Best Soldering Irons and Stations

Best Soldering Irons
A collection of soldering iron images (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Soldering is one of the most important maker skills and using the best soldering iron is the key to producing your best work. Whether you are seasoned pro, or new to soldering, you need the right iron for the task at hand, be it robotics, data science projects or arcade cabinets. But what is the best soldering iron?

Just like an artist has their favorite medium, tools and style, makers have their favorite type of soldering iron. Some prefer a full station with precise temperature control and a built-in stand, some prefer a smart soldering iron, others just want a cheap soldering iron that gets the job done. There are some who require a soldering gun for bulk use on large joints. We’ve tested more than a dozen different soldering irons, measuring both their ease-of-use and the time it takes for them to get to an acceptable temperature. Below, we’ve listed the best soldering irons, along with a guide to help you choose the right kind of your needs. 

If you’ve never soldered before, we recommend getting started by soldering the pins onto a simple microcontroller. See our article on how to solder pins to the Raspberry Pi Pico, a $4 board. 

The Best Soldering Irons

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Pinecil V2 smart soldering iron (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

1. Pinecil V2

Best Smart Soldering Iron

Specifications

Temperature: Max 450 degrees Celsius
Power: USB C PD and QC 3.0 12-20 Volts at 3 Amps
Wattage: Variable based on power supply
Dimensions: 155 x 12.8 x 16.2 mm (Body and tip)

Reasons to buy

+
Low cost
+
Easy to use
+
High temperatures
+
Fast heat up

Reasons to avoid

-
Not much different from V1 

$26 isn’t a lot of money in the world of best soldering irons. It can buy you a cheap kit, loaded with accessories to sweeten the deal. Or it can buy you what is probably the most useful soldering iron a maker could have. 

Pinecil V2, is a refinement of V1, and brings a full temperature controlled soldering station into the palm of your hand. No really! Don’t let its size fool you. This is a capable iron that can be used for delicate soldering tasks, or for larger jobs such as speaker cables and other large thermal masses. 

Pinecil V2 is quick to heat up. Using the included conical tip and connected to a 20V USB-C power source, Pinecil went from 35 degrees Celsius to 350 degrees Celsius in 20 seconds. This is great for those of us that need to solder something quickly.

The “smart” aspect of Pinecil v2 is the OS. Yes we have an OS on a soldering iron, and with it we can tweak the iron to our needs. Setting a custom temperature profile for specific tasks is just a few clicks away. Customizing the UI for left or right handed users, setting sleep times to keep the iron hot while waiting for the user, then reacting to movement and ramping the iron to your preferred working temperature. 

The downside of Pinecil v2? It doesn’t come with a stand. The overall shape of the iron means that it does not roll around your bench. If you need a stand, they can be purchased for just a few more dollars.


Hakko FX-888D soldering station (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

2. Hakko FX-888D

Best Soldering Station

Specifications

Temperature: Max 480 degrees Celsius
Power: Main Voltage
Wattage: Variable based on power supply: 70W
Dimensions: Station: 100 x 120 x 120 mm. Soldering Iron: 217 mm. Cord: 1.2 Meters

Reasons to buy

+
Pleasure to use
+
Excellent thermal properties
+
Great build quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive compared to others
-
Looks a little “Fisher Price”

Hakko are the Rolls-Royce of the best soldering irons. The Hakko FX-888D is a soldering station that offers excellent thermal performance, with an iron that can reach 480 degrees Celsius. Tips can be easily sourced and changed, enabling precision or heavy duty soldering.

The soldering station control unit has only two buttons but from there we can change the temperature and create presets for quickly moving from one type of job to another. The soldering iron has a great feel, with a non-slip coating and a flexible silicone cord to reduce accidental melting.

We soldered up a Velleman kit (PIC experiment board K8048) and the Hakko worked rather well. The default 350 degrees Celsius felt a little too low for the rather thick PCB so we upped the temperature to 400 and the lead solder flowed perfectly.

This is a pro level soldering station and with that it commands a pro level price. If you are going to solder a lot, then this should be on your wish list.


Waveshare TS100 smart soldering iron (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

3. Waveshare TS100

Best All Rounder

Specifications

Temperature: Max 450 degrees Celsius
Power: DC5525 jack 12-24V
Wattage: Variable based on power supply: 65W via 24V power supply
Dimensions: 170 mm (Handle to tip)

Reasons to buy

+
Flexible power options
+
Solid performance
+
Great temperature control
+
Heats up fas

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the cheapest smart iron
-
A few years old now

The TS100 from Waveshare is one of the first “smart” soldering irons and it now may be a fair few years old, but it still does a great job. Heating up to a working temperature in 11 seconds is a big

The smart aspect of the iron comes from an STM32 microcontroller which is used to power the OS on the iron. Yes you read that right, a soldering iron with an operating system. The simple OS enables us to control not just the temperature but the boost temp (450 degrees Celsius), auto-rotate the display and calibrate the iron for precision jobs.

