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1,476 of 1,530 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2012
I am writing this review from the perspective of a comparison between the Cricut Expression 2 and the Silhouette Cameo. My review is also approaching the application of these machines from a more industrial perspective, NOT from and arts & crafts perspective. In other words, what applications can inexpensive computer-controlled cutting machines be put to outside of the usual arts & crafts world, and how do the two most popular machines of that type compare in those divergent applications?

By Arts & Crafts, I am referring to applications that involve the usual 'hearts, flowers, puppy dogs, cupcakes' shape cutting. By Industrial, I am referring to other tasks such as cutting stencils for spray painting numbers on shipping crates, cutting gaskets, cutting of labels and industrial markers, cutting picture frame masks, and so on.

I have obtained and used both machines during the same time period. I have had extensive communications with both manufacturers, both in pre-sales discussions and in post-sales customer/technical support. If I mention a feature of a product, it is one that I have used and verified personally. If I mention a limitation of a product, it is one that I have experienced personally AND also discussed with the manufacturer to see if I was missing something and/or if there was a work-arounf or alternative way of achieving the goal.

Both machines will cut out shapes from sheets of flat materials under computerized control. Both machines are very similar in design and layout, and both work in the same mechanical fashion. Both machines are about the same size and can cut shapes from similar sized pieces of raw material. Both machines use a tiny metal knife that us moved up and down under computer control, while the knife holder moves sideways and the material moved front and back. Both machines use a knife blade that swivels so that it always cuts regardless of the direction the materials is moving in relative to the knife itself.

Other than these similarities, there are significant differences in the philosophy between the two products. Henceforth in this review I will refer to the Cricut Expression 2 as the "Cricut" and the Silhouette Cameo as the "Cameo".

The Cricut is fundamentally designed to provide a wide range of predefined symbols and symbol sets from which the user can select adn assemble the desired craft projects. It does this without the need for any additional equipment, and specifically the user does not need to have a personal computer or have any knowledge of software or computers. It is the more portable of the two products because you can pick it up and take it to another location easily without the need to lug along a personal computer (or have a personal computer in the new location). The Cricut is self-sufficient.

The Cameo is fundamentally designed to act exactly as an inkjet or laser printer does when connected to a personal computer; it is in effect a computer printer that produces patterns by cutting them from material as opposed to producing them by putting ink or toner on material. It cannot be used without a personal computer. Its user mist be able to learn and use computer software, the same as learning other software such as word processors, photo editing, web browser, page layout, and other popular applications. The Cameo is not self sufficient.

The Cricut does not allow the user to create shapes from scratch. You must find a suitable shape, or group of shapes, from within the huge library of predefined symbols that is spread across a large number of Cricut cartridges. It is possible to 'weld' different shapes together and this offers some flexibility, but ultimately the shapes must originate in the cartridges. When the user has a specific shape in mind and cannot alter it to suit what can be found in the cartridges, it can become quite frustrating. In the task of trying to assemble the designed custom shape, the user might have to purchase several cartidges, and they are not cheap. It is also quite possible that the desired shape cannot be cut at all.

The Cameo allows the user to create shapes from scratch. There are no cartridges at all. If the user does not wish to design their own shapes, there is also an extensive library of online shapes designed by other users. Cameo does not limit where the shapes come from, but does offer a great many from their own online library at 99 cents per shape. The user can buy only the shape, or shapes, desired and does not need to buy an expensive cartridge only to get a single shape from it. Instead of purchasing shapes designed by others, the user can draw any desired shape using the compter software, and can offer it to others for use.

The Cricut has a nice display, consisting of a color LCD screen with touch sensitive surface. All the operations can be performed by touching the screen, or for more precise selections a plastic stylus is included. Once a given cartridge is plugged into the Cricut, all of its shapes can be viewed on the screen as tiny thumbnail images, and the desired shapes can be selected to a queue, from which they can be dragged to a virtual cutting mat, showing where they will appear on the material to be cut. Any shape can be selected, enlarged, and resized.

The Cameo has a small simple display like a calculator's or an older cell phones. It diplays only one color and shows only text. It is used for diagnostics and for messages like "Load the material" and "Unload the material". All other operations are done using the included computer software, using the computer's keyboard, mouse and screen.

The Cricut can be used, optionally, with the free Craft Room software on a personal computer. This software must be downloaded from the Cricut website; it is not included with the machine. The software includes a library of all currently known cartridges, and allows the user to assemble a complete cutting session before the actual cartridges needed have been purchased. The Craft Room software will not function unless the computer is currently online with Cricut; this is important, since it means that you must have an internet connection anywhwere that you want to use the Cricut in conjuction with the Craft Room software. The Craft Room does not allow the user to design their shapes, but it does provide a more user-friendly interface for the Cricut, since more tools and objects can be viewed on the larger computer screen.

