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Creality 3D Ender 3 Pro Review

If you are looking for an inexpensive bare-bones printer and don't mind making some adjustments to it, then the Ender 3 is an exceptional choice
Best Buy Award
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Price:   $260 List | $216 at Amazon
Pros:  Great budget buy, solid printing capabilities, decent print quality
Cons:  Finicky with ABS, can require a bit of tinkering
Manufacturer:   Creality 3D
By Austin Palmer, David Wise, and Jenna Ammerman  ⋅  Aug 15, 2019
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62
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 13
  • Print Quality - 40% 6
  • Ease of Use - 30% 6
  • Print Capabilities - 20% 7
  • Support - 10% 6

Our Verdict

If you are looking to spend as little as possible for a new 3D printer, the Creality Ender 3 Pro is our top recommendation for anyone shopping on a skinnier budget. This printer has a decent set of capabilities, produces solid prints, and is fairly easy to use, all while being significantly more budget-friendly than the top-tier or mid-range 3D printers. However, this 3D printer does require a bit more tinkering than some of the others and it did struggle with printing ABS in our tests. Despite that, this is an excellent option if want a low-cost 3D printing solution and don't mind making some adjustments or DIY upgrades to get the most out of your machine.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award 
Price $260 List
$216.00 at Amazon
$2,500 List
$2,499.00 at Amazon
$1,300 List
$1,299.00 at Amazon
$600 List
$456.00 at Amazon
$520 List
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Pros Great budget buy, solid printing capabilities, decent print qualityGreat prints, ready to go out of the box, easy to use, extensive supportExtremely easy to use, good prints, good valueGreat value, large build areaExceptional print quality, helpful customer support
Cons Finicky with ABS, can require a bit of tinkeringExpensivePLA only, proprietary filamentNonexistent support, little harder to useMuch harder to use, mediocre capabilities
Bottom Line If you are looking for an inexpensive bare-bones printer and don’t mind making some adjustments to it, then the Ender 3 is an exceptional choiceAn exceptionally capable printer at a premium priceA great value option for those that want a simple and reliable printer that just works without a lot of fussIf you are searching for a solid printer on a budget and don’t mind doing a little tinkering, then this model is the perfect choiceIf you want to print high-quality display models, then the Photo should be your first choice
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Rating Categories Creality 3D Ender... Ultimaker 2+ Sindoh 3DWOX DP201 Creality 3D CR-10S Anycubic Photon
Print Quality (40%)
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
10
Ease Of Use (30%)
10
0
6
10
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7
10
0
9
10
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6
10
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2
Print Capabilities (20%)
10
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7
10
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7
10
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5
10
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8
10
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5
Support (10%)
10
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6
10
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7
10
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6
10
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2
10
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7
Specs Creality 3D Ender... Ultimaker 2+ Sindoh 3DWOX DP201 Creality 3D CR-10S Anycubic Photon
Build Volume (XxYxZ) 200x200x250mm 223x223x205mm 210x200x189mm 300x300x400mm 115x65x155mm
Maximum Extruder Temperature 255°C 260°C 220°C 260ºC Not applicable
Layer Cooling Fan? 2 2 1 2 Not applicable
Heated Bed Yes Yes No Yes Not applicable
Build Plate Material Aluminium build plate with a magnetic course plastic sticker Glass Flexible rubber Glass Aluminum
Maximum Bed Temperature 110°C 100°C 0°C 135ºC Not applicable
Compatible with Generic Filament? Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Included Nozzle sizes 0.4mm 0.4mm installed (0.25mm, 0.6mm and 0.8mm included) 0.4mm 0.4mm Not applicable
Print layer Height range 0.1 - 0.4mm 0.25mm nozzle: 0.1 5- 0.06mm
0.40mm nozzle: 0.2 - 0.02mm
0.60mm nozzle: 0.4 - 0.02mm
0.80mm nozzle: 0.6 - 0.02mm
0.05 - 0.4mm 0.1 - 0.4mm .025mm - 0.1mm
Filament Size 1.75mm 2.85mm 1.75mm 1.75mm 405 nm resin
PLA? Yes Yes Yes Yes Not applicable
ABS? Yes Yes No Yes Not applicable
Network Printing No No Yes No No
Standalone (SD card or USB drive) Printing Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Ender 3 Pro is much more suited to a hobbyist or DIYer who doesn't mind having to troubleshoot the occasional issue without a ton of support or adding in a few aftermarket upgrades that can significantly improve the overall quality of this printer.

If you are shopping for a 3D printer on a tight budget  the Ender is a great option.
If you are shopping for a 3D printer on a tight budget, the Ender is a great option.

Performance Comparison


To find out which 3D printer truly tops them all, we compared dozens of different machines, then bought all the most promising to try out for ourselves and score their performance side-by-side. We graded the performance of the Ender 3 Pro in four different categories, with our results and tests described below.

