Original Prusa i3 MK3S 3D Printer
The Prusa MK3S, despite its 2017 release, still holds its ground as one of the most popular medium-sized 3D printers on the market—and for a good reason. Packed with numerous cutting-edge features, excellent print quality, and top-notch slicer software, the MK3S continues to stand tall as one of our personal top choices for those seeking a good medium-format 3D printer.
However, competitors such as the Creality Ender V2 offer nearly identical print quality at a tiny fraction of the price. We would highly recommend the MK3S to people looking for a 3D printer that can handle heavy workloads. But for those on a budget, the Creality Ender 3 V2 provides a more outstanding value for your money.
Amazon.com Disclosure: As Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases.
The Original Prusa i3 printer was first released in 2015 as a commercial kit. It became hugely popular at the time as an affordable and good-quality 3D printer for those picking up a new hobby. Plus, thanks to a considerable amount of marketing and a distinctive orange and black color scheme, Original Prusa became an extremely well-known and supported brand.
Over the next four years, Prusa received a number of updates to become the gold standard for modern 3D printers. In fact, in its 2019 iteration, the Original Prusa Mk3S brings a number of improvements that are usually found on more expensive printers that range in the thousands of dollars.
Users can purchase a kit for $749 or opt for the fully assembled printer for $999, which places the Prusa Mk3S in the upper range of 3D printers for hobbyists. Thus, pressure from a number of more inexpensive, high-quality 3D printers with cutting-edge features has raised questions in regard to the market position the Prusa Mk3S holds. In this in-depth Original Prusa Mk3S 3D printer review, we’ll be looking at the pros and cons of this machine and whether it still has a place in the extremely competitive hobby 3D printer market.
Table of Contents
Key Features To Look For In A Great 3D Printer
Quality printing is what sets the stage for a good 3D printer, and we were more than happy to score the Original Prusa Mk3S a solid 9/10 after running out of internal test prints.
For our tests, we printed a test model, a Benchy, a Mandolorian figurine, and the classic calibration cube. During testing, we noticed the cooling at the back of the objects wasn’t as efficient compared to the front, primarily because the Prusa Mk3S filament cooling fan directs air toward the front and sides. However, this didn’t significantly affect its print quality. The surfaces on the calibration cube came out flat and smooth, but we did notice some minor issues like ringing and ghosting, so we couldn’t score it a perfect ten.
You also want to make sure that you have a community behind you to help you on your 3D printing adventures. Since Prusa has one of the strongest brand recognitions in the 3D community, the Mk3S is widely supported across forums, Facebook groups, subreddits, and more. We easily found answers to all our questions, and people were eager to help!
Lately, maintenance for any product can be a headache. This is especially true for 3D printers. Due to the advanced machinery, you want to ensure you can find replacement parts or upgrades at a fair price so your journey isn’t cut short. Thankfully, all components of the Prusa Mk3S are easily replaceable. It has an open frame that allows access to all components and only requires a few screw removals.
Conversely, the control board and the automatic bed leveling sensor are proprietary. Due to the popularity of the Prusa Mk3S, it’s still easy to find replacement parts from popular resellers.
… well, I lied. There’s one other point I wanted to bring up that doesn’t get considered often enough: the printer’s noise levels. This is especially relevant if you live with your parents or roommates. The Prusa Mk3S is the first consumer printer to come with TMC 2100 silent stepper drives. This was a huge leap forward for 3D printers, and they didn’t stop there. They also added a Noctua branded fan on the hotend, which also makes the printer even quieter.
Ranked #10 of 37 Printers
How We Researched Prusa MK3S
The Prusa MK3S belongs to the medium format cartesian family of 3D printers, which specializes in printing objects in a print volume that most users would be happy with. These printers are well known for their ease of use, good print quality, and enormous community support.
While it occupies the upper end of the price range, the Prusa MK3S is unique in that it comes with many quality-of-life features that most of its competitors do not have. It is also one of the few western companies that compete in the medium format space, which gives it an upper hand in terms of warranty and after-sales support.
With that said, we’ve decided to put the Prusa MK3S through a number of test prints, subject it to harsh printing conditions, and travel to its many support groups and forums to see how helpful its community is and more. To get an idea of how well it prints, we’ve even pitted it against its competitors like the Creality Ender 3 V2, Sovol SV01, and the Anycubic Mega.
