Ender 3 V3 SE vs. KE: Which 3D Printer is Right for You?

Marcello De Lio

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A creality Ender 3 V3 KE on a wooden table with Yellow pla filament loaded in the hot end

After several months of hands-on testing with the Ender 3 v3 SE and the Ender 3 v3 KE, we’ve got a lot to compare. Both 3D printers offer excellent print quality at budget-friendly prices. At a glance, both printers are nearly identical in design and features.

Our Pick

Overall

4 / 5

Print Speed

4 / 5

Print Quality

4 / 5

Ease of Use

4 / 5

Support

3 / 5

Features

Direct drive extruder

Klipper firmware

Fast print speeds

X-axis linear rails

Touchscreen

All metal hotend

The fan is noisy

Budget Pick

Overall

3.4 / 5

Print Speed

3.5 / 5

Print Quality

3 / 5

Ease of Use

4 / 5

Support

3 / 5

Features

Direct drive extruder

Auto bed leveling

Low price

Dual Z axis leadscrews

Issues with overhangs

Dial controlled UI

The hotend isn’t all metal

However, the upgraded X-axis linear rails, PEI build surface, klipper firmware, and optional input shaping make the Ender 3 V3 KE our choice.

This article is a deep look at both Ender 3 3D printers. Our goal is to provide you with a clear, comprehensive comparison to help you decide which printer best fits your needs.

Ender 3 V3 SE vs. KE At a Glance

A dual red and blue colored vase 3d printed on an upgraded Creality Ender 3 V3 SE with a gold textured PEI spring steel magnetic bed

The Ender 3 v3 SE and KE share a similar design. At first glance, the two printers are nearly identical. However, the KE has a more squared extruder with a prominent cooling fan.

Both models offer automatic bed leveling through Creality’s CRTouch and automatic Z-offset calibration. The CRTouch and auto Z-offset simplify the setup process and ensure perfect first layers.

Despite the similar outer appearance, the KE offers a more advanced print head, an additional part cooling fan, a filament runout sensor, and an X-axis linear rail. The sturdy design and enhanced features provide smoother printhead movement, better part cooling for overhangs, and peace of mind if you run out of filament mid-print.

Perhaps the most significant difference is the printer’s firmware. And the KE has the advantage.

While the SE runs on Marlin firmware, the KE operates on Klipper-based firmware. Klipper is more sophisticated software that allows for higher print speeds while maintaining print quality. This firmware includes features that help reduce print defects when printing at high speeds, making the KE more efficient and reliable for fast printing tasks.

You can also upgrade the Ender 3 V3 KE with a vibration compensation sensor to take advantage of Klipper’s input shaping, which reduces artifacts caused by vibrations during printing.

The KE excels at faster print speeds because of its better hardware and Klipper firmware. The Ender 3 v3 KE can achieve a maximum print speed of 500 mm/s, double the SE’s maximum speed of 250 mm/s.

Despite printing faster, the KE provides slightly better print quality. More stable printing, Klipper firmware, a more advanced hotend, and dual cooling fans provide more accurate and consistent printing. And the dual print cooling fans better handle overhangs.

The KE also offers better connectivity options. It includes two USB ports and LAN connectivity and supports the Creality Cloud APP, allowing for remote monitoring and control of print jobs. The SE has more basic connectivity options with a full-sized SD card slot and a USB-C port​​. The KE also features a more user-friendly 4.3″ color touch screen compared to the SE’s 3.2″ color knob screen​.

After thoroughly comparing both models, the Ender 3 v3 KE emerges as our top pick. Its superior firmware, faster print speeds, enhanced stability, and better connectivity options make it a more versatile and efficient choice. While the SE is a solid and reliable printer if you’re on a budget, the KE has advanced features and performance enhancements for not much more money.

If you have the budget, get the Creality Ender 3 V3 KE.

Design and Build Quality

A fully assembled Ender 3 V3 SE on a white table with a beige wall in the background
Front View of the Ender 3 V3 SE

The design and build quality of the Ender 3 v3 SE and KE are very similar at first look. Aside from the extruder, the printer looks nearly identical. You’ll find several small details that differentiate the machines as you look closer.

Both models have a robust frame construction, ensuring stability during printing.

The Ender 3 v3 KE uses linear rails on the X-axis, significantly reducing vibrations and enhancing print stability compared to the SE’s standard rubber v-wheel system. Linear rails allow the KE to achieve smoother and more precise movements, which is particularly beneficial during high-speed printing. The linear rails provide a more rigid and stable platform, reducing the chances of misalignment and ensuring consistent print quality even at higher accelerations.