The Ender 3 has surprisingly good print quality given its budget nature.
The Ender 3 has surprisingly good print quality given its budget nature.

Print Quality


First and foremost, we rated and compared the quality of the 3D prints produced by the Creality Ender 3 Pro, which makes up 40% of its total score. To score performance, we attempted to print out our selection of test prints in both PLA and ABS and had a panel of judges assess their quality. Each test print was selected to evaluate a particular attribute of the Ender 3's printing abilities, such as fine details, overhanging geometry, bridging, or print-in-place articulated prints. The Ender 3 did decently well in these tests, creating a set of test prints that are overall just above average compared to the rest of the printers in the pack.


Overall, the Ender 3 did a much better job when printing in PLA versus in ABS, with almost every single PLA print scoring quite a bit higher than its ABS counterpart. Our first pair of models were the 3D Benchy (a model specifically designed to be a 3D printer torture test) and a bridging test. The Ender 3 did very well with the Benchy in PLA but delivered relatively lackluster results in both in ABS. In PLA, the Benchy had all the fine details and a smooth surface finish but the ABS model had a bit of layer separation.

This Creality printer made a phenomenal 3D Benchy in PLA.
This Creality printer made a phenomenal 3D Benchy in PLA.
The Ender 3 completely blew us away in the bridging test in PLA, delivering an almost perfect performance. It only had the slightest droop on the longest spans and one extra string of plastic. The ABS bridging was alright but there was again some pretty severe layer separation in the model. The Eiffel Tower prints were a bit of a mess, with the Ender failing to print the model at all in ABS and its PLA version being a stringy disaster.

We were blown away by the bridging performance of the Ender.
We were blown away by the bridging performance of the Ender.

The Ender 3 printed an almost perfect PLA model in the overhang test, with even the steepest overhangs having an impeccable surface finish on the underside. The ABS overhangs were alright but the model warped and separated a ton, making it hard to judge accurately. This printer also fared very well with the articulated elephant in PLA, producing a very clean model that moved well and looked great. As expected at this point, the ABS model had a bunch of layer separation but otherwise looked pretty good.

To test dimensional accuracy, we printed a file with an opening that should perfectly fit a nickel. Regrettable, the Ender was a bit of a disappointment in this test in both PLA and ABS, tending to print oversized. There was plenty of visible space around the nickel and it could even slide around.

The articulated prints came out fine but the nickel tests were a bit oversized for the coin.
The articulated prints came out fine but the nickel tests were a bit oversized for the coin.

The Ender 3 Pro didn't do quite as well with our more difficult to print articulated model — a moveable platform jack. The mechanism works in PLA but it doesn't raise and lower as smoothly as some of the others and it was much harder to break apart initially than we would have liked. The ABS model failed to print. The wireframe cube in PLA exhibited some great bridging with minimal sagging while the ABS version had exceptionally stringy bridges with lots of dropping and the top was essentially not connected to the rest of the print.

The Ender's platform jack isn't the best we have seen but it still can be raised and lowered fairly easily.
The Ender's platform jack isn't the best we have seen but it still can be raised and lowered fairly easily.

This 3D printer impressed us quite a bit with its performance when printing both of our low-poly figurines — at least with PLA. It matched the performance of the top-tier printers with one of the models and only had some slight defects in the other that would easily be removed if you did any post-processing on the print. Both ABS models had a good surface finish and would have looked almost identical to their PLA counterparts, had there not been — you guessed it — considerable layer separation.

The overhanging geometry of the low-poly figures came out clean but the Ender struggled a little with some of the finer details.
The overhanging geometry of the low-poly figures came out clean but the Ender struggled a little with some of the finer details.

Our spiral vase model tested out how easily the Ender could deal with thin wall and delicate geometry. It did very well in both ABS and PLA, with only the slightest layer separation in the ABS version. This printer did well with the supports test in PLA but poorly in ABS. We did need to use a pair of pliers to remove the supports but they popped out cleanly and the underside of the supported area looks great. The ABS version didn't really get supported due to layer separation, so the surface of the supported area is marred by defects. The tall tower test is to assess the amount of Z-axis wobble the Ender has, which unfortunately is quite prevalent, present in both the ABS and PLA results.

There was a significant amount of Z-Axis wobble evident in the tower prints by the Ender 3.
There was a significant amount of Z-Axis wobble evident in the tower prints by the Ender 3.

Our final two test models are a jar with a corresponding screw-on lid. The PLA versions were alright, with the jar coming out much cleaner than the lid but you could thread on the lid without too much work.

The threaded jar and lid by the Creality Ender 3 were fairly mediocre in quality.
The threaded jar and lid by the Creality Ender 3 were fairly mediocre in quality.
Both the ABS lid and jar were tons of strings and the threads didn't fit together smoothly. Additionally, there was also the usual layer separation on the jar.

