Ender 3 v2 Review – The BEST 3D printer for beginners in 2021?

If you like to watch the YouTube version of this article, it's embedded below. The full article below though contains all the information and might be more up to date.

This is my full review of the Creality Ender3 v2.

I like to welcome you back to 2021 for another article and video. I hope you're ready, I hope you're all healthy - This is really important in these times.

This is the Ender 3 v2 we're talking about today.

I've been using the Ender 3 v2 over the Christmas vacation for about 150 hours of test prints.

All these nice things here I've printed and we're going to talk about the results in this video. I also made two other videos previously about this printer.

I covered the build process in this video and I released a time-lapse video so you can see in detail how these prints look like from the ground up.

As usual if you're just interested in seeing a specific part of my videos, use the video chapters to skip to the part that you're interested in mostly.

The build process

First, I'd like to say a few words about the build process. As usual and as expected it took about 30 to 40 minutes.

The manual that Creality delivers with the printer is really concise and easy to understand so I think for even beginners this is a printer that everyone can build and there is no questions open.

Build quality and changes from previous versions

The frame is still high quality. It has been improved over the previous versions but it's still very comparable to the one from the ender 3 pro.

All the parts fit together flush and tightly and i had no issues mounting it.

There wasn't any skewed parts, so I'm really happy with the sturdiness and the quality of that frame.

The extruder itself is still made from plastic - however they did a little design change. The inlet, where the filament comes in there is now a metal insert that will prevent the extruder inlet from wearing out over time.

There's also some other design changes that i really appreciate.

First of all the power supply went into the base frame, so everything is now really nice and sleek and nothing is dangling around here on the side of the frame anymore.

We also have little covers for the y-axis motor and that y-axis endstop switch.

There is also two belt engineers now for the x and y axis. These are additional upgrade parts you can also get for your Ender 3 pro or the v1 but it's really appreciated that they did this for the v2.

At the front of the printer we have a little toolbox - a drawyer, where you can keep all your stuff, replacement parts, tools, nozzles, anything that you want. So it's all kept in a central place nearby the printer and doesn't get lost.

One thing I wish they would have changed is the design of the spool holder.

Its still the same one as in the v1. One issue is that large spools sometimes don't fit on that and I always have a little bit of fear that the spool might fall from that - but it's not changed so you might have to upgrade this.

The bowden extrusion system is basically unchanged from the previous versions - however in the Ender 3 pro and also here in the v2 you have now a tightening screw so you can increase the pressure of the transporting gear against the filament. But that's everything that is different from the v1

You still will have to upgrade the extruder system either to a metal gear extruder or you will have to apply the upgrade that chuck from the CHEP channel designed for the extruder to be able to print TPU flexible material reliably.

Otherwise the flex material is going to escape that inlet pretty easily. So that's an upgrade to apply if you want to go for TPU printing.

Now what's also changed in the v2 versus the pro and the v1 is the addition of the glass plate. It's now included by default. Previously it was an upgrade that you had to purchase from Creality separately or you get a glass plate somewhere else.

Now it's included and the adhesion on this glass plate is surprisingly well, sometimes actually too good. Especially if you print larger parts it gets harder to remove things from the glass plate so you have to use the blade that comes with the printer.

That is also a little bit of an issue because you're scratching the surface pretty easily. I'm not sure how the long term impacts of scratches on the surface are - we're gonna see in the long term but for now i can say it's really surprisingly good.

I'm not a big fan of glass plates by the way. I'm using spring steel bed surfaces mostly on all of my printers and if I had to choose between a glass plate and a spring steal surface, still I would choose the spring steel.

Also the glass surface is really really flat - there is no visible bumps or dips. If you do the bed leveling in the corners you're also getting very good adhesion results in the middle. That tells me that you actually probably don't need a build touch sensor or any kind of bed leveling sensor so there's no real reason to upgrade to that.

However one little thing about the glass plate: You're losing a little bit of print area in the front and in the back because of the clips that hold the glass plate in place.

So if you really want to go to the maximum extend of the print bed you will have to switch it out for something like a spring steel surface.

One of the most apparent changes on the v2 is the new screen. It's now a vertical screen, it's a color screen and it's not a touch screen although you might think it is.

From looking at the icons you would might think that you can touch them actually because they are so large but that's unfortunately not a touch screen.

Although I appreciate a color screen as an upgrade it has a few little issues. For example the viewing angles. If you want to see what's on the screen and you want to use the menu to select something it gets really really hard if you're just a little bit deviating to the side and trying to see what's actually highlighted.

The contrast is really really low and you can't see what's highlighted so that's one issue.

