Need recommendations for a soldering station. $100 budget

Hi,

A friend of mine has been using a cheap $5 soldering iron for as long as I can remember, and I’d like to get him a decent soldering station as a gift this Christmas. I’ve loosely set the budget at $100 USD, but I can stretch that figure if there’s something really nice for a few dollars more.

The most important features I’m looking for are:

  • A good assortment of soldering tip shapes and sizes
  • Reasonable warm-up time (under 45 seconds is fine)
  • Simple UI

For reference, he was very impressed with my Hakko 936 knockoff iron that I’m using. I’d like to get him something that’s a little nicer considering how much soldering he does compared to me.

So far I’ve gotten a lot of recommendations for the FX-888D and Weller WES51, but I don’t have any experience with either. I do like the Hakko a little more based on how easily I can get replacement tips for it though.

As always, budget alternatives are welcome :slight_smile:

Thanks for your time.

I'd say that a lot of the knockoff Yihua 936 stations are actually pretty good, and an awesome value. I've been using two of them pretty heavily for about a year now and they are both still working great. I also bought an Hakko FX-888D along the way when I needed an extra iron and the others weren't available. Here are some quick thoughts about the two irons:

  • The Hakko warms up only slightly faster. It seems to be more powerful, but just barely--not enough to worry about.
  • I prefer the analog temperature dial on the Yihua 936. Changing the temperature on the 888D is clumsy. If Hakko still sold the FX-888 with the analog dial, I would buy that instead.
  • The Hakko iron is nicer. It is lighter, feels better in the hand. Most importantly, the wire sheathing is silicone which doesn't burn easily and is more flexible.
  • The included Hakko iron holder is nicer. It holds the iron better and has a good sponge and brass sponge built in.
  • The Hakko power unit has a slightly smaller footprint, but can't stack.
To me, the iron and the holder are the biggest advantages of the genuine Hakko.

am not sure that for most people the genuine Hakko is worth the money. I almost wonder if it was worth it for me, and I use it every day. I wasn't counting on the Yihuas to last this long, but they have been great so far. The real key is to use the genuine Hakko tips. There is a noticeable difference in heat transfer between those and the cheap aftermarket tips that I started with.

Thanks for the reply! I’ve given it a bit of thought, and after considering that my friend will likely spend the equivalent of my entire budget in solder in about 6 months, I’m inclined to get him an FX-888D. It’s a shame the analog version is discontinued, but he’s the one-temperature-solders-everything kind of guy, so the LCD version won’t be too much of a deal breaker if I can’t find an old analog one for sale.

About the Hakko tips; I’ve never given it much thought and always bought the ones on amazon like these. If you don’t mind me asking, would you have any recommendations on where to get genuine hakko tips and spare parts?

Cheers.

I got a 5-pack of tips and use most of them at various times. The super fine point one gets into really tight spots but won’t carry solder at the tip. The slightly blunter tip is what I use for most general purpose work. The angled oval is great for soldering wires to the mcpcb nice and flat. And the big bevel can do reflows on smaller mcpcb’s as well as strip parts from a board quickly(gets to all the pins at once). I should actually get a spare wand both as a back up and to speed tip changes. At least a spare element.

That is a genuine tip, at least if you bought it from a reputable seller on Amazon or Amazon itself. The problem with Amazon is that there are a lot of sellers selling the "same" part, but it's hard to tell what you're going to get from some of them. I have bought them from local electronics stores but also from Amazon.

The cheap ones are usually around $7 for a set of 7-10 tips!

The FX-888D arrived and looks good; I’ve already wrapped it in preparation for the holidays. On a side note, the college I’m studying at was tossing a couple of broken Hakko 936’s, so I nabbed them! I’ll try to see if I can fix them and do a comparison against my knockoff Yihua branded 936.

I think there’s a few electronics stores in Kitchener/Waterloo that sells replacement Hakko tips and heating elements, so I’ll try to buy some from there just to be safe. Thanks for the advice!

I bought one of these and have been pretty happy with it. Although it is my first soldering iron, it sure beats those cheap ones they sell everywhere. It’s made soldering so much easier and enjoyable. I’m not sure on the exact heat up time. But it seems pretty fast to me. For the price it’s great and you can buy him more tips or other accessories.

Edit: I just timed it 30 seconds on the nose.

That looks like a much better deal than what I’m currently running! I just timed my Yihua, and it took 47 seconds from ~18C ambient to 325C on the dial :Sp. It looks like a teardown is in order!

Just to clarify. That time was from off to the melting point of the cheapo solder wire on the highest setting.