As far as budget resin printers go, the Anycubic Photon M3 and the Elegoo Mars 3 4K are two of the best around.
There’s a good reason for that– both printers have reputable, trusted brands to back them and a solid blend of features for the price.
Still, the Photon M3 and the Mars 3 4K (not to mention the Pro version) have crucial differences that could make or break your printing experience.
We’ll cover all the most important details for resin printing to help you make your decision, from XY resolution to software to LCD size. Plus, we’ll help explain what makes those features so important for those of you unfamiliar with the world of resin printing.
Let’s dive in.
|Features||Anycubic Photon M3||ELEGOO Mars 3 4K||ELEGOO Mars 3 Pro 4K|
|Build Volume||163 x 102 x 180 mm||143 x 89 x 165 mm||143 x 89 x 175 mm|
|Build Plate Tech||Laser-engraved||Sandblasted||Sandblasted|
|Light Source Tech||LighTurbo parallel light matrix||Free-form surface COB lens, plus Fresnel lens||Free-form surface COB lens, plus Fresnel lens|
|XY Resolution||40 microns||35 microns||35 microns|
|LCD Resolution||4K +, 4098 x 2560||4K +, 4098 x 2560||4K +, 4098 x 2560|
|Max Print Speed||50 mm/s||50 mm/s||50 mm/s|
|Screen Protector Type||Built-in scratch resistant film||Built-in scratch resistant film||Replaceable tempered glass|
|Charcoal Air Filter?||No||No||Yes|
|Software Compatibility||Anycubic Photon Workshop, Lychee, ChiTuBox||Lychee, ChiTuBox||Lychee, ChiTuBox|
|Free 1-Year ChiTuBox Subscription?||No||Yes||Yes|
Anycubic Photon M3 vs Elegoo Mars 3: A Quick Summary
Anycubic Photon M3
- Price: Check latest price at Anycubic here / Amazon here
- Printing technology: MSLA Resin
- Build volume: 163 x 102 x 180 mm
- LCD Size: 7.6’’
- LCD Resolution: 4K +, 4098 x 2560
- XY Resolution: 40 microns
- Max Print Speed: 50 mm/h
- Connectivity: USB
Anycubic has dominated the resin market with high-quality and beginner friendly printers for years now, and the Photon series continues that legacy.
For a cheap resin printer, the Photon M3 boasts a relatively large build volume of 163 x 102 x 180 mm. The LCD size of 7.6” and 4K resolution holds up to that standard.
4K resolution is quickly becoming the norm for resin printers as technology improves, so the Photon M3’s 4098 x 2560 resolution doesn’t come as a surprise. Regardless, it’s better than older resin printers like Elegoo’s Mars 2.
If you want even more resolution and a much larger build volume, you’ll have to shell out money for the other members of the Photon M3 series. We compared all three of them in-depth.
The XY resolution trumps that of the Mars 3 (which we’ll talk about in more detail below). The Photon M3 sits at an impressive 40 microns compared to the Mars 3’s 35 microns.
Another innovation is the introduction of Anycubic’s “LighTurbo” light source. LighTurbo is a matrix of LEDs that are meant to disperse UV rays more evenly than previous printers, and potentially make for faster printing. The Photon is advertised as having a print speed of up to 50 mm/h.
Speed aside, it also comes with an anti-scratch film for the LCD screen. This is a great help in case resin spills onto the screen– you don’t want to have to replace the screen entirely or mess up your printer for good because of a small mistake!
The final major upgrade in the Photon M3 is a laser-engraved build plate. It has a checkerboard pattern that makes for strong adhesion and easier removal of your print once it’s completed.
Ultimately, Anycubic’s Photon M3 is an amazing all-rounder considering the price. It’s a bit more expensive than the Mars 3, but it has better features like a bigger build volume and LCD size to match the price.
Elegoo Mars 3 / 3 Pro 4K
- Price for Mars 3: Check latest price at ELEGOO here
- Price for Mars 3 Pro 4K: Check latest price at ELEGOO here / Amazon here
- Printing technology: MSLA Resin
- Build volume: 143 x 89 x 165 mm / 143 x 89 x 175
- LCD Size: 6.6’’
- LCD Resolution: 4K +, 4098 x 2560
- XY Resolution: 35 microns
- Max Print Speed: 50 mm/h
- Connectivity: USB
The Elegoo Mars 3 is a little older than the Photon M3, since it was available for pre-order back in late 2021.
