Often the burning question in every curious Maker’s mind is, “Which 3D Printer is better?” It’s clear that the 3D Printing industry is constantly experimenting and evolving. And the Creality Ender 3 Series is one of the most popular to talk about, offering a whole six different ‘Ender 3’ printers at the time of writing this blogpost. Although this range is frequently recommended to newcomers, many beginners feel overwhelmed by so many choices, and rightly so. Some Makers would swear by the old faithfuls while others eagerly tell you about exciting new features. But what do all these features really mean?
In this post, we are having a deeper look into two of Creality’s 3D Printers that we believe are excellent choices for beginners while offering very different experiences. We will be doing a comparison between the popular Creality Ender 3 V2 and its highly praised successor, the new Ender 3 S1, while clearly breaking down their features. So, if you are between these two for your first-ever 3D Printer or if you are curious about their differences, then strap on some goggles and let’s dive in!
A Brief Look at the 3D Printers and Their Similarities
It’s hard to miss how similar the Ender 3 V2 and the Ender 3 S1 look, sporting the same sleek smart design and sturdy frame. The Ender 3 V2 maintained great improvements from the previous Ender 3 Pro model that still carries on today in the Ender 3 S1. With a thick central beam, the power supply firmly tucked inside the base, and built-in belt tensioners, these 3D Printers have improved stability, airflow and convenience. Even their tool drawers for built-in storage are in similar positions. However, the similarities end there as anyone walking past turns for a double-take.
Ender 3 V2 Overview
The Ender 3 V2 blazed its mark on the Maker community, resulting in many of its new features becoming standard editions for Creality Printers thanks to its incredible popularity amongst new and old 3D hobbyists. Among these revolutionary upgrades was the change from 8-bit to the 32-bit Silent Motherboard and drivers which is seen in the most recent Creality Printers to date, including the Ender 3 S1. With it, the Ender 3 V2 is capable of impressive prints and leaves room for easier custom upgrades. Other cool features found in this printer are the carborundum glass bed and the modular HD colourful display with a user-friendly interface.
Ender 3 S1 Overview
The Ender 3 S1 is designed for convenience, improving and expanding on what came before it. For a slight increase in price, this 3D Printer delivers great value. We were impressed by the number of upgrades on the Ender 3 S1 and hope to see these features become standard for Creality moving forward. Among the exciting highlights that we will discuss are the “Sprite” Direct Drive, new CR Touch automatic bed levelling, flexible magnetic build plate, and dual Z-axis motors. The Ender 3 S1 very much strives to eliminate as many struggles as possible for first-time Makers, providing a fully complemented and reliable 3D Printer.
General Assembly and Setup
Ah, the smell of a new printer is heavenly. Once you open your delivery box, you can expect your new toy to shine back at you, safely packaged in neat parts. But yes, these parts need assembling into a functional 3D Printer which may concern some beginners. However, both the Ender 3 V2 and the Ender 3 S1 have a very easy assembly process. The user manuals provide photo diagrams, and all the small screw packets are nicely marked. Online videos also give clear step-by-step guides to help anyone who has never put together a 3D Printer before.
The Ender 3 V2 has an assembly time of about 40min to 1 hour, while the Ender 3 S1 is assembled in about 20min to 40min. This surprising difference comes about because the Ender 3 S1 arrives already partially assembled and only needs 6 steps to complete the setup. Creality has certainly learnt how to streamline their packaging to give us a better experience. The whole rail structure is preassembled for us, cutting out a lot of time spent lining up rails and fixing tension belts. In fact, we really enjoyed unboxing the Ender 3 S1 and its easy assembly. While the Ender 3 V2 setup is also rather painless, in comparison the Ender 3 S1 setup is a major time saver. We only caution against assuming all pre-assembled parts are secure enough after travel. We always recommend checking all screws and belts are tightened nicely before starting your first print.
Manual vs Automatic Bed Levelling
The Ender 3 V2 provides large adjustment wheels under its build plate, which means easier adjustments to your bed level while printing. Bed levelling is a skill that every beginner should learn, and many Makers see powering through this short learning curve and paranoid first layer watching as a rite of passage. Later, once you are more experienced, you may want to install a CR or BL Touch with Extension Cable that automatically levels the bed for you. But if anything goes wrong, you’ll have the expert eye to correct the problem with those handy manual adjustment knobs. For your custom Ender 3 V2 upgrade, we also recommend aluminium bed levelling nuts to replace the plastic ones and eliminate wear and tear over time.