Front view of the Ender 3 V3 KE on a wooden table with a modern white wall in the background
Front view of the Ender 3 V3 KE

The longevity and maintenance of your printer parts are essential considerations when choosing a 3D printer.

Linear rails require less maintenance and last much longer than rubber wheels. While reviewing the V3 SE, I began noticing small bits of rubber on the belts after a couple of dozen prints. The rubber wheels experience much more wear and tear than linear rails.

Both printers use linear rods on the Y-axis. While not as smooth and stable as linear rails, the metal rods significantly improve the Ender 3 V2’s rubber v-roller wheels.

Similarly, both printers offer dual lead screws on the Z-axis. A single stepper motor controls lead screws, which are synced with a top-mounted belt. The dual leadscrew setup provides greater stability and smoother vertical movements, helping to reduce issues like Z-wobble.

As the upgraded model, I expected the V3 KE to offer dual stepper motors on the Z-axis. However, I didn’t notice any issues with Z-banding using the dual lead screws synchronized through the belt.

Unfortunately, only the KE offers a filament runout sensor. The sensor is essential for preventing failed prints caused by running out of filament. It instructs the printer to pause printing if the filament runs out, allowing you to replace the spool and resume printing. This feature is particularly useful for longer print jobs, where filament runouts are common.

You can upgrade the Ender 3 V3 SE with a filament runout sensor, but I do wish Creality included with the printer.

The Ender 3 V3 KE shines with a 4.3″ color touch screen. The KE’s user interface is more intuitive and user-friendly compared to the SE’s 3.2″ knob-controlled screen. The larger touch screen on the KE allows for easier navigation and better control over print settings, enhancing the overall user experience. Both displays are very responsive and easy to navigate.

However, the KE takes the edge with its larger size and touchscreen interface.

Extruder

Close up of the hotend on an Ender 3 V3 SE with the Creality logo prominantly displayed
The Ender 3 V3 SE Extruder

The Ender 3 v3 SE uses Creality’s Sprite direct drive extruder, which includes a dual-gear setup for better feeding and the ability to print flexible filaments like TPU. Unfortunately, it’s not an all-metal extruder.

The SE can reach 260°C, making it suitable for a wide range of filaments such as PLA, ABS, PETG, and TPU. However, it is not designed to handle high-temperature materials like nylon.

In contrast, the Ender 3 v3 KE is equipped with an upgraded version of the Sprite direct drive extruder, which offers several enhancements over the SE model. This extruder includes a more powerful 60W ceramic heater with a maximum temperature of up to 300°C.

Close up of the upgraded extruder on an Ender 3 V3 KE 3D printer
Close-up of the upgraded extruder on the Ender 3 V3 KE

The higher temperature capability allows the KE to handle high-temperature filaments, broadening the range of materials you can work with. Additionally, the KE features a “volcano” style hotend with a larger heat zone, providing greater filament flow during high-speed printing.

The KE’s extruder also benefits from a bimetallic heatbreak, which reduces the risk of heat creep and hotend jams. The bimetallic heartbreak is more reliable, especially when printing with high-temperature materials.

The Ender 3 v3 KE offers superior performance with its higher temperature capabilities, improved heating efficiency, and all-metal extruder. These features make the KE a better choice for users looking to print a wide variety of materials.

However, the Ender 3 V3 SE’s extruder is perfectly fine for most hobbyists if you don’t require high-temperature printing.

Part Cooling

Close up of the bottom of the Ender 3 V3 SE hotend with the nozzle and CRTouch probe
The single, undersized cooling fan on the SE is insufficient for overhangs.

The part cooling system is critical for handling overhangs and reducing defects like stringing. The Ender 3 v3 SE and the Ender 3 v3 KE offer part cooling but with very different results.

The Ender 3 v3 SE is equipped with a single, small cooling fan that provides adequate cooling for standard printing tasks. This setup is sufficient for hobbyists and those who do not regularly push their printer to its limits.

However, the undersized cooling fan doesn’t do well with overhangs.

Close up of the textured PEI print bed on a Creality Ender 3 V3 KE
The KE uses dual cooling fans for more effective part cooling.

On the other hand, the Ender 3 v3 KE features a more advanced dual-blower part cooling system. The dual fan setup provides more uniform and efficient cooling, allowing the KE to manage challenging overhangs better.

