5 Best Soldering Iron Models; Complete Buying Guide And Reviews
Soldering irons can be utilized for varied needs both professionally or even in the home garage or workshop. This irreplaceable tool is used in joining metal contacts using molten solder in electrical circuit boards. Soldering irons are also useful in plumbing repairs, arts and craft projects, car and engine repair amongst a host of other uses. With so many models to choose from out there, the search for the best soldering iron can be overwhelming no doubt. This article is aimed at reviewing the top five best-selling soldering irons while shedding some light on how these tools work and the different types of soldering stations.
** Below, you'll find our more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.
What Is A Soldering Iron?
A regular soldering iron is a pen-shaped power tool with a metal tip which is heated up to extreme temperatures of up to 188 degrees C or 370 degrees F. The heated tip is then used to join various metals together or even other non-metal materials through the use of solder. The heat on the tip is used to melt a solder which is then used to join and/or repair the working materials of choice.
Soldering irons are generally heated with electricity by passing the current supplied through a resistive heating element. The electricity is supplied through an electrical cord or battery cables. For electrical and electronics projects, low-power soldering irons with a power rating ranging between 15 and 35 watts are used. Higher power rated solder irons are available but do not operate at higher tip temperatures.
Instead, more heat is made available for joining materials with a large thermal capacity. Most soldering irons are temperature-controlled and run at user defined temperature ranges in the same manner as soldering stations with higher power ratings mostly used for joints with large heat capacity do. Simple soldering iron models run at uncontrolled temperature ranges which are determined by thermal equilibrium; when heating large objects, their operating temperatures drop while remaining sufficient to melt solder.
What To Consider In A Soldering Station
As is the case with any power tool, knowing what to expect from a specific model is a key component in making a decision on whether or not to buy. Different manufacturers include varied additions in their designs all in a bid to give their products the competitive edge. Several factors go into deciding what the perfect soldering station entails. Take a look;
1. Temperature Control
Most modern day soldering stations incorporate a temperature control mechanism alongside a display for the same. This allows the user to toggle in between different temperature configurations to suit the different project needs.
2. Soldering Stand
A soldering stand is useful in that it helps in holding the hot iron and keep everything else safe during a project. The stand also acts as a safety feature as the iron may pose considerable injury risks. It is often recommended to invest in soldering accessories and kits which also includes a soldering stand.
3. Handle Ergonomics
The most influential criteria used when discerning whether or not to settle for a particular tool is how comfortable is the tool to use? More so, how comfortable is the handle? Does the handle insulation resist heat well?
A useful feature on any tool is how easy it is to move around and maneuver with. The perfect soldering station should be portable to allow the user to pursue projects outside a confined setting as is the case with most professional projects.
The power rating of a soldering iron is an important factor to consider when out shopping for one. Most soldering irons used in electronics repair fall within the range of 20 to 60 Watts. Soldering irons with a 50W rating are the most common today. The 50W rating allows the soldering stations to provide enough heat for most soldering projects. Soldering stations with a higher wattage rating are however considered better.
5 Best Soldering Iron Brands That You Should Buy
The nest segment features five of the best soldering iron available on the market. These are reviewed with an aim to create a buyers’ guide of sorts. Each model is weighed against its strengths and weaknesses leaving you to decide which particular item works best for you.
Hakko FX888D-23BY Digital Soldering Station FX-888D FX-888 (blue & yellow)
The Hakko FX888D-23BY is a popular new entry to the soldering station scene. This model boasts an array of features and specifications that earn it a five-star rating. The soldering iron is designed to deliver unparalleled performance and results with its user-friendly interface. It boasts an adjustable temperature control unit which allows for precise temperature control providing the desired output. A password-protect feature is also built into the FX888D-23BY.
- The soldering iron’s settings can be locked using a password to prevent them from unexpectedly being changed. It is also possible to restrict any setting changes or even completely prevent other users from switching to particular modes.
- This model boasts remarkable thermal recovery. The heater output is a 30% increase over conventional models. The thermal recovery is achieved using T18 series tips renowned for their effective heat conductivity.
- This essentially allows soldering at lower set temperatures which reduces the thermal impact on the solder station’s components as well as the tip’s oxidation that can shorten tip life.
- This product features adjustable temperature control which is quintessential to any soldering project. A soldering job requires precise temperature control to provide the desired output. This soldering station model is designed to allow the user to easily monitor the operating temperature through a handy digital display.
- The two function buttons on this model can be a little confusing to new users which may lead to inadvertent temperature adjustments causing inaccurate temperature readings.
Weller WLC100 40-Watt Soldering Station
The Weller brand is a big name in the soldering station business. The Weller company traces its roots back to 1940. It manufactures top-of-the-line soldering stations today featuring digital readouts, push button controls and various wattages depending on the users’ needs. The beauty of this Weller station is its versatile uses as a tool to both professionals and garage hobbyists.
