Best 3D Printer of 2021
$236.00 at Amazon
|$369 List||$280 List||$419 List|
$289.99 at Amazon
$549.00 at Amazon
|Pros||Great budget buy, solid printing capabilities, decent print quality||Fairly inexpensive, high-quality prints||Exceptional print quality, helpful customer support||Very detailed prints, dual rails for low Z wobble||Reasonably good prints, dual extruding capabilities|
|Cons||Finicky with ABS, can require a bit of tinkering||Hard to use, support isn’t as good as other models||Much harder to use, mediocre capabilities||Harder to use, small build area||Recommended software is mediocre, initial assembly was annoying|
|Bottom Line||This printer is one of our favorites for those shopping on tighter budgets and don't mind a little tinkering to get it printing perfectly||This is our top pick for anyone looking to create incredibly detailed prints and doesn’t mind the hassle of a resin printer||If you want to make highly detailed prints for model making or table top gaming, then the Photon is a fantastic choice||The Photon S can be a pain to operate but did produce some exceptional prints when it wasn’t misbehaving||This printer scored about average and isn't priced excessively high|
|Rating Categories||Creality 3D Ender...||Elegoo Mars||Anycubic Photon||Anycubic Photon S||FlashForge Creator...|
|Print Quality (40%)|
|Ease Of Use (30%)|
|Print Capabilities (20%)|
|Specs||Creality 3D Ender...||Elegoo Mars||Anycubic Photon||Anycubic Photon S||FlashForge Creator...|
|Build Volume (XxYxZ)||200x200x250mm||120x68x165mm||115x65x155mm||115x65x165mm||225x150x145mm|
|Maximum Extruder Temperature||255°C||N/A||N/A||N/A||280°C|
|Layer Cooling Fan?||2||N/A||N/A||N/A||1|
|Build Plate Material||Aluminium build plate with a magnetic course plastic sticker||Aluminum||Aluminum||Aluminum||Aluminum build platform|
|Maximum Bed Temperature||110°C||N/A||N/A||N/A||130°C|
|Compatible with Third-Party Materials?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Included Nozzle sizes||0.4mm||Not applicable||Not applicable||Not applicable||0.4mm|
|Print layer Height range||0.1 - 0.4mm||.025mm - 0.1mm||.025mm - 0.1mm||.025mm - 0.1mm||0.1-0.3mm|
|Filament Size||1.75mm||405 nm resin||405 nm resin||405 nm resin||1.75mm|
|Standalone (SD card or USB drive) Printing||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Best Overall 3D Printer
Taking home the top rating for the entire group of printers, the Ultimaker 2+ is our 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 challenging 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 3D printing novice. This printer also includes a mobile app to guide you through the initial setup process, with more documentation online if you run into any sort of difficulties. This capable printer has an impressive build volume and a helpful support team behind it.
All of this performance, however, comes with a premium price. This model is one of the most expensive of the group. It's intended 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 review: Ultimaker 2+
Best Print Quality
If you are hoping to create the most detailed prints on a smaller scale, then you should consider the Elegoo Mars, a resin 3D printer. This printer uses a UV-curable resin instead of plastic filament, allowing it to produce much more intricate and detailed models than the majority of filament-based 3D printers. The Elegoo Mars is our top recommendation for anyone who wants a 3D printer for things like jewelry making, tabletop gaming, model making, or anything else that needs smaller, extremely detailed 3D-printed objects.
While there are tons of benefits to resin printers, they do have some flaws. The Elegoo Mars — and most other resin printers — are all much more work to use than filament-based printers, as the resin is simply just messier. You also need to wash any uncured resin off every printed model, ensure there aren't any cured bits floating around in the vat, remove the supports, and post-cure each model with a UV light. You should be wearing gloves for all of this, so you can also expect to need a hefty supply of disposable gloves on hand, as well as paper filters, paper towels, and cleaning solutions. The quality prints can be worth all of the hassle, but all the extra work and additional tools and equipment might not be worth it if you're only using the printer occasionally.Read review: Elegoo Mars
Best Bang for the Buck
Creality 3D CR-10S Pro V2
If the price tag of the Ultimaker 2+ is more than you are willing to spend, then we recommend checking out the Creality 3D CR-10S Pro V2. This printer offers an incredible bang for the buck, allowing you to maximize your investment. It has one of the largest build areas of the entire group and made some exceptionally high-quality prints for an FFF/FDM printer. It is also extremely user-friendly, with an automated touch probe and bed leveling process that can take a lot of the frustration out of fine-tuning your machine. It's compatible with a wide range of materials as well.
