If you clicked on this article you’re probably wondering, “Why the heck are they reviewing 3D printers?” To answer that question, all I have to say is…we’re nerds. And if you clicked on this article, I’m hoping that you have some interest in it as well. Who hasn’t wanted to try their hand at creating miniatures for their D&D campaigns? Who hasn’t at least thought about printing a small replica of their favorite video game character to put on their gaming shelf? We all have that one space in our house filled with either old game boxes, collectible art books, or expensive statues. When our friends over at Anycubic reached out to offer the chance to review a few products on their line, my partner and I were absolutely elated. Currently, we already have the Anycubic Photon Mono model on our crafting table at home and have been learning how to churn out our own little skeleton armies over the past year. However, Anycubic just released the Photon Mono 4K, so we had to put our little skeles aside in hopes of creating an undead army with much higher resolution.
- MSRP: $289 (Anycubic)
- Exposure screen: 6.23’’ monochrome
- Printing dimensions: 6.5 x 5.2 x 3.1 in. / 16.5 x 13.2 x 8 cm (HWD)
- Light transmittance: 7%
- Contrast ratio: 400:1
- Light source: Parallel matrix (LED x 15)
- Power density: 3,500 - 4,000 μw/cm²/23,905 - 27,320 lux
- Printing accuracy: 3,840 x 2,400 px (4K)
- Horizontal resolution: 35 μm
- Printing speed: ≤ 5 cm/hr. / 1.97 in./hr.
- Control panel: 2.8’’ TFT touch-control
- Data input: USB-A 2.0
- Power supply: 45W
- Software: Photon Workshop
- Machine dimensions: 15.1 x 8.9 x 8.7 in./38.3 x 22.7 x 22.2 cm (HWD)
- Machine weight: 9.4 lb./4.3 kg
Right out of the box, the Photon Mono 4K comes with an overwhelming plethora of attachments and accessories for the printing beginner. It took a bit to organize, but we were given a user manual, a pair of gloves, a repair tool set, a funnel, a plastic scraper, an LCD screen protector, and an SD-card reader with a test print file included. Since my partner set up our first printer, he was adamant that I set up the Photon Mono 4K on my own.The Photon Mono and Photon Mono 4K look pretty similar side-by-side.
You’ve probably already garnered this from my previous articles, but I am incredibly clumsy and accident-prone, so to say that I was a little intimidated and terrified with screwing up this machine is a fantastical understatement. With that being said, I threw up my hair and put on my big gamer britches so we could get to work with this beauty. Thankfully, the user manual was straightforward with colored pictures and instructions. I had already watched a Youtube video a week prior to the unit’s arrival in anticipation of its setup but watching someone else set up a piece of equipment and doing it yourself is a whole other beast. I had also already forgotten most of the process.
With time having whittled away most of my learning, the user manual filled in the rest of the gaps and made for a damn smooth experience. There were a few English localization issues, but other than that the steps were simple enough to follow. 3D printers are extremely intimidating for the uninitiated, so I was pretty proud when I managed to cobble it together without any help. Now we needed to see if it actually worked.A threefold view of the Photon Mono 4K.
With both units now sitting side-by-side, the Photon Mono and the Photon Mono 4K looked almost identical, except for their different logos printed on the base. The printing platforms were different colors, but the look and feel of the units were the same. One of the first things I tend to look for in an upgraded version of an already existing model is the build quality and how it feels. You can tell a lot about a unit and its quality just by feeling the weight of it and whether cheaper materials were used in its construction. There was no clear indication that the manufacturing process had been altered too drastically. Surprisingly, and to our glee, both units felt relatively the same. With that being said, the specifications revealed that the Photon Mono 4K is slightly lighter at 9.4 lbs. than that of the Photon Mono at 9.9 lbs.The Photon Mono 4K LED screen is considerably brighter than its predecessor.
