Great value solder station
Mr Chris Roberts
08 September 2015
This solder station is modestly priced, but a fantastic first step in building up a more advanced set of tools for the serious hobbyist or engineer wishing to upgrade from a non-temperature controlled iron.
The station has a 7 segment LED display to show the set-point temperature, adjustable using the up and down keys. It can be adjusted in 1C increments, however the temperature is only accurate to within +/-5C.
The temperature is controlled by the measurement of the PTC (positive temperature coefficient) of the heating element - i.e. the resistance which is proportional to temperature. This means the iron does not have a separate thermocouple or temperature sensor feedback that you might expect on a more expensive iron. However, this range of accuracy is perfectly fine for all but the most tricky of soldering jobs. The iron heats up to 270C pretty quickly (around 1 minute from room temperature). It does struggle a little when making connections to PCBs with big ground planes, but if you set the temperature 10C or so higher, and be a little patient, it does the job just fine. If you had the option to pre-heat the groundplane it has no problems at all. It can get hot enough to work with lead-free solder, which is always a plus!
The iron itself is permanently wired into the station - it is not user replaceable. The lead on the iron is a bit stiff as it comes out of the box, but it gets a bit more flexible after some use. The iron itself is comfortable to hold, not too bulky and the rubberised grip makes it easy to maneuver. It is designed to prevent any electrical discharge into devices being soldered - I've not tested this, but none of the chips I've soldered have below up as a result of the iron!
The tips are replaceable (44-5106XX Series) and I absolutely recommend purchasing a chisel shaped tip for doing any sort of surface mount soldering - perhaps a 1.6mm chisel tip (order code 85-0984) or maybe bigger, depending on what you're planning on soldering. The stock tip is a conical type, which isn't terribly useful for surface mount. The tips come pre-tinned, but I would recommend tinning them yourself as well with your favourite solder prior to use.
The stand which this station comes with if of plastic construction, but quite sturdy and has a good bit of weight to it so it won't float around on your desk when you replace the iron. The iron fits nicely into the metal holder in the stand, and there is a space for the included wire tip cleaner. I prefer these tip cleaners to a sponge, however you may want a sponge as well if you are doing any work which involves a lot of flux or other goo that might get stuck to the tip.
The manual is pretty comprehensive, possibly too comprehensive as it contains a warning on the first page that reminds you that the tip is in fact hot (duh!). It also explains the temperature lock feature, which I personally have no use for but might be useful in a school or a production line. It also has instructions on how to replace the fuse - which does involve disassembling the station so worth taking care over.
All in all an excellent value solder station for those wanting to step up from their little 25W firestarter iron to something a bit more precise.