2019 has been an amazing year for 3D printing, with a huge number of cost-effective and quality printers hitting the market. Whether you are looking for an insanely high-quality resin printer, a Filament loading workhorse, or just the cheapest thing to get you into the hobby, we have the right thing for you. For the best all-around printer, I have to give it to the Prusa i3 MK3. It’s the most consistently excellent machine in my workshop; it just never lets me down.
Best Overall FDM: Prusa i3 MK3
When it comes to 3D printers that require filament, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better printer for the price than the Prusa i3 MK3. You can buy the Mk3 fully assembled, or if you want to learn about the ins-and-outs of 3D printing, you can purchase the kit form. Whichever you choose, you’ll get a printer that is the basis for over half of the FDM printers on the market today. If you do decide to buy the kit form, you will need to fine-tune some of the settings to get that perfect print, but that’s all part of the learning process.
The Prusa MK3 is built from quality components, like the E3D hot-end and the 3D printed parts. Even the fans are a quality brand rather than cheap knock-offs, making the entire machine feel premium without the premium cost.
When it comes to print quality, I am consistently amazed at how good the Prusa can be. For some idea of how good it can be, have a look at Filament Frenzy on Twitter, who pushes the Prusa to the ragged edge and produces prints I wouldn’t have thought possible on a filament-based printer.
There are a lot of types of printers out there, but this printer is suitable for anybody. If you are just starting in 3D printing, the kit form is a great way to learn, or if you are looking at starting a small manufacturing business, an array of Prusa printers is the perfect way to start.
- Under $1,000
- Fantastic print quality
- Constant upgrades available
- Can take a little fine-tuning
Best Overall FDM
The best you can buy
When looking for the best mix of value and quality, nothing beats the Prusa i3 Mk3. It prints a fantastic print almost every time.
Best Value Resin: Elegoo Mars Pro
Source: Windows Central
I have spent a lot of time with the Elegoo Mars and Mars Pro and can honestly say they are my favorite small printer. The print quality is astounding for a printer of this price, and, once you’ve dialed it in, the Mars will print with that same quality for hundreds of prints.
The Photon uses a different type of resin printing called DLP, which uses an LCD to produce UV light. This open nature allows for a variety of resins to be used, especially some of the cheaper ones. This, coupled with the low price of the printer, makes it the perfect starter. Sure, the build plate is a little small, but this an entry-level printer for you to get your feet wet. The size will be fine for just about everyone.
If you are interested in 3D printing using resin, then the Mars and its brother the Mars Pro are the best value for money. The quality of the prints and the cost make it the perfect entry point.
- Excellent price point
- 0.02mm layer resolution
- Cheap resins available
- Easy to set up and use
- Small build plate
Best value Resin
The perfect balance
The Anycubic Photon is the perfect balance of quality and price. A small desktop printer that offers this amount of quality is amazing.
Best for exotic filament: Matterhackers Pulse XE
The Pulse XE bundle has everything you need to start printing some of the toughest filaments around. Whether its RYNO, NylonX, or exotic PLA — Glow in the Dark, wood filled, and Copper-filled, for example — The Pulse XE has the tools to get the job done.
The XE also comes with some amazing upgrades from the moment you buy it. It comes with an Olsson Ruby nozzle that can survive just about any plastic, and the Bondtech extruder that feeds filament more reliably than any other extruder I’ve used, and they are just the most obvious upgrades. There are plenty more.
The bundle also comes with the PrintDry system to keep your filament in the best shape it can be. This is extremely important when you are using filaments that soak up moisture, like NylonX or even just plain PLA, as they can be destroyed very easily. Make sure you are in a dry environment with no breeze, and you should be fine.
Buy the XE if you are looking to print with the more exotic filaments as well as the standard types. But make sure you have a controlled environment when you’re printing. Otherwise, things may go awry.
- Allows for extreme filaments
- Upgraded hardware
- Fast FDM printing
- Excellent Customer service
- Needs a controlled environment
Best for exotic filaments
The Pulse XE bundle has everything you need to print exotic filaments like carbon fiber, glow in the dark, and RYNO. I can print it all.
Best Value FDM: Creality Ender 3 pro
One of the 3D printing communities favorites, the Ender 3 pro is not without its challenges. This is a printer for people who have patience and time: Patience to work with the printer, tightening screws and making sure it’s square, and time to work with the slicing software to fine-tune the prints.
Any problems you may have with the Ender 3 pro are offset almost immediately by the low-cost entry point. Being able to start in the 3D printing hobby for around $250 is nothing to turn your nose up at, and the prints you’ll eventually get from this machine make it well worth the cost.
If you’re looking to get into 3D printing for the first time and you have a tight budget, then try the Ender 3 Pro. With a little work, it can be amazing.
- Insanely cheap
- Sturdy build
- Removable build plate
- Steep learning curve
- Needs upgrading almost immediately
Best Value FDM
Cheap and cheerful
The Ender 3 pro needs a lot of work out of the box to get it right, but for such a low price, you can afford to spend some time with it.
Best for portability: LulzBot Mini v2
When we talk about portability in 3D printing, we aren’t talking about moving the printer while it’s running. Portability is the ability for a printer to be moved from place to place and be set up with little to no effort, and for it to work consistently regardless of location.
This is what the Mini v2 from LulzBot gives you — a completely hassle-free setup every single time. It has a lot of awesome little tricks to keep everything square and true, like the solid construction and one of the most reliable bed leveling systems I have ever seen. Not once in all the time I was using the Mini v2 did I have an issue with leveling the bed. No matter where I put it, it always printed the way it was supposed to.
There is a reason that the U.S. Army chooses LulzBot as its printer of choice. It’s the ease at which the printer farms can be broken down and built back up again.
If you are someone who travels for work but still wants to have a hobby, or if you need a 3D printer for the work you do while you are traveling, this is a fantastic machine. This is just a fantastic machine, period.
- Easily transportable
- Excellent leveling systems
- Rock-solid construction
- It’s not cheap
Best for portability
The Lulzbot Mini is one of the most reliable printers I have ever seen. Every time I move it, the machine auto-adjusts to the new area. Like magic.
While there are a lot of printers available right now, we’ve tried to give you the options that fit most price points as well as quality. When we make the decision concerning the best anything, we have to weigh the cost, build quality, as well as the quality of the end result.
For my money, the perfect balance of cost and quality is the Prusa i3 MK3. I love it, and it always gives me the best-looking prints. It can be used by someone just starting out, or seasoned professionals who have 20 machines operating 24/7.
If you are looking for resin instead, then the Mars by Elegoo is the very best choice in resin printing right now. With an insanely low price point and an excellent track record of making beautiful prints every time, you will fall in love with the details that this printer can produce.
James Bricknell James built his first PC when he was 13 and has never looked back. He can be found on Windows Central, usually in the corner where all the 3D printers are, Making models for his friends, or huddled around the Xbox playing the latest games.
Russell Holly Russell is a tech nerd who chases the best of everything, from phones to game consoles to laptops and everything around those categories. He likes to make cosplay items with his 3D printer, most recently the Flash!
We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.