Choosing the wrong medium format printer can result in poor print quality, a bad printing experience, and even a printer catching on fire! We carefully did our research so you know where to place your trust when choosing the right 3D printer. This is definitely a read you would not want to miss out on!
Prusa i3 MK3S Printer Setup
For this review, we purchased a fully assembled machine. The Prusa Mk3S comes packaged in a large cardboard box with large sheets of packing foam to secure and protect the 3D printer. Cables and moving parts have been tied down using zip ties. As a fun surprise, and depending on the region, users may find a bag of Haribo gummies with their 3D printer as it is part of their branding.
Setting up the machine was incredibly easy as there was no assembly required. Users would only need to make sure that their power supply unit is set to the correct voltage in their region. In our case, it was already set to the correct 110V. We plugged in the 3D printer and let it run a self-diagnostics test. Once completed, it was ready to print.
We also inspected the machine for any defects during assembly, such as misaligned rods or loosened bolts, and found no issues. Prusa even included a quality control checklist to confirm that the unit is ready for shipping. There may be some filament in the nozzle since the quality control staff does check that the hotend is functional before shipping.
The Prusa Mk3S has a medium-sized build volume of 250 mm (l) x 210mm (w) x 210mm (h), which allows it to print most objects users would throw at it. The magnetic flexible PEI build plate combined with the automatic bed leveling allowed us to print confidently with absolutely no print failures due to bed adhesion issues.
We tested the Prusa Mk3S in four major areas: the ability to resolve details, z layer alignment, dimensional accuracy, and print repeatability. For our tests, we used stock 0.2mm layer height settings in PrusaSlicer.
To test the FDM printer’s ability to resolve details, we printed a number of detailed models, including the standard test model Benchy, a Mandalorian figure, and a calibration cube. The Prusa Mk3s reproduced the details on the Benchy, Mandalorian, and calibration cube decently well. However, there’s a catch: we noticed a cooling discrepancy, particularly at the rear of objects. The culprit? The Prusa Mk3S’s filament cooling fan directs air predominantly toward the front and sides. On the bright side, flat surfaces on the calibration cube turned out pleasingly smooth, indicating consistent filament extrusion. But there’s a bit of a trade-off here. The inclusion of a direct drive extruder and high default printing speeds introduced some ringing and ghosting.
In stark contrast, the Creality Ender 3 V2 exhibited none of these issues thanks to its lighter Bowden setup and slower printing speeds.
We tested the z-layer alignment consistency by printing a massive 200 mm-tall tube. Quality control and design of the z-axis assembly dictate the consistency of the z-axis of a 3D printer. If the lead screw in the z-axis is off or bent by even a fraction of a degree, ribbing artifacts, known as z wobble, will manifest on the 3D print. A tall, smooth object like a tube will exaggerate any z wobble in a 3D printer. Fortunately, in our tests, we didn’t see any z wobble in our 200 mm-tall tube.
Lastly, to test dimensional accuracy and print consistency, we printed a 20mm calibration cube 20 times to see if there were any differences between the various cubes. Our cube measured 20.2mm (l) x 20.2mm (w), which makes the Prusa Mk3S slightly above average for dimensional accuracy. We also noticed that there wasn’t a notable difference in finish or dimensional accuracy between the first and twentieth calibration cubes, which implies that the Prusa Mk3S is a very consistent 3D printer.
Setting Up Prints
Prusa bundles their 3D printers, including the Original Prusa i3 MK3S, with their in-house PrusaSlicer program. PrusaSlicer is a fork of the open-source Slic3r with a number of usability features and optimizations added. The company has a large number of preset profiles for their printers, in-house and 3rd party filaments, making it one of the best-supported 3D printers on the market. In many cases, users simply need to load their model of choice, pick a preset for their printer and filament, and create the sliced file. Files are then conveniently loaded to an SD card and inserted into the front display of the Mk3S. From there, it’s all about using the monochrome LCD and the trusty click wheel to navigate and kickstart your prints.