The Cameo must be used with the included Studio software; this comes on a CD-ROM in the box with the machine. For a fee of about $50, it will upgrade itself to the more advanced Designer Edition. The main advantages of the Designer Edition are the ability to import a wider range of graphics from other programs. Both the regular version and the Designer Edition allow the same design and cutting functionality, so for most people there is no need to buy the Designer Edition. The Cameo's software only needs to be online with the Silhouette website when you wish to purchase shapes from their library, or when you wish to do an upgrade to a newer version. Otherwise, the software works without the need for an internet connection.

The Cricut includes a white LED headlight next to the blade, so you can see what it is cutting as it does so. The Cameo does not have such a light.

Both machines use cutting mats, which are clear plastic sheets with a special adhesive on the top surface to make it a bit tacky. This holds the material to be cut so that it does not slide around during cuttings. The mats wear out due to wear from the blades cutting through into them, and from the adhesive wearing out.

Both machines use blades that attach to a tool holder on the machines. The Cricut uses tiny blades that fit into a blade holder, while the Cameo requires the user to replace the blade holder when the blade wears out; this makes the Cameo blades a bit more expensive, but on the other hand it is much easier to handle the larger blade holder then it is handling the tiny (and sharp!) Cricut blades. The Cricut blade depth can be adjusted while the blade holder is attached to the machine, whereas the Cameo blade holder muct be removed from the machine in order to change blade depth. Both machines seem to cut equally well.

The Cricut is not intended to make its cuts on specific areas of the mat (you can get close, though, using the Craft Room software). The Cameo allows very precise cuts relative to the material, so you can specify that a shape be cut starting 1/2", for example, from the edge of the material.

The Cricut is not intended for cutting out pre-printed materials; it is intended to cut out shapes in different materials (of materials of different colors) that can be later assembled to form a multi-colored overall shape.

The Cameo is not a printer, but it does allow importing and designing shapes in any desired color or combination of colors. Then it will send the image to the printer of your choice, printing on the material to be cut; this is limited only by the ability of your printer. The Cameo software will print registration marks on the printed sheet, and when the printed sheet is then loaded into the Cameo machine, it used an electric eye to scan for the registration marks, and will syncronize and align the cutting with the pre-printed images. This allows an infinite number of printed images and cut shapes to be made. The syncronized cuts are very accurate, matching the desired printed images. The user can specify where the cuts are to be made relative to the printed shapes, or the software can automatically figure it out. This even applies to graphical objects imported into the Cameo software, as opposed to being designed in that software.

The Cricut requires that all text come from the cartridges, so the user is very limited in regards to available fonts. The Cameo software can use any True Type font that is installed on the computer, which means pretty much all fonts available to other Windows applications, and of course you can download any font you want from the internet.Since none of the Cricut cartridges include a 'stencil' style font, you cannot easily use it to cut stencils for painting signs and such.

I find that overall, the Cricut is probably a better choice for people interested in arts & crafts projects, or for people who don't have or don't care to use a personal computer. I find that the Cameo is better for people who are prepared to use a personal computer and who desire complete freedom in what shapes they cut.

