The Creality Ender 3 3D printer range has become my favorite for desktop 3D printing over the past few years, and is among the world’s most popular 3D printers.
But it might not be obvious which is the best Ender 3 you.
For most people, the Ender 3 is the best choice – combining good build volume, great reliability, and a wide range of compatible filaments for such a low price.
It’s a great budget pick that will cover the needs of 80% of users.
But if you’re looking to print larger projects, you’ll want to look at the Ender 3 Max – which has almost triple the build volume. It has a bunch of other upgrades that improve the print quality – but it’s the most expensive pick.
I’ll explain all the differences to help you decide which Ender 3 is best for you.
The Creality Ender 3 Series
Ever since their founding in 2014, Chinese manufacturer Creality have built a stellar reputation for high-quality, low-priced 3D printers. Producing everything from 3D printers to their own line of filaments and resins, they have won numerous industry awards in their relatively short existence.
Creality’s crowning glory, and their most popular line, is the Ender 3 series of FDM 3D printers. The original was a runaway success, and with the Ender 3 Pro, V2, and Max now available, we compare the differences and make our recommendations.
You get a lot for a small price tag.
Competitive build volume for the price.
Has a versatile extruder, good for flexible filaments.
There are more advanced versions available.
First released in March 2018, the base Ender 3 model is by no means a weak entry. In fact, in terms of value for money, it may just be one of the best 3D printers on the market today.
You can buy an Ender 3 for under $200, and you get a lot for that small price tag. Firstly, it has a very competitive build volume, at 220 x 220 x 250mm, making it capable of printing fairly large parts.
It also has a heated magnetic build plate that can reach its maximum temperature of 110°C in just 5 minutes.
It also has a versatile extruder that makes it more reliable for 3D printing flexible filaments, a common issue for cheap 3D printers. On top of this, the industrial-grade circuit board allows the Ender 3 to print continuously for over 200 hours without issue.
Creality even partially assembles the printer before shipping, so you can build it and get printing within less than an hour — making it accessible for beginners, and a perfect tool for classroom learning.
If you’re looking for a reliable budget pick, you can check our guide to Ender 3 Alternatives for similar printers.
Ender 3 Pro
Designed to fix a lot of the problems with the Ender 3.
A few great improvements features.
Requires fine-tuning to get the best results.
The Ender 3 Pro was released in September of the same year and was designed to fix a lot of the niggling problems that many users experienced with the original model.
It has many of the same features as the standard Ender 3, with an identical build volume and build plate, print speed, and filament capacity.
However, there were a few notable changes that set it apart from its predecessor:
Users complained that the original Ender 3 had issues with the build plate wobbling during printing, making the bed unstable and compromising the parts. To fix this, Creality designed a new 40x40mm extrusion for the Y-axis of the build plate. This made a marked improvement to the Ender 3 Pro’s stability.
Creality also added better bearing wheels to reduce friction and make the structure stiffer, which improved print quality and added rubber feet to reduce noise.
Additionally, Creality modified where the cooling fan sat within the Ender 3 Pro. The base model’s fan attachment sat above the build area, which often caused filament dust to be left across the build plate and part. The Ender 3 Pro moved the fan underneath, eradicating this problem.
These changes certainly improve the build quality of the printer, but in exchange, you pay around $50 extra.
Ender 3 Max
- Price: $349 — Available on Amazon here
Increased build volume.
Designed for higher performance.
Has a Carborundum glass bed for better adhesion during printing.
The Ender 3 Max, released in 2020, scaled up the Ender 3’s already decent size. The Ender 3 Max increased the build volume to 300 x 300 x 340mm, an almost tripled total build volume. This brings it close to the Creality CR-10’s size.
In fact, every element of the Ender 3 Max is designed for higher performance.
The all-metal extruder is unparalleled in the series for filament feed-in. It also has a Carborundum glass bed for better adhesion during printing, making for better quality prints and less warping. It has dual cooling fans for reduced warping during cooldown, and a larger power supply to support the larger machine.
For more size and power, you pay more — around $350.
Ender 3 V2
Sleek and more streamlined machine.
Very durable and reliable.
There are more advanced 3D printers available.
2020 also saw the release of the Ender 3 V2. It gave the printer a much-needed facelift, as well as a few mechanical upgrades. All these combined, and the V2 is a much sleeker and more streamlined machine.
The most notable visual upgrade is the new design of the case. The first three models were very bare, with exposed wires and minimal paneling. The V2 encloses all of its circuitry within an attractive and modern-looking metal case, giving it a more professional appearance. This has allowed for the fitting of a hidden compartment for storing tools and materials, making the whole thing self-contained.
The user interface has also been updated, with a new detachable color screen which makes controlling the device much easier and clearer.
And there are even more improvements when it comes to performance:
The new 32-bit motherboard reduces the noise made by previous models, for near-silent printing. A new rotary knob has been added to the extruder for easier filament movement which helps prevent clogging.
Additionally, Creality have added a new tensioner to the timing belt to make printing much smoother and fix the reported stability issues.
