About a year ago, Artillery launched the Genius, the smaller brother to the already popular Sidewinder X1. Since then, it's become one of the more popular 3D printers, thanks to its reputation as being good value for money and beginner friendly.
The Genius boasts more features than most entry-level printers, with its direct drive extruder, volcano hotend, and quiet stepper motors, which you won't find on for example the Ender 3.
The reason I went for the Genius myself was a combination of features and price. I initially wanted to buy the Ender 3 or 3 Pro, but when I calculated the costs of the upgrades I wanted, I realized it would be more expensive than buying the Genius which had those upgrades (and more) already in place!
I've been using the Genius almost daily for a few months now and really enjoyed it. I thought I'd post a review of my experiences, so you can see the good and also the few bad things about this printer, as well as some tips on how to make it better.
Packaging & Assembly
The Genius came well-packaged in a cardboard box completely filled with black foam to protect the printer and prevent any movement within the box. It looked solid and I didn't have any defects or damage from shipping.
In the box there were:
- Gantry (Z and X-axis)
- Base with bed (Y-axis)
- Manual and warranty documents
- Spare parts and tools (Allen keys etc.)
Although the manual isn't very detailed, assembly was easy. The core assembly consists of just two parts: the gantry and the base. You need to screw the gantry to the base with several bolts, and then connect a few cables. It was surprisingly simple.
If you're not sure about the instructions, Just Vlad made a video where he shows all the steps of putting the printer together.
Specs & Features
Direct drive extruder and Volcano hotend
Whereas most entry-level 3D Printers (including the high-quality Prusa Mini) use Bowden extruders, the Genius has a direct driver extruder. Most high quality printers these days are switching to direct drive systems because they simply produce better results. They do particularly well with flexible filaments, which can be hard to print on Bowden-tube setups.
The Volcano-style hotend makes printing easier and more reliable as well. Because it is longer than standard hotends, it heats up the filament earlier and more evenly, resulting in less clogging and more consistent filament output.
The times I did have a clogged hotend were caused by using a marble filament with small solid pieces that got stuck, and even then that only happened when I was printing 0.6mm wide layer lines with a 0.4mm nozzle. Using the normal settings, I haven’t had any clogs even with this difficult marble filament. Overall it’s been printing very reliably.
Quiet stepper motors
The Genius is very quiet for a 3D Printer, thanks to the quiet stepper motors. The fans do make some noise, but it's not overly loud. Some people claim that they can sleep in the same room, but I wouldn't be able to – it's still too noisy for me.
But if you print a specific filament where you don't need a lot of cooling (PLA usually requires 100% fan speed), it can be really quiet. In theory you could also replace the fans with even quieter Noctua ones, but I'm not sure whether that's worth it.
Before I bought the Genius, I thought Auto Bed Levelling (ABL) would be the main feature I would miss. I even ordered a BLtouch clone before I got the printer, but I still haven't installed it!
It turns out that manual bed levelling works perfectly fine, and I'm getting excellent results with it. It doesn't take much time at all, and is still very accurate. The only times when I would've liked ABL is when I change nozzle sizes often, but that's just because it would save some time, not for accuracy reasons.
But if you want to add ABL, it's relatively easy because there is a connector pin right on the extruder. You'll need to print a holder for the BLtouch (most people use the Waggster mod) and update the firmare. Some good instructions can be found here and here.
Heated print bed
The bed is one of the best features that I didn’t even know before I started using the printer. In contrast to most printers, where the heated bed is hooked up to a 12 or 24V wire, the Genius connects it directly to the mains (110 or 230V depending on where you are). This allows it to heat up much faster.
If you switch often between prints, for example when experimenting or prototyping, this is actually really helpful. Over time it saves you a lot of waiting time, and it’s always a good feeling when you can get your print started in a matter of seconds, not minutes. It’s just a small improvement, but really helps you to keep the focus on the printing itself and not on setting up the printer.
The bed itself is made of glass and prints generally adhere very well to it, sometimes even too well. You'll have to tweak your settings to find the optimal temperature for your specific filament. On my first print I almost couldn't get the test cube off the bed, but I haven't had that issue ever since.
Touch screen and Printing Menu
The Genius is equipped with a TFT color touch screen. I had used my brother's Prusa MK3S before, and I found the dial control (also found on many others, like the Ender 3) quite annoying, so I was happy to find out the Genius had a touch screen.
It's definitely not as smooth and easy to use as a smartphone, but the touch screen menu works well enough. The menu items are clear, and it's easy to find the options you need, but there is still room for improvement.
For example, the printing menu doesn't always recognize the USB drive immediately. Often I have to press "Print" twice before it would show the files on the printer. It also has very limited space for the names of each print file, making it difficult to find the one you're looking for (although you can see the full name if you tap on the individual files).