The Ender 3 S1 has kept these same plastic adjustment wheels under its build plate, but also provides a CR Touch system already installed. All you will need to do is manually level the bed once and set a Z-offset amount to tell the printer the height difference between the nozzle and sensor. While a quick and easy process for any confident Maker, a beginner may wonder if their first (and perhaps only) try at levelling was successful. However, the CR Touch is configured to automatically compensate for uneven surfaces within a maximum 2mm variance. Only if you are off by more than 2mm will need to initially level your bed. Otherwise, enjoy the ease of automatic bed levelling for all your 3D Prints! The CR Touch is also a new sensor from Creality. It is made of sturdy metal while the previous BL Touch is plastic and includes a less powerful sensor system. Creality made sure this Ender 3 S1 feature is top notch for all beginners to enjoy.
Single vs Double Motorized Z-Axis
Stability is one of the biggest factors needed for a 3D Printer to function as intended. With so many moving parts, one slip and wobble can cause strange mishaps. If the printer’s rails are unstable, your beautiful 3D Prints may turn into spaghetti monstrosities. So, the Ender 3 V2 is equipped with a powerful Z-axis motor, responsible for moving your hotend up and down. This, combined with its sturdy structure, is a solid Creality design.
Not so for the Ender 3 S1! The added weight of the “Sprite” Direct Drive on top of the hotend calls for additional measures. Two Z-axis motors hold up the teched-out gantry of the Ender 3 S1. Incidentally, dual Z-axis Leadscrews with sync belts also help ensure the Z-axis remains level, while single Z-axis Leadscrew systems may encounter some sag on the far side of the Z-axis gantry. Also, a dual Z-axis reduces strain on the motor and helps with stability at higher speeds.
Bowden vs Direct Drive Extruder
The Ender 3 V2 is a Bowden style 3D Printer. This means that the 3D Filament is fed from the side through a PTFE tubing into the hotend where it is melted and printed into your 3D model. This is a classic style for 3D Printers and is still very popular today. The hotend reaches 260°C, perfect for beginners looking to print standard filaments such as PLA or PETG. To help with the somewhat fiddly process of loading new filament into your machine, Creality has added an extra wheel to the extruder. This lets you turn your filament through the gears once you’ve fed it into the tubing. For a custom Ender 3 V2 upgrade option, we suggest Capricorn tubing which has a tighter tolerance, helping to smoothly extrude your filament and lower friction. If you are looking to expand your Maker powers into interesting exotic filament, we also recommend the Mosquito All-Metal Hotend which reaches a whopping 450°C.
The Ender 3 S1, on the other hand, includes the newly developed Creality “Sprite” Direct Drive Extruder. Direct drive means that the filament is fed directly into the extruder which is sitting on top of the hotend. At first, this might seem a little unruly with no tubing to hold the filament in place, but the direct drive has significant advantages over the Bowden style. For beginners especially, loading the 3D filament is very easy and fast. Once the filament is in, it travels a much shorter distance to the hotend, which increases the performance and speed of your printer. Often direct drives are considered for more advanced 3D filaments, but the Ender 3 S1 hotend is still rated at 260°C. While that is not hot enough for the likes of tougher 3D Filaments out there, it is perfect for standard filaments such as PLA and PETG which beginners have great fun utilising. Flexible TPU filament was also reported to print well with the Ender 3 S1 and its “Sprite” Direct Drive.
Textured Glass vs Flexible Magnetic Print Bed
The Ender 3 V2 includes a Carborundum Glass Print Bed on which your 3D prints are created. There are many types of print surfaces that certain Makers prefer over others. This glass print bed from Creality has great advantages over typical glass. Textured glass offers good adhesion while hot, easy print removal once cooled off, a smooth bottom layer finish, and tough resistance against scratches. The Ender 3 V2 prints fantastically onto this print bed, and if you do happen to experience any issue with adhesion, usually a small layer of glue does the trick. For your custom Ender 3 V2 upgrade we suggest a Wham Bam Flexible Build System, which offers one of our favourite removable PEX build surfaces and is capable of reaching higher temperatures.
The Ender 3 S1 comes preinstalled with a Flexible PC Magnetic Build Plate. PC is a great print surface for beginners to start with as it adheres wonderfully to PLA and TPU. Made out of polycarbonate, this removable print sheet is designed for convenience. You can pick up the plate from your bed and flex it to pop off your prints easily. The only downside of PC is its limit of 100°C, but this is no issue unless you wanted to produce prints with highly advanced filaments. The Ender 3 S1 has the beginner’s 3D Printing experience in mind, eliminating the need to shovel your prints free with a scraper and ensuring a much nicer print removal experience over all.
Creality V4.2.2 vs Creality V24S1 Silent Motherboard
Both the Ender 3 V2 and the Ender 3 S1 are equipped with a 32-Bit Silent Motherboard and TMC2208 Ultra Silent Drivers. However, as the heart of the printers, the Creality motherboards are constantly updated into new versions. And so, the Ender 3 V2 has a Creality V4.2.2 motherboard, while the Ender 3 S1 has a new V24S1 motherboard, but what really is the difference? Functionally, the computing power of both these boards are rather similar. While the V24S1 may be slightly advanced having come out a year later, both motherboards are just as good. With Creality’s firmware and 32-bit standard boards, your printer is able to kick out high-performance and accommodate many additional features such as the CR Touch.