Another issue is that you can't see what's happening with the printer if you're not printing from the sd card. Usually when you print from the SD card you can see the temperature, progress and messages that come to the display. But if you're using Octoprint, like I'm doing with basically all of my printers, there's no way to see the status and any messages that Octoprint sends to the printer. Those are hidden and that's a little bit unfortunate.

One of the most important and interesting upgrades on the v2 is the 32-bit mainboard. Every Creality Ender printer is supposed to get a 32-bit mainboard by now - but they are slightly different and on the v2 we get the new 32-bit main with the TMC 2208 silent drivers.

This is supposed to make the print process more silent - we're going to talk about noise levels in a bit.

Besides having silent drivers and having the 32-bit processor, the mainboard also has two additional upgrade ports. One is for the BLTouch sensor where you can just plug in the 5-pin cable.

There is a second additional plug for a filament run out sensor.

For sure, the BLTouch and a filament sensor are upgrades that I'm going to test out in the future.

Another plus of a 32-bit main board is having more program memory. On the old 8-bit main boards we had all kinds of issues fitting all the features that we wanted into that little tiny space of program memory.

Now with the 32-bit mainboard you have enough memory for all the features that you ever wanted on this printer.

If you're still on a v1 or a pro version of the Ender 3, you can get this upgrade board now as a separate part. It's then the 4.2.7 version and we're going to talk about installing this new mainboard on the Ender 3 Pro in another video.

So if you like to buy this as a separate upgrade part, you can get it here.

Firmware

When I built this printer for the first time, the firmware that was on the mainboard was a pretty outdated version. I upgraded it to the latest version - however I was hoping for some new features and there's some very basic features missing in that firmware unfortunately.

The first one I expected to have is "Level Bed Corners". This is a function that makes it very easy to do the corner leveling. The print nozzle moves around the print surface corners and then you can adjust the tightening of that corner surface against the nozzle.

Although you can do this manually there is always the issue that you either have to move it using the move axis menu - that's a very tedious process or you have to disable the steppers and then you might be running into the issue of moving the z-axis up or down unintendedly. So I wished they had included this little feature.

Another missing feature from Marlin is the filament change menu. This could have been added pretty easily.

The last Marlin feature I miss is the 9 point mesh bed leveling.

I wish they would have included all these features but they didn't so watch out for my Marlin 2.0 upgrade video for the Ender 3 v2 mainboard.

Print quality and closer look at test prints

As I mentioned in the beginning, I did about 150 hours of prints on this printer already., so let's have a look at the print quality.

The first test print was the benchy, which came out pretty well. I didn't do any tweaking and changing of settings in CURA, I just used the default settings for the Ender 3 Pro because there isn't yet a v2 profile in CURA. That print came out really really nice without any visible issues any ringing or any stringing.

The second test print was this Christmas ornament. These are printed in vase mode. They turned out really nice.

Then I've printed this weird vase from Geeky Faye. Two times because in the first run there were some layer shifting and layer skipping issues specifically in the higher parts of that first print.

I wanted to find out why and it turned out that I had to enable z-hop on retract to get rid of these issues.

Doing the second one with the z-hop enabled turned out beautiful. The weird vase is a really challenging print on any printer - don't get me wrong.

You also have to print this very slow so you can't print it at 50 or 60 mm/s but you have to go down to 25 or even 15 mm/s to really get a good result.

Then we have a few more parts. One was the pen holder, which turned out really nice. There is no visible issues, no layer issues, no ringing issues whatsoever. This shows me that the default setup of the printer and also the sturdiness of the frame and having belt tensioners improves the first time results very much.

It seems you don't have to do any kind of tweaking in the software anymore everything runs really really smooth.

I also wanted to test printing very small parts. This is an example, for a miniature print. It's the mandalorian figure and it's just 2.5 centimeters high - default for any kind of miniature prints.

I would rate the quality average but some of you mentioned in the comments of the timelapse video that it looks like crap.

I would still say that for an fdm printer the result is okay. Of course you will get better results on SLA printers.

We're gonna see some SLA printing on this channel this year, so we will have a chance to compare results for sure.

The last one of my test prints is this battery dispenser and this one turned out very very nice. This print is specifically good for seeing problems because it has this large curved area. Normally you would see in this large curved area issues with ringing and belt tensioning.

Print Speed

The print speed on this printer in general is average and equal compared to the previous models. You can go for 50 to 60 mm/s for the best results.

Of course you can also print faster like 100 or 120 mm/s. This will degrade the quality of your prints - but that is expected.

Noise Levels

This printer is not really silent although you might think that it should be because it has silent drivers.

