Elegoo Neptune 3 Plus Review: High Quality & Large Printing Size

The Neptune 3 Plus is one of Elegoo’s latest FDM 3D printers, designed for large-format 3D printing

And, after receiving one of these bad boys in the mail, walking the (very heavy) box over a mile to my dorm, and taking the printer for a spin, I’m confident anyone looking to print in the 250+ mm range will love this machine.

For reference, the Neptune 3 Plus is one of Elegoo’s latest iterations of their Neptune 3 printer. As you probably guessed, the Neptune 3 Plus is meant to offer a larger build volume than the original Neptune 3. Moreover, the Plus has a maximum printing size of 320 x 320 x 400 mm, which is about 1 foot in every direction for all of us Americans reading.

But unlike some other large-format 3D printers that are all brawn and no brain, the Neptune 3 Plus has a ton of other features besides just its large print bed. The powerful direct drive printhead, precise automatic bed leveling system and spring steel textured PEI build plate all make achieving high-quality prints consistently a breeze, no matter the size of the model.

In the sections below, I’ll be reviewing, in detail, the Elegoo Neptune 3 Plus. 

Note: While I’ll throw in some of my own opinions, the article is completely free from bias from any manufacturers.

Best For Large Printing

Elegoo Neptune 3 Plus

Build Volume: 320 x 320 x 400 mm

Overall, the Elegoo Neptune 3 Plus is a feature-heavy FDM 3D printer that’s perfect for those who want to print big and don’t want to compromise on detail.

Not many printers under $500 offer over a foot of space in every direction, but the Neptune 3 Plus does it with style. That’s because, on top of the space, the printer offers a very reliable extrusion process, a 49-point automatic bed leveling system, and a flexible and removable PEI build plate.

We just wish it was compatible with normal Cura instead of using the Elegoo Cura which is the proprietary version of Cura for Elegoo printers.

Ultimately, Elegoo’s Neptune line of FDM printers rivals the quality of their resin 3D printers and that says a lot.

Pros

Large build space

Well-built touchscreen interface

Precise 49-point automatic bed leveling system

Compact direct drive printhead (very reliable)

Spring steel PEI build plate provides excellent adhesion

Filament sensor

Very quiet

Support rods for a stable frame

Looks amazing (great color choice)

Cons

The removable screen isn’t very useful

Odd mounting system for filament sensor

Poor cable management for the printhead

Low heating capabilities (only up to 260 °C)

Outdated USB Type-B connection interface

Difficult to attach the build plate the right way

Requires Elegoo Cura (doesn’t work with normal Cura)

Verdict

After assembling and testing the Neptune 3 Plus, I have to say this printer surprised me in basically every way.

First off, I was very impressed by its large print volume: a whopping 320 x 320 x 400 mm. This is much larger than your typical Ender 3 knockoff printer and gives you enough space to print even the largest models on Thingiverse.

Besides the space, though, I really love the direct drive printhead on the Elegoo Neptune 3 Plus, made up of a dual drive extruder that’s geared at 3:1, and a hot end. While the hot end isn’t anything special and can only reach 260 °C, the extruder is super powerful and reliable.

The 49-point automatic bed leveling system also worked way beyond what I was expecting. With any large-format 3D printer, being able to level the bed in all areas is always difficult, but, after just one leveling sequence, I was able to print a model that covered the entire X-axis, and it came out perfectly! No bed adhesion or first-layer issues at all!

The Neptune 3 Plus also offered a handful of other features, including LED lights, a touchscreen interface, and a filament sensor, that made using the printer a super enjoyable experience.

And the print quality on this machine is just spectacular. Without any tuning to the default slicer profile, I was able to achieve a level of print quality I don’t usually see without a lot of effort.

Overall, the Elegoo Neptune 3 Plus is a feature-heavy FDM 3D printer that’s perfect for those who want to print big and pay attention to the details. Of course, no printer is without its flaws, and I’ve found a handful of issues with the Neptune 3 Plus. But all of them are fairly minute, especially when you consider the low cost of the machine.