Finally, I have found that emails to Cricut take four to fives days before a reply arrives, whereas emails to teh Cameo folks are answered almost immediately, and with real and useful responses. I have found that phone calls to Cricut require long waits on hold (typically 20 to 30 minutes) and then often the person answering the phone does not know the answer and transfers me to another group of tech support people, with another long wait. Evbery time I have called the Cameo folks, I have gotten through very quickly. Most importantly, it seems that Cricut support people either know the software or the machine, but nor both. The Cameo folks know both the software and the machine, since they must be used together. My experiences with the Cricut software included issues with getting the software to recognize the machine, whereas in my experience, the Cameo software was more bullet proof and installed easily and recognized the machine every time without trouble.
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166 of 185 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2011
This is another great Cricut machine. It cuts great. No need for an overlay, you can see it on your LCD. You can also zoom on the images so you can see them even larger. It cuts with all Cricut cartridges.
As far as the other reveiewer, this is not a machine that lets you cut out images that you design on your own. If that is something you wish to do, you need to explore other types of cutting machine. With Cricut, they have cartridges that you insert into your cutting machine. They have over 300 cartridges that you can buy with many different types of images available. There are so many to choose from.
Cricut has great quality products. They even have a Cricut Craft Room where you can purchase and design online and then you can cut it with your Cricut machine.
This is another awesome Cricut machine. You will love it!
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104 of 118 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2011
I was sooo excited when I bought my new Cricut Expressions 2. Couldn't wait to use it! I've got the original Cricut (small) and have used my Mother and my neighbors Cricut Expressions. But now I was the one with the Cricut Expression 2...the newest one! Just bought it today..played around with it...I'm returning it tomorrow and buying the Sillouette Cameo.
The first Expressions was easier to use. A few things.
1} The touch screen (stylist included) made it difficult for me to simply load and unload my paper. You have to exit a screen to get to the next screen just to click on the Load and Unload button.
2} Same issue with resizing and adjusting position. You need to exit a screen, click a couple arrows to get to the icons to do the task.
This made me miss the instant buttons that are on the previous version. Simply press a button for pressure, quantity etc. Now you must scroll through menus to do these things. Just not as simple.
4} There is no upper flap to open when starting. Only a bottom flap. This bottom flap is short and thick, causing the mat and paper to dangle a bit too much over. This dangling that the mat does causes the paper on it to lift due to the bend, and in turn begins to shift while cutting.
5} The solution to this would be to download the Cricut Software which will allow me to do all this on the computer. However, there are many issues with the software, and is not allowing me to download due to a driver issue( not on my end)My husband is an I.T engineer, so not even he could troubleshoot this. And as he looked more online, he discovered this is a problem right now for many.
6} I was a huge Cricut fan! But Cricut is the only die cutter that makes you buy there software (over $50.00) and you can only use their cartridges and templates. Unlike other die cutters who include software with your purchase. (I discovered this after being very disappointed with my new purchase and began researching online of other die cutters.)
I am going to be purchasing the Sillouette just came out last month...I will post my review then! :)
I gave two stars cuz once you get it to cuts great! and is super quiet! But you still can only really cut cardstock or thicker. Anything thinner will snag in the Cricut.
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54 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2012
I've been using the Silhouette craft cutter for the past 2 years and found it terribly difficult. I just received my Cricut Expression 2 and am totally in love! SIMPLE to operate, intuitive and thoughtfully engineered. Yes you have to use their cartridges, yes you cannot create your own stuff (images) but since I am not a graphic designer I find this machine completely refreshing. The only drawback I would comment on is it's size. It is simply huge. I'm not familiar with the previous models but it is much bigger than the silhouette.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2013
I am a Cricut fan and LOVE my Cricut Mini and Cuttlebug. I have made numerous items for friends, family and even accessories for set design for a local dance studio on my Mini without any issues. I bought an Expression2 (E2) because I wanted to be able to make larger boxes, bags and vinyl projects but it has been nothing but a headache.
The first E2 machine I received never even responded to touch screen commands. This model does not have the buttons that other Cricut machines have so you are not able to even load paper if the touch screen is not working. I boxed the machine back and attempted to exchange it only to be told that ProvoCraft does not allow retailers to exchange products or accept returns, everything must be done through ProvoCraft. I could understand if I had used the machine for a while, but this was literally the next day after I purchased the machine. So I spent the better half the day on the phone with Cricut support each time being told one or two things to try and then to call back to wait another 30+ minutes on hold if that didn't work.
After several days of these shenanigans I called the Better Business Bureau to see if I could log a complaint and they asked me to call ProvoCraft one more time to obtain the information the BBB suggests a complaint include and let a support manager know my intentions. Suddenly they could let me mail my machine back in and said I would receive a shipping label via email. Four days later I had to call back in and get pretty firm to get the FedEx shipping label finally sent to me. When I took the box to FedEx they said it would be $40 for them to make me a box because the E2 does not fit in any standard box. Luckily a guy standing behind me in line said he often ships with FedEx and would put two of the boxes together for me. Even with this gentlemen's kindness, it cost me $19 to buy two boxes to ship the box.
I watched the tracking number from FedEx and called ProvoCraft almost a week after they received the machine and was told that their warehouse had not inprocessed the box yet. More frustration and time to get PC to finally ship me a new machine which arrived in the mail yesterday, a full month after I bought the first lemon.
The new machine works wonderfully when using a cartridge directly in the machine but when using Cricut Craft Room takes 30 minutes to an hour to cut one page of images due to frequent long pauses and sometimes freezes up and quits cutting all together. This means I cannot use all the digital cartridges and images I bought from with the E2. Plus I don't want to design large projects on the tiny touch screen. Support states that the machine they sent was several firmware versions behind- why would you mail someone a replacement machine that is several versions behind? I have made 5+ calls between today and yesterday because the new machine will not update- Support has had me try to update the firmware, update the cartridge files, attempt a format and restore and more hard resets then I think would be good for the machine. After all this, Support tells me that they really think they need one of their technical people to dial in and troubleshoot the machine. They then say that someone will be available towards the end of next week and ask if mornings, afternoon, or evenings are better. When I asked for which day, the support rep said, they can't say which day it will be but most likely next Wed-Fri. Even if I didn't have a job and outside life, who has the time to just sit in front of your machine for even a portion of 3 days waiting for a call?
I have received better customer service when I have purchased a $10 item and had an issue. In this case I have spent hundreds of dollars on the new E2, larger mats, etc. and I ready to return it and take the hit on the $20% restocking fee.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2012
Bought this item a week ago. Expression 2 has amazing features, one being able to design and create on your laptop. Well, in order to use this you have to long on to Cricut Craft room. The server does not allow you to get in 80% of the time. The program stalls and locks up making you reboot the machine. This machine was supposed to be for enjoyment and entertainment. Cricut has a Facebook page, which I wish I had read the reviews before purchasing this. SO many complaints. DO not purchase this item unless you have a couple hundred dollars to throw away.
Cricut Expression 2 Electric Cutting Machine
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54 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2012
I have a Cricut Create, which is a smaller older version of this machine, and I was really getting to love it. My dad offered to get me the Expression 2 as a Christmas gift, and I was beyond excited. That was 12/10/11 when we ordered the machine, it is now 2/1/12, almost 2 months, and 4 machines later, and I still do not have a working machine.

