The Best 3D Printers Under $500 – A Comparative Review

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Image of multiple 3D printers on assembly line

In a previous post, How To Choose A 3D Printer,  I outlined a process to help you efficiently research and select the 3D printer that is best for you.

I this post, I utilize that process to identify and compare the best 3D printers under $500.

A Quick Summary Of The Research Process

My research starts with a search for 3D printers on Amazon. I then filter the results to show printers with a 4-star rating or higher and finally sort by price so I can quickly hone in on the printers within my budget – in this case $500 or less.

Note that there are other research platforms available, such as 3D Printers Online, but I used Amazon for a few reasons:

  • Amazon provides a single platform to research many different products
  • Amazon tends to have more product reviews
  • Fast and free shipping for Prime members
  • Easy returns

For this review I compare 3D printers in $500 price range. I intentionally left out printers in the sub-$300 range to keep the comparison relevant.  In the following sections, I will compare and contrast each printer.

Image of 3D printer attribute spread sheet
3D Printer Attribute Spread Sheet
Image of Flashforge Finder 3D printer
Flashforge Finder 3D printer

FlashForge Finder

At $349.00, the FlashForge Finder is the lowest price printer in this review. The printer has a clean, modern overall appearance that will appeal to teachers, students and the entry-level home printer.

The printer is designed for “out of the box” printing and has an easy to read owners manual making for easy set up. The builf volume is ‘decent’ at 140mm x 140mm x 140mm though larger builds are possible with the other printers.

On the plus side is a 69% 5-star rating out of 324 total reviews. This printer has the largest number of reviews among the printers being compared. In general, FlashForge printers receive more reviews than other printers in similar price ranges.

In addition to a 3.5″ touch screen, this machine includes a Wi-Fi connectivity option which provides a bit more flexibility in transferring print files. The other printers in this review do not have this option.

On the minus side, the printer lacks a heated build plate. While this provides for an extra level of safety for the younger user, it also limits the materials one can print with.

The printer comes with proprietary FlashPrint software and while this is not necessarily a bad thing, it may make upgrades somewhat difficult if you have to purchase them from the manufacturer.

View FlashForge Finder on 3D Printers Online

View FlashForge Finder on Amazon

Image of ADMINLab Gantry I3 3D printer
ADMINLab Gantry I3 3D Printer

ADIMLab Gantry I3

Priced at $369.00, The ADMINLab Gantry I3 comes in at the 2nd spot among the 3 printers reviewed. The somewhat “industrial” appearance aside, the printer sports the largest build volume of bunch. In fact, the build volume of this printer, 310 mm x 310 mm x 410 mm, is larger than some printers in the $1000.00 range. See my earlier post: How To Choose A 3D Printer. 

Requiring some assembly, the printer will appeal to ‘techies’ and tinkerers that will get a certain sense of accomplishment from having to build the printer. While the printer may not be that visually appealing, it does have some functionality that the other printers lack.

This printer received an 87% 5-star rating out of 15 total reviews.  The number of reviews is a bit on the low side but the high percentage of 5-stars is encouraging and the printer is backed with a ‘1-year warranty’ compared to the Finder’s 90 day warranty.

On the plus side, this printer has a heated build platform and can print a number of different materials including PLA, ABS, TPE and Flexible PLA among others.

The printer also a slightly higher layer resolution which will enable better surface finish. Note that higher or finer the resolution, the longer the build will take. Compared to the other printers in this review, the Z axis position precision is an order of magnitude lower at 40 µm vs 2.5 µm. This will impact your ability to print highly detailed features.

The printer comes with Repitier-host software which is a free software supported by Hot-World GmbH & Co. KG.  Updates to the software are available from the developers for a small donation which supports their development efforts. https://www.repetier.com/

View ADIMLab Gantry 3 on 3D Printers Online

View ADIMLab Gantry i3 on Amazon

Image of QIDI X-Smart 3D printer
QIDI X-Smart 3D Printer

QIDI X-smart

The QIDI X-Smart is the most expensive printer in this review. Coming in at $499.00, it’s quite a bit more expensive but, in my opinion, looks more ‘professional’ than the FlashForge Finder and ADIMLab Gantry I3.

The printer has an 82% 5-star rating out of 22 total reviews putting it in the same ‘ballpark of reviews’ as the ADIMLab printer. Additionally, the owners manual and warranty information was not available on-line and were, therefore, not reviewed.

The build volume of the X-smart is slightly larger the FlashForge at 165 mm x 145 mm x 150 mm but still much smaller than the ADIMLab. The build plate is heated which provides for more flexibility with different print materials.

Two features I like with this printer is the ventilated build chamber and the print ‘stop and resume’ functionality. Both of these features will come in handy with long print jobs.

Position precision, print speed and layer resolution are the same as the FlashForge Finder. The QIDI, like the FlashForge, comes with it’s own proprietary QIDI Print software and includes a 3.5″ touch screen.

View QIDI X Smart on Amazon

 

Image of QIDI Tech 1 3D printer
QIDI Tech 1 3D Printer

 Honorable Mention – QIDI Tech 1

Though the QIDI Tech 1 is outside our budget of $500 I thought it was worth mentioning in case none of the printers reviewed here met your needs.

At $649, the QIDI Tech 1 is an affordable 3d printer for home use and includes many of the same features as the QIDI Smart X plus a dual extruder configuration and a larger build volume of 230 mm x 150 mm x 150mm.

The dual extruder allows you to print multi-material, multi-color objects enabling more creative and functional designs.

View QIDI Tech 1 on Amazon

Conclusion

In this post I’ve provided an “apples to apples” comparison of 3D printers under $500.  There are other printers available in the sub-$500 price range from vendors such as 3D Printers Online but they are not included in this review based on my search criteria.

A recommendation of which printer to purchase has not been provided. I leave that up to you as there are many factors that go into what I would consider a major purchase.

I hope my research has saved you some time and will help you make a decision. Please email questions to jeff@3dpbuzz.com.

Best regards and Happy Printing!

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6 Replies to “The Best 3D Printers Under $500 – A Comparative Review”

  1. Thank you for the review of these more affordable 3D printer options. I am always looking for new technology to enhance our small private school that my granddaughter attends. One of these may be just the key!

  2. Hi Jeff

    Thank you for providing such an abundance of information on 3-D printers! When I first learned of 3-D printing a few years back I thought wow – I think I need one of those!

    However, back then I never thought: 1) the printer size would be less than the size of a compact car and 2) that they would become so mainstream and plentiful that someone such as yourself would be able to use this topic to not only make comparisons between different models but to create valuable and informative content to be posted on a website!

    Your comparisons also illustrate how the overall cost (and size) of the printer has decreased over the past few years but what about the actual cost of printing an object? And software costs? Maintenance? Maybe those are topics for other articles?

    I am intrigued and can’t wait to read more!

    1. Hi Susan,
      All very good comments that I will cover in future posts. The main costs, beyond the printer itself, will be printer materials and electricity. Software is included with the printer and there are plenty of free CAD software packages available to design your ownw articles. There are more sophisticated software packages available for purchase as well but not required especially for most home users.

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