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10th of December 2018

Gadgets



Monoprice built the only 3D printer we wouldn't mind in our living room

Over the past few years, Monoprice has made a name for itself as the premier purveyor of budget-friendly 3D printers, but its latest printer — the Delta Pro — seems to be a step in a different direction. Unlike the rest of Monoprice’s machines (all of which are priced under $500), this one costs a whopping 1,500 bucks.

To see if this printer’s high-end features are worth that premium price tag, we put it through its paces for a couple weeks. Here’s how it went.

Standout features and specs

The first thing you’ll notice about this printer is just how big it is. Standing about 3 feet tall and roughly 1.5 feet wide, it’s a pretty sizable machine. The good news, though, is that this beefy skeleton allows a fairly generous build area to sit nestled inside of the printer’s frame. The Delta Pro boasts a build area that’s 300mm tall (exactly 12 inches) and 270mm in diameter. For most users, that’s more than enough room to play with.

Monoprice Delta Pro review Monoprice Delta Pro review Monoprice Delta Pro review Monoprice Delta Pro review Dan Baker/Digital Trends

In addition to its expansive build envelope, the Delta Pro is outfitted with all the requisite 3D-printing staples that we’ve come to expect on anything with “pro” in the name — things like a heated bed, all-metal construction, auto-leveling functionality, and a 3.5-inch touchscreen LCD interface.

Thing is, all that stuff is par for the course these days. You can find most of the aforementioned features in Monoprice’s $160 Mini Delta, so to make the Pro a bit more special, MP also outfitted it with a handful of innovative new features that you don’t usually see in 3D printers.

Even with the oddball auto-leveling, the Delta Pro is a breeze to set up.

For example, this sucker comes equipped with a low-filament sensor that will automatically pause your print when you run out of plastic, then wait until you load a new spool to resume. It also has swappable hot ends, cooling fans that allow you to print more drastic overhangs, and (our personal favorite) whisper-quiet motors.

All things considered, this machine has all the bells and whistles you could ever want in a 3D printer — and then some.

Setup and configuration

If you pony up the $1,500 to get yourself one of these printers, you’ll be pleased to know that the Delta Pro comes fully assembled and factory calibrated. In other words, you can start using it almost immediately after you free it from its packaging.

Monoprice Delta Pro review Dan Baker/Digital Trends

The only thing you need to do before printing is load up some filament and run the printer’s auto-leveling sequence. The former is pretty straightforward — just heat up the hot end and run some plastic through the extruder. The latter step, however, isn’t quite as easy. Before you perform the auto-leveling sequence, you’ll need to attach an odd little sensor to the hot end so that it can sense when its touching the build plate. After that, you’re free to initiate the auto-level process and, when it’s complete, you can remove the sensor. It’s not particularly difficult, but it is a fairly unorthodox process — one that’s likely unfamiliar to even the most seasoned 3D-printing enthusiast.

Still, even with the oddball auto-leveling, the Monoprice Delta Pro is a breeze to set up. If you can set the clock on your microwave, you can probably configure this machine.

Design and build quality

While Monoprice is typically known for selling lower-end electronics in most categories, its 3D printers are a notable exception — and nothing exemplifies this better than the Delta Pro. Simply put, this machine is so well-built that it feels more like an appliance than a 3D printer. Here’s why:

Monoprice has simplified the Delta Pro’s UI so much that initiating a print is no more complex than brewing a pot of coffee.

First of all, it looks great. 3D printers typically put function before form and, as a result, often look very ugly and utilitarian. The Delta Pro, however, is fairly attractive. With its sleek, angular frame, hidden motors, and matte black finish; it’s arguably one of the most aesthetically pleasing 3D printers on the market right now. In other words, you don’t necessarily have to hide this machine in your garage or workshop. We dare say it wouldn’t look out of place in your living room.

Second of all, it’s whisper-quiet and can run in the background without you noticing. Unlike most other printers (which almost always emit an annoying, arrhythmic whine as their motors move the print nozzle to and fro), the Delta Pro is equipped with MP’s “silent drive” technology, which keeps it under 50 decibels no matter what settings you run it at. For context, that’s quieter than normal conversation.

Honestly, I didn’t expect quiet printing to be a standout feature on this printer — but now that I’ve experienced it, I’m not sure I can ever go back. Normally, when I test 3D printers here at Digital Trends, I have to isolate them. I can’t put them at my desk because they’d annoy the hell out of everyone in the bullpen — especially my cubicle neighbor Ryan Waniata, who reviews headphones for a living and could probably hear a mouse fart in the middle of a rock concert. With this printer, I can actually use it at my workspace without driving anyone (myself included) insane. There’s something to be said for that.

Monoprice Delta Pro review Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Lastly, it’s also super-easy and approachable to use. Once it’s all set up, you don’t really need a bunch of specialized knowledge in order to run the machine. Monoprice has simplified the Delta Pro’s UI so much that initiating a print is no more complex than brewing a pot of coffee.