The Ts100 doesn’t come with a stand, and like the Pinecil v2 its shape prevents it from rolling around your bench, but it is best practice to spend $10 to $20 on a compatible stand.

The DC5525 jack means that any 12-24V DC wall wart can power the iron. Makers on the go can use an XT60 to DC power adapter along with compatible batteries to solder in the field. The TS100 may be long in the tooth, but it still has plenty of bite.


Tabiger soldering iron kit comes in bespoke case (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

4. Tabiger Soldering Iron Kit

Best Soldering Iron for Beginners

Specifications

Temperature: Max 450 degrees Celsius
Power: Main Voltage
Wattage: Variable based on power supply: 60W
Dimensions: Soldering Iron: 190mm, Cord: 1 Meter

Reasons to buy

+
Very cheap kit
+
Choice of tips
+
Great case
+
Stand included

Reasons to avoid

-
Exudes cheapness
-
Tip burns out

A cheap soldering iron kit is how many of us start our soldering journey. Sometimes a cheap kit will put us off, other times it offers a low cost entrypoint for a new skill. The Tabinger solder iron kit is low cost, under $20 and comes with plenty of extras. This is normally a warning on the quality, in this case the iron is rather good despite our first impression.

In the kit we get lead free solder, spare tips and a folding stand (which works but isn’t the nicest). Sure all of these aren’t the best quality, but if we are starting out they will do a good job until we move onwards.

The iron is light in the hand and features a dial to set your temperature. Tips can be easily changed, and the kit comes with a selection of precision and chunky tips. Changing a tip involves unscrewing the collar and sliding the cold tip off, reversing the process to secure your choice in place.

Tabinger’s soldering iron melts solder well; just increase the temperature on the dial to be a little over your ideal choice. We normally solder at 350 degrees Celsius, but the solder was a little tacky with this iron, so we went to 400 and all was well. We did notice that the tip became “scorched” rather quickly. In our experience cheaper soldering irons can burn out quite quickly, so bear that in mind. Replacements can be easily sourced from Amazon or Aliexpress.

The Tabinger 60W Soldering Iron is a decent iron to get you started. The low cost makes it ideal for dipping your toe into soldering.


Yihua 995D+ soldering station provides a hot air rework and soldering iron. (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

5. Yihua 995D+ Soldering Station

Best Hot Air Rework Station

Specifications

Temperature: Soldering iron: 480 degrees Celsius, Hot Air: 480 degrees Celsius
Power: Main Voltage
Wattage: Variable based on power supply: 180W (Claimed)
Dimensions: Soldering Iron: 220mm, Cord: 1 Meter, Hot Air: 230mm, Cord: 1 Meter

Reasons to buy

+
Solid performance
+
Great build quality
+
Easy to use

Reasons to avoid

-
User interface not intuitive

The best soldering station with a hot air rework is a dream purchase for most makers. You can buy brand names for hundreds of dollars, but the Yihua 995D+ offers brand name performance for a fraction of the price.

We’ll start with the soldering iron: a rather generic iron which uses the collar system to retain a tip over a heating element. In this case being generic is a good thing. Replacement tips can be easily sourced. The iron feels good in the hand and the silicone cable never gets in the way thanks to its own weight keeping it fixed to the bench. 

The hot air gun also feels good in the hand and has a similar cable. Controlling the iron and hot air is a little tricky at first, requiring the correct controls to be selected (on the left are the hot air controls, on the right the soldering iron) before using the central knob to set the temperature and air flow.

The tall, thin design keeps your bench space clear -  the included soldering iron stand takes a little more space but that's ok. The included stand is solidly built, doesn't slip around the bench and has the choice of brass or sponge to clean the tip. The Yihua 995D+ is an excellent soldering station for beginners and pros alike. It gets the job done, looks good and keeps more cash in your pocket.


Weller's 140W soldering gun is best used for large soldering jobs. (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

6. Weller 140W Soldering Gun

Best Soldering Gun

Specifications

Temperature: Max 480 degrees Celsius
Power: Main Voltage
Wattage: Variable based on power supply: 140W
Dimensions: 230mm from tip to rear

Reasons to buy

+
Solid performance
+
Great build quality
+
Easy to use
+
Heats up to 480 degrees Celsius in six seconds!

Reasons to avoid

-
A blunt instrument, not for precision jobs
-
Heavy
-
LED light is annoying

Weller is a known brand in the world of soldering irons. They produce good quality irons and this 140W soldering gun represents another quality product. 

