Top 3D printer brands including Prusa, Anycubic, Elegoo, Bambu Lab and more. All are tested and reviewed by our experts.
Updated Nov. 15, 2023 1:00 p.m. PT
Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission.
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James BricknellSenior Editor
James has been writing about technology for years but has loved it since the early 90s. While his main areas of expertise are maker tools -- 3D printers, vinyl cutters, paper printers, and laser cutters -- he also loves to play board games and tabletop RPGs.
Expertise3D printers, maker tools such as Cricut style vinyl cutters and laser cutters, traditional paper printersCredentials
6 years working professionally in the 3D printing space / 4 years testing consumer electronics for large websites.
Once the purview of dedicated hobbyists, 3D printing has become much more affordable and accessible, thanks to high-quality, low-cost printers and printing materials. Gone are the days of having to build complex machines from scratch and hoping that one print might succeed out of 10 attempts.
3D printers are becoming faster and producing much better quality, so there's never been a better time to get started in the industry. Printers can be used for so many projects, from cosplay to small business ventures, that having at least one in your home just makes sense.
Which is the best 3D printer?
I've almost a decade and countless hours testing 3D printers in as many ways as possible to bring you the best 3D printers in every class. Right now, the Bambu Lab P1S is our front-runner: It's fast, can produce excellent detail, and it's well-priced at $699. It's an upgrade to the P1P, which is also a fantastic printer for $100 cheaper.
This list includes both small and large 3D printers, with attention paid to print speed, the size of the build plate, the cost of PLA filament, the kind of print head included and other important details. And once you've decided to take the plunge into additive manufacturing -- that's what 3D printing essentially is -- there's also an FAQ below.
The P1S is an updated version of our previous best 3D printer winner, the P1P. Each of the updates to the machine -- plastic side panels, glass top and door, camera, part fan and LED light -- raise the P1S to be our number one pick. The quality of the models and the speed at which it can print them is amazing, and very few printers can do both of those things at anywhere near the same price point.
No list of the best 3D printers is complete without the Prusa MK3S Plus. For nearly a decade, it's dominated the market and continues to be the go-to printer for anyone looking to make a business from 3D printing. It's fast, though not the fastest, and creates quality prints every time. I can count the number of print fails from MK3 on one hand, and I've had it for over seven years.
One of the first consumer 3D printers to break the 250 millimeter-per-second speed barrier, the AnkerMake M5 has recently had a software update to push its speed up to 500mm/s on its ultrafast mode. The M5 uses an AI camera to help you detect issues so you can stop a failing print before you waste a lot of material. The AI is particularly bad, but the camera does give you some fantastic time-lapse videos to share on social media.
Anycubic's reputation for printers that are dead simple to use without being prohibitively expensive scales well to its updated Kobra 2 Max, making any large printing job a mostly set-and-forget affair. That said, the sheer size of this machine requires some consideration. In order to maintain speed with the massive build plate, this bed-slinger comes with some powerful motors, which caused even the sturdiest table in my workshop to wobble. The gyroscope in the print head helps combat most of this, but if you're printing something especially tall, be prepared for some imperfections. And like any Anycubic printer, the software is nowhere near as sophisticated as its more expensive competitors. As long as you're right with those minor compromises, you'll get a lot of great prints out of this machine.
Material type: Filament
Build area (mm): 420x420x500
Official max printing speed (mm/s): 500
Dimensions (mm): 740x735x640
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Best 3D printers for beginners
These 3D printers are excellent for anyone just starting out in 3D printing. Check out our expanded list of the best budget 3D printers for more in this category.
While not as fast as the P1P or the X1C, the Kobra 2 is around the same speed as the AnkerMake M5. It will happily produce prints at 250 millimeters per second, though the best quality seems to be hovering around 150mm/s in my testing. It also comes with a filament runout sensor and bed leveling, which works well.
The big selling point for the Kobra 2 though is the price. It has all the advantages of a faster printer with a sub-$300 price tag, which is astonishing. This is my recommendation for any first-time buyer or someone on a budget.