Below, I’ve listed the pros and cons of the Elegoo Neptune 3 Plus based on my review of the machine.

Specs

Having a list of a 3D printer’s specs makes it easy to see its features and compare it to other machines. In the bullet points below, I’ve provided some important specs about the Elegoo Neptune 3 Plus.

  • Approximate price: ~$350
  • Maximum printing space: 320 x 320 x 400 mm
  • Maximum nozzle temperature: 260 °C
  • Maximum bed temperature: 100 °C
  • Compatible filaments: PLA, PETG, TPU, ABS (with enclosure), etc.
  • Print speed range: 30-180 mm/s
  • Bed leveling: 49-point automatic leveling
  • Extruder configuration: Direct drive (with dual drive, 3:1 gear ratio)
  • Build plate: Spring steel textured PEI
  • Interface: 4.3-inch touchscreen, full-color LCD
  • Connectivity: MicroSD card, USB Type-B
  • Dual Z-axis? Yes
  • Filament sensor? Yes
  • LED lights? Yes

Features

Now that you know a little bit about the Elegoo Neptune 3 Plus, let’s dive into the full review of the printer. I’ve split up my discussion of the printer into a few different sections based on what feature I’m talking about.

Auto Bed Leveling

AUTO BED LEVELING

First, as I mentioned, the Elegoo Neptune 3 Plus has automatic bed leveling, which is always nice to see on printers nowadays. But the printer doesn’t have a BLTouch sensor or anything like that; instead, Elegoo’s bed leveling sensor is built into the nozzle, which keeps the printhead looking sexy.

The bed is leveled with the sensor via a 49-point system, where the printhead moves to points on the print bed in a 7 x 7 grid pattern. Because so many points are leveled, the process takes quite a few minutes, which is kind of annoying. But the sensor is very accurate, and you only have to run a full leveling sequence once in a blue moon because the mesh lasts for many prints.

And once the bed is level, you can adjust the Z offset via the printer’s interface.

The whole process of leveling the bed is super easy! And, if your print bed is very unlevel, you can also make physical adjustments using the six (yes, six, not four) leveling nuts under the printer’s frame. Of course, the whole point of an ABL sensor is not having to manually level the bed, but it’s nice that you have the option in case the ABL sensor ever fails.

Build Plate

BUILD PLATE

The Neptune 3 Plus, per usual these days, is equipped with a spring steel PEI build plate. But, unlike some other printers, the PEI build plate on the Neptune 3 Plus has a textured finish rather than a smooth one.

While some users prefer a smooth PEI surface because it yields a glossy bottom surface on 3D prints, a textured surface makes it easier for ABS and PETG prints to stick to the bed. And, for most users, first-layer bed adhesion matters a lot more than what the bottom part of the print feels like.

Also, I didn’t use any glue or adhesive for the print bed, and all of my prints came down perfectly, with no warping or messy first layers.

The only flaw I found with the bed was that it was difficult to realign the build plate when reattaching it to the printer. Moreover, there aren’t any corner guides on the frame of the printer, so lining up the corner of the bed with the corner of the printer was difficult. Even more so because the build plate’s magnetism is very strong, so I couldn’t just slide it with a little force.

Extrusion

EXTRUSION

The extrusion process of a printer is perhaps most important to the overall print quality of a machine. And I have to give credit to the Neptune 3 Plus because I absolutely loved the whole sha-bang.

Moreover, every print I made on the Neptune 3 Plus, including the default pre-sliced model (from Elegoo) and models I sliced myself, came out amazing. I’ve seen a lot of first prints before, and none has ever looked as good as the one I made on the Neptune 3 Plus. Just check the images below:

The reason for the high-quality prints comes from the extremely well-designed printhead assembly on the Neptune 3 Plus.

The printer uses a direct drive extruder, which is very good for printing both flexibles (e.g. TPU) and normal materials. Moreover, the extruder is dual-drive, so it’s got not one but two drive gears, which hug the inserted filament from two sides to ensure it’s pushed through the hot end. And the 3:1 gear ratio on the extruder provides a lot of pushing torque, making the whole extrusion process very reliable.

