PROS / The MakerBot Replicator had the best print quality scores in our stress tests.
CONS / It only prints with PLA filament.
VERDICT / The MakerBot Replicator truly excels with its stellar print quality and easy wireless printing.
Editor's Note: The new version of this 3D printer, the MakerBot Replicator +, is now available. We will evaluate, rank and review the MakerBot Replicator + when we next update the 3D printer site. Meanwhile enjoy our review below about the MakerBot Replicator 5.
The MakerBot Replicator is a well-built and well-designed 3D printer with excellent print quality. In fact, we found that it makes some of the highest-quality models of the printers in our review. It’s also very easy to use and has a variety of connectivity options that fit any home or work environment.
3D printing with the MakerBot was a breeze. Each model we made turned out extremely well – the pieces didn’t require cleanup, and they were incredibly accurate with no malfunctions. Our team of experts consistently gave high rankings to the models the machine printed during our stress tests, as they had great surface quality, clean bridges, no scars or blobs, and no layer shifting.
With the MakerBot, you trade print quality for print size. Even though the printer itself is large, it can only print pieces smaller than 5.9 x 7.8 x 9.9 inches, which is one of the smallest build volumes in our review.
The Replicator's filament options are a little lacking. This PLA-only printer uses proprietary cartridges, which limit your material, color and price options. Compatible cartridges are sold directly from MakerBot. These proprietary replacements are more expensive than universal or generic filament. However, the filament is specifically engineered to work with this printer, so it won’t damage other components. The printer comes with a cartridge, so you don’t have to buy one to start printing.
The MakerBot Replicator is an intuitive and easy-to-use 3D printer. It requires very little installation, and the smart extruder was incredibly easy to attach. Overall, it takes less work to set up than any other printer we assembled. We also found the hidden filament compartment to be a handy design feature – the filament is close at hand but enclosed enough to prevent tangles and kinks. This printer even auto levels before each print, so you don’t have to perform many calibrations or make a lot of manual tweaks before you print.
This 3D printer also excels in everyday use. You can use the onboard screen to view all settings, start prints, follow progress, connect to Wi-Fi and perform a handful of other tasks. The dial lets you scroll through menus and choose features, and it doesn’t require training or a manual to use. When you connect to this printer via Wi-Fi, you can use one its most fun features: the webcam. The webcam lets you check in on your model’s real-time progress as it prints, no matter where you are. In our review, the MakerBot Replicator ranked very high for its overall design and ease of use.
The Replicator’s has some of the best connection options available, and there are plenty to choose from. Most 3D printers only have one or two ways to transfer files from your computer, but the MakerBot has four: Wi-Fi, Ethernet cable, USB cable and flash drive. No matter which method you choose, you can use either the screen or your computer to start the print. The proprietary software, MakerWare, is easy enough for beginners to use but also has the quality features found in advanced printing and slicing software.
This 35-pound hunk of solid plastic and steel is extremely durable and sits still during rigorous prints. The glass print plate pops in and out easily too, and it even comes with custom-fit tape covers to prevent scratches and dings. It isn’t heated, so you can’t print with ABS filament. The printer’s open design makes it easy to view your models, but there is enough cover to keep you from burning yourself on the hot elements.
MakerBot offers a 12-month warranty on this 3D printer, but you have to pay extra for specialized technical support. While most 3D printer companies offer free tech support, MakerBot offers full access to support staff and online solutions as an upgrade. Without this upgrade, you have to stick with using the manual and tutorials on the website for help.
The Replicator is one of the best home 3D printers, as it has above-average print quality and is still easy enough for novices to use. It also has premium features, such as a webcam and wireless printing, that make it more enjoyable and easier to use than other 3D printers on our comparison.