Soldering iron works by melting a solder using the current flowing in the metallic tip of the tool. When this happens, the solder will melt and can be used to fuse a gap between two metals. Pretty simple, isn’t it? Yes, it is.
If you plan to buy one, however, finding the perfect soldering iron can be a challenge. There are lots of things to consider, with its types being the primary point you need to ponder.
Types of Soldering Irons
These types of soldering irons will complement specific types of works. Depending on your need and the size of your project, they can provide the right amount of heat and speed to accomplish your task efficiently.
This is one of the cheapest types of soldering irons. Known for its compact size, it is a handy tool that can be very handy for light-duty soldering tasks such as soldering and unsoldering joints on printed wiring boards. A soldering pencil has a limited temperature capacity and control which, apparently, make it unfit for large industrial projects. They have temperature ranges of around 300 degrees to 800 degrees Fahrenheit.
As the name implies, a soldering gun is a pistol-shaped soldering iron. Due to its size and heating capabilities and speed, a soldering gun can be more powerful than a soldering pencil. Normally rated at 100 to 240 watts of power, it is capable of warming up faster. It is equipped with transformers that produce considerable amperes of current and convert 110 V AC to a lower voltage. Its temperature is regulated manually by holding the button until the solder starts melting. This makes it great for light sheet-metal work, stained glass assembly, and heavy electrical connections. On the other hand, this can be dangerous for joints on printed circuit boards and electromagnetically sensitive devices due to the manual regulation of its temperature and its ability to produce electromagnetic spike.
A soldering station is more flexible compared to other types of soldering irons. Besides a stand, it comes typically with a number of other tools connected to the main unit that features an electric transformer, indicators, and other controls. It could offer one or more tools such as a soldering iron, hot air gun, desoldering gun, infrared heater, and SMD hot tweezers. That said, it is very versatile that it is recommended for intricate soldering tasks in electronic laboratories and electronics repair workshops.
5 Best Soldering Irons
Before deciding on the soldering iron model you want to purchase, there are lots of things to consider besides its types. This includes the size, wattage, voltage, anti-static protection, controls, and even tips.
The X-Tronic #3020-XTS offers the best features mentioned above. It is a soldering iron station that is equipped with everything you need and can heat up from 200°C to 480°C. It also offers great controls and safety features that will benefit all sorts of users.
The items mentioned, however, might not fit your specific needs or might be too much. That said, we prepared a roundup of the 5 best soldering iron models on the market to widen your options. Considering their performance, quality, and other excellent attributes, we tested and compared each of them to give you a more comprehensive guide. Take time reading the details of each item and weigh each of them carefully. We also prepared their Amazon links below, so don’t hesitate to click on them to have a peek at their wonderful deals.
Best Soldering Irons Comparison & Rating
1. X-Tronic #3020-XTS 75-Watt Soldering Iron Station
392° F to 896° F
X-Tronic #3020-XTS is probably the best soldering iron station you can find on the market. It is equipped with all the essential features and tools most pros would be looking for which, of course, is very beneficial for beginners, as well.
The kit includes a great number of accessories. It includes the 75-watt output soldering station, side-mounted solder roll holder, a spring style soldering iron holder, 50 g roll of 60/40 solder, a solder sucker, pinpoint tweezers, 2 detachable helping hands, 5 extra sizes/styles of tips, and a brass sponge tip cleaner with a supply of flux in the tin and a wet sponge. With all those things, it can compete with some pricey stations and that should be enough to give your purchase a decent value, but the real deal here is the features of the entire station.
It is a reliable soldering iron station that is capable of switch between low and high temperatures without any fuss. Very consistent and precise. Its Proportional-Integral-Derivative Technology is also a killer. It automatically checks and regulates the power output of the soldering iron every 20 seconds which guarantees its optimum performance. True gem. We also love that it features a Sleep Mode that happens after 10 minute. Very handy in promoting the safety of your project and prolonging the life of the machine.
