On this page, I share my thoughts and provide links to various printers I have previously used. Hopefully, these will help you make an informed investment into the hobby!
Creality Ender 3
The baseline and bare minimum: dirt cheap and accessible
This is frequently the "go-to" when people talk about a cheap and capable printer. Its 220mm x 220mm x 250mm (LxWxH) bed is the standard that most designers target to fit their parts and frames.
These printers are workhorses, and are generally the basis for similar designs. In addition, the Ender 3's have the widest after-market customization support, so you can really make it yours.
Ender 3 Pro? The Pro comes with a thicker Y-axis assembly, slimmer power-supply, and magnetic bed. Outside of that, it's the same as the Ender 3.
Ender 3 V2? The V2 comes with the Pro's slim power supply, and most importantly, a silent motherboard. (No magnetic bed.) It has a completely different user-interface in the form of a new color display. You also get some extra goodies out of the box you would print (such as a filament knob and drawer). I recommend the Ender 3 V2 if your budget doesn't allow for a fully-kitted Ender 5.
Vinh's Thoughts: I recommend the Ender 3 if you plan to upgrade piece by piece down the line. Even as a very basic model, it is incredibly capable and will get you far. You will spend a little more over time, but it's a good strategy if you don't want to blow 280$ up-front *and* buy a BL-Touch for another 60$.
175$ USD (as of 8/14/2021)
Creality Ender 5
Balanced Value and Quality
The Ender 5 is the next step up if you can swing it. While this printer may demand a little more upkeep in terms of belts and lubrication, the advantages you get include printing faster, and having to level the bed less frequently. (3D Insider has a great write-up here.) The Ender 5 has the same printing volume as the Ender 3.
Ender 5 Pro? It doesn't look like Creality offers the bare-bones Ender 5, so the base "Pro" option comes with some nifty upgrades out the box: silent motherboard, Capricorn tubing, and a metal extruder.
Ender 5 Plus? This printer is absolutely huge. It comes with its own special glass bed for its insane print volume (350mm x 350mm x 400mm). It's significantly more expensive than the Ender 3 and Ender 5 at a whopping 600$. Unfortunately, it lacks the quality-of-life upgrades from the Ender 5 Pro out the box, but it does have a BL Touch out the box. I do not recommend this printer until Creality gives it a serious overhaul- not only is the display incapable of showing file names over a few characters, it also won't let you change the stepper motor values or other configuration points.
Vinh's Thoughts: Get the Ender 5 Pro and a BL Touch if you can afford it. You'll have a rockin' printer for a very effective price point. I'd get the Ender 5 Plus only if you've had experience tinkering or are ready to get super involved, as you will have to work around its (annoying) quirks to get it going.
400$ USD (as of 8/14/2021)
Small and niche only!
The SnapMaker Original is an immensely elegant combination machine. It includes swappable heads for a filament extruder (3D printing), CNC milling, and laser engraving. (With laser engraving, you can choose between a 200mW laser, or purchase the stronger 1600mW laser.)
The build volume is very small. Out the box, you only get 125x125x125 mm of space. You can expand this to be taller if you get the Z-axis extension, which brings your print space to 125x125x221 mm. (An additional 91 mm of height.)
There is only a sliver of uses cases given the small print volume, but they are handy ones.
I find myself using the SnapMaker for is for engraving textures, text, or pictures onto my existing prints (provided they fit). I ended up buying the 1600 mW laser upgrade so I can rapidly burn into my PLA parts.
When I have all my other printers tied up, and I need something small printed quickly (like a button or a oddity for a toy), the SnapMaker Original comes in handy. It can print fairly quick, and it's small volume constrains it to you just using it for small parts.
One thing worth mentioning too is the direct drive motor! You can use this to print soft materials (such as TPU) for gadget bumpers or cases. This is something you would need to upgrade a bowden tube printer to direct-drive motor for this feature.
I haven't used the CNC mill yet, as I haven't had a need to, though to my understanding, it can only cut into wood and acrylic, among other soft materials.
SnapMaker also makes an enclosure too. It might seem a little confined inside it, but it's handy to keep fumes inside (and also provides protection from the literal blinding laser inside it).
The software, Snapmaker Luban, seems to be a Cura clone, but with less settings exposed. It's tricky to get connected to my printer at times, but the built in control settings and slicer make using the printer a breeze. Bed leveling and calibration was straightforward as well. The machine is very well made and its software is easy to navigate and use.
Vinh's Thoughts: This is an elegant and easy to use machine, and it's great if you're looking to experiment with CNC milling or laser engraving as this is a neat package to play around in. Otherwise, if you're just using this for the 3D printing part, you'd be overpaying by hundreds compared to an Ender 3 and a direct-drive extruder upgrade.
720$ USD (as of 10/21/2021)
One of my friends, the 3D Print General has excellent reviews on a variety of printers, new and old if you are looking for something more unique or unconventional.
Check out his book, "3D Printing Failures: (2022 Edition): How to Diagnose and Repair ALL Desktop 3D Printing Issues." It's a handy reference I keep at my desk as a quick go-to, but it's also worth casual reading so that you're prepared for when an issue pops up!
(This blog isn't endorsed or affiliated with him. It's just a friendly shout-out! 😀)