User interface and software

The Delta Pro’s onboard UI is pretty great. Despite the fact that this printer has a boatload of different functions and settings for you to fiddle with, Monoprice manages to make navigating between all of them a breeze. Instead of knobs or buttons, you interact with the machine by tapping icons on the printer’s 3.5-inch touchscreen LCD panel, which gives it a very modern yet familiar feel. It’s a lot like using a smartphone: As soon as you figure out what all the icons do when you touch them, you’re basically an expert.

Getting acquainted does take a minute or two. Monoprice has made a valiant effort to design icons that clearly communicate their purpose to the user, but some of them aren’t particularly obvious

The ancillary software, however, is a bit trickier to get the hang of. As with all of its 3D printers, Monoprice’s Delta Pro doesn’t come bundled with a proprietary slicer program. Instead, it’s designed to work with a broad range of third-party software, including industry standbys like Cura, Kisslicer, and Repetier. The downside of this approach is that, since none of these slicers are built to work specifically with the Delta Pro, the setup process can be a bit daunting for new users. Hell, I review 3D printers for a living and it took me a few minutes to figure out how to configure my slicer properly.

The upside, however, is that you’re also not stuck with a crappy proprietary slicer and can use tried-and-true programs like Cura — many of which have been carefully refined over the years to accommodate both novice and expert users alike.

Print performance

Unfortunately, the only area where the Delta Pro doesn’t quite live up to its name is print performance. Don’t get us wrong — it’s definitely not a bad printer in terms of performance. In fact, it’s quite good. The issue is that, despite costing three times as much as the Monoprice Maker Select Plus, it prints only marginally better. In some regards, we didn’t even notice a difference.

Our only gripe is that the Delta Pro’s maximum print resolution isn’t anything to write home about.

Still, there are a lot of things to like about this printer. For starters, it’s very consistent. The machine’s sturdy construction and delta-style configuration give it the advantage of not being quite as prone to Z-axis wobbling, which ultimately means it prints very reliably from one layer to the next. Most of our test prints were free of burrs, banding, aberrations, and other printing artifacts cause by instability.

The Delta Pro is also pretty damn good at handling tricky print elements like steep overhangs and unsupported spans. This is likely due to the printer’s fans, which allow it to control the temperature of the extruded plastic and cool it down quickly. Functionally, this allows you to print a wider range of objects without using supports, which saves you both time and plastic.

Let’s not forget about the huge build area, either. With a full foot of clearance on the Z-axis and over 10.6 inches on X and Y, you’re free to print just about anything you want — oftentimes in a single piece. Gone are the days of printing large objects by breaking them down into a series of smaller pieces, which is one of the most annoying parts of owning a printer with a small build envelope. Bigger is most definitely better, and we had a ton of fun printing giant vases and architectural models just because we could.

Monoprice Delta Pro review Dan Baker/Digital Trends

The Delta Pro also scores high marks for reliability, but there’s a catch. This machine comes with a heated bed and a glass build plate. The heated bed helps prevent warping and mitigate the issue of prints breaking free from the build plate mid-print — but the smooth glass plate isn’t ideal for print adhesion. You have to use something like painter’s tape, stick glue, or hairspray in order to get your print to stick. So while it does print reliably, it’s worth mentioning that this reliability can only be attained through modification.

Really, our only gripe is that the Delta Pro’s maximum print resolution isn’t anything to write home about. It’s mediocre at best, and actually pales in comparison to many of the low-cost resin printers that have sprung up over the past couple years.

All things considered, this is still an excellent printer in terms of print performance. You just don’t get much bang for your buck when it comes to resolution.

Our Take

This is a great printer. In fact, it’s one of our new favorites. Between the silent drive technology, the big build area, and the attractive looks, there’s a lot to like here.

At the end of the day, though, these are definitely luxury features. They’re nice to have, but you don’t necessarily need them — which makes it difficult to justify the Delta Pro’s $1,500 price tag.

Is there a better alternative?

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more affordable printer that offers so many high-end features and such a large build envelope. But if you aren’t looking for luxury, the Delta Pro might not be the best option.

If your main concern is getting the most bang for your buck, you can definitely find cheaper FDM printers that offer comparable print performance. In fact, Monoprice’s own Maker Select Plus offers many of the same features that the Delta Pro does, yet costs less than $400. If you don’t need luxury features like filament sensing and silent drive, you’d be wise to consider it.

If your main concern is print quality and resolution, we suggest looking into SLA/DLP printers. These machines use a different printing technique, and are typically capable of reproducing far greater detail. The Form 2 ($3,200) is the gold standard in this category — but luckily a handful of more budget-friendly competitors have sprung up in the past year. For $1,500, you could easily find a great resin printer, such as the Peopoly Moai or the Anycubic Photon. Be warned though: Working with resin is far messier than working with plastic filament.

How long will it last?

Years. If properly maintained, there’s no reason this printer can’t keep on ticking for the better part of the next decade.

Should you buy it?

Yes. Just keep in mind that the extra money you’re spending here doesn’t get you huge gains in print performance — it mostly gets you luxury features that are really nice to have, but not essential.

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