The A1 Mini Combo is an almost perfect entry to the world of color 3D printing. It's well priced, and while the build area is small, the quality of the print -- and the fact you can print in four colors straight out of the box -- is amazing. If you're looking for your first printer and want to try color printing, this is a no-brainer.
The Neptune 2 has been one of my favorite budget printers for years now, and the Neptune 3 Pro takes everything good about it, then multiplies it by... a lot. The Pro has auto bed leveling, filament run-out sensors, and prints with a quality you wouldn't believe possible for a printer under $300.
If you're just starting out, the Neptune 3 Pro should be your go-to printer.
Resin printers are the next step up in rapid prototyping design technology when you want your printing to look as high quality as possible. Just be warned: The liquid resin is harder to work with, requiring good ventilation and a portable UV light to properly cure.
The Photon Mono 2 is Anycubic's latest upgrade to its popular Mono series and is a solid upgrade to the original. The prints are detailed and the printer's size makes it easy to put safely in your workshop. If you want to get into resin printing, the Mono 2 is a great starting point.
Material type: Resin
Build area (mm): 165×89x143
Official max printing speed (Layer time in seconds): 1.5 - 3
The Elegoo Saturn 2 is an almost perfect upgrade from the original Saturn. It is bigger and more powerful, with better quality prints than its predecessor and my No. 1 choice for a midrange resin 3D printer. If you're looking to print serious details or a lot of tiny models, this is simply the best choice.
There is a new Saturn on the horizon, the Saturn 3 Ultra 12K. I'm testing it right now and it's pretty amazing. It will likely replace the Saturn 2 on this list in the coming weeks.
Material type: Resin
Build area (mm): 219x123x250
Official max printing speed (Layer time in seconds): 1.5 - 3
The Flashforge Adventurer 3 has long been one of CNET's favorite midprice 3D printers. The updated Adventurer 4 brings a handful of iterative improvements that make for a winning evolution. The Adventurer 4 is a fully enclosed unit, which helps control the temperature and block drafts. The build area is 220 by 200 by 250mm, and it has a system for easily swapping out nozzles -- all good features to have in a midrange to high-end printer.
A word of warning; the CR-30 is not for the beginners out there. It is a complicated machine, and you will need some 3D-printing knowledge to really get the hang of it. It's also a very different beast, and instead of printing on a static-sized build plate, it uses a conveyor belt to create an "endless Z-axis." That lets you print extra-long models or lots of things over and over again.
If you are a cosplayer looking to make weapons or large armor pieces, the CR-30 gives you a lot of room to create. I've managed to print Squall's Gunblade from Final Fantasy VIII as well as the Whisper of the Worm from Destiny 2 (both were printed in two halves and attached together). It's great for small businesses looking to mass-produce small parts, and with just two CR-30s you could create a small empire on Etsy or Shopify.
Material type: Filament
Build area (mm): 200x170xinfinite
Official max printing speed (mm/s): unknown
Dimensions (mm): 656x535x410
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What to consider before buying a 3D printer
Purchasing your first 3D printer can be nerve-wracking but we're here to help. There are a few main areas that you should consider when choosing the best 3D printer, and we have them covered here.
Should I wait for a deal to buy a 3D printer?
3D printers are often available throughout the year at a discount price. Special days like Prime Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are great occasions to pick yourself up a new machine, but there are still plenty of deals to be had on a normal day. Make sure you stay fluid and choose your 3D printer deal based on the availability of the machine and what your research has told you is the best.
What am I 3D printing?
When deciding on what 3D printer to buy, you first have to know what type of things you want it to print. Resin 3D printing is good for highly detailed models such as character busts, dental work or tabletop miniatures. Even jewelry can be made using a resin 3D printer.
For almost every other application, an FDM, aka filament, 3D printer, is likely the best choice. Filament 3D printing is versatile in the types of material you can use and offers much larger build volumes to work on models. Cosplay armor and helmets, practical parts and large-scale models are best printed on an FDM printer.