Our tests consistently found that the KE produced better results in terms of print quality and overhang performance​. Ender 3 V3 SE users can upgrade their printers to a more powerful fan with air ducts to improve part cooling.

Build Volume and Bed Surface

A photo of several 3d printed models on the print bed of a Creality Ender 3 V3 SE 3d printer on a white table with a beige wall in the background

Build Volume

Surprisingly, the SE and KE have different build volumes. The SE has a 220 x 220 x 250 mm build volume, while the KE has a slightly smaller print volume of 220 x 220 x 240 mm. The 10mm difference in the Z axis is minor and not a deal breaker for most users. However, it is surprising to see that the more advanced KE has a smaller print volume.

Print Bed

The broken PC build plate on a Creality 3d printer after removing a grey pla 3D benchy model. The build plate stuck to the bottom of the print and broke off during print removal
The PC build plate has such strong adhesion that we broke the surface while removing a 3D Benchy.

The Ender 3 V3 SE ships with a PC spring steel build surface. This print bed material offers incredible bed adhesion, ensuring that prints stay in place during the printing process. However, prints can adhere too well, making it a bit challenging to remove prints once they are finished.

While reviewing the Ender 3 V3 SE, we actually broke the print bed while trying to remove a 3D Benchy.

Close up of the textured PEI print bed on a Creality Ender 3 V3 KE
The KE uses a textured PEI build surface that we love.

On the other hand, the Ender 3 v3 KE features a textured PEI flexible build plate, my favorite 3D printer bed material. PEI build plates provide good bed adhesion, allowing prints to release easily after the print bed cools.

The Ender 3 V3 KE has a slightly smaller build volume but uses my preferred print bed material. If you need the extra 10 mm, you can upgrade the SE with a textured PEI print bed. Otherwise, the KE is still ahead.

Firmware

The firmware used by a 3D printer can significantly impact its performance, ease of use, and the range of features available. While there are several hardware differences, the most significant differentiating factor is the printer’s firmware.

Ender 3 v3 SE: Marlin Firmware

The Ender 3 v3 SE uses Marlin firmware, one of the most widely used firmware options. Marlin is known for its ease of use, reliability, and extensive support. It’s an open-source firmware that has been continuously developed and improved over the years and has plenty of advanced features.

While Marlin is feature-rich and reliable, it doesn’t offer state-of-the-art features and speed like other firmware versions.

Ender 3 v3 KE: Klipper Firmware

On the other hand, the Ender 3 v3 KE comes equipped with Klipper firmware. Klipper is a newer, open-source firmware that brings advanced features and greater performance to 3D printers.

Klipper requires a more powerful computer to perform complex computations, allowing for more sophisticated control and faster print speeds​.

Key advantages of Klipper firmware include:

  • Higher print speeds: Klipper can handle more complex calculations, enabling faster and smoother printing.
  • Input shaping: This feature reduces vibrations and artifacts in prints, improving overall print quality. To fully take advantage of Klipper’s input shaping, you can upgrade the KE with a vibration compensation sensor.
  • Flexible configuration: Klipper’s configuration files are easier to modify, making them more accessible for advanced users who want to experiment with different settings and optimizations.

Klipper offers advanced features, faster print speeds, and greater flexibility. Its print quality and performance benefits make it the better firmware.

User Interface

A crtouch error message on the display of a creality ender 3d printer

The Ender 3 v3 SE comes with a 3.2-inch color screen paired with a rotary knob for navigation. While functional, the rotary knob is a cheap alternative to the KE’s touchscreen. The color display provides clear visuals, but the knob-based navigation is a bit annoying initially. But once you get used to it, it’s not so bad.

Thankfully, the SE offers an intuitive UI that is easy to navigate.

Close up of the large touchscreen on a Creality Ender 3 V3 KE FDM 3D printer

In contrast, the Ender 3 v3 KE comes with a larger, 4.3-inch color touchscreen. The upgraded screen offers a more modern and user-friendly experience. The touchscreen is very responsive and allows quicker navigation through menus and settings, making adjusting parameters and starting print jobs more manageable.

The larger screen size also provides more detailed information at a glance.

The difference in user interface extends beyond just the hardware.

The KE’s touchscreen is part of a more advanced firmware setup that supports WiFi connectivity and remote control via the Creality Cloud app. You can upload files, start prints, and monitor progress from your smartphone or computer.

Print Speed

Close up of the bottom of an Ender 3 V3 SE with the upgraded High Speed Nozzles from Creality

The Ender 3 v3 SE and Ender 3 v3 KE have notable differences in print speed capabilities. The SE can handle up to 250 mm/s, though we recommend not going faster than 180 mm/s. In contrast, the KE boasts a maximum speed of 500 mm/s, with regular printing speeds of 300 mm/s.