The temperature control jog dial located in the front does a perfect job at delivering convenience. Controlling the temperature is smooth and precise and changing between Celsius and Fahrenheit is also a piece of cake. It also offers a fast heating rate. The description indicates it would take 30 seconds for it to heat up but we were able to achieve it as fast as 20 seconds. Impressive. Also, it offers sufficient headroom for large terminals. Really equipped for medium to heavy-duty work. Really offers a great, great value and a true winner.
2. UY CHAN TS100 Soldering Iron Station Kit
212° F to 752° F
UY CHAN TS100 possesses some of the best innovations in soldering irons and this is where it will definitely amaze you.
Compared to other models that only allow heat output changes like Weller WLC100, it comes with an OLED screen that shows and allows direct adjustment of temperature from 212° F to 752° F. With just a push of the button, you’ll get all you need such as sleep, max temp, power down, boost mode and movement sensitivity. The screen display also flips to adjust if you are a left-handed user! Easy, straightforward, and incredibly SMART! Most of all, it heats up within a minute! Not just that: it adjusts its power and returns to the temperature you set each time the heat gets sucked by the solder!
It is rich in safety features such as sleep mode and automatic over-heating warning. It also boasts dual-temperature sensors and accelerated sensors with an STM32 chip.
We are also very fond of how convenient it is. Besides the compact size, you can use it ANYWHERE as long as you have a battery! Yes, that’s right. It comes with an XT60 cable that can be used for 4S/6S batteries anytime. And to put more cherries on top, you can reset your own temperature rising curves and custom functions just by connecting it to a computer! Neat!
3. Weller 9400PKS 120V Dual Heat Universal Soldering Gun
100 to 140 watts
up to 900 F
The 9400PKS soldering gun is another masterpiece from Weller that will amaze you with its stellar performance. It can swiftly switch from 100 watts (full-force push) to 140 watts (halfway push) with just a squeeze of the trigger. What’s even better about it is that it can heat up as fast as 6 seconds! It really heats up fast and doesn’t falter. Very consistent. It can reach up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit and very useful for projects involving audio systems, electrical, small appliances, small engine repairs, automotive, crafts, marine, and jewelry.
Furthermore, it is built with the convenience and ease of users in mind which results in the ergonomic details of the gun. The gun feels solid and has a great balance. Moreover, besides the anti-slip soft-grip surface of its handle, the 3 energy-conserving LEDs add to your comfort and improve your work’s efficiency. Great illumination and no tip shadows at all. The lights can be activated as soon as you squeeze the trigger. Add this to the fast heating capability of the tip and you’ll enjoy all sorts of soldering tasks in the best way possible.
4. Weller WLC100 40-Watt Soldering Station
5 W to 40 W
up to 900°F
Weller WLC100 is a versatile soldering station that will benefit a lot of users, especially hobbyists. The station can also work with third-party irons and uses replaceable tips. This allows users to give it an upgrade which is truly impressive, especially that it comes with a wider iron-plated copper ST3 tip as standard. Most users would frown at this since an ST1 tip is much preferred by many due to its ability to cater to smaller electronic projects. But, then again, the tips can be replaced anytime so this is just a minor issue.
The variable power that ranges from 5 W to 40 W can be controlled easily by its 4-step front dial. The change in the temperature is also quite responsive and the pencil iron attains the needed temperature within a minute. Its peak temperature at 900° F is sufficient enough for most soldering tasks.
For its price, the inclusions are rather great. The station has a compact body, yet offers a great build that can last years. It also comes with a built-in soldering holder and a designated place for the cleaning sponge. The pencil iron, on the other hand, is truly lightweight and comes with a cushioned grip. Very comfortable in the hands even for extended hours of use. Most of all, the pen functions great and can perform basic wire-to-wire and wire-to-contact solder joint jobs with ease.