Build volume is the amount of space a printer has to produce a model. Often calculated in millimeters cubed, it is the combination of the width, height and depth that your printer's nozzle can reach. This is not always the same as the internal volume of a 3D printer because the wiring and other mechanical parts can get in the way of the nozzle, reducing the area available.
Most FDM printers have a build area of around 220 by 220 by 250mm, though some of the best 3D printers have larger and a few of the best budget 3D printers have smaller. I think the 220 by 220mm build plate is a good size for starting out as it has room for large, practical pieces or several smaller models at once.
How we test 3D printers
Testing 3D printers is an in-depth process. Printers often don't use the same materials, or even the same process to create models. I test SLA, 3D printers that use resin and light to print, and FDM, printers that melt plastic onto a plate. Each has a unique methodology. Core qualifiers I look at include:
Ease of setup
Appearance and accuracy of prints
Company and community support
A key test print, representing the (now old) CNET logo, is used to assess how a printer bridges gaps, creates accurate shapes and deals with overhangs. It even has little towers to help measure how well the 3D printer deals with temperature ranges.
When testing speed we slice the model using the standard slicer the machine is shipped with on its standard settings then compare the real-world duration of the print to the statement completion time on the slicer. 3D printers often use different slicers, and those slicers can vary wildly on what they believe the completion time to be.
We then use PrusaSlicer to determine how much material the print should use and divide that number by the real-world time it took to print to give us a more accurate number for the speed in millimeters per second (mm/s) the printer can run at.
Every build plate is supposed to heat up to a certain temperature so we use the InfiRay thermal imaging camera for Android to check how well they do. We set the build plate to 60 degrees Celsius -- the most used temperature for build plates -- waited 5 minutes for the temperature to stabilize, then measured it in six separate locations. We then took the average temperature to see how close the 3D printer got to the advertised temperature.
Testing resin requires different criteria so I use the Ameralabs standard test -- printing out a small resin model that looks like a tiny town. This helps determine how accurate the printer is, how it deals with small parts and how well the UV exposure works at different points in the model.
Many other anecdotal test prints, using different 3D models, are also run on each printer to test the longevity of the parts and how well the machine copes with various shapes.
For the other criteria, I research the company to see how well it responds to support queries from customers and how easy it is to order replacement parts and install them yourself. Kits (printers that come only semi-assembled) are judged by how long and difficult the assembly process is and how clear the instructions are.
3D printer FAQs
What material should I use to print with?
Most home 3D printers use PLA or ABS plastic. Professional printers can use all sorts of materials, from metal to organic filament. Some printers use a liquid resin, which is much more difficult to handle. As a beginner, use PLA. It's non-toxic, made mostly of cornstarch and sugarcane, handles easily and is inexpensive. However, it's more sensitive to heat, so don't leave your 3D prints on the dashboard of a car on a hot day.
What brand is best will depend on the job you're trying to do. If you want to print something that looks amazing with no post-processing, Polylite from Polymaker is a great choice with a large range of colors and finishes.
If you're printing something that's going to be sanded and painted, like cosplay armor, I would go with MatterHackers Build PLA. It's easy to sand, holds paint well and is cheaper the more you buy.
What settings should I use?
Most 3D printers include or link to recommended software, which can handle converting 3D STL or other files into formats supported by the printer. Stick with the suggested presets to start, with one exception. I've started adding a raft, or bottom layer of filament, to nearly everything I print. It has cut down dramatically on prints that don't adhere to the bed properly, which is a common issue. If you continue to have problems, rub a standard glue stick on the print bed right before printing.
What are supports?
Your 3D models probably need some help to print properly, as these printers don't do well with big overhangs -- for example, an arm sticking out from a figure. Your 3D printer software can usually automatically calculate and add supports, meaning little stands that hold up all those sticking-out parts of the model. After the print is done, clip the supports off with micro cutters and file down any nubs or rough edges with hobby files.