The Ender 3 isn't the easiest to use but it isn't too bad once you get the hang of it.
The Ender 3 isn't the easiest to use but it isn't too bad once you get the hang of it.

Ease of Use


After assessing print quality, we moved on to rating and scoring how much work it was to get the Ender to actually print things. We focused on the difficulty of leveling the bed and the initial setup and assembly of each printer, as well as the ease of swapping the filament, the quality of the interface, and the various ways you could send a file to the 3D printer from your computer to determine scores, which are responsible for 30% of the Ender's total results. This 3D printer is one of the easier models to use, earning it an above-average score.


Right off the bat, the Ender did distinguish itself by requiring a bit more assembly than any of the other printers we have tested to date. While this can seem like a daunting task, it actually isn't too bad — just a bit time-consuming.

There is a fair amount of assembly to get the Ender ready to go.
There is a fair amount of assembly to get the Ender ready to go.

It took us about an hour to bolt all the parts together and get the wires plugged into the right locations and the included documentation is great at leading you through the entire process, which is fairly straightforward. Creality has its own software for running the printer or you can use any of the popular third-party programs, like Cura.

It's about so-so in difficulty to level the bed on the Ender. It is an entirely manual process, forcing you to disable the stepper motors and push the extruder head around to various points on the bed but you can download user-created files that will move the head to the five necessary points to automate part of the process. We also liked that the adjustment knobs are large and exceptionally easy to turn, allowing you to finely adjust the bed height. Unfortunately, the unit we tested had a slightly warped bed that no amount of leveling could fix but the addition of a third-party glass print plate solved this for the most part.

The bed leveling adjustment knobs are very easy to turn.
The bed leveling adjustment knobs are very easy to turn.

You can either manually feed in new filament or use the semi-automatic process — we found we vastly preferred to just use the tension release lever on the extruder and feed the filament in ourselves, rather than use the extruder motor to do it.

The assembled Ender seems a little less finished than many of the top products.
The assembled Ender seems a little less finished than many of the top products.

Files can be sent to the printer through either a microSD card or a USB cable — typical for these products — and the interface is quite nice, showing you plenty of relevant information in an easy to read way while the machine is operating.

The Ender 3 has a decently expansive set of printing capabilities given its bare-bones nature.
The Ender 3 has a decently expansive set of printing capabilities given its bare-bones nature.

Print Capabilities


Next, we rated and scored the print capabilities of each product — basically looking at how large of items it can print and its material capabilities, as well as software compatibility. This is responsible for 20% of the final score of each printer, with the Ender earning an above-average score for its solid set of printing abilities.


As mentioned above, the Ender 3 Pro does have its proprietary slicer but you aren't restricted to only using it. This printer works with other programs, like Cura or Repetier-host, and we found we usually preferred to use Cura for slicing. The Ender had a decent build volume of about 8.66"x8.66"x9.84" (220mmx220mmx250mm) and has a detachable print surface that attaches magnetically to the machine. We found this to be great for printing PLA but struggled with bed adhesion issues when using ABS. We added a third-party glass print bed to solve this for ABS tests — a fairly inexpensive addition.

This printer is compatible with any 1.75mm filament that doesn't require more than 255°C to melt.

The included filament holder mounts right to the top of the machine.
The included filament holder mounts right to the top of the machine.

It also has a single layer cooling fan in addition to the hotend cooling fan for materials that require immediate cooling after extrusion and a spool holder right on the top of the machine.

Customer support with the Ender isn't exactly a sure thing.
Customer support with the Ender isn't exactly a sure thing.

Support


Our last testing metric dealt with the level of customer support and service each printer has, which constitutes the remaining 10% of the final score. To score this, we compared the warranty of each printer and the quality of the included documentation, as well as the ease of contacting the manufacturer's support team and how helpful they were in response to our questions.


Creality has around a handful of tutorial/how-to videos to help you get the machine up and running. Unfortunately, we couldn't find a phone number to contact them through but we did find an email and contact form. Unfortunately, we were directed by Creality to the seller but the seller was very responsive and even offered to provide free replacement fans when we told them they were broken and sent a video of the broken one. This printer states it has a 1-year limited warranty but we aren't sure how confident we would be in that after Creality's response to our inquiry.

Value


If you are looking for a bargain buy, it's hard to go wrong with the Ender 3 Pro. It might take a little tinkering and some time to assemble but you can get some fantastic prints out of this machine for a relatively small investment if you put the time into it.

Conclusion


Overall, the Ender 3 Pro is our top recommendation for anyone on a super tight budget who wants to get into 3D printing.


Austin Palmer, David Wise, and Jenna Ammerman