TLDR; The Weller WE1010NA Digital Soldering Station is my favorite soldering for its ease of use and quality. The Sealody Digital Soldering Station SSA51 with Aluminum Soldering Stand is also a good choice if your budget is more limited.
A soldering iron is one of the first things you’ll to buy to go beyond the breadboard and build or fix real circuits. A quality tool can make all the difference between having a lot of fun , or messing up your circuit with ugly soldering. You’re never going to regret splurging a bit to purchase the best soldering iron: it’s a tool that’s going to follow you forever if you take good care of it.
The features to look for to get the best soldering iron are:
- Temperature the soldering iron can reach. The sweet spot for most small electronics soldering is between 600F and 700F. A great iron will also have a temperature regulator that will keep the temperature stable: too low won’t work, and too high will put unnecessary stress on the components and will be more complex to work with.
- You also want a decent wattage for the iron. Anything around 50W or more is good for small electronics, but if it’s higher it will warm up faster and hold its temperature better. You don’t want to have to wait for 5-10 minutes for a quick fix in a circuit! Also, at a lower wattage, it will struggle to maintain its temperature if you’re soldering many components quickly, or if you have a larger joint to solder.
Here are the soldering irons that I’ll review:
- Hakko FX888D-23BY Digital Soldering Station
- Weller WE1010NA Digital Soldering Station
- Weller WLC200 80 Watts Hobby Soldering Station
- X-Tronic 3020-XTS Digital Display Soldering Iron Station
- Sealody Digital Soldering Station SSA51 with Aluminum Soldering Stand
I’m focusing on soldering station here, which means they all come with the soldering iron and a stand to hold the iron while you’re working. All stands also come with a sponge (don’t forget to wet it!) and/or a brass wire sponge that are both used to clean the tip of your soldering iron while you work.
There are also stations that comes with a soldering iron AND a hot air rework gun. I’m not focusing on them here: in my opinion it’s best to purchase both separately so you can choose according to your needs for each. For example, in my case, I’m only using the rework station for the occasional bit of surface mount circuits soldering, while the soldering iron gets a lot more use.
Soldering Irons Reviews
This small soldering station is from Hakko, a well-known brand. At 70 watts, it heats up fast and hold its temperature well, and is easy to work with. The stand and station are robust, but more colorful than most soldering stations.
There are many features available on the station such as preset temperatures (that can be changed) and password protection. On the other hand, many reviewers report having to keep the manual close since the menu is pretty hard to navigate. It’s not as much of a problem if you use the same settings every time, since it will remember your last setting.
Preset temperatures (that can be changed), but of the digital features are hard to access in the menu. Password protection. Remembers the last setting. Nice if you don’t mind having the manual close, or don’t change the settings a lot.
This is a great soldering station: it heats up very fast to the right temperature, and it’s easy to change the tip even if it’s hot. Since Weller is a well-known brand, it’s also easy to find the tips in a hurry in stores, even locally.
There are also many useful settings, such as the standby mode to keep your setting while you’re taking a break and auto power off, and a password protection to make sure it won’t be accidentally turned on. The controls on the station are intuitive and easy to use.
The station itself doesn’t come with a lot of extras, so you may wish to order a few tips and a brass wire sponge to go along with it.
If you’re on a budget but still want to buy a Weller since the tips are easy to use, or if you prefer classic analog controls over a digital display, this is the iron for you. It heats up quickly (make sure to go for the 80W model), but you won’t have any fine control over the temperature.
It’s also sold as a strained glass tool in addition to electronics if you have an interest in taking up a new craft. For electronics, I would rather purchase a soldering iron with a better control on the temperature, but it’s still a good tool.
This station will work for small jobs, but the temperature stability is reportedly not very good. The materials are also more flimsy, but it’s in a lower price range than most other stations reviewed here so it’s to be expected. It’s a bit annoying since the stand is a bit too light and may tip if you’re not careful.
The iron controls and the stand are mounted to the main body, while most other stations reviewed here have a separate stand that takes up less space in your working area.
This is a solid, sturdy soldering station. With its weight and the rubber non-slip feet, it certainly won’t tip. It also has good (but not perfect) temperature control and simple controls. It may not heat up as fast as the other iron since it’s only 55W, but it’s still very reasonable.
It also has some more advanced features like an auto power off if you forget the soldering iron and will remember your previous settings. All in all, a good soldering station for the price.
Wrapping Up the Review
In conclusion, I believe that the Weller WE1010NA Digital Soldering Station is the best soldering iron you can get. The digital controls are easy to use, the quality of the iron is great and in general it’s easy to find replacement tips locally.
If your budget is limited but you’re still looking for a good soldering iron, the Sealody Digital Soldering Station SSA51 with Aluminum Soldering Stand is a sturdy soldering station that will give you good value for the price.