After researching over 175 3D printers, we purchased the 13 most promising models available in 2019 to try out for ourselves and see which printer truly outperformed the rest. We've printed well over 500 models with these machines to rate and score the print quality of each product, grading their performance with small objects, fine details, bridges, articulated parts, and overhanging geometry, as well as their dimensional accuracy. We also rated and ranked the various print capabilities of each printer, comparing their build volume, available materials, and slicer compatibility, as well as the overall ease of use of operating each of these digital fabrication machines. Take a look at the complete review below to see which 3D printer stands out from the rest, which gives the highest print quality, and which is the best bargain buy for budget-conscious shoppers.
Best 3D Printers of 2019
$2,499.00 at Amazon
$1,299.00 at Amazon
$2,300.00 at Amazon
$457.90 at Amazon
$269.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Great prints, ready to go out of the box, easy to use, extensive support||Extremely easy to use, good prints, good value||Large build volume, print surface prevents warping||Great value, large build area||Exceptional print quality, helpful customer support|
|Cons||Expensive||PLA only, proprietary filament||Mediocre print quality, expensive||Nonexistent support, little harder to use||Much harder to use, mediocre capabilities|
|Bottom Line||An exceptionally capable printer at a premium price||A great value option for those that want a simple and reliable printer that just works without a lot of fuss||This printer comes at a high price without great printing quality||If you are searching for a solid printer on a budget and don’t mind doing a little tinkering, then this model is the perfect choice||If you want to print high-quality display models, then the Photo should be your first choice|
|Rating Categories||Ultimaker 2+||Sindoh 3DWOX DP201||Lulzbot TAZ 6||Creality 3D CR-10S||Anycubic Photon|
|Print Quality (40%)|
|Ease Of Use (30%)|
|Print Capabilities (20%)|
|Specs||Ultimaker 2+||Sindoh 3DWOX DP201||Lulzbot TAZ 6||Creality 3D CR-10S||Anycubic Photon|
|Build Volume (XxYxZ)||223x223x205mm||210x200x189mm||280x280x250mm||300x300x400mm||115x65x155mm|
|Maximum Extruder Temperature||260°C||220°C||300°C||260ºC||Not applicable|
|Layer Cooling Fan?||2||1||2||2||Not applicable|
|Heated Bed||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Not applicable|
|Build Plate Material||Glass||Flexible rubber||Borosilicate glass covered with PEI||Glass||Aluminum|
|Maximum Bed Temperature||100°C||0°C||120°C||135ºC||Not applicable|
|Compatible with Generic Filament?||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Included Nozzle sizes||0.4mm installed (0.25mm, 0.6mm and 0.8mm included)||0.4mm||0.5mm||0.4mm||Not applicable|
|Print layer Height range||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||0.050 - 0.5mm||0.1 - 0.4mm||.025mm - 0.1mm|
|Filament Size||2.85mm||1.75mm||2.85mm||1.75mm||405 nm resin|
|Standalone (SD card or USB drive) Printing||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Taking home the top rating of the entire group of printers and handily winning both an Editors' Choice award and the title of Best Overall 3D printer, the Ultimaker 2+ is the clear recommendation for those that want the absolute best of the best. This sleek and stylish printer has phenomenal print quality, even with some of the most difficult prints in our test. On top of this top-notch performance, this product is super easy to set up and operate — even for a complete novice to 3D printing. This printer even includes a mobile app to guide you through the initial setup process, with even more documentation online if you run into any sort of difficulties. This capable printer had an impressive build volume and a helpful support team behind it.
However, all of this performance comes at a premium price and this model is one of the most expensive of the group. This product is for those that want the absolute best — and are willing to pay for it. The more casual hobbyist is probably better off with a less expensive option, but those in a professional or semi-professional setting will love this printer
Read full review: Ultimaker 2+
Best Value for Ease of Use
Sindoh 3DWOX DP201
Delivering one of the top performances overall, the DP201 by Sindoh 3DWOX impressed us by its solid print quality, its overall great value, and how exceptionally easy to use this product is. This product is essentially turnkey — ready to use as soon as it is removed from the package and a very brief and easy calibration process is completed. The printed models are very high in quality and the learning curve associated with this printer is so shallow that total novices can be up and running in a matter of hours. The DP201 competes with models that cost almost twice as much and is packed full of useful features and functions, such as wireless printing and a built-in webcam to monitor the status of your prints. This all combines to make this printer an exceptionally awesome pick for community uses, such as schools, libraries, makerspaces or coworking spaces. In fact, the printer we tested is now installed at the local library and has been exceptionally popular for making props and costumes for Halloween.
Unfortunately, this printer does use a proprietary filament, so the cost per print is slightly higher, but not by much. You also are limited to only using PLA, so no experimenting with the more exotic filaments that have recently become readily available. Despite this, the Sindoh more than makes up for by being so easy to operate and we highly recommend it.Read full review: Sindoh 3DWOX DP201
Best Bang for the Buck
Creality 3D CR-10S
Distinguishing itself by the high-quality prints it produced and its relatively affordable price compared to the competition, the Creality CR-10S easily claimed a Best Buy Award and the title of Best Bang for the Buck. This printer matched or just barely trailed behind the top-of-the-line printers in many of our tests, is reasonably easy to use, and has an absolutely massive build envelope, letting you print giant models with ease.