However, we felt that navigating on the LCD and using a click wheel feels dated compared to competitors. Take the Creality Ender 3 V2, for instance—it boasts a spacious color LCD. In fact, you can find other printers in the same price range as Prusa that come with nifty color touch screens. One exception to this is the Matterhackers Pulse, which does not have a screen or click wheel to operate the machine and relies on a computer-tethered setup.
The Prusa Mk3S is equipped with both TMC silent stepper drivers and a Noctua fan for the hotend. This combination of components makes the Prusa Mk3S the quietest printer we have ever tested. Averaging 35 db of noise while idle and 40 db in motion, users will have difficulty hearing it at all. This makes it the ideal printer for users looking for the quietest 3D printing experience.
If there’s one thing for certain, the Prusa Mk3S was built with speed in mind. With a direct drive extruder and a sturdy frame, this 3D printer can move quickly. In fact, its default print speeds are already very fast at 75mm/s compared to the Creality Ender 3 V2’s 50mm/s. With some tuning, the Prusa Mk3S can be pushed to print even faster. Many users have been able to print at speeds greater than 100mm/s.
On paper, the Mk3S can print flexible filaments due to its direct drive and dual-gear extruder. However, in practice, we found that the Prusa Mk3S can only reliably print TPU as fast as 30mm/s. While it was considerably faster than Creality’s Ender 3 V2’s speeds of 15mm/s, we were still disappointed that it could not print faster than 30mm/s without issues.
Prusa put a lot of effort into developing its own ecosystem of printers, software, and filament. While their printers and filament are more expensive to source here in Canada, we still found the experience was seamless and reliable. Any issues we have encountered were due to either user error or pushing the Mk3S past its default settings. All these aspects make the 3D printer great for people looking for a low-maintenance machine.
The Prusa Mk3S sports overall dimensions of 520mm (l) x 540mm (w) x 480mm (h), a build volume of 250mm (l) x 210mm (w) x 210mm (h), and a weight of 7kg. This makes it relatively compact and light enough to fit on most tables or desks.
Against most of its competitors, like the Creality Ender 3 V2, the Mk3S features a slightly smaller and more compact frame at the cost of a slightly smaller build volume. The only exception is the Matterhackers Pulse, which is identical to the Prusa Mk3S in terms of construction and build volume.
The Prusa Mk3S base is constructed out of 2020 aluminum extrusion, giving it a decent dose of sturdiness. But up top, it sports stamped aluminum sheeting. This combo results in a relatively rigid frame. However, some users might find that the heavy use of 3D printed parts and the simple aluminum sheeting give the Prusa Mk3S hobbyist vibe, especially when compared to the all-metal clad Creality CR 10 S Pro or the more affordable Creality Ender 3 V2.
Original Prusa printers are well known for their safety considerations, especially compared to their more affordable competitors.
Thermal Runaway Protection
One of the biggest concerns of 3D printing is the heater losing control and catching fire. Thermal runaway protection is a software feature that monitors the hotend to ensure it stays within an acceptable temperature. We will never recommend a printer without this critical feature enabled. Fortunately, Prusa printers were one of the earliest machines to have this safety feature enabled, and the Mk3S was no exception. If the Prusa Mk3S detects that the temperature has gone out of an acceptable range, it will display a heating error message, cut its power, and wait for the user to restart the machine.
Cable Relief and Cable Management
For many low-cost 3D printers, small details such as power cables that can lead to the heated bed breaking due to the constant movement are often overlooked. But Prusa has that covered. They’ve taken care to properly support these cables using strain reliefs, both for the heated bed and the moving hotend. Additionally, all cables that run to the hotend and heated bed are wrapped in a nylon sleeving. This not only shields the cables from tangles but also improves the overall aesthetics of the 3D printer.
Another highlight in the construction of the Prusa Mk3S is the properly crimped and terminated cables that connect the various components of the machine. Too often, 3D printers use solder or incorrect connectors. This can result in connections coming loose or, in worst cases, electrical arcing that might cause overheating and fires.
Self Diagnostics and Fan Monitoring
Some unique features of the Prusa Mk3S are its self-diagnostic wizard and fan monitoring capabilities. When we first turned on the Prusa Mk3S, the 3D printer ran a series of tests to make sure critical components were functional and properly installed. Additionally, while the 3D printer is powered, it will continuously monitor the state of the cooling fan. If it detects that the fan is not spinning correctly, it will power down the machine to prevent it from overheating. This attention to detail gives us a lot of confidence in the fact that the Prusa Mk3S is reliable and safe to use.