I first ordered the machine from the manufacturer, ProvoCraft, and they, of course, sent me the wrong machine. It took ProvoCraft over 2 weeks to send someone to pick it up - this is now after Christmas, and a full month to get a refund. In the meantime I bought one from Joann's, which I soon discovered struggled with the most basic of shapes - the circle. Apparently, a known problem with the Expression 2 is that it does not cut rounded shapes well. After, hours, actual hours, of my time on the phone with support (which is absolutely awful, the worst I've experienced with any company), replacement parts being sent, updating firmware, and content, countless emails to support, the machine stopped working completely.

I was able to exchange it at Joann's, although I would have liked to return, unfortunately my dad threw away the box. The new machine had the exact same problem as the hold machine. I tried to cut an oval and it came out looking like a tombstone, a circle looked like a football. More hours spent on the phone with ProvoCraft. I've called twice last week, and twice this week. Customer service does not do what it says it's going to do. They said they would email me a shipping label, and I could ship my machine back and they'd a new one. 2 days later, no shipping label. Called PC again, spoke to supervisor, who was physically incapable of producing a shipping label, and said there was a 72 hour processing time. 140 hours later I finally get me label. I have absolutely no faith that the new machine will work, or that PC will even ship my new machine for weeks.

The free Craft Room software is buggy, and is constantly being updated. Solving one problem, but creating another. I couldn't link cartridges before, but I could cut. Now, I can link cartridges, but I can't cut. It's slow. I have a brand new computer, and sometimes I have to go make a sandwich and come back before a change will appear on the screen.

Having to buy cartridges sucks. They're $90, although they can usually be found on sale for around $30. Fonts are very limited, and very childish.

If you couldn't make it through my whole review, here's the breakdown:

- This is not a professional tool. Cartridges are limited and geared towards stay at home moms.

- There are a lot of know issues with it and kinks that need to be worked out.

- If you luck upon a working E2, then it's definitely a great find, and a very cool piece of equipment.

- Do not count on your machine working out of the box or ever.

- Cricut support is a nightmare to deal with. The absolute worst. Keep in mind that you will probably receive a machine that has some issue, and in the event of that happening, you will literally have to spend hours on the phone, and months waiting for your issue to be resolved.

- Do some research. There are several other die-cut machines on the market at the same price point that may work better for you depending on what your needs are.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2012
The Cricut Expressions 2 arrived in a timely manor and in good shape due to it being packaged with care. The machine is all of what I expected it to be. I expect to have many fun hours scrapbooking and card making plus many other projects. I purchased it on and the price was the lowest I could find.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2012
I have been pricing Cricut's for several months. I have tried to work with one and found it very easy to create what I wanted. I love my Cricut and have made so many things with it and plan to do a lot more when school is out this summer!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2013
this machine will only download updates via wifi, you can not cut. in order to do that you still have to hook up the computer to the machine.

also, you can not use "sure cuts a lot" with this machine. basically this means that the only images you can use are the ones you purchase with cartridges. you can not use any other programs to design or import any images from your computer or internet for your projects.

you will be a total prisoner of cricut
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