Unfortunately, the customer support is pretty much nonexistent and it definitely is far from a turnkey printer out of the box. However, these are not insurmountable obstacles. There are plenty of online resources and forum posts to help you through the assembly and troubleshoot any issues you may encounter — you just might have to spend some research time gathering information from different sources. All in all, this is an excellent printer if you are shopping on a budget and are willing to do a little tinkering.
Read full review: Creality 3D CR-10S
Best for Tight Budgets
Creality 3D Ender 3 Pro
If you are looking to get into 3D printing for the least amount of money possible, the Ender 3 Pro by Creality is a great bet. This printer is a fantastic value, coupling overall good performance with one of the lowest list prices of the entire group. Its PLA print quality absolutely floored us in some of our tests and it is overall a fairly easy to use printer — once you get the hang of it and get its settings all dialed in. It has an impressive set of printing capabilities its price range and we found the customer service and support.
However, the assembly process for this printer is significantly more involved than any of the other printers in the review, making it far from a turnkey solution. The main units are assembled already but you do need to attach them all together and plug in the wires. This process only takes about an hour but it can be a bit daunting if you aren't the most tech-savvy or mechanically inclined. It also has plenty of room for improvement through either printable or third-party upgrades. It's still our first choice for anyone who is looking to spend as little as possible and won't immediately outgrow the printer but you do have to work at it and treat the printer itself as a bit more of a project, than a tool.
Read full review: Creality Ender 3 Pro
Top Pick for Print Quality
Earning the Top Pick Award, the Anycubic Photon stood out from the rest of the pack by printing absolutely amazing models. This resin printer handles detailed and delicate models with geometries that would be absolute catastrophes on almost any of the other FDM/FFF printers that we have tested and none could even come close to comparing with the surface finish achieved by the Photon. We also liked that the customer support for this printer was quite comprehensive and helpful and it has a respectable set of printing capabilities.
However, this printer is quite a bit more work to us than the other printers, is considerably messier, and requires quite a few more accessories to operate correctly. Nitrile or latex gloves are recommended for handling the resin and cleaning and filtering the resin from the printer can be quite a hassle. Additionally, you also need a bath of isopropyl alcohol and another of warm water to wash your finished prints and some way of post-curing your prints with UV light — either by relying on having sunny weather or on a small artificial UV light. Despite being significantly harder to use, the models are unparalleled in quality to any other printer we have tested, making it the perfect choice for someone who wants to make smaller high-quality models for display and isn't afraid to put in the work for them. Tabletop gamers and modelmakers, this is the printer for you!
Read full review: Anycubic Photon
Upgrade Pick on a Tight Budget
While the Finder couldn't quite net an award, we felt it did deserve some recognition. It performs exceptionally similar to the Ender 3 but is essentially ready to go right out of the box. This printer is a great option for someone shopping on a budget, and pairs that with a solid performance across the board. It created surprisingly high-quality sample prints and is one of the easiest printers to use, making it an absolute awesome pick for a beginner.
While it isn't the cheapest printer, retailing for a bit more than the Monoprice Mini or Creality Ender 3 Pro, we found it to be far less frustrating to use. Unfortunately, it also lacks a heated bed and is designed for PLA only, but we were actually able to get a handful of decent ABS prints from it using a glue stick to improve bed adhesion. While you can get away with spending less, we would definitely recommend the Finder over the Mini or the Ender 3 if you can afford it and are looking for a turnkey solution.
Read full review: FlashForge Finder
Why You Should Trust Us?
Starting off, we bought all the printers in this review at retail pricing — none were given to us to review for free or at a reduced cost — to ensure that you can be totally confident that our review is unbiased and without any financial incentive to pick one board over another. Our lead testers, David Wise and Austin Palmer, both have extensive expertise that they bring to the table with these products. Austin has spent hundreds of hours with the products in this review, extensively testing them and comparing their performance, which means he also has inordinate amounts of experience unclogging nozzles and clearing filament jams, given the finicky nature of these machines. David comes from a mechanical engineering background with extensive experience in rapid prototyping. He has worked with 3D printers and 3D design for close to a decade and has managed various makerspaces and shops, working with a wide variety of different printers. He also has designed and prototyped various components with 3D printers for real-world applications, such as on deepwater submersible robots and autonomous underwater gliders.
We spent thousands of hours printing a suite of evaluation models in different filaments with each printer, each model selected to thoroughly challenge and test these printers, whether it was printing successively steeper overhangs, bridging longer and longer spans, or had particularly fine details. We then had a panel of judges — both novice and experienced when it comes to 3D printing — rate the print quality of each model, without knowing what printer produced it. In addition to our print quality tests, we also awarded points on each printer's printing capabilities, its ease of use, and the level of documentation and customer support available.