But as is becoming Elegoo tradition, the Mars 3 got a Pro version with extra features in the fall of 2022. This gave the Mars 3 the chance to catch up to newer printer models like the Photon M3.
The build volume is acceptable but not all that impressive at 143 x 89 x 165 mm. The Pro version has a bit of an upgrade, adding 10 mm to the z-axis for a volume of 143 x 89 x 175 mm. That can really increase speeds and open doors for bigger prints, even though it’s not a huge increase.
Elegoo’s earlier printer, the Mars 2, had a resolution of 2k. Although the Mars 3 and the Mars 3 Pro have the same resolution of 4K, that’s a great improvement over the older model. The LCD size is 6.6” for both the Mars 3 and the Pro.
Just like the Anycubic Photon M3, Elegoo is always making improvements to the LED light orientation to get better light uniformity. The Mars 3 is advertised as having superior light uniformity thanks to its free-form surface lens.
According to marketing materials, the Mars 3 Pro has a light uniformity of 92% and the original Mars 3 has around 90%. Every bit counts when it comes to resin printing, but we don’t expect this to be a major difference between those models.
Unlike the Photon M3, the Mars 3 and Mars 3 Pro only have XY resolutions of 35 microns. It’s unfortunate that the Pro version, despite being a newer version, has no resolution increase from the Mars 3.
The Elegoo Mars 3 4K is a good option for beginners with extremely low budgets, and it’s set even cheaper than the Photon M3. As for the Mars 3 Pro 4K, you’ll be paying a little extra for quality of life features like a larger build volume, a superior tempered glass screen protector, and a charcoal filter.
- Anycubic Photon M3 – 163 x 102 x 180 mm
- Elegoo Mars 3 / 3 Pro 4K – 143 x 89 x 165 mm / 143 x 89 x 175 mm
Build volume has a huge impact on what you can print, especially when it comes to resin printers. Although resin is often used for small, highly detailed miniatures, sometimes you want to make larger prints with the same great detail.
Plus, larger build volumes often translate to faster print times thanks to how resin printers cure layers. Between the Anycubic Photon M3 and Elegoo’s Mars 3, the Photon is significantly larger in every dimension.
Even though the Mars 3 Pro 4K offers a slight build increase of 10 mm to the z-axis, it’s still smaller than the Photon M3 by 10 x 13 x 5 mm.
Winner: The Photon M3 has a bigger volume than the Mars 3 and the Pro 4K.
Elegoo and Anycubic have developed and utilized different build plate technologies to get the best results. In the case of the Photon M3, Anycubic decided a checkerboard patterned laser-engraved build plate would give the best combination of adhesion and ease of removal.
The Mars 3 4K and the Pro version both use a sandblasted build plate. Just like the Photon M3, this type of build plate has great adhesion. It’s also going to be easier to clean than a laser-engraved plate if it comes down to that.
Sandblasting is usually a more expensive process than laser-engraving, which could partially explain the Mars 3’s higher price. Ultimately, either type of base plate should serve you well.
Winner: The Photon M3’s laser-engraved build plate is a tie with the Mars 3 / Pro 4K’s sandblasted one when it comes to adhesion. The sandblasted plate might be slightly easier to clean, but it should have a minimal impact on your experience.
LCD Size and Orientation
Anycubic designed an all-new light matrix for the Photon M3 in an attempt to improve light homogeneity. To go along with the larger build plate, the Photon has a 7.6” LCD size compared to the Mars 3 / 3 Pro 4K’s 6.6” LCD.
Elegoo’s Mars 3 uses a free-form surface lens and 36 embedded LED lights for better homogeneity. The Mars 3 Pro is supposed to be even more improved, with Elegoo stating that it has a 2% improvement in light uniformity over the Mars 3.
Winner: The Photon M3 has a larger LCD size, but chances are, you won’t notice any meaningful differences in the light uniformity between the Mars 3 and the Photon M3. It’s also unlikely you’ll see a meaningful difference between the Mars 3 and the Mars 3 Pro 4K.
Print Quality and XY Resolution
One of the main reasons to opt for a resin printer instead of a FDM printer is the improved quality and detail. As such, the XY resolution can make or break your experience printing.
The Photon M3 has an advantage in resolution. It can go as high as 40 microns, whereas both Mars 3 versions cap out at 35 microns.
