I am not an expert by any stretch of imagination. I however have had 4 3d printers at one time or another. Started with Monoprice Select Mini V2 (busted), Anycubic Mega S (busted too. Kept saying not enough power), Creality Ender3 (heat bed wire broken 1 week ago. Replaced with a new genuine Ender3 heat bed and the bed temperature will not stop going up past 90 degrees, and I set it at 60.) and this Tronxy xy-2 pro, my only printer now.
I never had a Benchy printed without strings and extruding fluctuation, until using this Tronxy printer.
If there is such a thing as "perfect", this is it.
I printed one with the default Tronxy slicer, and one with Cura 4.6. Same printer.
They can't be any better.
The left is by Cura 4.6, and the right is by Tronxy slicer.
Great, Most important part is price. My requirements of buying the printer is :
1. Highest quality print, smooth surface (I don't want to see the string lines, I want smooth surfaces, I realize this means it will print slower possibly and I'm fine. I understand the quality of the stepper motor is what determines quality)
2. Under $1000
3. Will admit I have not done as much research on material, I expect mostly will print PLA and PETG. I know Direct drive is better for the more flexible material, but likely wont do much of that. Looking to initially print RC parts for now, possibly even a fuselage and wings down the road (hence why smooth surface is critical)
4. Reliability - I want a printer that prints, I don't want to spend hours each print to tinker once it is dialed in.
Everything I've read has let me to the Prusa Mini+ or i3 MKS+. I would get the kit from here, not afraid to assemble, I'm an engineer so I tinker with everything. But I don't want to tinker with it every print, would like reliability and set it and forget it.
RE : I don't want to tinker with it every print, would like reliability and set it and forget it.
I am afraid it's not so simple.
You might not have to "tinker" with "every print", but you definitely can NOT just "set it and forget it".
Allow me to give you a "reader digest" of what will involve in 3D printing an item:
1. First you need to obtain a STL file of the item you want to print and download it to your computer. (3D printer experts can create their own STL files, but that's a more advance stage of 3D printing.)
2. Then, you'll need to install a Slicer software into your computer. There are a few slicers available, some free, some you have to pay for.
3. Next is to copy the STL file into the Slicer software. An image will then appear on the slicer screen.
Here is where you may have to "tinker" before you can proceed further.
Simple examples why you may have to "tinker" :
a) The item selected to be printed may need "Support". Without the "support" it may not get printed successfully. That "support" option needs to be selected manually from the Slicer, and there are a few "support" options to choose from.
b) The item selected to be printed may have only a very small portion of its part in touch with the "bed" (the build platform). Therefore, an extra base is needed to keep the print firmly at its proper position. That also needs to be selected manually.
c) The item selected to be printed may be in an orientation not best for printing. If so, one will have to change it's orientation manually.
There are many more scenarios which require changes to be made. Above are just for illustration purposes.
4. After that, "slicing" can start.
5. Slicing is a procedure converting the STL file to gcode file which will tell the printer what to do.
6. The gcode file can be saved to a sd card, usb flash drive, or by directly connecting the computer to the 3D printer with cable.
7. The gcode file will then be transferred to the 3D printer.
8. Once the gcode file is present in the printer, 3D printing can start printing.
9. The gcode file will tell the printer what to do. It's out of your hands now.
10. What is left to do then is to make sure no mishaps during the printing, and to make sure there is enough filament to do the job.
Disclaimer........ I am not an expert in 3D printer. I learned it only 3 years ago at the age of 76. I am just offering what I know to those who may be just starting the "hobby".
You have made a good summation of some of the steps to getting a good print. I own 3 3D printers. Two Enders (slightly different models) and one Delta FLSun QQ s Pro. Prusas certainly have a reputation for the least number of issues out of the box. But, if one reads the Prusa sites, they will find that there are no "Plug and Play" 3D printers yet. Designing your own products, using simple programs like Tinkercad (they teach it to 3rd graders); or using more complicated programs... takes more of my time than hitting the PRINT button. IMHO, no one should take on 3D printing now, without expecting to spend some time getting up to speed. Different filaments; variable housing temperatures; eliminating moisture in brand new filaments, all play a part in getting a good result. That said, a week after I received each printer, I was making models and enjoying the process. It is a great hobby, and the only way to produce some parts.
p.s. To my knowledge, (other than Resin printers) most all FDM printers will NOT produce perfectly smooth parts. It is the nature of the beast that print lines will exist. You can lessen the lines by using small nozzles, but your print times will increase.