Related: How We Tested 3D Printers
Analysis and Test Results
All in all, we conducted about 45 different tests to rank these products, ranging from extensive print quality assessments to how helpful customer support was. The metrics included Print Quality. Ease of Use, Print Capabilities, and Support. The following sections detail how each printer stacked up against the competitions, where they excelled, and where they had less than stellar performances.
Related: Buying Advice for 3D Printers
While the Ultimaker is the best you can get, it is also exceptionally pricey. If you are shopping on a budget, you would be much better served by the Sindoh if you want an extremely easy to use printer or the Creality CR-10S if you don't mind some tinkering to save you some cash. You can save even more by going with the Ender 3 Pro but you are going to have to put in some time to put it together and get it adjusted correctly before you start getting decent prints out of it. For those on the tightest of tight budgets, the Monoprice Mini is the clear choice — it's tiny, but performs decently well and is a good introduction to 3D printing at pretty much as low a price point as these products go for. However, most people will probably outgrow its tiny build volume.
Print Quality is the highest weighted rating metric of our review, comprising 40% of the total score. We selected 15 different test models for each printer to make, in both PolyLactic Acid (PLA) and Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) whenever possible, and used those to evaluate each printer.
A panel — made up of novice, intermediate, and advanced 3D printer users — rated each test print without knowing which machine produced it, to remove any possibility of bias.
Earning the top score out of the entire group, the Anycubic Photon earned a 10 out of 10 for its exceptional print quality. This resin printer easily makes extremely delicate models that would have flummoxed any of the other printers in the review and has an unparalleled surface finish. While we used a set of test prints to compare the print quality side-by-side for the filament printers, the different method of printing (UV resin) on the Photon rendered some of those tests relatively meaningless, so we used a different set of prints to judge this one, though there was some overlap.
It also can print models without support that would be impossible on other FDM/FFF printers, such as this lattice cube which comes preloaded on the Photon.
Our Editors' Choice award winner for Best Overall — the Ultimaker 2+ — came next, earning the top score for any of the filament printers, an 8 out of 10. The Ultimaker 2+ produced high-quality prints across the board, in both PLA and ABS.
Compared to the other filament printers, this model led the way in most of the print tests, making a particularly great 3D Benchy, wireframe cube, and exceptional spiral vase.
The Ultimaker struggled a bit with bed adhesion on larger ABS models, warping slightly or completely popping off in extreme cases, whether we were using a glue stick, hairspray, or blue painter's tape. The Ultimaker 2+ distinguished itself by doing exceedingly well at printing overhanging regions and bridging unsupported spans. In addition, it also did quite well in our support test.
The printer left a high-quality surface finish on the underside of the supported areas without printing support that was too difficult to remove.
Following the Ultimaker 2+, the Creality CR-10S earned the runner-up position with a score of 7 out of 10. The Creality delivered a solid performance across the board in this test, with only a few exceptions. This printer handles PLA much better than ABS, even rivaling the Ultimaker at making a spiral vase and printing low-poly figures. This printer also did an essentially flawless job in the difficult bridging and overhang tests, as well as an almost unnoticeable amount of Z-axis wobble in the tall tower test.
It struggled a little more with ABS, having a few warping issues on the bridge test and having some pronounced layer separation in the spiral vase, low-poly figures, and articulated elephant. The CR-10S also failed to print the Eiffel Tower and platform jack in ABS.
The bulk of the group followed this trio of top-performing printers, with the FlashForge Creator Pro, the Finder, the Creality Ender 3 Pro, the Lulzbot TAZ 6, the MakerGear M2, the Sindoh 3DWOX DP201, and the QIDI Technology X-one2 all scoring a 6 out of 10.
The Creator Pro and the Ender 3 Pro tied for the best 3D Benchy of this group in PLA and held their own against the premium models actually created the best 3D Benchy of the entire group in PLA and the Creator Pro was one of the top performers with ABS, by a unanimous decision. Unfortunately, the Ender 3 Pro struggled with ABS and the majority of its prints were plagued with layer separation. This jolly little boat has a variety of features designed specifically to torture test 3D printers, which you can read more about here .
The FlashForge Creator Pro also did very well in our overhang test, in both PLA and ABS, as well as printing high-quality figurines, on par or even rivaling the Ultimaker 2+. However, we found that the FlashForge Creator Pro did a mediocre job at bridging and had a slight Z-wobble, with the tall tower having noticeable undulations on the side.
The Ender 3 Pro scored below average with pretty much every test print in ABS, consistently hampered by its layer separation and bed adhesion issues. We couldn't even get it to print ABS reliably on the stock print bed and it was only after we added an aftermarket borosilicate glass bed that the models would stay attached.