Another small quirk is that when you're printing, the screen does not show how long it will take for the print to complete. It shows a percentage, but this is based purely on the Z-height. If you have a cube or rectangle, each percentage point will take about the same time. But if you have a pyramid-like shape, 0-50% will take way longer than 50 to 100%. It would be better if this was tied to the actual print time.
Still, these issues are quite minor and the menu works well overall. With firmware updates you can even add more options to it yourself.
Ribbon cables and Cable management
One thing that sets the Genius apart from other prints in this price range is the excellent cable management. The cables inside the printer are neatly organized, and for the connections between the stepper motors and extruder, ribbon cables are used.
This not only looks much more clean and polished, it is also safer. It shows that Artillery has attention to detail. Some people do find that the ends of the ribbon cables are a bit sensitive, but you can reinforce them with a printable mod, such as this one. And if a ribbon cable ever breaks, there is a replacement one that comes shipped with the printer.
Filament runout sensor
Another useful feature is the filament runout sensor, which does as its name suggests: It senses when you run out of filament. It's not something you'll use often, but when you do need it, you'll be happy it's on there.
If your filament spool runs empty in the middle of a print, it will be detected and the printer will pause automatically. You can then add new filament and resume the print.
You can also manually pause and resume the printer through the menu. But you'll have to pay attention to filament oozing out the nozzle in the meantime, so it's a bit tricky to make the transition flawless.
The spool holder of the Artillery Genius isn’t the best. It was designed some good intentions, but it just isn’t very practical. The problem with the convential ‘bar’ spool holder as found on for example the Prusa MK3S is that it can cause a bit of friction, as it’s plastic rolling over plastic. To combat that, some people prefer to use bearings, which is what the Genius has as well.
The holder consists of two parts, both with bearings on the front and the back. The spool stands on those bearings, rather than being hung up on a bar, like is the case on many other printers. Those bearings are a good idea in principle, as they reduce friction and allow the spool to rotate freely.
But the spool holder has two problems. It’s not secured extremely well, liable to move slight during prints, and it can only support ‘normal’ spool sizes. The two parts can be moved apart a little bit, but not enough to allow for really big spools. And they cannot be moved close enough to accommodate smaller spools (e.g. 500g ones).
As my first two spools were 500g once, I couldn’t use the standard spool holder and immediately printed another one, which works quite well. There are also some other solutions that improve the original holder, but they still cannot use really large spools.
I've printed on the Genius with about 10 different types of filament so far. These are some examples:
The very first Benchy I printed on the Genius, using Real Filament Black PLA.
A vase printed with a 0.6mm nozzle for extra strength, using Real Filament Matte White PLA. Note: The second image is zoomed in quite a lot with a DSLR. Those layer lines are barely visible to the naked eye.
A mini-vase with a 0.4mm nozzle also using Real Filament Matte White PLA.
Another mini-vase, but this time using Formfutura's Dark Grey Galaxy PLA.
Overall I'm really happy with the Artillery Genius. It was a good printer to get started with, because it was easy to set up and printed well straight out of the box.
And when I got more experienced, I could still upgrade it with the features I was missing.
Most of the time, products that are cheap either lack features or quality, and products that have a lot of features and quality finishing are not affordable.
The Genius has all three, which is what makes it such a good printer. If you'd buy an Ender 3 and wanted to add all the features already standard on the Genius, you'd ultimately spend more money and you wouldn't have the same quality finishing.
So if you're looking for a polished, quiet printer, that produces good print results even for beginners, I can strongly recommend taking a look at the Artillery Genius.
What I liked
- Quiet for a 3D Printer
- Touch screen, Direct drive extruder, and Volcano hotend
- Works well straight out of the box
- Attention to detail
What I didn't like
- Spool holder is finicky
- Sometimes didn't recognize the USB-drive immediately
Where to buy
I bought my Artillery Genius from Banggood, because it had the lowest price and fastest shipping time to the Netherlands. Because they shipped it from their UK warehouse, I didn't have to pay any import taxes either.
Alternatively, AliExpress also sells the Genius at a good price, but it isn't always available in EU or US warehouses, and shipping times from China are longer (especially at the moment with Covid-19).
Another popular option is Gearbest, which also has US & EU warehouses and generally has reasonable shipping times.
If you'd like even faster shipping and more easy returns, you can buy it on Amazon, although it is usually more expensive. But if you get any issues you'll have an easier time getting your money back.
Artillery's support is pretty good (although I've not used it myself yet), so you'll probably be able to sort things out regardless of where you buy your Genius.
If you'd like to read more about the Genius, check out my detailed overview, which has even more (video) reviews, links to slicer profiles and community support