Unfortunately, this machine can be a bit intimidating for a novice. Setting up the Creality 3D CR-10S Pro V2 requires a bit more assembly than some of the other models. We also have not had the best experiences with their customer support team, finding them to be more challenging to get in touch with than many manufacturers. However, this is a fantastic budget machine if you don't mind putting in the effort to learn the ins and outs of your device, and potentially being on your own for any troubleshooting.
Read review: Creality 3D CR-10S Pro V2
Best for Tight Budgets
Creality 3D Ender 3 Pro
If you're looking to get into 3D printing for the least amount of money possible, the Creality 3D Ender 3 Pro is a great bet. This printer is a fantastic value, coupling excellent overall performance with one of the lowest list prices of the entire group. Its PLA print quality floored us in some of our tests, and it is relatively easy to use once you get the hang of it and get all of its settings dialed in. It has an impressive set of printing capabilities for its price range, and we found the customer service and support to be decent.
Unfortunately, we can't recommend the Creality 3D Ender 3 Pro to anyone who isn't prepared to do a little tinkering with their printer. It is far from a turnkey solution when it arrives and takes the most time out of any of the printers we have tested to get set up. The bulk of the assembly is completed at the factory, so it is much faster to put together than a full kit, but you still need to attach all the main assemblies and plug in the wiring harness. It only takes an hour or two, and there are plenty of resources available from the manufacturer or third-parties to help walk you through it. However, it can be a bit daunting if you aren't tech-savvy or well-versed on 3D printers in general. It also can be improved quite a bit by some printed or purchased upgrades. Despite the more involved assembly process, it's our top recommendation for anyone on a tight budget. Unlike some other bargain models, the Creality 3D Ender 3 Pro is a printer that you won't immediately outgrow, but you do have to treat the machine like a project of its own, rather than just a tool.
Read review: Creality 3D Ender 3 Pro
Why You Should Trust Us?
Our lead reviewer and tester, 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. Given the finicky nature of these machines, that means he also has an excessive amount of experience unclogging nozzles and clearing filament jams. 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 maker spaces 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 printed a series of evaluation models in different filaments with each printer. Each test prototype was selected to thoroughly challenge these printers, whether it was printing successively steeper overhangs, bridging longer and longer spans, or creating particularly fine details. We then assembled a panel of judges to rate the print quality of each model, without knowing which printer produced it. In addition to our print-quality tests, we also awarded points based 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. We carefully evaluated how each printer stacked up against the competition, where they excelled, and where they displayed less than stellar performances.
Related: Buying Advice for 3D Printers
While the Ultimaker 2+ is the best you can get, it is also very pricey. If you're shopping on a budget, you would be much better served with the Creality CR-10S Pro V2 if you don't mind some tinkering to save you some cash. You can save even more by going with the Creality 3D Ender 3 Pro, but you will have to put in some time to put it together and get it correctly adjusted before you start getting decent prints out of it. The Elegoo Mars is also a relatively inexpensive model. Still, it is important to remember all the additional costs of the necessary supplies to clean and post-cure your prints with resin printers and take that into account if you're shopping on a budget.
Print Quality is the highest weighted rating metric of our review. We selected 15 different test models for each printer, in both Polylactic Acid (PLA) and Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), whenever possible, and used those to evaluate each printer.
Earning the top marks out of the entire group is the trio of resin printers — the Anycubic Photon, the Anycubic Photon S, and the Elegoo Mars — which all delivered exceptional results in our print quality tests.
All three of these printers created extraordinarily delicate and intricate models that would have almost certainly perplexed any of the other printers in the review and had a fantastic surface finish after we dialed in the correct resin exposure settings. We used different models to compare print quality for the plastic-based printers, such as a wireframe cube, detailed miniatures, and some resin-specific torture tests.
The Ultimaker 2+ is next, earning the top score for any of the filament printers. It produced high-quality prints across the board, in both PLA and ABS.
