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What are the key differences between Cricut and Silhouette machines?

What are the key differences between Cricut and Silhouette machines?

This common question usually sparks debates and arguing in our Facebook Group because users are fairly opinionated and many of them have only used one machine or the other with no objective view.  Because of this we usually post this article and close the threads.  Whether to choose a Cricut Explore series machine versus a Silhouette Cameo series machine is one of the big questions consumers face.  After using an Explore for a few years and the Silhouette Cameo 2/3, I have a fairly good perspective.  Keep in mind that currently about 99% of what I do is with vinyl or HTV and I do not cut much paper nor do I do writing or other things that many people use the machines to do.

The two are quite different machines for two different types of users, in my opinion. The Silhouette is a little more technical to use with a lot more details to learn within the software. Silhouette Studio is not web based like Design Space for the Cricut Explore, but Silhouette is not without it's own issues that happen from time to time--same with most any software. Design Space 2 was not the best software due to the use of Flash as the platform but Design Space 3 (the current version) is much better (everyone uses the same version).  Features are still lacking in Design Space 3 such as shadow layer, offset, etc, but I suspect they will be added soon because it's essentially the same things I have done on TroyGram.com which are fairly simple from a programming standpoint.  Some users will try to say that Design Space gets slow when too many peope are using it but that is not the case--the infrastructure is designed to handle far more users than are typically on the system at one time (it doesn't run from a tiny server in someone's I.T. closet, it's a huge cloud platform).  However, things such as computers performing Windows Updates or other things can affect performance so while Design Space performance seems temperamental at times, it's almost always related to the computer or Internet speed/quality in some form or fashion.  When Design Space does go down, it's apparent by hundreds if not thousands of posts on Facebook.  Most outages of Design Space are scheduled maintenance.  Silhouette also releases periodic updates to Silhouette Studio and even though it does not require Internet, you must have Internet to download those updates and just like any software, there are sometimes bugs or issues with updates that take time to resolve.  The fact is that regardless of which machine you choose, every software has a subset of users that experience issues.

I have heard Silhouette support isn't good, but I hardly ever have to call support for either and if I do, the person answering the phone can't help me, so that's a difficult one for me to judge. Many people use Sure Cuts A Lot 4 to design SVG files for importing into Design Space and if you are one of them you can probably transition pretty easy to Silhouette Studio or you can use SCAL directly with the Cameo. Silhouette Studio does not import SVGs by default, you have to upgrade to the Designer Edition. I would probably just do the upgrade and use Silhouette Studio.

Cricut strickly uses mats for cutting.  Some people cut materials in the Cricut machines without mats, but it is not designed to do so.  By cutting without a mat in the Cricut you do have a higher risk of damaging your machine or getting vinyl wrapped around the rollers resulting in a mess.  The Silhouette Cameo can cut materials without a mat.  Cricut cutting area is limited to a 12" x 24" mat while the Cameo can cut up to 12" x 10 Feet in length.

The Cameo is MUCH noisier than the Cricut Explore machines with Cricut Maker falling somewhere in between with regards to noise level. The Cameo 2 requires manual adjustments to the blade which can be annoying if you cut a lot of different materials. The Cameo 3 has an auto-blade which allows you to adjust it in the software, but the blade can be out of sync and need reset manually at times. Silhouette has a much larger print then cut capability but I have not used it yet so I can't comment too much on that at this time. Cameo 3 is a larger machine than the Cameo 2 and the Cricut Explore. I have compared cuts on fairly small items with 651 vinyl and could not see any difference between the two when used properly.

When it comes to the Cricut Maker and the various materials and capabilities it has, I believe there is no machine on the market that compares to it's capabilities.  The Maker can use up to 4000g of pressure (350g with most machines) and it has an adaptive tool system that currently offers a rotary blade to cut textiles, a single and double scoring wheel, as well as a knife blade for cutting materials such as tool leather and chipboard.  

After using both, I can say I do like both machines. I will say that for many people who are used to the ease of use with Cricut, they MAY have trouble transitioning. If you like to have finite control and be able to change settings and get into the details, Silhouette is a good choice. If you like to plug it in and do things with minimal learning and faster time to start cutting, then Cricut is a good choice.

Kay Hall also has a great article on her blog regarding the two machines.  The article was penned a couple years ago so there may be some newer information but she provides great and very accurate information on the machines.

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