This model has an on/off switch that lights up indicating when the power is turned on. That way, the operator does not have to guess when the station is on therefore increasing user safety.
- A large knob incorporated into the WLC100’s design is used to toggle wattage from 5 to 40 watts. A simple turn of the knob from setting 1 upwards to 4 allows the unit to reach a precise wattage range. Power controls in soldering stations determine how slow or fast the soldering iron heats up and cools down.
- The soldering iron features an ergonomic foam grip that enhances user comfort.
- This model is fairly easy to use even for beginners.
- The iron on this model has a replaceable heating element. This means that all a user needs is a replacement part without necessarily having to buy an entirely new iron. However, this is as long as the iron is properly maintained and kept clean.
- The temperature display does not have a degrees Fahrenheit option.
Sywon Full Set 60W 110V Electric Soldering Iron Kit
The Sywon soldering iron is equipped with ceramic technology as part of the inner heat insulation. This makes sure that the iron heats up faster compared to other soldering iron models available on the market. The body is built using heat resistant materials which increase the operator’s safety. The soldering station also features elaborately designed ventilation holes that allow the iron to cool faster as well. As is the case with most soldering irons, the Sywon electric soldering iron comes equipped with an adjustable temperature gauge.
- The Sywon ESD soldering station is accompanied by an array of useful accessories and kits. This increases its versatility and usefulness. These include 6 different tool tips and two anti-static tweezers.
- This model features an impressive cord length that increases the users’ reach and range.
- This product is suitable for both pro and hobbyist users. Operating is easy as well.
- The temperature ranges for the Sywon 60W ESD is 200C to 480C which is more than enough for most soldering projects.
- The only drawback with this item is that it does not have an automatic temperature kill switch. This, however, isn’t an issue with most users.
X-Tronic Model #3020-XTS Digital Display Soldering Iron Station
The 3020-XTS is an elaborately designed soldering station with a power consumption rating of 75W. The soldering iron can heat up to a temperature range of about 3920F to 8960F as desired of the soldering project. The soldering station comes equipped with a holder made out of stainless steel and also a tip cleaner made of brass wires. This model features a LED display as well as a handy automatic sleep timer and a C/F function. The soldering station operates at an AC voltage of 110V/60Hz as well as a ground voltage of less than 5mV. This ensures the total safety of the operator as well as the soldering station.
- This product is accompanied by a year’s worth of warranty from the manufacturer.
- The 3020-XTS features "Magic Temperature Compensation Technology" which helps to maintain the tip’s temperature stability.
- With a simple flip of the switch, the operator can easily toggle the digital temperature LED readouts from "Centigrade to Fahrenheit" for the Soldering Iron.
- The power cord on this soldering station is 55 inches in length allowing the operator to move about during use.
- This model is accompanied by small parts that present a choking hazard to children.
Hakko Soldering Station, FX-951-66
The Hakko FX-951 is a mid-range soldering station built for hobbyist electronic repair guys and pros as well. This soldering station comes equipped with the handy FM-2027 iron, a soldering iron of a higher quality than the mid-level price tag might suggest. The build quality is excellent as is expected from the Hakko brand.
The transformer unit, which is the heart of the soldering station, has the right size and weight specs needed to perform optimally. The soldering station is ESD safe and can be used continuously without the need to take breaks saving time and allowing a timely completion of the project at hand. With proper care and maintenance, the transformer unit can last for a few decades while performing optimally.
- The temperature ranges for the Hakko FX-951-66 is 200C to 480C which is more than enough for smallest scale soldering projects.
- This product features adjustable temperature control which is important in any soldering project.
- The price tag on this soldering station is fair. For a tool of its specifications, this Hakko is well worth it.
- The price tag on this soldering station is fair. For a tool of its specifications, this Hakko is well worth it.
- The plastic body raises some durability concerns.
Hakko FX888D-23BY Is The Best Soldering Iron On The Market
Each entry on this list has a consumer rating of at least 4.5 stars and is therefore a worthwhile pick. You can’t go wrong on any of the items discussed above. However, the Hakko FX888D-23BY Digital Soldering Station is the tool to go for. This soldering station packs loads of features and functionality that is unparalleled in its class. It is therefore the best value for your money.
Last update on 2017-06-25 PST - Details
Soldering stations are used for a variety of purposes in the fields of electrical and electronics repair, jewelry, automotive repair and so on. Finding the best fit in terms of a soldering station is a useful addition to any workshop; professional or not. There are many models and brands offering soldering kits. Finding the best soldering iron will require consulting with tool experts and consumer reviews. This will give you an insight into what each brand has to offer.
I hope this article was educative and fun to read through. Feel free to share your comments, thoughts and suggestions in the space provided below.