The first difference I noticed is when we turned the actual unit on. There is absolutely a distinction in the brightness of the LED touch screen, seen in the pictures above. I thought my eyes might have been playing a trick on me until I snapped a photo for the article. Yup, definitely a clear contrast. The touch screen is nice and sensitive, particularly if you have gloves on and need to stop a print or make an adjustment in the middle of production. My main gripe with the touchscreen is the language used with the ‘confirm’ and ‘cancel’ buttons. As with the previous model, the Photon Mono 4K also uses the terms ‘enter’ and ‘return’, which could cause a little confusion. It was already enough to make me pause as a native English speaker. Just a small, nitpicky detail that I felt could have been changed for ease of use.Anycubic Craftsman Resin is fantastic and much more durable than other resins we’ve tried. Would buy again!
After inserting the USB drive and uploading the test print, it was time to see how the Photon Mono 4K compared with its predecessor. Anycubic sent us a 1kg bottle of their grey Craftsman Resin to use with some of our prints, but we wanted to use that after we got the first test print out of the way. Three hours later, and we got to see our fancy little Anycubic test cube. To our great relief, I had leveled and set up the unit perfectly and everything worked as it should.The resin vat is filled with Anycubic Craftsman Resin and the unit is about to start printing.
As with any first print, there was that initial concern that the job would fail, but that never happened with the Photon Mono 4K. As we proceeded with our prints, we would churn out miniature after miniature over the next week with near perfection and absolutely zero print fails. The Craftsman Resin performed beautifully and proved to be slightly more durable (after a few drop tests) than other resins we’d used previously. Not only that, but the amount of detail it was able to hold, even on the smaller miniatures, was stunning.Two undead miniatures stand guard at their resin post, protecting the Photon Mono 4K that will produce the rest of their army.
We ran a few prints from the original Photon Mono for comparison, and while the Photon Mono can still print some pretty fantastic miniatures, there was just no competition when it came to the Photon Mono 4K. The amount of depth and detail that the Photon Mono 4K can convey compared to the Photon Mono is just staggering. Details on armor popped far more, and the new model was able to even carve out tiny, nuanced facial features that the original Photon Mono tended to blur out.This small crew was printed on the Photon Mono for comparison. While some of the details are slightly muddled, they’re still really impressive.
Prints generally felt like they took less time to print, and usually wrapped up around the 3-hour mark. However, upon comparing the specifications, the Photon Mono 4K has a print speed of 1.97 in./hr, whereas the Photon Mono performs at a MAX of 50mm/hour (1.97in./hour). So, it seems like they technically operate at the same speed. With that being said, the specifications of the Photon Mono state that it can print at 50mm MAX, which leads me to believe that it isn’t always consistent or might be slightly slower. The Photon Mono 4K is also delivering much higher detail, which is worth the upgrade in my opinion. If you’re going to have to wait the same amount of time (maybe slightly shorter), then I would rather get more detail out of the unit.
Is the Anycubic Photon Mono 4K worth the money? Absolutely. The Photon Mono 4K worked right out of the box, it was easy to set up, and printed extremely well. It has everything that you’d really want for a starting 3D printer with a pretty great price to boot. While the Photon Mono still performs considerably well, there’s just no replacement for the detail that the Photon Mono 4K can create. Being able to see the veins in an orc’s leg, or the scuff marks on a piece of bone armor adds so much depth to the character and makes it feel more like a professionally made miniature you could have grabbed right off the shelf. Our main con for the Photon Mono 4K would have to be the build plate. While the build quality is fantastic, the build plate is still the same size as the original Photon Mono with dimensions of 6.5 x 5.2 x 3.1 in. You can still print large miniatures, just not many at once. For those looking for more printing real estate, we’ll be reviewing the Photon Mono X soon, as well as the Wash & Cure station! If you’re interested in delving into the world of 3D printing, the Photon Mono 4K is a great beginner unit and can be found on the Anycubic website with a slight discount for the holidays.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.