Ease of Use
Any experienced crafter can tell you that finding the right tools for the job makes all the difference. If you’re interested in upping your game and exponentially expanding your ability while saving time and energy on the manual work, you might want to consider investing in a CNC (Computer Numeric Control) machine. These cool little pieces of technology allow you to make complex patterns in seconds by preprogramming that design into your appliance.
Whether you’re just jumping into your newfound hobby or you’re an experienced crafter, DIY crafts have never been easier than they are today. But which machine should you get? There are several to choose from, and it can be hard to spot the difference. If you do much browsing around, you’ll see that two of the most popular CNC machine manufacturers are Silhouette and Cricut.
The most comparable models will be the Cricut Explore Air 2 and the Silhouette Cameo 3. But if you’re not sure which of the two will work better for your needs, or you want to know how they perform against each other, look no further. We have compared these two crafting powerhouses on 5 of the most important qualities for the CNC machine of your dreams.
One of the first qualities you will want to compare the two on is precision. And when it comes to precision cutting, nothing comes close to the calculated clean cuts of a Cricut Explore Air 2. Its German-manufactured carbide blades are up to the task of slicing intricate designs into things like cardstock, iron-on materials, and even vinyl.
The Cameo, on the other hand, performs a bit less precisely. On small and intricate designs, it doesn’t perform as well as the Cricut and it also lacks for ability to cut some harder materials. While it’s still a great CNC machine, the Cameo just can’t compete to the Cricut’s ‘shear power’.
This round goes to the Cricut Explore Air 2, the most precise slicer around.
Another quality you will want to take note of is the general performance of the machine. How quickly does it cut?
The first thing to note about the Cricut, as far as speed it concerned, is that it comes with a ‘Fast Mode’ that does exactly what the name suggests; it will get your job done more quickly than you may have thought possible. Also, it is equipped with a dual carriage for simultaneous writing and scoring or writing and drawing in one fluid motion.
The Cameo also has a dual carriage, but it still performs a bit more slowly than the lightning-fast Cricut. All in all, it’s another victory to the Cricut Explore Air 2.
Ease of Use
One of the most important aspects of using a CNC machine is the user-friendliness of the interface. A key element of that is always going to be the software.
The Explore Air 2 comes with Cricut Design Space, Cricut’s proprietary software. It’s very intuitive and easy to use, but the simplistic nature of the software also means that it has limitations. This can be worked around by creating designs using more powerful software and then uploading or converting your designs, which is free to do. In addition to this, you will have access to a fairly extensive design library with flexible payments options. You can either pay a monthly subscription of $9.99 for unlimited use or pay $0.99 per download. There is an app for compatibility with iPads and iPhones, as well.
The Silhouette Cameo 3, on the other hand, uses Silhouette Studio. This software is much more powerful and advanced than Cricut Design Space, but that means it is less easy to use for beginners and has a much steeper learning curve. Silhouette Studio also has an app, and it is compatible with both Apple’s iOS and Android.
All things considered, the Silhouette Cameo 3 takes the cake for user convenience and compatibility options. More powerful software, while more challenging for new crafters, will ultimately be a great convenience and the fact that the app works on Android phones is a huge help to people that don’t use iPhones.
If you are an avid crafter, you are likely to use more than paper in your projects. That’s why it’s so important to compare which materials each CNC machine can cut and what the maximum print size is.
While both of these machines are considered personal desktop cutters, there is a clear winner in terms of print size: the Silhouette Cameo 3 can cut 12 inches by 11 feet long. The Explore Air, on the other hand, can only cut 12 inches by 2 feet. Both of these machines will get the majority of jobs done just fine, but if you have something grandiose in mind you may lean slightly towards the Cameo.
And while both of these machines can cut over 100 different materials, we know that the Cricut Explore Air 2 does a much better job of cutting harder materials vinyl and cardstock without error.
If you need the CNC machine that is going to be more reliable when cutting a wide variety of materials, definitely go for the Cricut. If you plan to do a lot of rather large projects, you may want the Cameo for its much larger printing and cutting capabilities. A little goes a long way, in the world of crafting.
While all of the above features are extremely important towards making your decision, the final thing you’ll want to know is what the price tag will be.
Fortunately, this is where the two machines are most similar; both the Cricut Explore Air 2 and the Silhouette Cameo 3 have a recommended retail price of $299.99. If you make the purchase on Amazon or another similar website, you’ll be likely to find them both at a discounted $249.99.
This means that they are in a dead heat tie when it comes to pricing, so you should base your decision solely on the features and specifications of each cutter.
Now that we’ve compared the features and price tag of both of these crafting powerhouses, it’s time for the ultimate verdict. Because of its superior function and performance, the winner today is the Cricut Explore Air 2. While it doesn’t excel in every category, it does a much better job when you need it most. It is the most versatile and physically powerful machine, and many of the drawbacks and be worked around. With a Cricut, you know you’ll be able to get the job done.