The KE achieves faster speeds thanks to its Klipper firmware, X-axis linear rails, and upgraded hotend.

In terms of acceleration, the SE accelerates at up to 2500 mm/s², while the KE can accelerate up to 8000 mm/s². This higher acceleration means the KE can quickly reach its maximum speeds, resulting in significant time savings for complex prints with more direction changes.

The KE’s faster print speeds make it ideal for users who want to maximize productivity and efficiency in their printing workflows.

Print Quality

A side by side photo of two 3D benchys. The model on the left was printed by a Creality Ender 3 V3 SE while the right object was printed on the KE
Two 3D Benchy’s. I printed the one on the left using the SE, and it exhibits a bit of stringing and noticeable ringing. The green print on the left was printed on the KE, which had smoother lines and a cleaner appearance.

Regarding print quality, both the Ender 3 v3 SE and the Ender 3 v3 KE offer impressive results, but they do so in slightly different ways, reflecting their respective design priorities and hardware capabilities.

Looking at the photo above, both models showcase excellent print quality, especially considering their low price points.

However, the model printed on the SE has noticeable ringing, salmon skin, and slightly more stringing.

Comparing the Ender 3 V3 SE vs. KE when it comes to overhangs. The black 3D benchy on the left has bad overhangs and was printed on the SE, while the green benchy on the right has smooth overhangs
The black pla 3D Benchy on the left was printed with the SE and shows poor overhangs. Meanwhile, the green pla printed Benchy on the right was printed on the KE and has nearly perfect overhangs. The difference is thanks to the KE’s powerful part cooling fans.

The difference in print quality becomes even clearer when we look at the underside of the models.

The model printed on the SE has ugly overhangs on the ship’s bow owing to the undersized cooling fan. While not perfect, the KE has noticeably better overhangs with straight lines along the bow.

While both printers can produce excellent print quality, the KE offers superior performance for high-speed printing and better handling of more demanding materials due to its higher temperature capabilities.

Price and Value

At the time of release, the SE was priced at $199, while the KE was priced at $279.

The Ender 3 v3 SE’s low price and good print quality make it an attractive option for budget-conscious users. When it was announced, we quickly added it to our list of the best 3D printers as our pick for a sub-$200 machine.

The SE offers solid performance with features like a direct drive extruder, automatic bed leveling, and a PC spring steel build surface. These features provide a reliable and straightforward printing experience, making the SE a great entry-level printer for beginners. However, the SE lacks advanced capabilities, such as higher temperature printing and more robust connectivity options, limiting its versatility and efficiency for more demanding projects.

The Ender 3 v3 KE is slightly higher priced but offers several enhancements that justify the additional cost. The KE model includes dual-blower part cooling fans, a larger touchscreen, a PEI flexible build plate, high-temperature hot end, X-axis linear rails, Klipper firmware, and a higher maximum print speed of up to 500 mm/s.

Moreover, the KE offers enhanced connectivity options, including WiFi and LAN support. The printer also supports the Creality Cloud app, providing a more convenient and flexible user experience. The WiFi connectivity means users can easily manage and monitor print jobs remotely, adding a convenience not available with the SE.

With faster print speeds, better print quality, and improved connectivity, the KE offers significant enhancements at a slight price increase. You won’t go wrong with the SE if you’re on a budget. However, the Ender 3 V3 KE is a better value.

Which Should You Buy?

Our Pick
Creality Ender 3 V3 KE
$299.00
Amazon Creality Store
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05/01/2024 04:14 pm GMT

Deciding between the Ender 3 v3 SE and the Ender 3 v3 KE ultimately comes down to your budget. The Ender 3 v3 SE is a solid choice if you are working within a tight budget. Priced around $199, it offers reliable performance with features such as a direct drive extruder, automatic bed leveling, and a sturdy build surface. It is particularly well-suited for beginners and hobbyists who need a dependable machine without breaking the bank​.

However, if your budget allows for a bit more investment, the Ender 3 v3 KE is the superior option. Priced around $279, the KE provides significant enhancements that justify the additional cost. These include a more advanced part cooling system, a PEI flexible build plate, higher print speeds, better print quality, WiFi connectivity, Klipper firmware, and a high-temperature hotend.

If you have the budget, get the Creality Ender 3 V3 KE.

Article by

Marcello De Lio

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