As the current market leader of the 3D printing industry, Creality is aiming to keep up with the hot new guy on the block: Bambu Labs. More than inspired by the X1 Carbon, the Creality K1 is a top-end 3D printer designed to make FDM printing as easy as possible for the average consumer.
A modern CoreXY FDM machine, the Creality K1 certainly takes a lot of cues from Bambu’s high-end $1,199 machine, but for a fraction of the price. While there are cutbacks and omissions on the base K1 machine — which are not only easy to add, but also available on the bigger, more expensive K1 Max — Creality’s alternative certainly offers great value for money.
Priced from $599.99 USD, the base K1’s innards are surrounded by a gorgeous metal enclosure, complete with a glass door and a clear plastic top. A more premium initial experience than the similarly-priced, enclosure-less Bambi Labs P1P, Creality’s base printer is certainly an impressive, gorgeous beast of a machine.
At the heart of the machine is a dual-gear direct drive extruder pushing filament through an auto-leveling nozzle with a standard 0.4mm diameter. This connects to a rather middling-sized build plate with a volume of 220×220×250mm, almost 30% smaller than that of its Bambu Labs competitor and 55% smaller than its bigger K1 Max version.
While fine for most objects, makers printing large cosplay items will find themselves struggling to fit some models in the restrictive build volume without slicing models into numerous pieces. For example, an adult-sized helmet for any property will need to be cut up to print on the K1.
Despite this, the speed available on the K1 is leagues above other consumer 3D printers, Bambu Labs’ offer notwithstanding. With a max speed of 600mm/s, the K1 hands in prints in half the time of printers such as the Anycubic Vyper or Creality Ender 3 S1. Running the 600mm/s test print included on the printer’s built-in storage shows just how fast the machine can go, barrelling around corners without any extrusion or cooling issues.
Even at these speeds, the quality available on Creality’s latest beast is remarkable. Small prints that would have taken over an hour on prior machines take less than 20 minutes here, and that’s with full calibration for perfect leveling. While speedy prints would be expected to turn in much worse quality, that’s just not the case here.
At its standard speed setting, the Creality K1 hands in effortlessly brilliant print quality. Sure, you won’t get the same quality as a resin printer like we saw in our Halot One Plus review and Halot-Mage review, but as far as FDM machines go, the quality here is outstanding. Unfortunately, there is no way of attaching an AMS multi-material system for multicolour prints like you can on the Bambu Labs machines, but single-colour prints still bring in brilliant quality here with fairly short print times.
During the start of our testing, we did have issues with the K1 failing to pull filament through its extruder. (We’ve also experienced this issue to a larger degree in the K1 Max, but that review isn’t ready yet.) As soon as the filament starts to pull properly, flow rate is consistent, but the initial extrusion of newly fed filament can prove troublesome. Furthermore, no matter how many times we used the feature, auto retraction simply failed to pull filament out of the extruder, but pulling it out manually is very easy.
While there are some minor issues with hardware, for the most part the Creality K1 is a very well rounded machine. Unfortunately, when it comes to software, the machine does fall behind the competition. While not unusable, the software experience on the K1 feels far from finished at the time of publication.
Taking yet another leaf out of Bambu’s book, the K1 has a very advanced UI with print visualization, Wi-Fi connectivity and more. The features here are awesome and genuinely useful, allowing you to access past print files without a USB stick as well as send files straight to the printer for printing without being home.
Nine times out of ten, using the on-board UI will result in zero issues. However, on multiple occasions we’ve had UI elements unable to disappear and unresponsive screens. In one instance, the printer was stuck on the boot-up Creality logo for ten minutes, if not longer, before we could actually use the machine.
This subpar software also carries over to the printer’s packed in, but not compulsory, slicing software: Creality Print. Not only is Creality Print a rather barebones slicer, but it also suffers from the same issues that plague the company’s other slicer: Halot Box.
In our testing, we tried a number of slicers with the printer, Creality Slicer, Cura and the third-party Galaxy Slicer, based on Bambu Slicer and Orcaslicer. In our experience, GalaxySlicer was by far the best experience, although we did have issues connecting it wirelessly to the K1.
For those who like to monitor prints from afar, the Creality K1 can also be connected to Creality Cloud. This allows you to monitor prints on the app and, with a camera installed, even look at prints while they’re being constructed. As usual, the software itself is clunky and rather buggy, but when it works it is great for stopping failures as soon as they happen, not wasting any filament. Although, the K1 does stop itself if it detects a number of different issues.
At the end of the day the Creality K1 is not as polished as Bambu Labs’ X1 Carbon, far from it. Nevertheless, it is still an incredibly smart printer with fantastic features for the price. It’s obviously far from perfect, but as Creality’s first quick stab at a substantially more advanced product, it is still easily recommended, especially on a sale.