The fact that this model comes from a well-known brand is a huge plus, as well. However, by its price, it is obviously not for heavy-duty tasks. But that shouldn’t discourage you as it can offer you more than what you would pay for.
5. Tabiger 60W Soldering Iron Kit
200 - 450℃
This Tabiger soldering kit is one of the best complete sets you can ever have. Coming with a case, the set includes a soldering iron, 5 solder tips, stand, solder wire tube, anti-static tweezer, and a desoldering pump. With all these inclusions, it is one of the most versatile kits that can deal with a wide variety of projects such as electronics, circuit board, mobile device, computer hardware, small electronic work, TV capacitors, and more.
The performance of the 110 V 60 W soldering iron, nonetheless, is the true star of the set. It comes with an advanced ceramic printed heater. This allows it to have a faster reaction towards the production of heat. Within a minute, it can attain the needed temperature for your task. The soldering iron can also be adjusted from 200- to 450-degree Fahrenheit using the temperature controller knob. It doesn’t have the best and the latest system, but it is pretty straightforward which is good.
The soldering tip features four ventilation holes around its body to aid in the fast heat dissipation. This results in better soldering performance of the tip which means improved performance for you. When we used the tip in a series of tests and set the soldering iron at its maximum temperature capacity, it was able to withstand the heat and maintain its form for a longer period of time compared to most brands. Really impressive given that it is one economical product.
We also adore this kit due to its handy desoldering pump which makes your job even easier and faster. The usage is intuitive and fast. That said, together with other accessories it comes with, soldering and desoldering any project is a picnic.
Best Soldering Irons - Buyer's Guide
Soldering irons generally melt solders. However, they have different thermal capacities, wattage, temperatures, and more. For instance, if you are planning to use a 20 W soldering iron to remove a thick wire that is soldered to a board, it won’t do good. Though it will be able to heat up, it can’t recover that fast when it loses the temperature due to lower thermal capacity. Typically, bigger soldering irons are more equipped for such jobs.
While some projects won’t need temperature control, it is better if you can find a soldering iron that will allow it. It will widen the suitable application of the unit which means versatility for you. It is also better if the soldering iron shows the temperature directly instead of the power output. This will be more straightforward and convenient for you.
The wattage, on the other hand, is also an important point to check. Most range now from 20 W to 60 W but generally speaking, a 50 W soldering iron should be enough to cover most applications. If you need a unit that will be used for commercial applications, higher wattage is recommended.
While a simple soldering pencil is way lot cheaper, it is better to have a unit that will offer you the best convenience possible. Choose the one with great control over the wattage and temperature. Besides the versatility, they will allow convenience for you. Also, it is better if the unit has a designated place for the hot tips of the soldering irons. For instance, a station will provide you a place where you can rest the soldering iron when not in use. This will prevent it from leaving marks on surfaces such as tables.
The tips of the soldering iron also play a vital role in determining the performance of the unit. Some of them are conical, beveled, needle, chisel, knife tip, and bent tip. Typically, a beveled tip is enough for most everyday soldering. Nonetheless, keep in mind to choose the tip that is fit your needs; be it general-purpose soldering, detailed work, or drag soldering. Also, the size of the tip will affect your work. A tip that is too small won’t allow sufficient transfer of heat while bigger tips could damage boards.
Best Soldering Irons - FAQs
If you are a beginner, it is best to opt for soldering irons that allow temperature adjustments. When you use them, make sure to set the lowest temperature to prevent possible premature wear and tear.
Soldering irons get hot and can harm the user without the proper care and usage. They also tend to emit smoke and fumes which can be dangerous if taken too much.
Typically, soldering irons ranging from 20 to 60 watts are used for electronics, with 50 watts being the most common. The 20 watts might cause slow heating up of the tip, so we would suggest at least 30 watts to get a modest performance for an electronic soldering project.
Soldering irons can heat up within minutes but if you want to know when it is ready for use, just see if the solder is already melting. When the roll melts when put into contact with the tip, it is ready.