The Ultimaker 2+ thoroughly impressed us with its print quality compared to the other fused filament fabrication (FFF) printers. This printer earned top marks in most of our various printing tests, doing exceptionally well with the 3D Benchy, spiral vase, and wireframe cube. There were some issues with bed adhesion when printing larger ABS models, regardless of whether we were using any of the common fixes to this problem (hairspray, blue tape, or a glue stick). We were delighted, however, with how it handled our overhanging geometry model and bridged unsupported spans in our test, as well as with its high-quality surface finish.
Following the Ultimaker 2+, the Creality 3D CR-10S Pro V2 and the Creality 3D CR-10S came in at the runner-up position. The CR-10S Pro did a fantastic job in our overhanging geometry, bridging, and print-in-place articulated print tests, with the vast majority of their test prints having a favorable surface finish compared to the rest of the group.
It did show a tiny bit of Z-axis wobble in our tall tower test, and it struggled with the Eiffel Tower prints. We also observed a handful of layer separation issues when printing in ABS. The nickel dimensional accuracy test showed that our unit tended to print a little on the larger side out of the box, but we were able to fix this with some X and Y axis step count calibration.
The Creality 3D CR-10S delivered a reliable performance across the board in this test, with only a few exceptions. It handles PLA much better than ABS in our experience, even rivaling the Ultimaker 2+ at making a spiral vase and printing low-poly figures. This printer also did a flawless job in our more 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 some pronounced layer separation in the spiral vase, low-poly figures, and articulated elephant. The Creality 3D 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 Creality 3D Ender 3 Pro, the Creality 3D CR-10 V2, the Dremel Digilab 3D20, and the MakerGear M2 finishing next.
The FlashForge Creator Pro and the Creality 3D Ender 3 Pro tied for the best 3D Benchy of this group in PLA and held their own against the premium models. They 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 experienced some layer separation. This jolly little boat has a variety of features designed specifically to torture test 3D printers.
The FlashForge Creator Pro did very well in our overhang test, in both PLA and ABS, and was able to print high-quality figurines that were on par or even rivaling the Ultimaker 2+. However, we found that it did a mediocre job at bridging and had a slight Z-wobble that caused the tall tower to have noticeable undulations on the side.
The Creality 3D Ender 3 Pro scored below average with pretty much every test print in ABS. It consistently struggled with layer separation and bed adhesion issues. We couldn't even get it to print ABS reliably on the stock print bed, and only after we added an aftermarket borosilicate glass bed could we get the models to stay attached.
The Creality 3D Ender 3 Pro did impress us with its PLA printing performance in a handful of other tests besides the 3D Benchy. It did particularly well with the bridging and overhang models. It is capable of printing even long spans with only the slightest amount of drooping, bridging gaps that most other printers routinely failed. It is 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 well in the nickel test for dimensional accuracy, printing a hole that was on the loose side and wouldn't hold the coin at all.
The MakerGear M2 also failed to impress us a ton in this metric, providing all-around average prints while having a premium price. It uses their custom software for slicing 3D models to print, and this software had issues with some of our test files, refusing to slice them when the same files exhibited no problems in the other programs. This printer did very well with overhanging regions, performing admirably well in our overhang test, and composing quality figurines.
However, it produced a mediocre Benchy tugboat, platform jack, and articulated elephant. It also exhibited a tiny bit of noticeable Z-Axis wobble and struggled with retraction, evidenced by the tower and hollow cube test. Overall, this 3D printer was unremarkable in our opinion and consistently struggled with ABS prints.
The Creality 3D CR-10 V2 did reasonably well across the board in most of our tests, particularly impressing us when it came to overhangs, bridging, and retraction. It made an excellent 3D Benchy and impressed us with the overhang torture tests and low-poly figurines. We were less than impressed, however, with persistent issues when it came to the surface finish on most of its prints. Although they look relatively smooth, they feel noticeably rougher than other models when you run your hand across them. We tried a handful of things to fix this but nothing was immediately successful.
This printer also had some issues with ABS and a minuscule amount of Z-Axis variations with the tallest prints. You can fix a lot of these issues with some calibration and fine-tuning of your printer, but we consider this beyond the scope of most users' capabilities.
The Dremel Digilab 3D20 delivered some mixed results across the different sample prints in this metric. This printer did alright with the 3D Benchy but there were noticeable problems with the overhanging geometry — this ended up being a recurring issue for this printer.
