There are a lot of options on the desktop FDM 3D printer market, but few, if any, have amassed the instant popularity and perpetual success of the Creality Ender 3. And really, what’s not to love about this disruptive machine? It’s incredibly cheap, it’s capable of producing high-quality prints, it’s surprisingly hackable, the list of benefits goes on and on.
Released in early 2018, this 3D printer quickly emerged as the new leader of the budget 3D printing market, replacing the Anet A8 on the throne of frugality. Unlike the A8, the Creality Ender 3 comes semi-assembled, and more importantly, offers a smashing print quality out of the box–no endless hours of tinkering required.
When you take the sub-$200 price into consideration, it’s difficult to see the Creality Ender 3 as anything but an extraordinary 3D printer. While it doesn’t have the reliable reputation of higher-end 3D printer manufacturers, such as Prusa and Ultimaker, this Chinese-made machine is far and away the best bargain for beginners looking to spend as little as possible.
Soon after the Creality Ender 3 became a household name on the desktop 3D printer market, the manufacturer took the opportunity to add a few upgrades to the model and release it as the Creality Ender 3 Pro. The new and improved version comes with a handful of upgrades, some of which aim to improve the shaky stability of the original. However, these enhancements also came attached with a higher price tag, a factor that takes away from the inexpensive charm that the Ender 3 offers.
Around the same time, a new 3D printer called the Ender-3X surfaced on the market, presenting itself as another upgraded version of Creality’s flagship machine. The 3X can be found for a slightly lower price than the Ender 3 Pro, but still costs a fair amount more than the Creality Ender 3.
This begs the question: is the Creality Ender 3 Pro or Ender-3X worth the extra cash? Or is the original Ender 3 still the way to go?
In the following 3D printer shootout, we’ll explore what these three options have to offer and give a verdict on which 3D printer we think is the best choice for you.
There are a number of features that make original Creality Ender 3 the most popular machine currently on the market. It has a build volume of 220 x 220 x 250mm, a BuildTak-like heated build plate, power recovery mode and a tight filament pathway that makes it easier to print with flexible materials. These are attributes that are oftentimes missing from even more high-end 3D printers.
As you’ll see in our Creality Ender 3 review, this machine exceeded our initial expectations by a longshot. We experimented with PLA, PETG, ABS, flexible and exotic filaments, and managed to print successfully with all of these materials.
The 3D printer is easy to assemble and–although it requires manual calibration–the enlarged bed leveling knobs make the process convenient. Once calibration is perfected, the Creality Ender 3 becomes nearly indistinguishable from printers that are closer to the $1000 range.
The most glaring issue presented by the Creality Ender 3 is the uneven base, which causes a wobble to the entire 3D printer. The manufacturer seems to have taken note of this problem, creating a slightly more stable frame for the Ender 3 Pro. Aside from that, there isn’t much to knock this machine for, especially when you consider how much (or rather, how little) it costs.
Another positive mark for the Ender 3 is its hackability. There are a number of ways to upgrade the printer, from buying a tempered glass print bed to various 3D printed add-ons.
All in all, the Creality Ender 3 is an excellent option for beginners or makers on a budget. While this 3D printer does have its flaws, the affordability makes it a worthwhile investment. Unlike other budget options in this price range, like the Anet A8, the Creality Ender 3 is prepared for high-quality 3D printing right out of the box.
Here’s a breakdown of the specs for the original Creality Ender 3:
Believe it or not, there isn’t much separating the Creality Ender 3 Pro from its wildly popular predecessor. There are just a handful of changes that the manufacturer has implemented into its latest model, let’s take a brief look at what they are.
For starters, the Ender 3 Pro has been redesigned with a more sturdy, 40×40 aluminum extrusion for the Y-axis base. Arguably the most important upgrade as far as print quality goes, this larger extrusion was implemented to improve the overall stability of the printing surface.
Another aspect that makes the Ender 3 Pro superior is the upgraded Meanwell Power Supply Unit (PSU), which is thinner, quieter, and all-around better than the version featured on the original Ender 3.
The first version of the Ender 3 had a board fan at the top of the printer’s base, which made is susceptible to falling bits of a filament. On the Ender 3 Pro, the manufacturer has placed this fan at the bottom of the 3D printer. Although the new placement of this fan effectively protects the board from being bombarded by plastic, we remain a bit skeptical about how much airflow is available underneath the base of the printer.
