Cricut Joy vs Silhouette Portrait – What You Need to Know

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It’s no secret that I’m a Silhouette girl at heart. But I’m also a girl that likes to try new things. So when I first heard about the Cricut Joy, I was intrigued. As a cardmaker, would it be a good choice for me? Was it worth the price? Months went by and I never bought one, but then (much to my surprise) Santa left one for me under the Christmas tree! I still wasn’t 100% sure about it though. Would it find a home in my craft room or would it get boxed up and returned to the store? I decided to give it a try and today I’m sharing my first impressions with you – the good and the bad – as well as how it compares to the Silhouette Portrait. (Spoiler alert – I’m keeping it!)

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SIZE & WEIGHT

The Cricut Joy is small, but one of the first things I noticed when I took it out of the box is that it’s also HEAVY! At 3.85 pounds, it weighs only slightly more than its Silhouette counterpart, the Portrait 3, which weighs 3.5 pounds. However, it feels much heavier – most likely due to its compact design.

Cricut Joy package contents and setup

EASE OF SETUP

The setup was very easy. I did everything from my phone by going to cricut.com/setup and following the onscreen prompts. Included in the box was a piece of Smart Vinyl to use as a tester. The online setup instructions allowed me to pick from a few sample designs to make my first cut. My husband chose this bear, which he promptly applied to his new coffee cup as soon as it was cut. Looks pretty good, doesn’t it!

Decal on coffee cup cut on Cricut Joy using Cricut Smart Vinyl

The Silhouette Portrait is also easy to set up but requires a desktop computer. Illustrations are shown on the setup page, but there are no onscreen prompts, nor are there any sample materials included with the machine.

SMART MATERIALS

The sample piece of Smart Vinyl is just one of the Smart Materials made to use with the Cricut Joy. All of the Cricut Smart Materials (including Smart Vinyl, Smart Iron-On, Smart Label Writable Paper, and Smart Label Writable Vinyl) are designed to be cut without a mat. Each one has a special, rigid backer that helps the material feed correctly through the machine and they are easy to use. My sample piece of Smart Vinyl cut beautifully and my husband was able to easily apply it without transfer tape. However, this functionality comes at a price.  

Vinyl decal cut on Cricut Joy using Smart Vinyl

In order for the rollers to grip and load the Smart Materials properly, the Cricut Joy allows 1 inch of material at the top and 0.5 inches of material at the bottom. Pieces need to be at least 4.5 inches wide and 4 inches in length to be loaded into the machine without a mat. If you were to use a piece this small (4 inches in length), your design would be limited to 2.5 inches to accommodate for the allowance at the top and bottom of the material.

The Silhouette Portrait allows for 1 inch of material at the bottom when cutting without a mat, but only needs enough allowance at the top to fit under the rollers. While these measurements sound similar, when compared to the maximum cutting width (4.25 inches for the Cricut Joy; 8 inches for the Silhouette Portrait) the allowance at the top of the Joy results in a larger percentage of unused material.

Smart Materials are also expensive. For example, a 5.5-inch x 10-foot roll of Smart Vinyl retails for $14.99 and the stated width of 5.5 inches includes the 0.25 inches of exposed liner at either side of the roll. This means that each roll includes 600 square inches of vinyl at a cost of 2.5 cents per square inch.

A 9-inch x 10 foot roll of Silhouette vinyl has a MSRP of $9.99 and includes a full 9-inch width of material. This calculates to 1080 square inches of vinyl at a cost of less than 1 cent per square inch. Even when buying Oracal 651 at a per-sheet price of $1.99 (and it can often be found much cheaper, especially when buying in rolls), a 12×12 sheet costs approximately 1.4 cents per square inch.

CRICUT JOY CARD MAT

I’m anticipating that my main use for the Cricut Joy will be cardmaking and for that, the Card Mat (which must be purchased separately) is pretty ingenious. Designed for creating insert cards, the mat is composed of two layers, with adhesive only on the top layer. Slip a folded card over the top layer and the Joy will cut only the front of the card. Refold the card to expose only the inside and use a pen in the Joy to write a greeting or sentiment.

Cricut Joy Card Mat

Cricut sells a wide variety of insert card packs or you can use your own cardstock like I did with this card:

Happy Birthday card cut on Cricut Joy

APPLICATIONS & TOOLS

Here’s where the Cricut Joy really pales in comparison to the Silhouette Portrait. Beyond cardmaking, my use for the Joy will be very limited. Sure, I can cut a quick decal or sketch a label, but with the Silhouette Portrait I can cut a wider variety of materials, create Print & Cut designs, and use the PixScan Mat.

The only tools designed for the Cricut Joy are the pens and the blade, and neither of these are interchangeable with the pens and blades designed for other Cricut machines. By contrast, the Silhouette Portrait uses the same blades, pens, and pen adapters as its big sister, the Silhouette Cameo.

SOFTWARE & CONNECTIVITY

The Cricut Joy uses Design Space on mobile Android and iOS devices and has a dedicated Cricut Joy app available on iOS. So far the apps have worked flawlessly for me and I do enjoy being able to control the Joy from my mobile device. However, with the introduction of the Silhouette Go app, I’ve also been able to cut on my Portrait from a mobile device although there are still some kinks to be worked out with the app at this time. The Design Space desktop application can also be used with the Joy from any Bluetooth connected Windows or Mac computer.

Not surprisingly, I still prefer to design in Silhouette Studio. In my opinion, it is head and shoulders above Cricut Design Space and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to create their own designs. From Silhouette Studio Business Edition, you can save files in SVG format and import them into Cricut Design Space to cut on the Joy (or other Cricut machines). Silhouette Design Store files are also available in SVG format that can be used with the Joy. (More tutorials coming soon on how to do that!)

This card was designed in Silhouette Studio using designs from the Silhouette Design Store and cut on the Joy:

Happy Birthday card designed in Silhouette Studio and cut on Cricut Joy

Designs used:

Birthday Sentiments Sketch with Frames by Jamie Lane Designs, Silhouette Design Store ID #55683

A2 Insert Card Congrats by Lori Whitlock, Silhouette Design Store ID #318787

PRICE POINT

At the time of this writing, the Cricut Joy retails for $179. The MSRP of the Silhouette Portrait is $199, but it can often be purchased on sale or as a bundle deal for less. For a small difference in price, the Silhouette Portrait offers a lot more features. If I had to choose between the two, I would definitely choose the Portrait. But as an add-on machine, I think the Joy will be great for what I want to use it for.

SUMMARY

To recap, here’s my list of Pros and Cons of the Cricut Joy:

Pros

Compact & portable
Easy to set up with onscreen prompts
Sample materials included
Design of Smart Materials (no mat required)
Cuts like a dream
Specialized Card Mat to use with Insert Card Packs or regular cardstock
Mobile app works well and is easy to use

Cons

Heavy
Cost of Smart Materials
Cutting width is limited to 4.25 inches (4.5 inches when cutting without a mat)
Limited applications/no Print & Cut or PixScan functionality
Limited number of tools
Blades and pens are not interchangeable with other Cricut machines
Uses Cricut Design Space software
Bluetooth connectivity only
Price point

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My heart still lies with Silhouette and I have no plans to replace my Cameos or Portrait, but I know I’m going to have fun getting to know the Cricut Joy. I look forward to sharing more about it with you as time goes by.

Do you have a Joy or are you thinking about buying one? After reading this review are you more or less interested in one than you were before? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below or visiting me in the Silhouette Crafters by Design Facebook group. I always love hearing from you!

Until next time,

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