I also want to note that there’s a quick-release lever at the top of the printhead that doesn’t look too useful but actually makes switching filaments a breeze.

However, I also should note that while the printhead uses a ribbon cable, there’s nothing to hold the cable up when the printhead moves. As such, there’s a risk of the ribbon cable dropping into the print space and potentially getting caught on the bed. Only if there was better cable management!

Electronics

Next, the electronics – like the motherboard, sensors, and heaters – on any 3D printer matter a ton! Elegoo has packed some excellent electronics throughout the huge Neptune 3 Plus, and it’s all powered by the stock 32-bit motherboard.

As it’s a 32-bit board, you’ll be able to run some pretty powerful firmware if you want, such as Marlin 2.1.1 or another option. And, while I wasn’t able to tell the exact stepper motor drivers on the board if it’s like the original Neptune 3 (and it probably is the same board), then it’s equipped with TMC2225 drivers for the X, Y, and Z axes, and a TMC2209 driver for the extruder motor.

These drivers are all very high-quality and will allow the printer to move in very small, precise increments. However, the use of TMC2225 drivers will prevent you from activating linear advance, though the feature isn’t present in the stock firmware on the Neptune 3 Plus anyways.

The drivers on the Neptune 3 Plus are also super duper quiet. The only sound I could hear was the sound of fans, which was a little loud but definitely manageable. Honestly, I could put this printer in my bedroom and leave it running at night and be fine!

Besides the motherboard, though, the Neptune 3 Plus has some other terrific electronic features, like a filament runout sensor. This sensor, if activated through the LCD, will pause your prints when you run out of filament. Having one of these sensors is super nice for large-format printers, especially because it’s likely you’ll be printing large models.

There’s also an LED light bar built into the frame of the printer. While it’s a pretty low-cost feature, it makes watching and working on your printer a whole lot easier.

But one of my favorite electronic features on the Neptune 3 Plus isn’t a sensor, but actually the 4.3-inch touchscreen interface. I’ve only used a handful of touchscreen 3D printer LCDs before, and this one is definitely my favorite by far. The screen looks very nice, especially because of the well-designed user interface from Elegoo.

Elegoo also made the LCD mount magnetic and attached a long cable to the LCD to allow you to hold the LCD in your hands. It’s kind of an odd, pointless feature, and I hope they didn’t spend any extra money on it. But, it’s not like a bad thing; just an odd thing.

Other Features

Next, the Elegoo Neptune 3 Plus has a handful of other features that don’t fit into the other categories, but they’re equally as useful.

Belt Tensioners

BELT TENSIONER

The first feature I want to highlight is the belt tensioners on the X and Y-axis. I’m a big fan of integrated belt tensioners because they make it so easy to get rid of layer shifting, a problem that can happen when the belts on a printer have too much slack.

Dual Z-Axis Motors

DUAL Z-AXIS MOTORS

Second, I really like the dual Z-axis motor setup on the Elegoo Neptune 3 Plus. Dual Z-axis motors are common for large-format 3D printers, and they ensure that the X-axis gantry, which is pretty heavy, doesn’t sag. But Elegoo went a step further and synchronized their dual Z-axis motors using a belt that connects them at the top of the printer, which ensures no problems occur here.

Two Aluminum X-Axis Extrusions

Finally, the Neptune 3 Plus has two 2010 extrusions for the X-axis, which isn’t always common for a printer, even if it’s a large-format 3D printer. Using two 2010 extrusions instead of one for the large X-axis provides more stability for the printer, so its movements are more controlled.

Assembly

Lastly, I want to talk about assembling the Neptune 3 Plus, as some of you might be wondering if it’s a difficult machine to put together. The short answer? No!

The Neptune 3 Plus is very easy to put together as it comes basically 90% pre-assembled, and the printer comes with a little instruction manual that goes over the few steps to finishing the assembly of the printer. It just involves screwing in 12 or so bolts and connecting a few wires.

Nothing major. Assembling the Neptune 3 Plus should take you no more than an hour at max!

