Best 3D Printers for Beginners

Monoprice maker mini pro
Monoprice maker mini pro (Image credit: Windows Central)

You love the idea of starting to make your own models and prototypes from essentially nothing, and so you want a 3D printer. Where do you start? Despite its small build plate size, the Monoprice Select Mini Pro is still my top pick for those beginners who don't know what they want to print. There are alternatives if you are looking to print something larger like cosplay items, but for a starter printer, you really can't wrong with the Monoprice.

Monoprice Select Mini Pro

A whole lot of powerful features that can sit on your desk

Who should buy this 3D printer?

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If you are a complete novice and you've never touched a 3D printer before, then think about buying this. If you have no idea what you would use it for but know you want to learn. Then the Mini Pro could be the 3D printer for you. Starting small and working up to bigger and better things is a safe option.

Is it a good time to buy this 3Dprinter?

This is the third iteration of the Select Mini and as such, has a lot of extra features that the older models didn't. This means you are getting the very best Monoprice can offer at the same great value.

Good things come in small packages

The biggest argument not to buy the Maker Select Mini Pro from Monoprice is the size of the build plate. Let's get that out of the way from the start: It's pretty small, only 120mm by 120mm, or a little under 5 square inches, but the size isn't everything. The Mini Pro is a remarkable machine when you break it down. Unlike most devices in its price point, it comes with advanced features that make it an excellent choice for beginners.

The Mini Pro comes equipped with a removable bed and automatic bed leveling as well as the ability to send files to print over Wi-Fi. Those three upgrades make using any printer so much easier, and you usually pay a premium to get them. Auto bed leveling means you never have to fight with your build plate to get an excellent first layer — your first layer is critical, so you need to get it right — and the removable build plate means you don't have to worry about taking chunks out of your hands as you pry the print off with a scraper or bend the plate trying to get models off.

When it comes to connectivity, the Select Mini Pro is king. It can connect to your PC over a standard USB connection and is one of the few 3D printers that is currently recognized by Microsoft's native 3D print software. It also allows you to use a microSD card, which is my favorite way of printing. When you use your PC to print, anything that happens to your computer happens to your printer — If your computer crashes your print will crash too — but with the microSD card, you don't have to worry about your PC at all.

With Wi-Fi file sending, you get the best of both worlds. You can use your PC to set up the model, making sure it is ready for print, then send the file remotely to be stored in the printer's memory. This removes the risk of your PC shutting down and ruining the print and means you don't have to be tethered to your desk.

As a beginner, you need to rely on the printer you have. It is the only way to learn how they work and how you can improve. By having a well made and reliable printer from the start, you can build up your knowledge base before you're trying to fix things you don't understand. The Mini Pro gives you plenty of opportunities to learn while ensuring you can still print successfully.

Alternatives to the Select Mini Pro

While the Select Mini Pro is a fantastic device, the word mini here is critical. Sometimes, even when you are starting, you need something a bit bigger, something you can build full-size models on. If that is the case, then we have two excellent choices for you. The Creality Ender 3 Pro, and the Qidi Technology X-Pro

Creality Ender 3 Pro

An excellent starter printer with a large build surface

Reasons to buy

Excellent build quality
Removable build plate
Small footprint

Reasons to avoid

Teeny tiny build plate

The consensus on a lot of 3D printing groups on Facebook is if you want a cheap printer that'll give you amazing prints get the Ender 3 Pro. I had mixed feelings about older Ender models, but the company seemed to iron out all the kinks.

The larger build volume is a godsend if you're looking to build larger designs that you can't split, like cosplay armor, but the extra build space also comes with a larger machine. You will need a dedicated workspace for the Ender 3 Pro and a little patience to get it working properly but once you have it dialed in it's a real gem.

Qidi Technology X-Pro

Start printing any way you want straight away

You may not have heard of it, but Qidi Technology is a Chinese company that makes fantastic printers. I have one, and it delivers impressive prints consistently while giving you room to grow as a maker. With dual extruders and a built-in enclosure, you can learn all about different materials that require hotter temperatures and even how to create multicolor prints.

It's much more expensive than the other two, but if you're willing to jump in with both feet first, then you would do well with the Qidi X-Pro.

Bottom line

It's a good idea to start small and cheap then work your way up when you're getting into any hobby. Sometimes that means you get really bad devices or machines that you have to spend hours fixing just so you can get it to start working, but that is not the case here.

The Monoprice Mini Pro has a lot of built-in features to get you printing from the moment you plug in. The auto-leveling and simple LCD makes it possible for you to print high quality prints with zero prior knowledge. As your experience grows, you can tweak and upgrade certain parts to make it even better. All of this comes from a 3D printer smaller than a standard ink printer.

James Bricknell

James built his first PC when he was 13 and has never looked back. He can be found on Windows Central, usually in the corner where all the 3D printers are, or huddled around the Xbox playing the latest games.