanced crafters, you’ll enjoy that you can upload and convert your own designs to cuttable images for free. We’d recommend you design in a separate more advanced program rather than creating them in Design Space.

There’s also a large image library, which is available either by monthly subscription ($9.99 a month) or you can pay 99¢ per download instead. The image selection on offer here isn’t quite as good as Silhouette’s, but it’s not too far behind. There’s a great ‘Make It Now’ section for instant packet projects you can start immediately.

There’s also an app for Design Space, but it’s only available on iPad and iPhone right now. The Android version is still in the works…

Silhouette Studio for the Cameo 3 is a better, more advanced software than Cricut Design Space, but it does have a steeper learning curve and may be a tad overwhelming for beginners at the start.

Silhouette do have a more beginner-friendly version of the software in the works — Silhouette Studio 4.0 — which promises to include walkthroughs, interactive guides and a more streamlined interface than previous iterations.

The release of 4.0 is delayed (as of early November 2016) but is promised as a free upgrade for all Cameo products when it is eventually released.

Just like with Cricut, there is an App available (although this one works with iOS and Android!).

Community Support

Both Cricut and Silhouette have a loyal legion of fans and followers. Once you buy either the Cameo or Explore Air, you’ll find yourself as a fully paid-up member of these engaged communities.

Here’s where you can find out more:



Cameo 3 vs Explore Air 2: Pros and Cons

silhouette cameo 3 vs cricut explore air 2

Now we’re going to list out all the pros and cons of the Silhouette Cameo 3 and Cricut Explore Air 2 so you can see exactly what you’re getting yourself in for when you choose to buy either one of these machines.

Cameo 3 Positives

  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Large cutting size: 12″ x 10′
  • AutoBlade technology
  • Dual Carriage
  • 2mm maximum cutting clearance for thicker materials
  • Works with 100+ materials
  • Intuitive touchscreen with audio alerts
  • Lots of storage for tools
  • Reliable and consistent cutting
  • Media line guides to ensure correct alignment of materials
  • Roller locking mechanism
  • Silhouette Studio software is great for advanced crafters (and the imminent arrival of SS 4.0 promises to cater to beginners)
  • Sleek and chic look

Cameo 3 Negatives

  • Cutting force is a little weak
  • Doesn’t work as precise or as fast as the Explore Air 2

Explore Air 2 Positives

  • Cuts twice as fast as the Explore Air in Fast Mode and is faster than Cameo 3
  • Bluetooth enabled
  • Excellent, precise cuts
  • Automatic settings available through the Smart Set Dial
  • Works with 100+ materials
  • Dual carriage
  • Beautiful pastel colors, sleek design
  • Lots of storage space for tools
  • Cricut Design Space software is easy to use and great for beginners

Explore Air 2 Negatives

  • Smaller maximum cutting size than the Cameo 3
  • No Android app yet available
  • Works quite loudly

Overall Verdict

It’s hard to choose between the Cameo 3 and the Explore Air 2 as while they both have a huge number of positives and great features, there are some compromises to be faced with whichever machine you buy.

If you’re a complete beginner, we’d recommend you go for the Explore Air 2. It’s very easy to use and the software is much better suited to novices.

The Explore Air 2 is also a good buy for crafters who prioritize speed and precision cutting. Remember that you can upload and convert your own designs for free with the Cricut Design Space software so it’s certainly suitable for more advanced crafters.

If you prefer working on larger creations and like to design within the included software, then the Cameo 3 is your best bet. It has a large maximum cutting size and the Silhouette Studio software is comprehensive and promises to only get better with the next version.

We recommend both machines wholeheartedly.

Where to Buy the Explore Air 2 and Cameo 3

We’d always recommend starting with Amazon if you’re interested in deals:

silhouette cameo 3

cricut explore air 2

You can also buy the Explore Air 2 from the Cricut website and the Cameo 3 from the Silhouette website if you’d prefer to buy directly.

Silhouette Cameo vs Cricut: Bundle Deals

Both machines are featured in a huge number of bundles on Amazon and their own company sites and these make a great starting point for both beginners and those buying for a gift.

We’ve recently compiled a couple of guides to the best Cameo and Cricut bundles. Check them out!

>>> The Best Cricut Explore Bundle Deals

>>> The Best Silhouette Cameo Bundle Deals

Which is your favorite in the battle of Cameo 3 vs Explore Air 2?

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