Test Prints

Of course, you can’t really evaluate the performance of a printer without showing some prints. In the images below, I’ve listed some pics of the prints I made on the Elegoo Neptune 3 Plus.

The Buddha model is the pre-sliced model that comes with the printer’s MicroSD card, but all of the other prints were sliced by me with the default slicings.

Neptune 3 Pro VS 3 Plus VS 3 Max

The Neptune 3 Plus, as I mentioned, is one of Elegoo’s latest iterations of the Neptune 3. But it’s not the only one that came out this month (December 2022). Also making its debut are the Neptune 3 Pro and Neptune 3 Max.

Because these printers have many of the same features, I thought I’d take a quick second to go over their differences. There are really only a few differences between these different printers.

The first one has to do with the size of the printers. As you probably guessed from the name, the Neptune 3 Max offers the largest print space of the three printers, with a maximum print volume of 420 x 420 x 500 mm, which is 100 mm larger than the Neptune 3 Plus in every dimension. The smallest of the three is the Neptune 3 Pro, which has a build space of 225 x 225 x 280 mm, a typical Ender 3-like printer.

The other difference is that the Neptune 3 Pro uses a 36-point leveling system, while the Plus and Max versions use a 49-point system. This is because the larger print beds require more leveling points to ensure a well-leveled bed.

Besides those two things, though, the Elegoo Neptune 3 Pro, 3 Plus, and 3 Max are basically all the same. They’ve got the same touchscreen interface, high-quality direct drive print head, LED lights, and everything else!

I strongly recommend all three printers, but I think the Elegoo Neptune 3 Plus offers the best bang for your buck, considering the 3 Max is $100 more expensive. But if you really want the extra 100 mm of space, then the $100 difference might be worth getting the Max version!

Upgrade Opportunities

Of course, no printer is perfect…even the Elegoo Neptune 3 Plus. As such, there’s always room for improvement. In the bullet points below, I’ve provided some potential upgrades for the Neptune 3 Plus that would make this machine even better:

  • Printhead cable chains: The print head uses a single ribbon cable, which organizes the wires very nicely. However, there’s nothing preventing the cable from dipping and falling into the print space, potentially ruining a print. As such, attaching some cable chains, preferably some that follow a defined and out-of-the-way path, would be a great upgrade for this machine.
  • Improve LCD cable: The LCD on the Neptune 3 Plus has a very long, coiled wire that’s very exposed and is almost too easy to accidentally remove. While it’s there to allow you to hold the LCD in your hand, that purpose itself seems a little odd anyways. So if Elegoo just routed the LCD cable through the frame of the printer, that would be easier.
  • Side spool holder: One strange thing about the Neptune 3 Plus is that, despite its large size, the spool holder is placed at the top of the frame of the printer. As filament spools weigh a decent amount, it would be best to mount the filament spool holder to the side of the printer, where the weight won’t make the printer top-heavy.
  • Cura compatibility: Another way Elegoo could improve their printer is by adding their printers, and default slicers for them, to Ultimaker Cura. Currently, you can’t find Elegoo printers on Ultimaker Cura, and to get the default slicer profile for the Neptune 3 Plus, you have to download and use Elegoo Cura, a proprietary version of the 3D slicer.

Conclusion

Overall, the Elegoo Neptune 3 Plus is an amazing large-format 3D printer that’s a great bargain for its price and has tons of great features.

The most important element of the Neptune 3 Plus is its size. Not many printers under $500 offer over a foot of space in every direction, but the Neptune 3 Plus does it with style. That’s because, on top of the space, the printer offers a very reliable extrusion process, a 49-point automatic bed leveling system, and a flexible and removable PEI build plate.

The list of features on the Neptune 3 Plus is truly endless.

However, the printer isn’t perfect.

For one, it lacks adequate cable management for the printhead, which could endanger larger prints if the cable drops into the print space. Additionally, the printer isn’t compatible with normal Cura, and to get the default slicer profile, you have to download Elegoo Cura, a proprietary version of Cura that only supports Elegoo printers.

But if you can see past the few low-level flaws with the Neptune 3 Plus, then it’s a terrific machine!