This printer did do much better with the bridging test and made a just about perfect wireframe cube. It even did well with the Eiffel Tower, though the model was so delicate after getting scaled down to fit in the Digilab's build envelope that we struggled to remove it from the print bed without breaking it. This printer also did very well with the spiral vase and the threaded jar and lid, as well as delivering a tall tower with minimal Z-axis wobble.
However, it again showed a bunch of issues with the steeper overhanging sections on the low-poly figures and our overhang test. The Digilab also failed with the platform jack, butchering the overhanging areas on the drive screw to the point where the jack would not articulate and broke as we tried to free it.
The Monoprice Select Mini V2 lags behind the bulk of the printers in our review. We found this printer had a very tough time printing with ABS filament and consistently encountered warping and bed adhesion issues — no matter which tricks we tried to mitigate this problem. This printer did distinguish itself by doing extraordinarily well in the bridging test but overall failed to impress when it came to print quality.
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 ease of the initial setup, the difficulty at swapping out rolls of filament, how hard it was to level the bed, the different methods of connecting to the printer, and the quality of the display on the printer — if there is one.
The Ultimaker 2+ and the Creality 3D CR-10S Pro V2 both finish at the top of the lineup in this metric. We feel the Ultimaker 2+ is very easy to use, virtually ready to go straight out of the box. All that is required is to attach the spool holder, and you are prepared to print. Ultimaker has a handy app with comprehensive documentation and instructions that makes it one of the easiest printers overall to assemble and set up.
The Ultimaker 2+ lacks automatic bed leveling but does have a series of prompts to guide you through the process, making it the easiest 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 you can use a standard SD card for standalone printing. It also has a simple display that shows a progress bar and an estimated countdown to the print's completion. It is straightforward to swap different filaments using its semi-automatic method.
The Creality 3D CR-10S Pro V2 might take a little more assembly and troubleshooting out of the box than the Ultimaker 2+, especially considering that we didn't think the included documentation is the most thorough or helpful. However, it does have an automated touch probe for bed leveling, a filament sensor that will stop the print if you run out of filament, and a resume after power failure feature, all of which are incredibly useful and convenient. It's not overly tricky to change filament, and the screen shows all the vital stats while printing.
We also found the Dremel Digilab 3D20 to be very very easy to use. This printer arrives almost completely assembled, only requiring you to attach the adhesive-backed surface to the build plate and load up some filament before you are ready to start printing. It has very clear prompts that guide you through the 3-point leveling process, even showing which way to turn each knob. It also guides you through the filament loading or unloading process, though we did find that it can be a bit cramped since the spool is inside the machine. However, this is much easier if you remove the top lid as well, giving you much more access.
The print bed is removable for an easier time removing your finished prints. Files can be sent to this machine via SD card or direct connection through a USB cable and we love the top-tier display on this printer. It not only shows basic printing information but even a 3D render of your files.
The remaining printers from Creality — the 3D CR-10S, the 3D CR-10 V2, and the 3D Ender 3 Pro all our above-average when it comes to ease of use in our minds. The initial assembly process for these printers is quite a bit more time-consuming, with the 3D Ender 3 Pro taking the longest of this group for us to put together.
To put the 3D CR-10S together, you need to attach the vertical frame, connect all the wires, and install the print bed and spool holder. A lack of what we feel our clear instructions made this a little more complicated, but we eventually figured out which cable plugged in where, with only a little bit of our research. The 3D CR-10 V2 has a very similar assembly process, with the main difference being that you need to add the supporting Z-Axis braces.
We thought the documentation and labeling for the 3D Ender 3 Pro is quite a bit easier to interpret and understand, but the assembly process is overall 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 all three of these printers from a computer directly connected to the printer through a USB cable or with a microSD card for standalone printing. These machines have similar displays and interfaces that are reasonably clear and easy to understand, with all the necessary information relevant to your print shown while they are running. Swapping filament and leveling the bed are both moderately easy. However, we would have liked the 3D Ender 3 Pro a bit more if it had a semi-automatic bed leveling process.
