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Ender 3 vs Ender 3 Pro: Choosing Between Creality‘s Top Budget Printers

So you‘re looking to dip your toes into the world of 3D printing, but don‘t want to spend too much money upfront. Well Creality has two very tempting options for you – the Ender 3 and the Ender 3 Pro. These two 3D printers have a lot of similarities along with some key differences to weigh when deciding between them.

As the two leading budget FDM (fused deposition modeling) printers on the market right now, let‘s compare them in depth so you can determine the right model for your needs and budget. We‘ll also look at worthwhile upgrades, modifications, and accessories you may want further down the line.

At a Glance: Specs and Features

To kick things off, here‘s a high-level features overview before we dive deeper:

Ender 3

  • Build Volume: 220 x 220 x 250 mm
  • Standard Build Surface: Removable BuildTak sticker sheet
  • Generic 24V Power Supply
  • Manual Bed Leveling
  • Noisy Mainboard with Basic Display

Ender 3 Pro

  • Build Volume: 220 x 220 x 250 mm
  • Removable Spring Steel Build Sheet with Magnetic BuildTak Surface
  • Name-Brand MeanWell 24V Power Supply
  • Manual Bed Leveling
  • Noisy Mainboard with Basic Display

As you can see upfront, the build area is identical on both machines. And aside from the build platform and power supply upgrades, many core parts stay the same. Let‘s explore the differences and similarities in more detail.

Same Sturdy, Open Frame Design

The Ender 3 made a splash when it first launched by offering an unusually large 220 x 220 mm heated bed at a very wallet-friendly price. This blew away other affordable options at the time which tended to have tiny print areas often limited to around 150 mm on any given side.

Creality pulled off this feat through some clever design choices. Instead of using an enclosed metal frame, they went with an open arrangement of slotted aluminum extrusions. This exposed design does have some downsides which we‘ll discuss shortly. But the cost savings were staggering, allowing them to divert funds into a bigger heated print platform.

Both the Ender 3 and Ender 3 Pro carry on this core design ethos…

Key Differences to Understand

Now let‘s call out the main differences between the Ender 3 and Pro versions:

Removable Bed Surfaces

This is arguably the biggest distinction between the two printers.

The standard Ender 3 uses a BuildTak sticker sheet for its print surface. BuildTak works pretty well to adhere those first delicate plastic layers. But eventually you‘ll run into adhesion issues as the sheet wears out. And good luck getting larger prints to release once they cool!

That‘s why the Ender 3 Pro upgrades to a flexible magnetic print bed. It uses the same BuildTak coating, except this steel spring sheet easily pops on and off the heating platform. Removing those big solid prints becomes much easier after they cool. No more wrestling and prying things loose!

So while a smooth removable surface may sound like a minor perk, ask any 3D printing veteran and they‘ll confirm – it‘s a huge quality of life improvement.

Power Supply Rating

The next obvious change is an upgraded power supply. Both units run on commonplace 24 volt inputs. But the Ender 3 Pro swaps in an actual name brand unit from MeanWell rather than the no-name generic PS seen in the base model.

Is a better power supply strictly necessary? Not really in my experience – even the el cheapo units seem to work fine powering the Ender 3‘s fairly modest internals and hotend.

That said, I have seen reports of some units failing early or not providing enough sustained power during longer builds. So I consider the MeanWell unit cheap insurance to protect the rest of your investment. This elminates potential downtime or random glitches during complex prints down the road.

Small Design Tweaks

Aside from the bed and power supply, Creality made a couple subtle design changes with the Ender 3 Pro…

First off, the mainboard cooling fan vent was relocated. On the base Ender 3, it sits on top where falling bits of plastic or debris can easily clog it up. The fan got moved to the bottom front on the Pro which should reduce nuisance clogs.

The other minor tweak was repositioning the Z-axis stop switch mount for clarity. Apparently some new users had trouble figuring out proper installation positions. So the Ender 3 Pro mount stands out more visually as a foolproof guide.

