Any electronics or gadget junkie worth their salt needs a good quality soldering iron station. They make the task of repairing and modifying electronics so much easier.
Whether you like messing around with Arduino boards and gizmos like the Raspberry Pi, or just want to do some basic electronics repairs, a proper soldering iron is wonderful to have on hand.
But there’s a problem.
Most of our electronics come from overseas. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but cheaper items can have questionable build quality. Portable soldering iron stations are definitely in that category.
Reviewed: What’s the Best Soldering Station for Electronics Projects?
I hate wasting money, and I assume that you do too! I’m writing this piece so that you won’t have to ‘roll the dice’ on a kit. I’ll be reviewing several soldering stations, including digital, temperature controlled, portable and basic (read: affordable) models.
What you won’t see on this list: cheap junk that breaks easily. I’ll only focus on items that will make a hobbyist or professional proud.
What’ll You Use It For?
Before we get into the reviews, I wanted to touch on options and realistic use. The tool you pick should be informed by your needs.
Professionals need temperature precision (a greater range of heat, as well as a higher top end), temperature control, quick reheating, and electrostatic grounding to protect electronic equipment.
Hobbyists will probably be perfectly happy with fewer features, and an analog device should be enough.
What’s the best soldering station for electronics? For any circuit board work, I’d be sure to get one with a precision tip, digital readout, and static grounding.
Let’s get into the reviews.
1) Weller WCL100: A cheap, analog soldering station with great reviews
The WCL100, by Weller, is a great example of the adage, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’
It’s a good, basic soldering iron station with positive reviews, and it should be more than enough for most hobby activities.
The WCL100 is a variable power soldering iron, and you can dial between 5 and 40 watts of power depending on your application. An indicator light prevents you from leaving it on accidentally.
The station itself includes a holder for you to conveniently and safely store the iron, and a sponge cleaner system for easily removing buildup from the tip.
The iron plugs into the station, and they’re detachable, which means you don’t have to haul them around together if you don’t want to.
It’s a pencil-style soldering iron which includes a standard bit, but it’s compatible with a range of other options.
Overall, this is a good soldering iron station kit for a beginner, a hobbyist, or an enthusiast. It’s not really professional grade, but it’s a clear step up from the junk irons you’ll find everywhere. Weller has created a winner here.
Pros: Very inexpensive soldering kit, simple to use
Cons: No digital display, less precise
Verdict: A great choice for beginners, hobbyists and general use
2) X-Tronic 3020: A good digital soldering station with loads of accessories
If you’re starting at zero, or if you’re hoping for an affordable yet effective kit, this is one of the best soldering stations for the money.
It comes with everything you’ll need and then some. It’s clearly intended for more frequent use, as opposed to the occasional job.
Included are: the soldering iron station itself, an included sponge / brass tip cleaner, a built-in iron holder for storage while hot, and a side-mounted roll holder for carrying your solder.
It’s not analog either, this is a digital soldering station, and it’s a good one. You get an accurate digital display readout of your current temperature, which can be switched between Centigrade and Fahrenheit.
It has an adjustable temperature dial, and with 60 watts of power you can reach temps of up to 480°C. The 3020 includes temperature compensation technology, which automatically adjusts the heat to operating norms. Many cheaper soldering stations tend to cool down during longer projects, so this adjustment is a welcome feature.
This is one of the best digital soldering stations around, and it’s perfect for hobby or industrial use.
Pros: Lots of accessories, digital display, high power
Cons: None to speak of
Verdict: A good soldering station for electronics / industrial applications
3) Tenma: Temperature-controlled, pro-quality, with a digital display
Temperature control is an important feature, especially when dealing with delicate projects and high heat. This is one of the best temp controlled digital soldering stations for a few reasons.
It has a good range of heat with a 48 watt capacity, and it’s able to heat up to 900°F, or as low as 320°F.
A common concern with inexpensive soldering equipment is overheating. When it’s too hot you can end up burning or ruining delicate connections. The Tenma has a closed loop overheat protection switch, meaning you won’t have to worry about that.
The circuitry is also upgraded to ensure a very precise temperature at the tip, which ensures that what you see on the digital display is accurate.
It’s a good soldering station for electronics because the tip is grounded to prevent static charge damage. I also appreciate that it’s fairly compact. They’ve placed the sponge tray on top of the controller, which makes it easy to store.
If you’re looking for a top quality soldering tool with temperature controlled precision, this is a great option to consider.
Pros: Precise temperature, overheat cutoff switch, digital readout
Cons: None to speak of
Verdict: A professional quality, portable soldering iron station
4) Hakko: Among the best portable digital soldering stations
Small can be mighty. This digital display soldering station packs a great amount of utility into a little package.
The footprint is tiny, and it doesn’t weigh very much either. It’s a good choice for a hobbyist who doesn’t want to use up a ton of table space.
The controls are easy to use. You have two buttons, ‘Up’ and ‘Enter’. The digital readout tells you the exact temperature, and you can increase it in increments. You can enter up to 6 presets of your choice, allowing you to have quick access to your ideal operating temps.
This is a very quick heating unit, and it will be ready to use in as little as 20 seconds from when you switch it on. It has excellent thermal recovery as well, meaning you get consistent heat under load. In addition, there’s a low temperature alarm to ensure all your welds are consistent.
The holder unit has what you’d expect: a sponge and some cleaning wire wool to keep the time in pristine condition.
It’s a good little soldering station, reviews are rave, and it’s easy to use. I’d suggest the Hakko as a great choice for a hobbyist.
Pros: Tiny footprint, quick to heat, low temperature alarm, presets
Cons: Two button controls might not suit everyone
Verdict: A fantastic option for all skill levels
If you have any questions or need clarification, I’ve got a lot of experience in this area, so feel welcome to leave a comment in the community section below.
Are there any stations I’ve overlooked that you think deserve placement on this list? What do you use, and how do you like it?
Thanks for reading!