An XY resolution difference of 5 microns isn’t going to make a meaningful impact on most prints, though. Despite the importance of resolution, your designs would need to be fabulously complex to notice even a slight difference between those resolutions.
Winner: The Photon M3 has a better XY resolution, but the Mars 3 / 3 Pro 4K has decent resolution and is unlikely to fall behind in actual practical tests.
Right off the bat, you should know that both the Photon M3 and the Mars 3 / 3 Pro 4K are compatible with Lychee and ChiTuBox. As two of the most popular slicers, it would be a serious handicap if you couldn’t use them with these printers.
You will also have access to the Anycubic Photon Workshop if you purchase the Photon M3, free of charge. It doesn’t have as many in-depth tools as ChiTuBox, but it’s an intuitive and easy-to-use option for beginners.
The downside to ChiTuBox is that it’s quite expensive for a casual hobbyist. It’s a professional grade tool that will cost you $169 every year you’re subscribed, which really adds up over time.
Both Mars 3s give you a 1-year subscription to ChiTuBox for free. That’s irrelevant if you don’t want to use or learn ChiTuBox, but if you do, it’s a huge cost savings.
Winner: The Photon M3’s free Anycubic Photon Workshop makes it a better option for beginners and casual hobbyists. The Mars 3 duo are better if you plan on purchasing ChiTuBox at some point.
The two printers are tied if you want to use another software like Lychee.
Ease of Use and Safety
The Mars 3 and Mars 3 Pro 4K are extremely quiet resin printers thanks to their motherboard, registering at around 35 – 45 dB. Similarly, the Photon M3 is well-known for being almost silent while working because of how quiet its fans are.
Whether you think it’s necessary or not, the Photon M3 and the Mars 3 are also equipped with screen protectors. The Photon M3’s is a film that’s relatively easy to see and remove, but the Mars 3’s is slightly more hidden. Either way, you don’t need to worry about a resin spill ruining your LCDs.
Between health concerns and a general distaste for bad smells, the fumes that resin printers generate are always a hot-button issue. Unfortunately, the Mars 3 doesn’t come with any type of filter.
Elegoo saved the charcoal filter for the Pro version, as they’ve done with other models like the Saturn and Saturn S. You should seriously consider getting the Mars 3 Pro 4K over the Mars 3 if only for the filter, as purchasing them separately will run you at least $20.
The Photon M3 doesn’t come with any type of built-in filter, either. Anycubic designed a filter system called AirPure specifically for the Photon printers. AirPure filters are for sale in a bundle of 2 for $23, and can fit right inside the printer itself.
Winner: The Photon M3 might be slightly quieter than the Mars 3, but your mileage may vary depending on what settings you use. The Mars 3 Pro 4K is the only printer out of the bunch with a built-in filter, so it wins on that front. All the printers are tied when it comes to screen protection.
The Photon M3 is the better deal, although not by much. It’s only $20 cheaper than the Elegoo Mars 3 4K and $50 cheaper than the Mars 3 Pro 4K. If you wanted, those extra savings could easily go towards buying some filters and making the Photon 3 even better.
Between the Mars 3 and the Pro version, the price increase of $30 is worth it for the built-in air purification system alone.
Anycubic Photon M3 vs Elegoo Mars 3 / 3 Pro 4K– The Bottom Line
Based on all of these features, the Elegoo Mars 3 4K really falls behind newer printers like the Mars 3 Pro 4K and the Anycubic Photon M3. It has no standout characteristics, but still manages to be $20 more expensive than the Photon M3.
That being said, the Elegoo Mars 3 Pro 4K measures up much better to the Photon M3. It’s a good purchase if you know you want air filters, a strong glass screen protector, and you could really benefit from a 1-year subscription to ChiTuBox.
The Photon M3 is going to be the better option for everyone else, though. The free slicer software and cheaper price makes it extremely accessible for those who are newer to resin printing.
Even if you aren’t a beginner, the larger build volume and slightly better XY resolution will give you more options for printing big designs– or even just printing more at once. Whether you want to print armies of miniatures or one larger statuette, the Photon M3 can do the job.
It might be wise to take stock of what types of resin prints you’ll want to do in the future so you make sure to get the printer that will suit your needs the best. But in all likelihood, the Photon M3 will be able to handle it!
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