And that wraps up the main hardware distinctions between the two printers! Now let‘s touch on their similarities…

Shared Performance Capabilities

Aside from those hardware upgrades, the Ender 3 and Ender 3 Pro have nearly identical specs and performance:

  • Heated Bed: Remains 220 x 220 mm on both models with a maximum temperature of 110°C
  • Print Volume: Matching 220 x 220 x 250 mm build areas
  • Supported Filaments: Both support PLA, ABS, TPU, PETG, copolyesters, etc.
  • Max Hotend Temp: Same 240°C nozzle heat spec to handle common materials
  • Mainboard: Use quieter V4.2.2 boards but not the 32-bit silent versions
  • Display: Simple monochrome LCD screens to monitor prints

So you can see performance stays comparable between the two. You won‘t suddenly gain abilities to print with exotic filaments or radically faster speeds by opting for the Pro.

Instead you‘re paying a small premium for subtle but meaningful quality of life improvements on the hardware itself.

Making Sense of the Ender Ecosystem

Before picking the right Ender model for you, it helps to understand where they fit into Creality‘s broader 3D printer lineup.

Their CR series (like the CR-10) designates higher-tier printers with refined components and performance. The CR line costs significantly more but offers larger build volumes, dual extrusion options, and more reliability out of the box.

Conversely, the Ender series targets budget-focused makers or printing newbies. They require more hands-on tweaking but offer tremendous value at lower prices.

The Ender 3 sits at the head of the entry-level group as Creality‘s most popular unit by far. Then you have the very minor Pro upgrade as a mid-point before the fancier Ender 3 V2.

Enter the Ender 3 V2

Ender 3 V2 3D printer upgrade

The Ender 3 V2 throws another wrinkle into the mix – made to fix common annoyances with earlier Ender 3 iterations. It carries over the Pro‘s flexible magnetic bed then further refines things from there.

Changes include swapping in Creality‘s own silent 32-bit mainboard known as the V4.2.7. This eliminates distracting stepper noise and high-pitched whines. You also now get a color LCD interface for easier print monitoring plus neat extras like resume print and thermal runaway protection features.

The caveat? All these upgrades nudge the V2‘s price up around $100 higher than the Ender 3 base model. So while compelling, be prepared to spend more avoiding Pro upgrades individually down the road.

Ultimately any Ender 3 variety works as a starter 3D printer. But the V2 does make the best case for shelling out a bit more upfront if you can swing it.

Now let‘s move onto actually using these printers day to day…

Factor in Ongoing Operating Costs Too

When weighing Ender 3 vs Ender Pro value, don‘t just consider the base printer price. Operating costs add up in materials and accessories to factor in too.


You‘ll go through lots of filament with frequent printing. And quality matters here! Generic no-name filament leads to ugly prints prone to clogs and jams.

My favorites are HATCHBOX, eSUN, and Polymaker for consistent reliable spools around $20 each. Figure you might spend $100-200 per year here as a hobbyist.


Extra nozzles are handy since the stock brass ones gradually wear from abrasive glow plastic. A 5-pack of replacements costs ~$15. Plan to swap nozzles every 1-2 months with regular use.

Misc Upkeep

Other recurring accessories like tape, glues, tools, cleaning filament, etc will set you back another $30-50 per year realistically.

So casting a wider net, expect to spend $250-300 yearly on filament and supplies alongside the printer itself.

Making Sense of Bed Surfaces

The removable spring steel sheet on the Ender 3 Pro really improves the printing experience over the standard BuildTak sticker. But you do have other bed surface options too.

Glass beds are popular upgrades offering ultra smooth bottoms with great hold when clean. But they lack magnetic flexibility for easy print removal. Other choices like PEI sheets work well but may not perfectly fit Ender beds without DIY modification.

Many owners also apply aftermarket adhesion solutions like hairspray or glue stick onto the bare aluminum plate once its BuildTak coating wears off. This approximates a removable surface again, but results tend to be messier and less consistent.

Overall the flexible magnetic sheet strikes the best balance in my experience. But feel free to experiment with alternatives down the line!

