Prusa i3 MK3 vs. Ender 3: Which One Should You Pick In 2023?

The market for entry-level 3D filament printers (often called FDM or FFF printers) is a busy space. There are a lot of low-cost examples to pick from, and on paper, their differentiators are mostly not profound enough to alone drive an easy decision.

Prusa and Ender stand out from the crowd. Their performance is good, better than most – but where they stand out is in the thoroughness of the information, the completeness of the delivery, and the ease of results achieved early on.

This article will guide you through an understanding of the choices you must make in selecting between these two excellent starter machines. We will lay out the characteristics and the flaws, so you can reach an informed conclusion as to the choice that fits your needs and expectations best.

Creality Ender 3 Spec Overview

Once you’ve had some time learning, adjusting, and printing with an Ender 3 from Creality, you’ll likely be happy. Though there are definitely issues you’ll need to learn to overcome or work around, it is hard to equal in its price range.

Various aspects of its feature-rich spec have cemented it as a market leader. The build volume is not small, at 220 x 220 x 250mm. Yes, there are bigger build envelopes, but not in the price range.

It has a table that’s very much like a BuildTak plate, which is unexpected quality at the price point. A well-organized and tidy filament routing has been thought through and power recovery is included.

These are all aspects that generally belong in a higher-cost machine.

The printing performance is no slouch. The machine just works with PLA and PETG — while ABS poses more challenges with adhesion and warp, these are responsive to the usual tricks and the Ender 3 can handle them all.

There is a huge user base of people who’ve done it before, and solutions pop up when you ask.

The assembly process for the kit isn’t complex and the instructions are good enough, though there are potential stress points and plenty that you can do wrong, first time.

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You’ll learn a lot about the machine by building it and calibrating it yourself – the strengths and the weaknesses. Where is it too flexible? How hard is it to level the build table? Do the axes align and move freely?

In the end, it compares surprisingly well with machines of three and even five times the cost.

  • Build volume: 220 x 220 x 250 mm
  • Printer outside dimensions: 440 x 410 x 465 mm
  • Net weight: 8.6 kg
  • Filaments accepted: Dia. 1.75 mm PLA, ABS, PETG, TPU, various composites/additives
  • Extruder diameter: 0.4 mm
  • Max. print speed: 120 mm/sec
  • Max. traverse speed: 200 mm/sec
  • Max. nozzle temperature: 255 °C
  • Max. bed temperature: 110 °C (theoretical, power is barely sufficient)
  • Best layer resolution: 0.1 mm
  • Location accuracy (X—Y step size): +/- 0.1 mm
  • Table: Tempered glass, heated
  • Connectivity: USB and SD
  • Onboard LCD: Yes, 3.25 inch
  • Automatic table leveling: No
  • Print recovery: Yes
  • Filament sensor: No

Prusa i3 MK3 Spec Overview

After some years of development, the Prusa machine remains competitive, even with the clones that have proliferated because of its open—source status.

The MK3S+’s look very much like the sibling of the early model Prusa printers. Even the pressed steel frame echoes the hallmark simplicity of the early CNC routed boards, passed down generations to this new machine.

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Another obvious result of its RepRap origins is the wide use of Prusa printed parts all over the machine – made in a huge farm of Prusa machines that run 24/7 that act as a powerful debug/reliability soak test.

With the volumes they now ship, these parts would cost less and look more professional if they were molded – but then it wouldn’t feel like a Prusa. That would be like losing the signature orange components.

One outstanding feature of the Prusa i3 Mk3 is the ability to run the hot end to 300 °C. This opens up the potential for edgy materials like nylon and polycarbonate.

Of course, stepping into that fringe territory demands some non—stock alterations, chief among these being a temperature-controlled enclosure. Drafty, open printing is no friend of the higher temperature filaments — adhesion will fail, and warping will happen, without a print chamber.

The machine uses a built—for—Prusa 24V E3D V6 nozzle to deliver filament in the right condition, and a dual gear feeder from Bondtech. That’s two market-leading brands right there, to give you an assurance that they mean business.

Add to that a powerful 24V Prusa Research Mk52 build table, with built-in (and powerful) magnets, to grab steel build platens and you have a great setup, ready to build at the leading edge.

For all the great parts, much of the machine’s success stems from smarter electronics and stepper drivers fitted – quiet (or stealth) mode, sensorless homing and crash detection/recovery to name a few. This is a smarter printer that surprises.

  • Build volume: 250 x 210 x 210 mm
  • Printer dimensions: 550 x 400 x 500 mm (plus spool)
  • Weight: 7 kg
  • Filaments accepted: 1.75 mm PLA, ABS, PETG, TPU, Nylon, PC, most additives
  • Extruder diameter: 0.4 mm
  • Max. print speed: 150 mm/sec
  • Max. traverse speed: 300 mm/sec
  • Max. hot end temperature: 300 °C
  • Max. bed temperature: 120 °C
  • Best layer resolution: 0.05 mm
  • Location accuracy (X—Y step size): +/- 0.3 mm in spec, user reported as better
  • Table: Spring steel, magnet located
  • Connectivity: USB and SD
  • Onboard LCD: Yes, 2.8 inch diagonal
  • Automatic table leveling: Yes
  • Print recovery: Yes
  • Filament sensor: Yes

10 Major Differences Between Prusa i3 MK3 & Ender 3

There are a lot of detailed differences between the two machines, but at the heart of it they’re remarkably similar;

1. Filament Detection

The Ender lacks the capability for filament detection, whereas the Prusa has this. Filament detection is a great feature for a walk—away printing, giving warning of filament run out and handling snagging stalls.

However, it’s not a difficult upgrade of the Ender machine.

2. Automatic Bed Levelling

The Prusa machine has automatic bed leveling, which is a nice feature that reduces setup time. The Ender machine lacks this and some users struggle with the process of getting this right.

3. Precision

The claimed step resolution in X—Y for the Ender is 3 times better than that of the Prusa, although calibration effectiveness and regularity will largely negate this difference.

Possibly, Prusa is being more realistic about actual precision, whereas Ender is referencing theoretical precision.

4. Display Size

The Ender display looks larger and more up-to-date, offering clear, easily viewed graphics and text. The Prusa display is small and gives the machine a slightly dated appearance.

Of course, appearances can be deceptive and the Prusa display seems to do the job well enough, so many users don’t seem to mind this weakness too much.

5. Affordability

The Prusa is considerably more expensive than the Ender machine, US$749 in kit form ($999 built) for Prusa as opposed to $189 in kit form for the Ender, with no built option.

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6. Build Volume

The Ender has a slightly bigger build volume, although the difference is very small and BOTH machines are at the low end of the build envelope scale for the current product.

7. Filament Compatibility

Prusa win the claimed filament compatibility race hands—down, with an extra 50 °C at the extruder compared with Ender.

Of course, this is only valuable if you want to print the more difficult materials like nylon and PC. And if you do, then you will need an enclosure with heat control, to get good results.

8. Table Temperature

Prusa is slightly ahead on table temperature — 120 °C to Enders 110 °C. This likely doesn’t matter very much.

However, the Ender table has a reputation for being underpowered and struggling to get to the temperatures that are often needed — where the Prusa seems to have the power to spare.

9. Overall Print Speed

The Prusa allows slightly faster printing, as its platform and build table is a little more rigid and stable than the Ender.

10. Filament Feed

The Prusa i3 Mk3 includes a Teflon Bowden tube from the start, making filament feed easier.

Deciding Factors: Ender 3 / Prusa i3 MK3

Surprisingly, despite the big difference in price and the various differences in specification details, the choice between these two superior printers is not straightforward:

  • If you want to print in higher temperature materials, the Prusa i3 Mk3 gets you a little closer, with a hotter nozzle and a more powerful table heater.

But any machine will need a heated enclosure to successfully print in nylon or PC. However, the Ender 3 will need some significant aftermarket improvements in addition.

So this is a relatively small win for the Prusa.

  • Price is often a deciding factor, and the difference is quite large. For the price of one Prusa i3 Mk3 you can have two Ender 3 machines and hotter nozzles!

So price makes the Ender 3 the clear winner – if the price is your biggest concern.

  • Table/machine stability is an issue with the Ender 3 and this is hard to improve. If you print slowly, it’s not much of an issue, but if you need the fastest possible printing, then the Prusa i3 Mk3 is a little better.

So speed is a win for Prusa, where that’s a critical deciding factor for you.

Bed Size

The difference between the Prusa i3 Mk3 and the Ender 3 in bed size is insignificant, and neither machine counts as having a large build volume, by current standards.

Print Speed

The Prusa i3 Mk3 reports a slightly higher print speed than the Ender 3 — and the Ender 3 is restricted in speed by its relatively poor stability in the base and the table.

For great quality, print speed is a less critical feature than it appears in a specification comparison. And it could be argued that the Ender 3 wins the print speed competition as you can buy 3 Enders for the price of one Prusa, triple the build speed.

Build Plate

The Ender 3 has a good quality tempered glass build table, which does help with adhesion for the trickier materials.

The Prusa i3 Mk3 has a neatly removable spring steel table which is retained by well-placed Neodymium magnets, making it easier to remove stuck models without applying stray forces to the machine.

Stepper Drivers

The Prusa uses Trinamic 2130 drivers which can run more quietly, without much loss of performance, it is suggested. Some users say the noise difference between normal and ‘stealth’ mode is not great, others like it.

The Ender 3 uses either a4988 drivers which are quite noisy, or tmc2208 which are described as silent. Although silent seems to be a relative term!

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Bed Leveling

Automatic bed leveling sounds like a luxury item that the user can manage without. And for some users, that’s the case.

For others, the bed leveling process for the Ender 3 is a constant struggle and nearly impossible to get exactly right.

Layer Height

Layer height is one of those spec features that can make a real difference to model quality. A perfect model would be built with infinitesimal layer thickness, resulting in perfectly step-free curves and transitions and stronger small features.

Of course, that’s not practical, but the difference between a 0.1 Z step in the Ender 3 and a 0.05 mm step in the Prusa i3 Mk3 can be the difference between an excellent build and a good one.


Both printers discussed here have avid and active communities that share and support freely.

This is part of the reason that these relatively dated machines are still very popular.


The price differential between the two machines is quite marked, even considering the specification differences. $749 (Prusa) and $189 (Ender) is a large spread.

The Prusa is definitely more print—ready, so convenience is a large part of the justification for price points; the Prusa also has a higher specification, although the effect of this is less marked than the headlines suggest.

Pros & Cons Of Prusa i3 MK3

Here are some notable pros and cons of Prusa i3 MK3:


  • Great print quality with a relatively simple setup.
  • Auto bed leveling is a useful feature for novice users.
  • Good quality components from well-known brands make for a reassuring purchase.


Prusa has set their price point for the i3 Mk3 according to the general perception of ease of use and plug-and-play setup. They don’t see themselves competing with the Ender 3.

Pros & Cons Of Ender 3

Ender 3 has the following pros and cons:


A powerful machine for a low price.

It is widely viewed as a lot of machines for the money.


  • The kit arrives as ‘a million small parts’, offering plenty of opportunities for imperfect assembly.
  • There are various technical challenges in getting the great performance that the machine is capable of. Not everyone will enjoy this!
  • The power supply is often reported as not really up to the job, when everything is running, and prone to issues in normal operation.

The Final Verdict

Overall, this is a hard call. Note there are more con points for the Ender 3, more pro points for the Prusa i3 Mk3. In ease of operation terms, the Prusa i3 Mk3 is the winner – but not by the widest of margins. In print quality terms, again Prusa is in the lead — some say by a lot, others less so.

If you are a hacker and enjoy the process as much as the outcome, then the Ender 3 is an interesting choice that will provide you some challenges — and once you’ve overcome them you’ll have a great printer for a low price.

If your interest is in printing quickly, with lower pain and you don’t enjoy the run up process, then the Prusa i3 Mk3 is a better choice.

You’ll find definitive support for both choices from a wide community of users, who have their preferences and loyalties. Read widely, judge carefully and make the choice that you think fits your situation the best.

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