Comparing the Ender 3 and Ender 3 Pro: An In-Depth, Unbiased Review for New 3D Printing Enthusiasts

Hey there! As someone venturing into the exciting world of desktop 3D printing, you likely have your eye on the hugely popular, affordable Ender 3 or the upgraded Ender 3 Pro from Creality.

But with so many glowing reviews and fans of both models, how do you determine which one best fits your wants, needs and budget as a beginner? Don‘t worry – I‘ve got you covered!

I’ve been 3D printing for over 5 years now and have learned the ins and outs of troubleshooting finicky, entry-level machines. I’ve also modded everything from Prusa MK3s to CR-10s in the hobbyist space. Today, I’ll be breaking down exactly what separates the Ender 3 and Ender 3 Pro to help guide your buying decision.

We’ll compare overall print quality, reliability, out-of-box experience and other key factors so you can decide if sticking with the highly affordable original or stepping up to the Pro is the smartest play. I’ll also give some pro tips on essential upgrades to transform these “good enough” starter printers into exceptional performers.

Let’s get to it!

Ender 3 vs Ender 3 Pro Overview

Creality’s Ender 3, first released in 2018, instantly became a community favorite by bringing decent FDM 3D printing down to just $189. Butdemand for better performance and fewer headaches out of the box led the company to launch the Ender 3 Pro in 2019.

Priced at $219, this iterative upgrade aims to fix a few widely criticized flaws of the OG Ender 3 while retaining cross-compatibility with many custom modifications from the passionate user base.

In a nutshell:

  • The Ender 3 shook up the market with an incredibly low cost of entry for novices.

  • The Ender 3 Pro polished a few rough edges to improve ease of use.

As such, these two affordable models now dominate as the top picks for getting started with hobbyist 3D printing – striking an unbeatable balance of quality and cost.

But the Pro does edge out its predecessor if money is no object. Let‘s examine why…

Diving Into the Print Details

You likely already know the basics — both devices can turn 1.75mm plastic filaments like PLA, PETG or ABS into three dimensional creations up to 220 x 220 x 250 mm in size through precise, heated extrusion.

They share the same physical footprint, with mostly metal frames housing the x, y & z-axis motion components. Print resolution caps out at 0.1mm layer height. And heated removable print beds with manual calibration allow materials to adhere while printing.

So then what justifies the extra $30 for the Pro upgrade?

Here’s a breakdown of the key spec differences:

Build Plate Ender 3: BuildTak Sticker Ender 3 Pro: Magnetic
Power Supply24V Generic24V Meanwell Branded
MotherboardV4.2.2, 8 bit
Warranty6 Months12 Months

Analyzing the Big Differences

While minor on paper, that spec sheet doesn’t tell the whole story. Let’s dive deeper into the meaningful detriments fixed between the Ender 3 gens…and what still remains unsolved.

The Build Plate Dilemma

Hands down, my top gripe working with the original Ender 3 is its BuildTak print surface. This plastic sticker sheet helps prints adhere while printing thanks to its proprietary coating. But once models cooled, removing them became a literal pain, usually requiring robust scraping tools.

The Ender 3 Pro thankfully replaces this with a flexible steel platform coated in the same BuildTak texture. But now the entire magnetic sheet easily detaches, allowing prints to slide free with ease. Some may argue it’s less secure for sticking in place mid-print at higher temps. However, I found it strikes an ideal balance of grip while active then effortless release when finished.

This build plate issue reflects Creality’smaturing view of the user experience beyond saving costs. And shows the value of listening to customer feedback!

Power Supply Problems Solved

Another widespread complaint was the Ender 3‘s off-brand, unlabeled 24V power module. Maybe 1 in 10 would arrive faulty, refusing to power on (and requiring replacement). Those operational seemed prone to random shutdowns mid-print – often ruining 10+ hour jobs!

For the Pro, swapping in a branded Meanwell unit brings reliably stable power. Should you ever need a swap, these common PSUs are also easy to source. Combined with flexible steel bed’s thermal resilience, it unlocks printing more exotic materials like ABS or nylon that require hotter, prolonged bed temps up to 110°C.

What Hasn‘t Improved?

The elephant in the room – lackluster motherboards in both models.

Sure, the dated 8-bit boards technically "work." But blessedly quiet operation these ain‘t! Their tiny cooling fans whine like banshees as stepper motors groan under acceleration. Perfect to annoy loved ones as their teeth grind from the racket emanating day and night from your "fun" hobby…

Their other critical job – precisely controlling heaters – also leaves much to be desired. Hotend temps fluctuate greatly, struggling to maintain setpoints. Don‘t even get me started on the need to re-level beds plagued by dips and peaks!

Thankfully, very affordable 32-bit Creality and BigTreeTech boards exist offering silent auto bed leveling and thermal stability through PID. Though swapping mainboards sounds intimidating, a DIY upgrade takes under an hour and provides the most dramatic quality of life improvement.

And that‘s the beauty of open source ecosystems like the Ender 3. Its simple, modular construction makes tailoring it to your needs easy as pie. Both flavors of Ender keep this hackability intact.

Recommended Upgrades:

Ender 3 vs Ender 3 Pro: Which Should You Buy?

When evaluating pure value, the Ender 3 arguably still wins. It consistently goes on sale well under $200. So snagging one today and upgrading components over time is very reasonable.

However, if avoiding upgrades entirely matters because you want a 3D printer that simply works great out of the box, I suggest splurging on the Ender 3 Pro. Its quality of life touches add up to a noticeably smoother experience worth the premium.

Either way, you‘re entering this captivating world of desktop fabrication on the cheap! As you learn the ropes modeling then printing ambitious creations, these Creality machines will serve you well.

And who knows – maybe you’ll catch the upgrade bug like me and end up modding, enhancing and maxing out their potential too. That journey from novice to expert is half the fun with open source 3D printers.

So don‘t stress over agonizing between the Ender 3 and Pro too much. Budget and timeline considered, you’re all but guaranteed fantastic bang for your buck that empowers bringing your ideas to life.

Let me know if any other questions pop up! More than happy to offer advice or printer recommendations.

Happy printing!

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