How do you find the best Soldering station?

If you're looking for a soldering station/iron chances are you've had a good search around on the internet and know there are so many different choices when it comes to features like temperature, gauges, corded or cordless, etc. There's also a big difference in the cost of a basic model soldering iron when compared with a high end machine that has all the bells and whistle like digital gauges and temperature control.

Whether you are thinking of buying one toward the cheaper end of the spectrum or the more expensive end of the spectrum, just make sure you choose a quality well-known and reliable brand. In my experience buying a slightly more expensive iron will save you money in the long run, as it's going to last much better (providing you carry out the needed maintenance). Weller has some great options that are at the cheaper end of things, as well as more feature rich models that are a little more pricey. I can also vouch for Hakko - my first every soldering iron when I just started getting into electronics was one made by hacko. I have since upgraded to an X-tronic with digital display - however such a great soldering iron is not at all necessary when you're starting out.

So here are some of the basic things that you should consider before you go ahead and buy a solder station. Bare in mind that these pointers are just my opinion you you should check out other guides and do your research. Generally you aught to find one that has a wattage of at least 30. Anything weaker than this and the heat-up time becomes quite a bit longer than ideal. Another reason to go for one of 30+ wattage is that it can also maintain a more steady temperature while you are using it on circuit boards etc. As far as temperature goes, ideally you would get an iron with adjustable temperature controls, that way you can simply dial it up or down depending on the task you're undertaking. The irons with adjustable temp-control do tend to be a bit more expensive so if you choose to go for a non-adjustable model, just make sure that it can reach sufficient temperatures for your needs.

Ergonomics - the ergonomics is an important factor, often overlooked. It's important especially if you're doing delicate work that requires precision and accuracy. If the handle is bulky and uncomfortable to hold then it's obviously less precise as you can't grip it properly. I personally find the "soldering pencil" design to be most ergonomic for the type of work that I do.

Cordless models are worth mentioning, as they can be very useful when you don't have a power outlet nearby. Or for when you need a portable tool to take with you on the road. However the batteries will need replaced often, and they likely won't be able to reach very high temperatures. If you're okay with those minor drawbacks it's an option worth considering.

In conclusion, I can boil down my buying advice to simply advising that one should have a hands on test of whatever tool they go for before making a final decision.