Finding Replacement Parts
All components in the Prusa Mk3S, such as the hotend, control board, extruder, motors, and fans, are fully and easily replaceable. With an open frame, it’s easy to access these components—you’d only need to remove a couple of screws.
The control board and automatic bed leveling sensor of the Prusa Mk3S are proprietary to the Mk3 line of printers. But, because Prusa printers are so popular, you can easily get replacement parts directly from Prusa or from 3D printer resellers like Matterhackers, Digitmakers, and Spool3D.
Accessing the Control Board
Prusa makes accessing the Mk3S control board very easy. The control board is located on the left-hand side of the 3D printer and is enclosed in a 3D printed case. Users simply need to open the hinged door to access the control board. Due to the open nature of the Mk3S, there is a lot of room to navigate around the control board. Prusa uses the right connectors, so replacing cables and parts is a breeze. That’s why we think the Prusa Mk3S is one of the easiest machines to work with.
Features & Upgrades
Prusa has boasted that the Prusa Mk3 is one of the first “smart” printers. With a large feature set to improve the print quality and quality of life, we can understand why Prusa would make this claim. Many of these features are not available for low-cost 3D printers and are only found on much more expensive machines.
Magnetic Flexible Spring Steel Build Plate
The Prusa MK3 was the first printer to feature a removable and flexible build plate that’s secured using magnets. When a print is completed, you’d simply pop the build plate off the heated bed, bend the build plate slightly, and the prints simply come off. This beats the traditional method of scraping, which can damage the build plate, mess up its level, or even lead to accidental cuts on your hand. It’s a big quality-of-life improvement and one of the top reasons people love Prusa printers.
By the way, Prusa, at this time, has three different PEI coatings for their build plates, which are designed for different filaments. This includes smooth PEI, textured PEI, and satin PEI.
- Smooth PEI is designed for PLA and ABS, as it gives the bottom of the print a smooth, glossy finish. It is not recommended for PETG and TPU because those two materials will stick to the smooth PEI, which may lead to ripping when the print is removed from the spring steel sheet.
- Textured PEI is suitable for PETG and TPU filament, as it gives the bottom of the spring a slightly rough texture. In contrast to the smooth PEI, textured PEI is not recommended for PLA since the surface does not have adequate adhesion for heated PLA. In the worst-case scenario, a PLA print can detach from the build plate, which would ruin the entire print.
- Satin PEI is a good middle ground between smooth and textured PEI, featuring good bed adhesion for PLA and ABS while not adhering too well to PETG and TPU. If a user is printing a wide variety of different filaments, we recommend using the satin PEI sheet.
Except for the Matterhackers Pulse, no other 3D printer manufacturer offers a spring steel build plate with their 3D printers.
Automatic Bed Mesh Leveling
The Prusa Mk3S has an automatic leveling feature. The bed leveling process is operated by an induction probe that records the measurement at various points of the bed, ensuring a perfectly flat surface. This is a major quality-of-life improvement over 3D printers that have manual bed leveling, which can be a hassle and not always accurate. The Prusa can even adjust for any variations in the build plate, which manual leveling can’t do.
However, most of Mk3S’s competitors, such as the Creality CR 10 S Pro and the Matterhackers Pulse, do come with automatic bed leveling. It should also be noted that newer competitors, such as the Sovol S03, also come with automatic bed leveling.
Filament Runout Sensor
The Prusa Mk3S is equipped with an optical filament runout sensor. This sensor will detect when the Prusa Mk3S runs out of filament, pausing the printer and waiting until the user loads in new filament before resuming. This feature is useful for users who don’t have time to constantly monitor their 3D printer to make sure there is enough filament left.
Power Loss Recovery
The power supply unit of the Prusa Mk3S has a special board attached to detect when there is a sudden power cut. This allows the printer to save its current print state and resume printing when power is restored. While this is a useful feature on paper, in reality, if a power outage lasts longer than 10 minutes, we found that the print detaches from the build plate anyway due to the heated bed cooling.