Instead this printer is a pretty noisy one due to the fan noise so if you're in the same room when this printer is running this is going to be disturbingly loud.

After 150 hours of almost uninterrupted printing, not turning off the power, I turned the printer off for just a few hours and then turned it back on and the fans started to make really loud vibrating noises (to be heard in the video version of this article).

Hearing this noise tells me that the bearings of those fans are already wearing down pretty fast. These fans are probably the first parts that you need to replace on the printer if you want to get rid of that noise.

However about two minutes later the fans started turning normally, I assume the problem is going to increase over time.

If you want to make this printer really silent and if you've seen my v1 upgrade video, where I did all the fan upgrades, it's going to require a lot of changes in terms of replacing the hot end fan, the cooling fan and the electronics case fan.

All these need to be changed to really get a silent printer and I'm not sure if that is worth the effort on this printer. You better put it in a room where it's running alone and not run it in your bedroom.

Heat up speed

I was also interested to see how fast this printer can heat up the hot end and also the print bed to the desired print temperatures.

Heating up to 200 degrees celsius on the hot end at at the same time heating up the hotbed to 60 degrees celsius took about three minutes and 14 seconds. Just alone the hot end heating up time was 2 minutes and 8 seconds.

Compared to the previous versions, the pro and the v1, this isn't much different. Probably because of the thicker glass bed it's a little bit longer just a few seconds so not a big change.

Other issues discovered

I also ran into two issues during my test prints.

The first one being that the extruder gear that transports the filament into the tube, over time made its way up on that motor shaft because it wasn't fixed tight enough. This actually happened two times until I managed to get it fixed so tightly that it didn't move up anymore. This is something you should double check when you build the printer, to get those little grub screws really tight so this doesn't happen to you.

The second issue that I see already happening here is that the rubber wheels on the x and y axis are already degrading pretty fast. I can only imagine that this has to do with them being too tight against the extrusions from factory. I didn't adjust the tightening of these rubber wheels in the build, which might have prevented part of the faster wear.

Anyways, this is going to happen to every printer with that kind of rail system at some point. And over time you will have to exchange those rubber wheels maybe after a year, depending on how much you print

What would I change?

There's a few things that I would change on this printer. Some are more important and some less.

I would start with the more important things. I would add a filament sensor to this printer because I print a lot and run into filament run out problems all the time because spools get empty and then you are happy to have that kind of sensor.

Another upgrade might be a better spool holder because having different kinds of spools, which are larger and specifically the wide ones are prone to fall from that holder. So you might have have to place them on the side of the printer otherwise.

Another thing to change is a filament guide because filament runs down to the extrusion system from the top of the printer and if it's a little bit older and gets brittle it's also prone to crack because of the tension that's generated by the the extruder pulling down on the filament, bending it into the inlet

We also should try to enable some of the missing features in the firmware but this is to be discovered first to evaluate what's possible or not.

I can also imagine a few upgrades that are not necessarily important but also nice to have.

For example a metal gear extrusion system - either a single gear or a dual drive - that might improve results with TPU printing and printing faster in general.

If you would like to have a touch screen instead of the original non-touch screen, you will probably have to swap out the mainboard for something like a bigtreetech SKR Mini E3. I'm not sure if this is an upgrade that's really necessary. I'm pretty happy with the results from this screen still although it doesn't have the best contrast. Since I'm mostly using Octoprint, I'm not using display a lot so it's not really that important to me.

On the cooling system side I would say better filament cooling is an upgrade that's worth looking into. Either a modified version of the Hero Me or another previous upgrade adapted to the v2 might be an option.

If you would like to get rid of the bowden system because you want to do faster printing or TPU printing with higher speeds, it might be worth looking into the E3D Hemera direct drive extrusion system or the BIQU H2 system, which i'm gonna test in the future.

Final conclusion - should you buy this printer?

For a printer at that price this is probably the printer for 2021 for beginners, specially if you don't have a previous model already.

But if you have the Pro version, I would say you would better upgrade that Pro version with a few changes like the belt tensioning system and a different main board and a touch screen instead of getting the v2.

But if you're just starting new then I think the v2 is the perfect start into the 3d printing hobby.

The Ender 3 v2 still has the same great community around it for upgrades. Most of the previous version's parts that you find on Thingiverse and other places can be adapted to the v2 pretty much unchanged most of the time.

You can get the Ender 3 v2 already for about betwenn 200 and 300 dollars depending on where you look and when you look for it.

You can buy the Ender 3 v2 from here, thanks for using this link.

If you like this article and video maybe you also like to watch these two related videos here:

I see you in the next one.

Bye!

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