Two very different vinyl cutters, released years apart, and yet with the same MSRP. While the Explore Air 2 may not be Cricut’s flagship vinyl cutter, it’s still one of the most reliable machines on the market for small DIY projects.
Can it hold a candle to Silhouette’s new flagship, the Cameo 4? Is it better or worse, and should you even consider buying it? These questions and more will be answered in this article.
Cricut Explore Air 2 vs. Silhouette Cameo 4 Comparison of Main Features
Cricut Explore Air 2 Main Features
- 350g force
- Smart set dial
- Double tool holder
- Design software
- Compact size
Silhouette Cameo 4 Main Features
- 5kg force
- Multiple tools
- Single tap AutoBlade
- Dual motor system
- Design software
- Touch panel
- Automatic tool detection
Explore Air 2 vs. Cameo 4 Detailed Comparison
Okay now that we know that the Cameo 4 is way stronger than the Explore Air 2 and also a touch more manual, let’s have a more detailed look at how they compare.
Explore Air 2 Ease of Use
Silhouette machines are known for user-friendliness, except when it came to its design software. That’s about the only thing that plagues the Explore Air 2. The differences would mainly be hardware related.
Cameo 4 Ease of Use
The Cameo 4 isn’t just Silhouette’s new flagship vinyl cutter, it is also the manufacturer’s most user-friendly vinyl cutting machine to date. There have been numerous software improvements as well as the addition of a touch panel and a few one-touch operations which simplify the cutting process.
Furthermore, the new weeding tool makes it a lot easier to see where the excess vinyl should be cut from.
The Explore Air 2 is a small machine. Although it may share the same maximum cutting size as the Cricut Maker, it doesn’t have nearly the same cutting power. This machine delivers 350g of downward force. This puts it slightly above the Cameo 3’s 221g of force.
However, the Cameo 4 is a different kind of beast. With improved motors, its 5kg of downward force can handle any projects for small businesses and DIYers.
The extra power allows it to work with very thick and complicated materials, such as leather. This is something that the Explore Air 2 simply can’t do. In this category, the Cameo 4 wins by a landslide.
Cutting speed tells a slightly different story. While the Cameo 4 is faster than the Explore Air 2 in cutting straight lines and has a higher acceleration speed too, the differences may not be as great as you would expect from looking at the difference in cutting force alone.
The Explore Air 2 is already a fast cutting machine, flat out beating the Cameo 3. The Cameo 4 is expected to match the Cricut Maker in cutting speeds, which means that it should be faster than the Explore Air 2 as well, but perhaps not to the point of walking all over it.
The Explore Air 2 won’t help you with really large projects. It’s maximum cutting size is 12”x24”, which is good enough for most projects but not even close to the Cameo 4’s 12”x10’ maximum cutting size.
But do you really have to cut 10ft of anything in one go? That’s a whole other question. The Explore Air 2 already matches Cricut’s most popular machine in cutting size, so you may not need any higher cutting size.
In the tools department, the Cameo 4 wins again. It has three cutting tools as opposed to just one for the Explore Air 2.
Not only is the Cameo 4 more versatile in the tool department but it’s also easier to use the tools — especially given the automatic tool detection feature. This allows the machine to make all the necessary adjustments for you as opposed to the Explore Air 2’s Smart Set Dial (a manual pressure dial.)
Here’s one area in which the Explore Air 2 also performs admirably, though it trails the Cameo 4. The Explore Air 2 is known for its impressive cutting precision.
It is known to be faster and more precise than the Cameo 3, for instance, with a precision comparable to the Cricut Maker, the other top manufacturer’s flagship machine.
With that in mind, the Cameo 4, for all its bells and whistles, may not be that much of an improvement over the very compact Explore Air 2. At least not for very small projects like patches, cards, etc.
This is where things get really interesting. The MSRP for the Explore Air 2 is $349 but it has not been set for the Cameo 4. But it’s expected to retail for about the same or slightly higher than the Cricut Maker.
This means that the Cameo 4 will be about $50 to $100 more (projected).
Verdict: Silhouette Cameo 4 vs. Cricut Explore Air 2
After all is said and done, the Explore Air 2 can’t match the Cameo 4 vinyl cutting machine except for space savings. The latter is Silhouette’s new flagship vinyl cutter with significant improvements over its predecessor.
The Explore Air 2 has been a popular and reliable compact tabletop machine. Its ability to cut and draw simultaneously is a top draw.
However, the Cameo 4 can do everything the Explore Air 2 can, only faster and better. The only catch would be the higher price and larger footprint.
There’s nothing else to say in favor of the Explore Air 2. To recap, it is maybe $50 to $100 less expensive (based on the projected MSRP for the Cameo 4) and smaller, and therefore takes up less space.
The Cameo 4 is the superior vinyl cutting machine through and through but at a higher MSRP.
That being said, not everyone needs that level of versatility or cutting power. If you already own an Explore Air 2 machine, and if you don’t plan on expanding your operation or working with thicker materials, then an upgrade may not be necessary, unless of course, you’ve been using it for a few years. Wear and tear will eventually build up and prompt you to get something new.
There’s also the philosophy of “If you’ve got the money, spend it!” You can always do your part and upgrade to the Cameo 4. You’ll have a new toy that’s fun to use and capable of ramping up your production.