TMC Silent Stepper Drivers and Noctua Fan
The Prusa Mk3 is the first consumer printer equipped with TMC 2100 silent stepper drivers. This was a huge leap forward in the quality of life for the 3D printing industry since at the time it was released, 3D printers were notoriously loud. Prusa went even further to keep things quiet by using a Noctua branded fan on the hotend, unlike most other printers that have fast-spinning generic fans.
Dual Drive Extruder
Another first for the 3D printer industry was the use of dual drive gears by Bondtech in the Prusa Mk3S extruder. At the time, 3D printers often used one gear in their extruder to push filament into its hotend. However, Bondtech developed a two-gear system that increased the filament grip of an extruder. This resulted in more reliable and precise filament movement and better print quality. Prusa was the first manufacturer to include them in their 3D printers.
However, many modern printers now feature Bondtech dual drive gears (both genuine and cloned) in their 3D printers. Additionally, many manufacturers use the more modern 3:1 gear ratio of the dual drive gears to further increase the extruder’s filament grip strength.
Multimaterial Unit 2S
Original Prusa has developed a multimaterial system that allows users to print with up to five different filament colors in a single print. While this is already a great option, the real strength comes with the integration within Prusa’s PrusaSlicer software. This provides a workflow for users that is extremely user-friendly, making the Prusa Mk3S and a Multimaterial Unit 2S a highly recommended package for people looking for an intuitive and low-cost multi-material 3D printer.
Prusa enjoys some of the strongest brand recognition in the 3D printing market. As a result, the Prusa Mk3S has become one of the most popular and supported 3D printers currently available. There are many forums, Facebook groups, and subreddits where users can find solutions for issues, mods, and upgrades.
Some of them that they can access are:
The Prusa Mk3S is an incredibly polished machine. It comes with several quality-of-life features that many 3D printing manufacturers are trying to catch up to. Even though it was first released in 2017 (the Mk3S update came in 2019), it’s still considered the gold standard for every consumer 3D printer. Unfortunately for Prusa, it is now facing stiff competition as many affordable 3D printers have caught up to it in print quality. Moreover, newer printers have begun implementing color touch screens and other usability upgrades.
At $749, or $999 assembled, it is difficult to recommend the Prusa Mk3S on print quality alone, with competitors such as the Creality Ender 3 V2 already matching it at $280. However, no other consumer 3D printer manufacturer can boast of the same ecosystem of printers, software, and filament the Prusa has. For users such as educators, print farm operators, or beginners wanting low-maintenance, no-fuss machines, the Prusa Mk3S is still a worthy recommendation.
However, advanced users and those who love to tinker are better served by the Creality Ender 3 V2, which can be upgraded with all the bells and whistles of the Mk3S for much less.
Prusa MK3S Technical Specifications
- Build volume: 250mm (l) x 210mm (w) x 210mm (h)
- Printer size: 520mm (l) x 540mm (w) x 480mm (h)
- Weight: 7kg
- Enclosed print area: No
- Display: Monochrome LCD
- Drive type: FDM Direct (all metal)
- Filament capability: PLA, ABS, PETG, TPU, Polycarbonate, ASA, Nylon
- Connectivity: SD card
- Drivers: TMC2130
- Build Surface: Spring steel PEI sheet
- Heated Bed: Yes
- Bed Leveling: Automatic
- Nozzle diameter: 0.4mm
- Maximum hotend temperature: 280 °C
- Maximum movement speed: 200mm per second
- Maximum XY accuracy: 0.1mm
- Minimum Z height: 0.1mm
- Number of extruders: 1
- Filament diameter: 1.75mm
- Supported materials: PLA, ABS, PETG, TPU, Polycarbonate, ASA, Nylon
- 3rd party filament support: yes
- Operating System: Windows, macOS, Linux
- Supported Slicers: Prusaslicer, Slic3r, CURA, Simplify3D
- Supported File Types: STL, OBJ, M3F
3DGearZone.com is a professional review site that receives compensation from the companies whose products we review. We test each product thoroughly and give high marks to only the very best. We don’t guarantee, however, that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services. 3DGearZone.com is independently owned and the opinions expressed here are our own.
As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
1. Prusa3D.com, “Prusa Research a.s.” Accessed July 26, 2022.