Next up are the Monoprice Select Mini V2 and the FlashForge Creator Pro. The tool head of the Creator Pro required mounting before you can start printing and we found it to be a little hard to access the screws to connect the tool head and align it properly. However, it wasn't overly difficult in our minds. The Select Mini V2 is ready to go right out of the box, only requiring the spool holder to be clicked into place before it is ready to go.The instructions for the Select Mini V2 suggest you use Cura as a slicer — a standard option — while the FlashForge Creator Pro instructs you to use ReplicatorG. We think this software isn't the most user-friendly and has 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. You usually have the option of using most of these printers with other third-party slicers, but it can be a little more technical to get them configured correctly.
The Select Mini V2 uses a microSD card while the FlashForge Creator Pro uses a full-size card. both use a microSD card. The FlashForge Creator Pro has a fairly standard display that shows the % of the print completed and some temperature information. We did think that the display of the Select Mini V2 is a little nicer but still displays essentially the same information.
It was about average to swap filaments on the FlashForge Creator Pro, while it was a little more difficult with the Monoprice Select Mini V2. However, we weren't thrilled with the manual bed leveling of both of these printers.
The FlashForge Creator Pro leads you through a series of prompts, instructing you how to adjust the four adjustment points. The Select Mini V2 also has four leveling points, but no prompts to guide you, which makes it one of our least favorite printers to level.
Rounding out the back of the pack for the filament printers is the MakerGear M2. We aren'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 begun. It also lacks a display, but you can purchase one as an upgrade. The setup process was about average; you only need to attach 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 run the printer and select files off of the SD card. Finally, it is also somewhat challenging to swap filaments and level the bed, requiring you to connect to a computer to swap filaments and follow a series of prompts that we don't think are very clear to level the bed.
Earning the lowest scores overall are the Anycubic Photon, the Anycubic Photon S, and the Elegoo Mars. We found these three resin printers to all be very similar in operation, and substantially more hassle to use than any of the other printers that we have tested.
It is effortless to load the resin into these machines when it is cleaned and empty by simply pouring it in. However, you should always follow the manufacturer's instructions with regards to personal protective equipment whenever handling resin. You also need to filter and empty the printer of resin if you aren't going to be printing in the immediate future, again following the manufacturer's instructions. There is also a decent amount of post-processing involved with finishing a print. Once you remove the print, you usually need to wash the finished product in both warm water and isopropyl alcohol and then post-cure it with a UV light source to harden the resin to its full strength.
This group, however, does arrive almost completely assembled and ready to go. While it wasn't enough to impact the scores, we did find the fully removable top of the Elegoo Mars to be a bit more of a hassle than the hinged openings of the Anycubic Photon or Anycubic Photon S.
Our Print Capabilities metric evaluates the extent of 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 is compatible with, the types of cooling, as well as the different software programs, or slicers, that can be used with each machine.
The Creality 3D CR-10S Pro V2, the Creality 3D CR-10S, and the Creality 3D CR-10 V2 all have exceptionally full-featured set of printing capabilities. These machines all have both a layer and extruder cooling fan, with a maximum extruder temperature of 260°C. They're not restricted to proprietary filaments and are compatible with any 1.75mm part that fits that temperature profile. These printers all have a heated bed and are compatible with a handful of slicers, including Cura, Simplify 3D, Creality's proprietary software, and many others. These three printers all have a massive build volume, measuring in at a whopping 300x300x400mm (11.81x11.81x15.75in) — more than enough capacity for all the cosplayers out there attempting to print an entire helmet in one go.
Next are the Creality 3D Ender 3 Pro and the Ultimaker 2+ with their excellent set of printing capabilities. 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 at 223x223x205mm. We did have some minimal bed adhesion issues on the heated borosilicate glass print surface, mainly with ABS. It is compatible with an extensive array of generic filaments, such as PLA, ABS, PC, Nylon, or any filament that has a print temperature below 260°C, and it has two layer cooling fans.
The Creality 3D Ender 3 Pro has a smaller build area than the larger Creality printers but is very comparable in size to the Ultimaker 2+. Both are virtually identical in terms of X and Y dimensions, with build areas of 220x220mm and 223x223mm, respectively. However, the 3D Ender 3 Pro can print up to 250mm in height compared to 205mm for the Ultimaker 2+.
Creality has its proprietary slicing software, but the Ender is also compatible with a wide variety of other slicers — same as the Creality 3D CR-10S variants. The hotend can get up to 255°C, and you aren't limited 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 had 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 Dremel Digilab 3D20 followed. We found its software to be a bit of a hassle, as we needed a trio of programs needed to run the MakerGear M2. However, you can upgrade and use Simplify3D if you are willing to pay for a slicer. The MakerGear M2 has a printable area of 200x250x200mm — significantly smaller than the enormous build volumes of the Ultimaker 2+ or the larger Creality 3D printers.