It even has a new function that pauses, stores, and resumes programming should there be a power outage. Gone are the days where you could be 46 hours into a 50-hour print and have your print ruined by a momentary power cut.
These improvements come with a higher cost, but the Ender 3 V2 still sells at a very reasonable $289.
There’s also the brand-new Ender 3 V2 Neo, and you can read our hands-on review here.
Ender 3 vs Ender 3 Pro vs Ender 3 V2 vs Ender 3 Max: Compared
With such nuanced similarities and differences between each Ender 3 model, it can be difficult to deduce which is the best Ender 3 printer for you.
So, here’s our breakdown, point by point, and to see which is best for you:
There is very little to debate here.
The Ender 3 Max is by far the largest edition with the highest build volume, at 300 x 300 x 340 mm.
This is much larger than the standard Ender 3, the Ender 3 Pro, and the Ender 3 V2, which all have a build volume of 220 x 220 x 250 mm.
The Ender 3 Max is the go-to choice for a large 3D printer, but if you’re not planning on printing super-large projects, it’ll be down to these next factors that affect your choice of Ender 3 3D printer:
Each Ender 3 3D printer’s print speed is pretty much the same, with a recommended speed of between 30-60mm/s — depending on your filament, print settings, and how delicate and precise your model is.
However, if you enjoy living dangerously and pushing technology to the limit, all four models are able to work at up to 180mm/s, although this does come with a major caveat of being highly unreliable and you’ll lose print quality.
If speed is your primary concern, check out our guide to the fastest 3D printers in every price range .
Both nozzle temperature and bed temperature are very respectable across the line.
The Ender 3 V2 has a maximum extruder temperature of 255°C, while the other three models are capable of reaching a slightly higher 260°C. Higher temperatures mean you can print tougher filaments like ABS, Nylon, ASA — and if you can reach super high temperatures, PC and PEEK.
A heated printer bed helps with allowing the material to adhere to the baseplate and provides a stable platform for construction.
The Ender 3 Max and Ender 3 V2 are able to operate at 100°C heated bed temperatures, while the standard Ender 3 and the Ender 3 Pro are capable of 110°C, for improved bed adhesion.
The original Ender 3 received complaints about the overall stability of the printer, with a wobbly baseplate and shuddering arms that compromised the quality of the part when produced.
The Ender 3 Pro sought to correct these issues and since those changes were made, the later editions were designed using the same technology.
Extra support beams beneath the baseplate and tighter construction of the printer as a whole, introduced in the Ender 3 Pro, means that any model built after this has a distinct stability advantage over the standard.
Another aspect corrected in later editions was the part quality being compromised. The Ender 3 was noted to leave fine filament dust scattered across the part and baseplate which required extra care to prevent or remove.
This was due to the positioning of the cooling fans above the build area. Once the Ender 3 Pro moved the fans underneath, these difficulties were eliminated and the later editions followed suit.
When it comes to the design aspect, by far the runaway leader is the Ender 3 V2.
The sheet metal casing surrounding the circuitry not only gives the printer a more professional aesthetic but is also a lot safer as there are no loose electrics or bare wires.
If you still feel as though something is missing, check out our guide to Ender 3 upgrades for both printable and buyable options.
Similarly, the Ender 3 V2 outstrips its sister models in terms of its user interface. The introduction of the new 4.9-inch color screen makes operating the printer much easier. There is also something to be said for the more modern-looking casing for the screen as well.
Value for Money
While the price of these printers varies wildly depending on the seller, comparing the price of each model means the standard Ender 3 model stands out as the best value for money.
While there are limitations that were overcome in later models, for such a low price, even the most price-conscious makers can justify splurging on an Ender 3.
The Ender 3 is certainly the best value for money in the series, and maybe in the entire industry altogether. You can compare it to the premium version in our Ender 3 vs Ender 5 guide.
Conclusion: Which Ender 3 3D printer should you buy?
The different models within the Ender 3 series mean that there is enough variety to cater to a range of 3D printing needs. Given the price points, it is more than likely that these printers will be favorites of hobbyists or perhaps small business owners.
In that regard, it is important to examine the nature of your production setup, and what you really need from a 3D printer. If you need much larger parts, you will have to go for the Ender 3 Max, but it is unlikely that this is a requirement for most.
The standard Ender 3 is the best value for money. It is hard-wearing, versatile, reliable, easy to operate, and, perhaps most important, incredibly cheap. There are few models better in the 3D printing world for giving accessibility for those interested in the craft.
And for a generally improved and more relaxed 3D printing experience, opt for the Ender 3 V2 and its slew of useful upgrades.
If you enjoyed this article, check out our other Ender 3/Pro/V2 comparisons to learn more:
- Comparing Ender 3 and Adventurer 3 3D Printers in 2023
- Which is Best: Elegoo Neptune 2/3 vs Ender 3
- Our Prusa i3 MK3S+ and Ender 3 Comparison
- Is the Ender S1 Pro Much Better Than the Standard Ender S1?
- Ender 3 S1 (& V2 Neo) vs Anycubic Kobra
- Comparison Between Voxelab Aquila X2 and the Ender 3 V2
- How Does the Ender 3 V2 Compare to the Ender 5?