The noticeable difference really comes in with the ease of replacing and modifying parts on your 3D Printer. While this is at a technical level we certainly don’t expect beginners to know, the Ender 3 V2 V4.2.2 motherboard is rather friendly to changes and modifications, with a dedicated BL Touch port for example, to make life easier when installing new upgrades. However, the Ender 3 S1 has a custom V24S1 motherboard that seems to be made to remain largely untouched. Noticeably, the ribbon cabling connector is on the board itself. While this is not that much of a factor for day-to-day users of the Creality Ender 3 S1, it does limit the accessibility for the more Tinkering-inclined Makers. It doesn’t make it impossible to install even more upgrades onto your Ender 3 S1, but it is a slight step more difficult without interfering with this fixed wiring system. This discovery rather drives home the idea that Creality intended the Ender 3 S1 as a completed machine, to run smoothly and admittedly fantastically as it is. Meanwhile, the Ender 3 V2 is more modular and prone to fun tinkering with custom upgrade options.
Additional Ender 3 S1 Features
As we mentioned, the Ender 3 S1 is simply packed with upgrades. Some of which aren’t even a glimmer in the metalwork of the Ender 3 V2. Here is a quick look at some more Ender 3 S1 features you can’t find on our late contender:
- A Filament Runout Sensor – This sensor is fixed to the top of the printer where the filament is fed down into it before proceeding to the print head. If there is any break or knot in the filament, the sensor will pick up the discrepancy and switch off the printer before things go haywire, saving you headaches and clean-up.
- Touch Screen Interface – While appearing to be the same size as the Ender 3 V2 LCD display, this 4.3-inch HD Colour display on the Ender 3 S1 is a touch screen as well! The user interface is made even easier with a press of your finger.
- Slightly different build area and spool placement – The Ender 3 S1 has a slightly bigger height at 270mm and on its centre top sits the spool holder. This new position facilitates easy feeding into the direct drive, while the typical side top position of the Ender 3 V2 spool was rather clanky for a Bowden style in our opinion.
Taking a step backwards, it’s time to consider the bigger picture. Which 3D Printer is right for you? Your answer may be different depending on where your interests lie. But that’s alright, the greatest strength of Makers is what make us unique.
Battling for the Title of Best Beginner 3D Printer
On the surface, this might not seem like a fair comparison to make. While the Ender 3 V2 was released in April 2020, the Ender 3 S1 soared into our view in late 2021 with newly developed bells and whistles never seen from Creality before (looking at you, “Sprite” Direct Drive). It would be obvious that the Ender 3 S1 is superior in every way… or is it? Despite seeming like Creality used the Ender 3 V2 base design and simply expanded on it to create the Ender 3 S1 with more features and upgrades, these printers have turned out two very different experiences for Makers.
The Creality Ender 3 S1 could be considered a complete machine, for the most part, while the Ender 3 V2 is an excellent start that allows for room to grow. This opens an interesting line of thought about which of these experiences sounds best for you. For beginners who want to tinker with optimization and upgrades, then the Ender 3 V2 is the best choice. The design itself accommodates custom upgrades and a thriving online community is ready to help you along your journey. However, for beginners who prefer high-quality prints with as little tinkering and troubleshooting as possible, the Ender 3 S1 is the closest to a plug ‘n play 3D Printer we’ve seen so far. It comes packed with all the latest features any beginner could need to make life easier but leaves little room for upgrade potential other than aesthetic changes.
In conclusion, there is no going wrong with either the Ender 3 V2 or Ender 3 S1 as your first 3D Printer. Paying a slightly higher price for the Ender 3 S1 will save you any need to upgrade later and you can produce great quality prints now with ease. Whereas the cheaper Ender 3 V2 does not include all these upgrades but works wonders as it is, allowing you to slowly upgrade your machine to your own wants and needs and broaden horizons to more advanced filaments over time. 3D Printing as a hobby is one that always requires a learning curve no matter the advanced features you start with, but part of the fun is learning and, of course, printing an army of 3DBenchy’s.
If you enjoyed this 3D Printer Comparison and want to see more of them then please consider sharing it on social media. Also, we crafted our own custom Ender 3 V2 and shared it over on our YouTube channel for you to see 6 Awesome Upgrades for the Creality Ender 3 V2. Check out the rest of our blog for other interesting topics and posts. Join the DIY Community Discord or Forum and keep up to date with all things DIYElectronics by checking out our social media, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter. If you want to check out our store, click this link.
Copywriter | Digital Artist | Dungeon Master
My greatest passion lies in storytelling, be it through writing, art or playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends and family. I dove into 3D printing a few years ago and earned a lifetime obsession of experimenting, learning, and making new things!