The MakerGear M2 has a borosilicate glass bed with a replaceable print surface. We had a few bed adhesion issues but it was definitely uncommon. It can use generic, 1.75mm filaments that melt at 300°C or less. The M2 does have reduced cooling capabilities, with only a single layer fan each that may cause prints to cool less evenly.
Right off the bat, the Dremel Digilab is hurt by the fact that it is essentially a PLA-only printer, lacking a heated bed. It has a maximum nozzle temperature of around 230°C and is designed to be used with proprietary Dremel filament.
The build surface seems fairly average in our opinion and this printer doesn't have the largest build volume, measuring in at 230mm x 150mm x 140mm. This printer also uses the Dremel Digilab 3D slicer rather than a third-party option, offering less customization than other slicers but making it a little simpler for beginners to get started.
Next are the FlashForge Creator Pro, the Anycubic Photon, the Anycubic Photon S, the Elegoo Mars, and the Monoprice Select Mini V2. While the Select Mini V2 used our preferred slicer, Cura, the Creator Pro can use either proprietary software — FlashPrint — or third-party slicers, like ReplicatorG. We got the hang of the proprietary slicers relatively quickly but were continually baffled by the clunky interface of ReplicatorG and found it to be much less intuitive.
The FlashForge Creator Pro has a printable area that is about average in size. The Creator Pro has a stable print bed, and we didn't have too many bed adhesion issues. The Monoprice Select Mini V2 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 resin printers don't give you a ton of options when it comes to software, as the majority of slicers are designed with FDM/FFF printing in mind. However, there are more and more options becoming available as SLA printing drops in price and gains popularity. We used the Anycubic's proprietary slicer for the Photon and Photon S in our tests and the ChiTubox slicer for the Elegoo Mars.
Both are relatively intuitive and easy to use, though it can be a bit of a learning curve to understand the best strategy to orient models to minimize support. These printers are all compatible with any 405nm UV-curable resin but don't have the largest build areas. The Elegoo Mars has the most substantial build volume, measuring 120x68x165mm, followed by the Anycubic Photon S at 115x65x165mm, and the Anycubic Photon at 115x65x155mm.
The final metric in our test — Support — accounts for the last 10% of the total score. 3D printers are still a relatively immature technology — unfamiliar to most people — and having a helpful 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, and if there were instructional videos online.
The Dremel Digilab, the MakerGear M2, the Anycubic Photon, and the Ultimaker 2+ tie for the top spot in our final metric. Ultimaker only had a few support videos on their website, but it did have plenty of pictures. They have both email and phone numbers to contact and are usually available Mon-Fri, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm(ET). They responded very quickly to our questions and provided helpful links and instructions to fix our problem.
The MakerGear M2 has similarly 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 2+ at 4:00 pm. They were also very helpful in their response to the raft printing poorly.
Anycubic has a few tutorial videos, and we found it to be about the average amount of difficulty to get in touch with their customer support team via email, contact form, or an international phone number. We found their support team to be extremely helpful, even offering to place supports and slice a model with which we were struggling. We found their customer support to be much more helpful in the past than in more recent times. It was much harder to contact them about the Anycubic Photon S than when we reached them regarding the Anycubic Photon.
The Dremel Digilab offers a variety of different ways to get in touch with customer service and we found their technical support team to be above average when it came to helpfulness. This printer also has a handful of helpful videos on their website if you are new to 3D printing.
Next up are the Creality 3D Ender 3 Pro, the FlashForge Creator Pro, the Elegoo Mars, and the Monoprice Select Mini V2. All of these printers had a handful of videos, except for the Select Mini V2, which had none. These manufacturers all had either email or support ticket methods of contact and were somewhat helpful to our questions. FlashForge was the most helpful, with Monoprice being the least.
Our experiences with customer support with the Creality printers have been a bit of a mixed bag. We never heard back when we tested the 3D CR-10S a while ago, but we did get a response for the 3D Ender 3 Pro, the 3D CR-10 V2, and the 3D CR-10S Pro V2 when we contacted them more recently.
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.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer