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If you asked me to recommend an “easy” consumer 3D printer, I’d warn you first: despite countless innovations, you still can’t quite hit a button to reliably photocopy a 3D model. Buying a 3D printer is buying an entire hobby, one where — if you’re a lazy bum like me — many attempts will turn into worthless gobs of plastic.

But if you persisted, I’d tell you my one clear choice for lazy bums: the Bambu P1P.

What, a printer from the company that recalled its newest model and whose earlier ones once went rogue? Yep — because not only did Bambu handle those incidents with rapid apologies, investigations, transparency, and even refunds, the $599 Bambu P1P is also absolutely the easiest, most reliable 3D printer I’ve used.

It makes my stalwart old Ender 3 Pro look like a hunk of junk. It makes its closest competition, the $559 Creality K1C, feel like an inferior clone. I’ve spent months testing them side by side, and I’d personally pick the Bambu every time.

Don’t get me wrong: the K1C is the better choice for some tinkerers since its full enclosure, bed, and extra fan let you print higher temperature plastics like ABS as well as ones reinforced with glass or carbon fibers. (Bambu sells the $699 P1S for that.) And I did successfully use both the P1P and a pair of Creality K1 printers to produce dozens of objects over the past year, including pegboard mounts, figurines for my kids, and these badass unofficial Nerf blasters:

With either of these printers and a little knowledge of what’s easily 3D-printable, I can (sometimes) send an entire plate full of parts to these printers and expect them to all turn out. 

But if you want fewer software and filament headaches, I would absolutely point you to Bambu. And I’d recommend you steer clear of the original Creality K1 entirely — I spent months struggling with issues that were instantly fixed when I swapped for the newer K1C model.

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I took delivery of both the P1P and the original K1 last summer, and originally, I thought I’d be comparing both to the AnkerMake M5. They’re all part of a recent wave of printers promising a huge increase in speed and smarts. 

One of my first prints on the Bambu P1P: the white side panels it’s worn ever since.

But the Bambu P1P and Creality K1 series stood out as the most affordable full-size, full-featured CoreXY printers that claim you can print right out of the box — with no need to bolt together a printer frame or even tighten belts. And while you can’t “just start printing the moment your K1 arrives,” as Creality puts it, both printers are mostly prebuilt, pretuned, and ready to go 20 or 30 minutes after you cut the packing tape. You remove a few safety pieces; attach their screens, power cables, and filament roll holders; connect to your home network for updates; and then press a button for automated setup. 

Each will automatically level their bed so your prints literally get off on the right foot. They tune their motors with vibrations so intense, they shake the entire surface the printers are standing on. That’s intentional — because excess movement ruins prints, and printing quickly creates more movement, they teach themselves to avoid frequencies that rattle too hard. As I alluded to before, they both have CoreXY kinematics systems that provide an incredibly speedy, stable bead of plastic without needing to sling your model back and forth on a moving bed. 

With a CoreXY printer, the head moves in two dimensions while the bed slowly lowers, keeping the model stable.

Bedslingers, like this Bambu A1 Mini, fling the model one direction and the print head another.

But the next step is where the Bambu P1 and Creality K1 printers begin to diverge. When it’s time to stick your fishing line of consumable plastic into a Creality printer, you have to thread the needle, pushing a sharp point of plastic into a tube and through the extruder so that the hot nozzle can melt and squirt it out one tiny bead at a time. 

It’s the way many 3D printers have worked for years, but it leaves a lot of room for user error. It feels imprecise: you snip your filament at an angle to get a sharp point, then largely… shove until it feels right. Then you press a button and cross your fingers that the K1C’s motorized extruder will take it from there. Or manually shove it some more and hope the filament doesn’t break inside. Or you physically remove the filament tube, like I always did with my old Ender 3, so at least you can be sure you’re pushing straight down into the extruder without binding. 

This Pikachu, made of silk PLA, came out pretty well on the K1C.

Here it is with supports removed.

It could be worse! With the original K1, the filament pathway was so jam-prone that the company wound up designing and shipping multiple replacement parts during the time I had the printer, and even then, I had some trouble. With the K1C’s completely redesigned nozzles, I’ve mostly been able to shove filament in without issue.

But Bambu sidesteps all of that: there’s no needlepoint with a Bambu printer at all! Press a few buttons, insert uncut, flat-ended filament until you feel it being pulled away from your hand, and then, in my experience, it does the rest itself. The Bambu printer also automatically cuts off the molten bit when you’re ejecting filament, producing a nice clean-cut end I can effortlessly rewind without dragging on the printer’s internal parts. And, every single print, the Bambu purges that leftover molten filament into what owners have affectionately dubbed the “poop chute.” 

The tiny non-touch screen is one of the few weaknesses of the Bambu P1P. I’m getting used to it.

The upshot: it took months before I saw my Bambu P1P jam for the first time. I’ve even had good results at times pushing old, brittle filament into Bambu printers. With the K1 and even K1C, it’s far less foolproof, as Creality makes you shove it through a filament runout sensor and a tight bend in the tubing before the extruder can grab it. I’ve broken the filament a couple of times in the K1C and many times in the original K1.

And if you do have to get inside that extruder to fix or replace parts, Bambu makes it a breeze: its magnetic cover just lifts off, and $35 buys you a complete modular hotend with heatsink, fan, heating element, and thermistor all attached — just two screws and a few easy cable pulls to swap it.

Bambu’s magnetic cover pops off to reveal just two screws and two easy-pull connectors to remove the hotend.

To get inside Creality’s, you have to unscrew screws immediately underneath, and parallel to, the greased rails.

With Creality, there are five screws you have to remove at uncomfortable angles and a silicone sleeve that requires prying, and then you have to reach underneath to get at its tiny rear-facing connectors. You may even have to pull out a pair of pliers because the Creality assembly line inexplicably glues those connectors into place.

Mind you, you’re not going to be doing that every day or even every month: you generally only replace a nozzle if it wears out, gets badly jammed, or if you want to print at higher resolution for more detail or at lower resolution for more speed. For reference, I wound up replacing worn parts of my Ender 3 Pro’s hotend twice in three years after a series of messy jams. 

Creality’s bed is a bit harder to clean and maintain… and whose idea was it to purge filament next to a fan intake?

The last reason I think Bambu is a better choice for beginners is the print bed surface itself: how easily parts adhere and detach and how easy it is to clean. The Creality K1 series ships with a smooth PEI build plate that’s theoretically better for high temperature materials and initially gave my parts an incredibly smooth face. But it can be a challenge to remove some parts unless you apply a coating of the included glue stick (the kind kids use to paste paper together), and it’s easy to add too little or too much. I wound up tearing a chunk out of my build plate after too thin a coating. 

Also, without a “poop chute,” I always found the K1 and K1C dripping tiny unwanted beads of plastic that’d wind up embedded in the bottom of models unless I carefully cleaned the print bed before each use. 

This should give you a good glimpse at the Bambu’s plate texture.

The P1P, meanwhile, ships with a textured PEI-covered stainless steel plate that’s almost never missed for me, no glue required. Generally, my parts are already loose by the time the bed cools. You can buy such a plate for Creality, too, though, and still be paying less than the P1P after you have both. 

Not all of Creality’s K1C choices are worse for beginners! While its “AI camera” attaches to the printer at a slightly awkward angle, the timelapses it creates are much easier to monitor and download than the ones from Bambu’s camera. I appreciate the K1C’s simple twist-to-lock filament reel holder (Bambu uses screws), the USB port to load files (Bambu only gives you microSD), more reliable Wi-Fi, and of course, the large 4.3-inch color touchscreen. It’s so much easier to reprint a successful design or navigate a thumb drive when you can actually tap a picture of each design on a screen, instead of Up-Down-Left-Right navigating through Bambu’s small text-only interface. 