Manual Bed Leveling: The Ongoing Struggle

Perhaps the biggest frustration that both the Ender 3 and Ender 3 Pro share is lack of automated bed leveling. You must periodically manually adjust the four knobs under the print bed to align its plane with the X/Y carriage path.

This annoying process entails slightly loosening then retightening each knob while sliding paper shims to equalize spacing. Get it slightly off, and you‘ll fight first layer adhesion issues or possibly a nozzle collision disaster!

Unfortunately manual bed leveling is necessary because the aluminum platforms gradually warp over time and temperature shifts. It will never truly hold a "level" orientation permanently despite best efforts.

Many owners rightfully upgrade to automatic bed leveling kits. These add a small sensor probe which can map realtime variations then software compensate for them.

But that‘s a $30-60 upgrade adding upfront cost. Out of the box, expect to wrestle with manual leveling every dozen prints or so.

Outstanding Support Community

While quirky as entry-level units, the Ender series luckily enjoys vast user communities online full of advice and mods. The /r/Ender3 subreddit and Facebook groups are full of solutions when you inevitably run into a problem.

This grassroots support network adds tremendous long-term value owning an Ender. Between online guides and forum searches, you‘ll likely find an answer to any troubles that pop up.

So don‘t let the lack of formal technical support scare you off. In practice the DIY community knowledge around the Ender 3 lineup approximates professional assistance when needed!

Upgrade Pathways to Improve Print Quality

Part of the Ender 3 line‘s appeal lies in steady upgrade potential down the road. As skills improve, you can swap components for better performance instead of buying a whole new machine.

Here are some common Ender augmentation ideas:

Silent Mainboards

The loud stock mainboards annoy many owners. Drop-in 32-bit Creality boards with silent TMC stepper drivers (like the Ender 3 V2 has) dramatically quiet things down for ~$35-60.

Auto Bed Leveling

Adding a basic BL Touch sensor probe handles the bed leveling headache automatically for around $45. No more fiddling with manual knobs and paper!

All Metal Hotends

The stock hotends hold up okay initially. But eventually the PTFE tubing inside degrades from heat creep causing clogs. Swapping to an all-metal heat throat prevents this issue for around $25-35.


DIY enclosures help keep temps stable and prints cleaner. But be mindful of component heat limits if going this route!

Z Axis Stabilizers

The leadscrew stabilizers reduce layer shifts from Z wobble that sometimes plague tall narrow prints.


Stiffer yellow bed springs reduce adjustment needs by better holding leveling tweaks.

And tons more upgrades are possible – the sky‘s the limit! Or for simplicity‘s sake, just upgrade to the refined Ender 3 V2 now which includes many popular mods out of the box.

Weighing Ender 3 vs Ender 3 Pro: Which to Choose?

So where does that leave us comparing the Ender 3 and Ender 3 Pro? Honestly you can‘t go too wrong either way – both are incredible home 3D printers for the money.

However, if buying right now, I suggest just spending the tiny bit extra for the Pro. The flexible removable magnetic bed fixes the most glaring Ender 3 shortfall in my experience. And the name brand power supply gives peace of mind supporting all those electronics reliably. Plus its minor design tweaks may head off future annoyances.

That said, if you somehow found an incredible discount or open box Ender 3 deal, don‘t hesitate grabbing the base model. You can always upgrade components like the bed yourself down the line fairly cheaply.

Just temper expectations going in. These are $200 printers requiring plenty of TLC. Out of the box performance leaves much to be desired. But entering the world of 3D printing doesn‘t need to cost an arm and a leg. With some patience and DIY spirit, the Ender 3 series delivers tremendous value.

To wrap up, here are my final recommendations…

Personal Recommendations

Best Budget Pick

  • Ender 3 Pro – Spend a few extra bucks and skip some starter headaches.

Best Features for Money

  • Ender 3 V2 – Costs more but nicer interface and silent board.

Best Midrange Alternative

  • Prusa Mini – Far less fiddly but pricier at ~$350-400.

I hope this full run-down helps you pick the right affordable 3D printer. Feel free to drop any other questions in the comments below!