Finally, Creality 3D also added a C-MAG magnetic printing bed to the build plate of the Ender 3 Pro. This sheet is removable and flexible, making it easier to pluck finished prints off of the build surface. It has a textured surface that, in theory, should improve adhesion for all types of filament, eliminating the need for tape, glue sticks, and hairspray.
Otherwise, the Creality Ender 3 Pro has the same build volume, design, and overall functionalities as the original Ender 3.
For these aforementioned enhancements, you’ll have to spend around $100 more for the Creality Ender 3 Pro. With a retail price of $299, it’s also possible that you’ll be able to find the Pro version at a discounted price from time to time.
So, is it worth shelling out a few extra bucks for the Pro? We’ll answer this question in the following “Verdict” section.
Finally, we come to the Creality Ender-3X, perhaps the lesser known offspring of the Ender 3 family. Like the Pro, the 3X doesn’t stray far from its predecessor. The Creality Ender 3 and 3X are nearly identical, but there are a few differences that put the upgraded version a few notches above the original (and in some cases, even the Pro).
The biggest advantage that the Ender-3X offers over the other two is the tempered glass print bed that comes packaged with it. While the magnetic bed found on the Ender 3 Pro has presented some frustrating problems for users, the tempered glass bed is widely considered to be a must-have upgrade for the stock version of this 3D printer.
If you purchase the Creality Ender-3X, you’ll receive a glass print bed to mount on top of the aluminum plate, already measured to fit the 220 x 220 mm build platform. As we’ve previously stated in the 3D printer shootout, this type of print bed improves material adhesion and makes it easier to remove models once the cooling process is complete.
Other enhancements include the MK-10 extruder, which greatly reduces the risk of clogging and uneven extrusion, as well as a V-Slot with POM wheel that reduces the printer’s noise while it’s in operation. Lastly, this Creality Ender-3X also comes with five additional print nozzles.
So, is it worth buying the Ender-3X over the Pro or the original Ender 3? Read the following section to see our verdict.
We’ve broken down the differences between the Creality Ender 3 and Ender 3 Pro, but now comes the pertinent question: is it worth spending more on the Pro version? The answer to this question ultimately depends on what the buyer is looking for, but we’d say in most cases, the original Creality Ender 3 offers the best bang for your buck.
Why? Well, because we found that the improvements made to the Creality Ender 3 Pro don’t really justify the increase in price.
The implementation of a sturdier and wider aluminum extrusion at the Y-axis base of the printer is the most important feature as far as print quality goes, as it helps to stabilize the print surface. Other attributes, such as a new extruder and re-design of the board fan, are also welcome additions to the new version, but how much they improve the overall printing process remains to be seen.
As for the removable magnetic bed, we found this initially exciting upgrade to be underwhelming once it was put in action. When trying to put the sheet back onto the bed, the magnets wouldn’t always align properly. Although it can be considered as an upgrade over the stock print surface, the best way to upgrade the print bed of both the Ender 3 and Ender 3 Pro is to add a glass bed or polypropylene bed.
To summarize, we definitely acknowledge that the Ender 3 Pro does offer certain advantages over the original. However, we’re not quite sure that the upgrades are worth the $100 increase in price. In most cases, you’ll probably be better off buying a Creality Ender 3 and spending the extra money on your own upgrades.
As for the Creality Ender-3X, we did find this version to be a better bargain compared to the Pro model. Not only is it cheaper in price, but the tempered glass bed is arguably a better upgrade over the magnetic print bed. On top of that, you still get the MK-10 extruder. The most important feature missing from the 3X is the wider aluminum extrusion at the Y-axis base, which means the Creality Ender 3 Pro remains the most stable option of the trio.
Even though the Ender-3X is a viable option for those that want to enhance the stock Ender 3 experience with a glass print bed, we’d wager that it’s still cheaper to get the original Creality Ender 3 and purchase the upgraded print bed separately.
From our findings, the 3X is available for around $260, while the Ender 3 can still be acquired for under $200. When you add the $20 for the glass bed offered by Creality 3D, you’re still left with a few extra bucks in your pocket.
License: The text of "Creality Ender 3 vs Ender 3 Pro vs Ender-3X Shootout" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Subscribe to updates from All3DP
You are subscribed to updates from All3DP
You can’t subscribe to updates from All3DP. Learn more…