Creality’s K1C comes with a USB port and anti-vibration feet.

I also like that the Creality comes with anti-vibration feet, although, out of the box, my Bambu prints had more stable lines and steady surface textures even without them. The Bambu P1P is also quieter and can completely turn off its fans when idle. I’ve often come back to the Creality K1C after a day away and found it humming loudly in my garage.

Both companies need to work on their software, but Creality’s is definitely worse. While I’m having no real major trouble with Creality’s own Creality Print desktop app for basic 3D prints in PLA and flexible TPU plastic, I had major issues printing firmer and / or transparent PETG. It’s also missing loads of features compared to rival slicer apps you’d use to prepare your models for printing. (A slicer turns a 3D shape into printable horizontal layers and spits out code that tells the printer how to form each one.) 

Image slider: left is P1P, right is K1C, using the same roll of filament. I’m having these surface quality issues with PETG, but not PLA.

You can use those rival slicers, but you may need to tune them for your printer yourself — some had even refused to support the K1 until Creality fulfilled obligations to open source its code. (It seems Creality has now done so.) OrcaSlicer is a popular third-party alternative that does have its own K1 profile, and it helped me print in PETG when Creality Print wouldn’t.

Creality’s mobile app, meanwhile, is gamified to the point that I want nothing to do with it. I just want a way to start and monitor prints, not earn points for printing trendy junk! I even had to turn off app notifications after I got bombarded with point earning opportunities each day, though it seems the company’s cut back on the notifications since launch.

The failed print I’m talking about: it’s for a wireless mouse.

But while Bambu’s slicer is great and its app doesn’t have the same annoyances, I’m not entirely sure I can trust the company’s cloud. One month after the company’s very good apology for its rogue printer incident, I had a similar issue. I went out to the garage one morning to find a model I’d printed directly from its cloud half-finished, stuck to my nozzle, with a second halfway printed copy of the model on the floor.

I’ve tried to print a few other models from its new MakerWorld, a place where you can supposedly find one-click prints validated to work on Bambu’s specific printers, no slicing or tweaks necessary, but one became a huge hunk of worthless plastic because it actually wasn’t validated. I guess I could always go with a private LAN-only connection to the printer instead of using the cloud.

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see from here to an even easier 3D printing future. Bambu’s new A1 series printers now have completely tool-less hotend swaps — just pop the pieces off. The company’s working on new sensors that can detect when your filament tangles while it’s still on the roll, something that occasionally trips up every 3D printer I’ve yet used. I’ve also yet to see a 3D printer company ship their printers with a dry box to keep moisture out of their filament, but Creality does sell them separately, and it’s definitely something they could do to get us closer to that push-button, get-object future! 

(I’m not saying you should buy an A1: I had more jams and lower-quality results with an A1 Mini than my P1P, the filament tangle detection still doesn’t work, and many things I print are too big for its bed. I haven’t gotten to test the full-size A1 since its recall.)

The biggest way 3D printers will earn trust, though, is if companies like Creality and Bambu stop shipping them before they’re ready. I can’t believe the terrible state the original Creality K1 first shipped in, and if you lurk in the right places on Reddit and Discord, you’ll hear veterans say that the Bambu P1P shipped with early issues, too. And I’ve read plenty of testimonials from Bambu customers who, like me with the Creality K1, were expected to open up their printers to fix broken things instead of sending them in for service. It’s a good reminder that these are hobbyist devices, not consumer products, even as these companies talk about democratizing 3D printing for everyone.   

No matter which printer you’re eyeing, I strongly recommend steering clear of ones that have just launched. Wait for early adopters to iron things out! But if you’re itching to get printing, I’m pretty happy with the nearly two-year-old P1P. 

Photography by Sean Hollister / The Verge

By rb8jg

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