The Creality Ender 3 did impress us with its PLA printing performance in a handful of other tests besides the 3D Benchy, doing particularly well with the bridging and overhang models. It printed exceptionally awesome bridges — even on long spans — with only the slightest amount of drooping, if any at all. This put it almost on par with the Ultimaker 2+ when it comes to bridging but not quite. It did well with the articulated prints but struggled a little with the finer details, producing a very subpar Eiffel Tower. It also didn't do terribly well in the nickel test for dimensional accuracy, printing a hole that was a little on the loose side and wouldn't hold the coin at all.
The Finder also made an excellent 3D benchy, matching that of the Creator Pro and the Ender. We only graded this product on its PLA printing capabilities, as it wasn't really designed for ABS. It also did quite well with the Eiffel Tower, though it did print a somewhat funky bridging test. The elephant, overhang, and one of the low-poly figures all came out superb, with the remainder of the models being so-so in quality.
The Lulzbot TAZ 6 somewhat disappointed us in terms of print quality. While it did perform above average, we expected a little more from a model that received such rave reviews and has a price point similar to the top performer.
This 3D printer has a solid frame with double lead screws for the Z-axis, which we would guess are largely responsible for this printer's excellent performance in the tall tower test. The sides of the tower were extremely smooth, with an essentially imperceptible amount of Z-axis wobble. You could see some waves where the light might reflect differently but you couldn't feel any undulations if you ran a finger up or down the sides of the tower. The TAZ 6 also did quite well at bridging, overhanging geometry, supports, and retraction, doing well in our hollow cube test, overhanging angle test, support test, and low-poly figurines test. The hollow cube didn't have any blobs or strings and the surface finish on the underside of the overhanging areas turned out great.
However, the critical issue that prevents the TAZ 6 scoring higher in this metric was the persistent issue we had with the lower layers being squashed.
After several back-and-forth emails with Lulzbot support and adjusting settings, the quality of the lower layers improved but still was lacking. It may be possible to improve this through further tinkering but for now, this model's performance is limited in terms of print quality.
The MakerGear M2 also failed to impress us a ton in this metric, providing all-around average prints but having a premium price. The MakerGear uses their own custom software for slicing 3D models to print and this software took issue with some of our test files, refusing to slice them when the same file had no issues in the other programs, such as the bridging test and the Eiffel tower. This printer did do very well with overhanging regions, performing admirably well in our overhang test and making quality figurines.
However, it produced a mediocre Benchy tugboat, platform jack, and articulated elephant. It also had a tiny bit of noticeable Z-Axis wobble and struggled with retraction, evidenced by the tower and hollow cube test. This 3D printer also consistently did worse with ABS prints, and on the whole, was quite unremarkable.
The second to last of this group, the 3DWOX DP201 by Sindoh is an all-around solid printer with no major deficiencies. While it does only print in PLA, it prints very well. This printer produced a very nice tall tower with no detectable Z-Axis wobble, as well as a fantastic threaded jar and lid with knurled grips. The DP201 didn't get stringy with retractions and spanned impressively large unsupported spans without the bridge drooping. It also handles overhanging geometry with aplomb, leaving a great surface finish on the angled underside.
However, it produced a mediocre Benchy and elephant, as well as a thoroughly subpar Eiffel tower. It also had the unusual quirk of lacking a spiral vase mode that would only print a single layer wall thickness, creating a much thicker vase than the others.
The QIDI X-one2 thoroughly surprised us in this test, holding its own with printers that cost 2-5x its list price. This model did surprisingly well when printing with ABS, doing better than most of the others. It did very well at bridging and printing overhangs, scoring well in both of those tests and made an excellent spiral vase.It did struggle a little with the tall tower test, exhibiting significantly more Z-axis wobble than the Lulzbot or the Sindoh. The X-one2 also delivered a disappointing set of results in the supports test. The sacrificial support structure totally fused to the model and we weren't able to remove it without damaging out print.
Lagging behind the majority of the other printers in the review, both the Maker Select V2 and the Select Mini by Monoprice scored a 5 out of 10 for their overall middling printing quality. This pair of printers both had a very hard time printing with ABS filament, routinely plagued by warping and bed adhesion issues, no matter which tricks we tried to mitigate this problem.
The Maker Select essentially produced mediocre prints across the board when compared to the other models, having much more Z-Axis wobble and layer separation, as well as failing to produce smooth face and a nice surface finish.
The Select Mini was similar, pretty much flunking at every ABS test, but exhibiting less wobble than the Maker Select V2. This printer did distinguish itself by doing extraordinarily well in the bridging test.
The final printer in the group — the da Vinci 1.0 Pro — earned a 3 out of 10. The da Vinci 1.0 Pro produced reasonably good prints, aside from the fact that it was albeit impossible to remove the raft from prints. However, this model was very prone to breaking, either arriving damaged or promptly having a part break within 5 minutes of unboxing. Purchased through Amazon, we were able to exchange easily without consequences, but gave up after the third round of swapping it for a new one.
Ease of Use
Following our massive set of tests for Print Quality, we moved on to assess the ease of use for each printer. This metric encompasses the difficulty at swapping out rolls of filament, the ease of the initial setup, the display on the printer — if there was one, how hard it was to level the bed, and the different methods of connecting to the printer. In total, these tests are responsible for 30% of each 3D printer's overall score.
The Sindoh 3DWOX took home the top score, earning a 9 out of 10 for being exceptionally easy to use. This model will automatically swap filaments, preheating the nozzle and retracting it back into its cartridge. The cartridge can then be swapped for a new one or for a different color.
The Sindoh was ready to go out of the box, with no assembly required. This printer has semi-automatic bed leveling, instructing you how to adjust the screws to level the bed after probing.
The DP201 use the proprietary 3DWOX software to slice models, which can then send the print data to the printer wirelessly over WiFi or via a wired connection over ethernet or USB. Additionally, you can also use a USB flash drive for standalone printing. The Sindoh has a high-quality, built-in display and will display the % completed and the estimated time remaining while printing, as well as a rendering of the 3D model being printed.
The FlashForge Finder followed, earning an 8 out of 10 for its ease of use. It's about average to change the filament, but made a bit easier when using an external spool holder. In particular, we liked that this printer essentially arrived fully assembled and the bed is exceptionally easy to level.
You can either print over WiFi or via a USB cable from a laptop, in addition to using a USB flash drive for standalone printing. There also is a fairly user-friendly interface and screen right on the Finder itself.
Next, the Lulzbot TAZ 6, QIDI X-one2, Ultimaker 2+, and XYZ Printing da Vinci 1.0 all earned a 7 out of 10. The TAZ 6 requires you to manually change the filament but it was the easiest out of all the manual models to swap the filament. It is easy to feed the thicker 2.85mm filament through the guide tube and into the extruder, closing the latch after it is inserted.
The bed leveling is fully automatic on this printer and it will re-level before each print. This model does have a display but it is much less refined than the Sindoh's. It will show a bar graph of % completed and time elapsed while printing. You can connect to the Lulzbot via USB cable from a computer or print offline from a standard SD card. It uses a special edition of Cura as the recommended slicer — a relatively intuitive piece of software. Our biggest gripe with this model in terms of ease of use was the somewhat involved unboxing and assembly process.
You needed to attach the filament guide, Y-Axis, tool head, and connect a handful of cables to get the printer up and running. None of these tasks were particularly difficult and the documentation is thorough and very well done but it definitely is not a 100% turnkey 3d printer — understandable, due to its large size.
The QIDI was the polar opposite in terms of initial setup, only needing the spool holder mounted in the back and the filament guide connected to be ready to go. It was a little irritating to change filaments, as the back of the spool holder has a cap that must be unscrewed to put the new filament roll on. After the nozzle is sufficiently heated, you can manually feed the filament in while the extruder motor drives it out the nozzle. However, the QIDI is quite happy extruding indefinitely, meaning that you need to make sure you stop the motor after the filament has been successfully swapped by pressing the stop button on the touchscreen.
The display on the QIDI is actually quite nice, with a responsive touchscreen and backlit screen. This will display a bar segment with % printed, as well as the total time and time remaining while the printer is in use. This model uses the standard edition of Cura as a slice, with the option to print directly from your computer via USB or to use an SD card for standalone printing. It lacks a connector for a USB flash drive but it does include an SD to USB adapter — if you prefer to use a flash drive.
You need to manually level the print bed on the QIDI. While this is more difficult than the automatic or semi-automatic models, the 3-point leveling system was fairly easy to use, substantially more than other models, like the Monoprice Maker Select.
The Ultimaker 2+ is also easy to use, essentially ready to go straight out of the box. All that was required was to attach the spool holder. Ultimaker has a handy app with comprehensive documentation and instructions, on par with the thorough manual provided by Lulzbot. This was probably one of the easiest printers overall to initially set up and assemble, equivalent to the QIDI and Sindoh.
The Ultimaker lacks automatic bed leveling but does have a series of prompts to guide you through the process, making it the easiest to level out of the printers that require manual bed leveling. This printer also uses the standard edition of Cura as the recommended slicer. Files can be sent directly to the printer from a computer via USB or a standard SD card can be used for standalone printing. The Ultimaker also has a simple display that shows a progress bar and an estimated countdown to the print being completed.
It was also very easy to swap different filaments on the Ultimaker using its semi-automatic method, though it was a little more difficult than the TAZ 6 or the Sindoh.
The XYZ Printing da Vinci was also very easy to use, it was a little easier to swap filaments, similar to the Ultimaker. This model also has semi-automatic bed leveling, instructing you how to adjust the bed after probing, though the onscreen directions weren't quite as clear as we would have liked.
There was basically zero setup required, just a somewhat involved unboxing process due to all the packaging materials. However, even with this abundance of packaging, this printer didn't fare well in shipping and had to be exchanged multiple times. This model uses the proprietary XYZware Pro as a slicer, which took a little longer to install than other programs. You need to print directly from a computer with a USB cable or over Wi-Fi. However, we found the wireless connection to be patchy at best in our evaluations, so we would recommend sticking with the wired connection whenever possible.
Following this large group, both of the printers from Creality — the CR-10S and the Ender 3 Pro earned a 6 out of 10 for their above-average ease of use. The initial assembly process for both of these printers is quite a bit more time-consuming, with the Ender 3 Pro taking quite a bit longer to put together than the CR-10S. To put the CR-10S together, you need to attach the vertical frame, connect all the wires, and install the print bed and spool holder.
This is made a little more difficult by the lack of clear instructions, but we eventually figured out which wire plugged in where, with only a little bit of research on our own.
We thought the documentation and labeling for the Ender 3 Pro is quite a bit easier to interpret and understand but the assembly process is overall much more involved and labor-intensive. The major subassemblies are ready to go out of the box but you need to assemble the frame and attach all of them, then move on to connecting all of the wires. In total, it took us about an hour to get it ready to go, even with our extensive 3D printer experience.
You can send files to both of these printers from a computer directly connected to the printer through a USB cable or use a microSD card for standalone printing. Both of these machines have similar displays and interfaces that are fairly clear and easy to understand, with all the basic information relevant to your print shown while they are running. Swapping filament and leveling the bed are both moderately easy tasks, though we would have liked the Ender 3 a bit more if it had a semi-automatic bed leveling process.
Next, the Monoprice Maker Select, Monoprice Select Mini, and the FlashForge Creator Pro all earned a 5 out of 10. Two of these models both took a little bit of assembly to set up, with the Maker Select's Y-Axis needing to be attached and the tool head of the FlashForge Creator Pro requiring mounting. It was a little hard to access the screws to attach the tool head and align it properly but it wasn't terribly difficult. The Select Mini was ready to go right out of the box, only requiring the spool holder to be clicked into place to be ready to go.
The Maker Select and Mini utilize Cura as a slicer — a standard option — while the Creator Pro uses ReplicatorG. This wasn't the most user-friendly software and had a steeper learning curve than Cura. The Creator Pro also has the option of using FlashPrint — a slicer made by the manufacturer, which we found to be vastly preferable.
All of these printers can connect to your computer or print directly from an SD card, though the Maker Select and Select Mini both use a microSD card. The Maker Select and the Creator Pro both have practically identical displays — seemingly the standard for most 3D printers, showing the % completed. The display of the Select Mini is a little nicer but still displays the same information.
It was about average to swap filaments in both the Maker Select and the Creator Pro, while it was a little more difficult with the Monoprice Select Mini. All of these printers had a subpar method of manual bed leveling.
The Creator Pro leads you through a series of prompts, similar to the QIDI, though there are four adjustment points. The Maker Select and the Select Mini also have 4 leveling points, but no prompts to guide you, making them our least favorite to level.
Rounding out the back of the pack for the filament printers, the MakerGear M2 earned a 4 out of 10. We weren't huge fans of this printer, finding it somewhat of a pain to use. This model has to be connected to a computer to start printing but you can pull the cable after it has already started. This model also lacks a display but a compatible one can be purchased as an upgrade. The setup process was about average, only attaching the build plate, Bowden tube, and spool holder. However, you need to download Slic3r to slice 3D files for printing and printrun by Pronterface to actually run the printer and select files off of the SD card. Finally, it was also reasonably difficult to swap filaments and level the bed, requiring you to connect to a computer to swap filaments and follow a series of prompts that aren't very clear to level the bed.
Earning the lowest score overall, the Anycubic Photon earned a 2 out of 10, being exponentially more of a hassle to use than any of the other printers that we have tested. It is very easy to load the resin into the Photon when it is cleaned and empty by simply pouring it in. However, you should always wear gloves and proper personal protective equipment whenever handling resin. You need to filter and empty the printer of resin if you aren't going to be printing in the next 48 hours — a somewhat involved and messy process that takes about 30 minutes. There is also a decent amount of post-processing involved with finishing a print. Once removed from the Photon, you need to wash the finished print in both warm water and isopropyl alcohol and then post-cure it with UV light to get the resin to its full strength.
However, this printer does arrive completely assembled and it is very easy to level the build platform.
Making up 20% of the total score, our Print Capabilities metric evaluated what you can do with these products. We ranked and scored each model based on their build volume, build plate, the types of filament each model was compatible with, the types of cooling, as well as the different software programs, or slicers, that could be used with each machine.
Claiming the top spot, the Creality CR-10S earned an 8 out of 10 for its exceptionally full-featured set of printing capabilities. This printer has both a layer and extruder cooling fan, with the extruder able to hit a maximum temperature of 260°C. It isn't restricted to proprietary filaments, so it is compatible with any 1.75mm filament that fits that temperature profile. The CR-10S includes a glass print bed which is heated, capable of achieving a maximum temperature of 135°C. This printer is compatible with a handful of slicers, with Cura being the recommended one — and the one we used for our tests. However, it is the Creality's absolutely massive build volume that carried it to the top of the pack, measuring in at a whopping 300x300x400mm (11.81x11.81x15.75in).
Finishing right behind the Creality CR-10S, the Creality Ender 3 Pro, the Lulzbot TAZ 6 and the Ultimaker 2+, each scored 7 out of 10 for their excellent set of printing capabilities. The Lulzbot distinguished itself with its exceptionally large built area, measuring in at 280x280x250mm (11 inx11 inx9.8in), or about 19,432 cubic centimeters (1185.8 cubic inches). This printer has one of the largest build areas out of the models that we looked at and has a heated borosilicate glass bed covered with a PEI print surface. The PEI helps prevent bed adhesion issues, especially with filaments prone to warping, like ABS.
The TAZ 6 is compatible with a wide array of filaments, with a maximum nozzle temperature of 300°C and a maximum bed temperature of 120°C. The special Lulzbot edition of Cura was a little more difficult to use than the standard edition but this printer is compatible with more sophisticated slicers, such as Simplify3D — though these programs typically aren't free.
The Ultimaker 2+ utilized the standard edition of Cura — our favorite of the free slicers — and is compatible with Simplify3D. It has a decently large build volume — 223x223x205mm — though not quite on the same level as the Lulzbot. The heated print surface is borosilicate glass and we did have some minimal bed adhesion issues, mainly with ABS. The Ultimaker 2+ is compatible with a large array of generic filaments, such as PLA, ABS, PC, Nylon, or any filament that has a print temperature below 260°C. Both the Lulzbot and the Ultimaker 2+ have 2 layer cooling fans.
The Ender 3 has a smaller build area than the CR-10S and the Lulzbot TAZ6 but is very comparable in size to the Ultimaker 2+. The Ender 3 and the Ultimaker 2+ are essentially identical in terms of X and Y dimensions, having build areas of 220x220mm and 223x223mm, respectively. However, the Ender 3 can print slightly taller objects — up to 250mm — compared to the 205mm of the Ultimaker.
Creality has their own slicing software but the Ender is also compatible with a wide variety of different slicers — same as the CR-10S. The hotend can get up to 255°C and you aren't restricted to proprietary filaments, so you can print any material available in 1.75mm spools that melts below that point. This printer also has a heated bed that can hit a maximum temperature of 135°C and has a hotend and layer cooling fan. However, we did have a ton of bed adhesion issues when printing in ABS with the stock bed. These were eventually resolved by adding a glass plate and using an ABS/acetone slurry on the bed before printing.
The MakerGear M2 and the Monoprice Maker Select followed, each meriting a 6 out of 10. The Maker Select allows you to use Cura to control it, far superior to the trio of programs needed to run the MakerGear M2, Slic3r, and Printrun. However, both of these printers can be upgraded to work with Simplify3D. The MakerGear has a slightly larger printable area than the Maker Select, 200x250x200mm compared to 200x200x175mm. However, both of these printers are a significant reduction from the enormous build volumes of the Lulzbot and Ultimaker.
The MakerGear has a borosilicate glass bed with a replaceable print surface, vastly superior to the thin aluminum plate with a stick-on build surface of the Maker Select. We had some bed adhesion issues with the MakerGear but substantially fewer than the Monoprice. These both take generic, 1.75mm filaments, though the MakerGear has a wider temperature range than the Monoprice, 300°C to 260°C, putting it on par with the TAZ 6. These printers did have reduced cooling capabilities, each only having a single layer fan, thus cooling the print less evenly.
Next, the Creator Pro, the Finder, the Photon, the QIDI, the Sindoh, and the Monoprice Select Mini, all earned a 5 out of 10 for their printing capabilities. While the QIDI and the Mini used our preferred slicer, Cura, the Sindoh used proprietary software exclusively and the Creator Pro and Finder can use either a proprietary software — FlashPrint — or third-party slicers, like ReplicatorG. While we got the hang of the proprietary slicers relatively quickly, but we were continually baffled by the clunky interface of ReplicatorG and found it to be much less intuitive.
The Creator Pro and the Sindoh both have printable areas that are about average in volume — on par with the Monoprice Maker Select. The QIDI has a substantially smaller build area at 150x150x150mm, causing it to lose a few points, with the Finder and the Mini being even smaller.
The Sindoh scored highly when we evaluated build plates, on par with the Lulzbot. The removable flexible built plate on the Sindoh makes it a breeze to remove prints, though larger items were prone to warping.
The QIDI, the Finder, and the Creator Pro all have solid print beds and we didn't have too many bed adhesion issues. The Finder lacks a heated bed, so it isn't really supposed to be used for ABS, but we got away with it for a handful of prints with liberal amounts of glue stick applied. However, these printers did earn points by being compatible with generic filaments, unlike the Sindoh. The Sindoh is also limited to PLA only, losing it some points.
The Mini gave us tons of trouble with bed adhesion, with our build plate appearing to have a bow in it that made printing in ABS almost impossible — no matter how carefully we leveled it.
Unfortunately, the Anycubic Photon doesn't allow you the huge range of options when it comes to software, as the majority of slicers are designed with FDM/FFF printing in mind but there are more and more options becoming available as SLA printing drops in price and gains in popularity. We used the Photon's proprietary slicer in our tests, which we found to be quite intuitive, easy to use, and relatively user-friendly. It doesn't have the largest build area, measuring in at 115x65x155mm. This printer is also compatible with any UV 405nm resin.
Finishing out the group, the XYZ Printing da Vinci earned a 4 out of 10. We found the proprietary slicer for this model to be abysmal, with limited settings to adjust and an overall unreliable performance. The XYZ has about an average build size, on par with a printer like the Monoprice Maker Select.
The final metric in our test — Support — accounted for the final 10% of the total score. 3D printers are still a relatively immature technology — unfamiliar to most people — and having a helpful and supportive manufacturer can make all the difference between a quick fix or hours of frustration. We evaluated the different ways to contact the manufacturer, the helpfulness of the customer support, the warranty on each printer, and if there were instructional videos online.
A trio of printers took home the top score in this metric, with the Lulzbot TAZ 6, the MakerGear M2, the Anycubic Photon, and the Ultimaker 2+ all earning a 7 out of 10.
While the Lulzbot does have a YouTube channel with a handful of helpful videos, it wasn't immediately apparent and took some searching to find, losing it a few points. However, it did redeem itself when it came to contacting customer support, having both an email and phone number. They state that their support is available 24/7 and you will receive a reply within one business day. True to their word, we received an email back at 2:30 am. We found the support staff to be extremely helpful, guiding us through solving the squashed bottom layer problem that we were having. While they did help us dramatically improve print quality, it still wasn't solved 100%.
We also had an issue with the nozzle leaking, which Lulzbot did fix, though we did have to pay for shipping back to them. The TAZ 6 also includes a 12-month warranty that can be extended for up to 3 years at an additional cost.
Ultimaker only had a few support videos on their website but it did have plenty of pictures. They have both email and phone number to contact and are available Mon-Fri, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm(ET). They responded very quickly to our questions with helpful links and instructions to fix our problem included in their response. There is also a 12-month warranty on their printer for the original purchaser — something to note if you are looking at a secondhand model.
The MakerGear M2 similarly had only a few videos on their YouTube page and both an email and phone number to contact support. However, their support line closed earlier than the Ultimaker at 4:00 pm. They were also very helpful in their response to the raft printing poorly. The M2 comes with a 6-month warranty but it can be upgraded to 12 months for an additional cost.
Anycubic has a full set of tutorial videos and it's about average difficulty to get in touch with their customer support team, with only email, contact form, or an international number available to reach out to them with. However, we found their support team to be extremely helpful, even offering to place supports and slice a model that we were struggling with. Finally, it has a solid warranty — 3 months on the UV LED/LCD screen and 12 months on most other components.
Next, the Creality Ender 3 Pro, the FlashForge Creator Pro, the Monoprice Maker Select, the Monoprice Select Mini, the QIDI, the Sindoh, and the XYZ all earned a 6 out of 10. All of these printers had a handful of videos, except for the Maker Select and the Select Mini, which had none. However, the pair of Monoprice printers, the Creator Pro, and the XYZ were the only ones in this group to have a USA contact number. These manufacturers all had either email or support ticket methods of contact and were somewhat helpful to our questions. Sindoh and FlashForge were the most helpful, with Monoprice being the least. The Creator Pro shipped with the shortest warranty of 3 months, with the Monoprice's and XYZ having a 12-month warranty.
Our experience with customer support with the Creality printers has been a bit of a mixed bag. We never heard back when we tested the CR-10S a while ago but we did hear back from them about the Ender 3 Pro when we contacted them more recently. However, we still didn't find Creality to be all that helpful in response to our questions about a broken cooling fan, as they immediately referred us to contact the seller, COMGROW. COMGROW was actually quite helpful and offered to replace the fans once we sent in photos of a broken one. The Ender 3 Pro also has a one-year limited warranty but we aren't sure how easily you would actually be able to take advantage of this in practice. It seems like the customer support has been improving with the Creality printers but it still doesn't feel reliable enough to count on. Luckily, inexpensive replacement parts can usually be found easily and there is an enormous amount of information online about repairing and upgrading these printers and they are such good bargain buys that it is hard to discount them solely on their lackluster customer support.
The Finder came next, earning a 5 out of 10. While it has the same warranty and set of documentation that the Creator Pro has, we found the customer support wasn't quite as helpful this time around, dropping its score slightly.
Finishing absolutely last in terms of customer support, the CR-10S earned a 2 out of 10. Supposedly, there is a 1-year limited warranty, but we aren't sure if this is useful at all, since we never actually contacted them successfully. We would recommend getting this 3D printer from a reputable third-party retailer that offers returns if it arrives damaged or defective, rather than relying on the manufacturer.
Hopefully, this review has helped you find the perfect 3D printer for your needs and budget, whether you are looking for a simple introductory model, a prosumer workhorse machine, or a bargain buy. We did all the research and bought all the best 3D printers around, so you don't have to.
— Austin Palmer, David Wise, and Jenna Ammerman