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View Full Discussion Just a warning, the Seeed model / this one / the other handful of rebrands is pretty underwhelming. As @kkwapnioski mentioned, the power supply can be a bit iffy. I haven't found the performance of this iron to be great, in general, for its price (given you're 'saving' $10 here off the usual $60-$65). If you're not willing to dish out on a Hakko FX-888D + accessories, which is understandable if you don't solder often, I'd recommend a different setup around the same price point:
Aoyue 936 (or 936D) - $36 - Cheap Chinese clone of an old Hakko station. Lots of warehouses in China use this exact clone (there are multiple rebrands; I'd recommend Aoyue or Yihua). I've used it for quite some time now and it's been great. There's always a bit of risk with these clones, so pop it open when you get it and make sure everything inside is looks good; specifically, that it's grounded (this lack of ground is rare from my understanding, but better safe than sorry). Youtuber BigClive has a video on another clone of this iron that could be helpful. This particular model on a well known site with 2-day-shipping includes a pretty robust metal stand for the iron and a solder reel mount.
Hakko 599B - $9 - OG version of the brass sponge that this kit comes with. Works great, as expected of Hakko. If you really don't want/need one, the Aoyue comes with a kinda cruddy regular sponge that sits in the iron stand.
Lyonsblue Solder Sucker - $8 - My personal favorite solder sucker. Gives the good suck. Fighting a solder sucker is no fun, but I haven't had any issues with this one. Always be careful using suckers with PCBs though; the pads can be delicate. A spool of cheap wick will last forever and costs maybe $3.
=== Base Total: $53 vs $50 SainSmart kit
Hakko T18D16 - $9 - Fantastic chisel tip for working with keyboards. The Aoyue comes with a decent conical tip, but since the clones are compatible with Hakko tips it's a fantastic budget upgrade. You basically end up with a poor man's FX-888D.
=== Add-on total: $62 vs $60 SainSmart kit + tip
And, as a bonus:
Kester 44 Rosin Core Solder 63/37 .031" 1oz pack - $10 - If you don't solder often these little packs are a godsend. It's basically just a tube of coiled solder (about 24 ft, according to the info). $10 might seem steep for such a small amount, but this is seriously the best solder I've used. The 1 lb version (24-6337-0027) has the majority of the reviews if you need further persuasion. The lower melting point also means you don't have to go as high when you're desoldering, which can reduce the risk of lifted pads.
=== I have big money$$$ - FX-888D + accessories (I'd still recommend the above tbh; there's quite a few bundles with similar items like multiple extra tips/flush cutters/sponge that are pretty good deals)
=== My idea of a fancy meal is taco bell (which is delicious - don't get me wrong) - Aoyue/Yihua + accessories
=== I REALLY need portability, because soldering at Starbucks hasn't caught on yet but just you wait - SainSmart bundle, and some stamps to send a snail-mail to Yankee candle with your idea for a "Dark Coffee+Burning Rosin" designer scent
I liked ur post so much I wanted to save it as I do on reddit, thought "flag" was to save or pin up. (Didnt flag)
Just to mention... there is no solder sucker like a genuine Edsyn "Soldapullt". If I can't have one of those I would rather have a roll of copper braid.
Hakko all the way! Mine is a 942 (discontinued) but I'd buy another Hakko iron in a heartbeat if it was stolen. Lifetime tool.
The Hakko 599B , is prob one of the best purchases i've ever made for soldering.
I have a mpja.com branded iron that looks like this, but the control/electronics side of it is larger http://www.mpja.com/Mini-Solder-Station-ZD-99/productinfo/15860+TL/
bought back around 2011-2012
Best $14.95 i've ever spent. The bits for it are fantastic also and very cheap on the wallet.
I'd upgrade to the Hakko you listed but with how well my iron works, it would feel like a vanity purchase. Maybe when my iron dies *shrugs* maybe not, i mean for $15 this iron is stupid awesome. Not digital but don't need all that fancyness.
The major thing for anyone who's trying to get into this for their first time. ALWAYS, keep your tip with solder on it.
fire up your iron, if new and apply solder to it, then solder, add more solder to the tip before putting it back in the holder or putting away. Also clean it with the Hakko 599B then put more solder on between uses. I'm very anal about that and soon as i fire it up, i stab the Hakko, then solder the tip, do my work, then stab the Hakko, solder, turn off.
The reason for that is because if you just let the tip get hot without solder, it gets dirty and you have to spend a lot of time cleaning the tip. A dirty tip doesn't really hold solder well and you'll have a hard time doing any work.
Great break down @Koxinga
Solder at Starbucks?? Price of one coffee can get you like 4 tacos from the bell!!
One power supply upgrade you can do is to go to a Mean Well LRS-75-24. The 24 volts will get you about a 60% increase in power over the 19V laptop supply. Some assembly required, tho.
Done deal. I was intrigued by this mini, but I need reliability and quality over portability and gimmicks. I use a Weller WES51 at work and love it but this is more budget friendly.
I disagree. So do many others.
This iron is a rebranded TS-100, so we'll call it that. Also, my experience is only really with the open-source Ralim firmware so I cant speak to experiences had with the terrible stock firmware.
This soldering iron is amazing. It's tiny and transportable and can run off the 4s batteries I lug around for FPV miniquads. This makes repairs in the field a breeze. Not being tied down to a bulky station means that even at home I can do repairs anywhere in the house. The soldering iron has a whole bunch of features and heats up extremely fast (under 10 seconds to 330 degrees for smaller joints). It is a good deal cheaper than Hakko stations and is a much better quality than the aoyue.
If I was soldering as part of a job, or I did it more often than 2-3 times a week then I'd likely buy a full Hakko station but I think that the TS100 is the best all-round soldering iron for anything short of that and if you want a super portable iron there is no better alternative that I'm aware of.
There is a good reason the TS100 has received such glowing reviews from the hobby community. I think it's probably the best all-round hobby iron out there. Period.
I just wanted to add to a very good post.
Be very careful about using knock off stingers. There are some ok ones but real Hakko tips/stingers are superior. The Hakkos are made for repeatable results, so the resistance of the heater and the thermal probe are quite reliable. The best clones are close, the bad clones are wildly different. Some won't heat, some over or under heat. Then you get into the build quality and materials... some of the nasty clones are made with plastic cores, the wiring connections are brutal, and full of corrosion or near shorts.
If you go clone, use a multimeter and a knife to test. If it's internally shorted you can fry your iron very easily if it's not protected. Use a sharp knife to test the white ceramic core, it shouldn't cut or scrap easily. Also use the knife to test the contact rings, if they move easily on the core it is a cheap build.
If you go TS100, get the real Mini tips. They are basically on par with the good Hakko clones. The nameless stingers are a gamble. Like Chinese solder, they may be great one order and be complete trash the next. The Mini stingers are labelled properly and have actual certifications, so they should be quite reliable and safe.
Also Power Supply matters, a great 19V 4A Meanwell will destroy a cheapo 24V. I would highly recommend looking into a step up converter so you can run 10-24V input and it'll always supply 24V. I run my Thinkpad blocks, car battery, Omnicharge or whatever.
Hakko T15 is the North American T12 but it's basically rated for 65W and goes in the 888D, 951, and a billion knock offs.
All TS100 clones and rebadges are based off the Banggood Mini. There are some hardware revisions, of the official TS100, v1 and v2. I haven't really been able to find out the differences but the v.2 hardware units seem to carry more safety and quality certifications.