Soldering guns come in many forms, some feed solder to the tip, others, like this there to lay down a surprising amount of heat in six seconds. From ambient to 480 degrees Celsius in six seconds, you can solder heavy, big joints. If you need to solder some speaker cables, large power connections on a robot or vehicle, then this gun will make the job so much easier.

Slightly pressing the trigger unleashes 140W of power to the tip of the iron. Talking of tips, it comes with a selection for precise and blunt tips for different soldering scenarios. This isn’t a general purpose soldering iron, but when you need raw power, this will do the job just fine.

Picking The Best Soldering Iron For You

Finding the best soldering iron for you is important. You need to be comfortable with the soldering iron in order to concentrate on the task at hand. But which type of soldering iron is for you?

  • Basic Soldering irons:  If you are just trying your hand with soldering then perhaps an advanced soldering setup is not for you, yet. A simple soldering iron heats up to a set temperature, giving you the confidence to start soldering without having to tweak the settings.

  • Smart Soldering Irons: If space is at a premium, but you need a temperature controlled soldering station, then smart soldering irons are for you. Typically powered using USB C or DC power supplies, these irons provide precise temperature control without dominating the bench.

  • Soldering Station: If you need a soldering iron with precise temperature control, along with the best thermal balance, then a soldering station is for you. Stations have an external control unit which contains the power circuitry necessary to deliver precise thermal output. The soldering iron is typically housed in a separate stand giving the user flexibility on the bench.

  • Hot Air Soldering Station: These stations offer a temperature controlled soldering iron, along with a hot air gun that is used for surface mount soldering, reflowing circuits and desoldering components from boards.

  • Soldering Gun: A soldering gun is a brute force tool, used for larger solder joints. If you are soldering heavy duty cables, speakers or terminals, then a soldering gun has the power you need. For finer, detailed work they are clumsy and awkward, so you will still probably want a soldering iron  to go with your gun.

Other Soldering Irons We Tested

The Waveshare TS80P is a solid smart soldering iron. (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Waveshare TS80P

How did this iron not make the list? It looks great, feels great and it has a spring loaded tip ejection system. What let it down was the price, $95 is a lot for an iron. It can put down heat, but you need to change the included precision tip for something more general purpose in order to get it into a board. We love the iron’s user interface and it works really well, but so does Pinecil V2, which retails for a third of the price.

Weller WLSK3023G soldering station is a decent and cost effective soldering solution. (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Weller WLSK3023G Soldering Station

Coming from the Weller pedigree we had high hopes for this soldering station. Alas it wasn’t meant to be. The LED light ring is annoying, the iron felt imprecise, and the hot tip of the iron pointing out from the stand felt counter-intuitive. It isn’t a bad iron, but compared to others, it just wasn’t worth the $70 asking price.

YIHUA 938BD+ soldering station comes with hot air rework and soldering iron. (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

YIHUA 938BD+ Soldering Station

It was a tough call between the 938BD+ and the 995D+. The 938BD+ has a wider footprint, but the user interface felt a little less cumbersome. The call was tough, and if the 938BD+ is offered at a reduced price to the 995D+, then jump on it.

Preciva 8786D hot air gun rework station

Preciva 8786D hot air gun rework station (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Preciva 8786D Hot Air Gun Rework Station

It may look a little dated, but this is a solid, low-cost soldering station. So why didn’t it make the list? The hot air rework gun felt weak, we had to ramp the temperature to the max in order to melt the solder on a heavy joint. The soldering iron felt fine, much like the Yihua stations (Preciva and Yihua are one and the same) but it lacked a silicone cord, instead using PVC. PVC cords are fine, but they are prone to creeping along your bench, getting in the way.

New Acalox soldering gun (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

New Acalox Soldering Gun

This gun was the antithesis of the Weller. It took a while to heat up and required solder to be fed via a ratchet system, through the gun. It felt cheap, and the easily removable plastic cover exposed mains voltage connections. If you need a soldering gun, spend the extra money and get the Weller. This cheaper version is not safe for general use.

How We Test The Best Soldering Irons

Each soldering iron was tested with a Velleman PCB kit, chosen for its mixture of small through-hole components and large soldering joints (mechanical joints to anchor components to the board). We used the same solder, lead based 60 / 40 with tin and rosin flux core across all tests, to ensure that our results were consistent.

From Cold to Hot: Getting to A Working Temperature

The slowest iron to reach a working soldering temp was the Antex XS25. The fastest soldering iron was Pinecil V2 and the fastest soldering gun was from Weller. (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

For each soldering iron / station / gun we tested how long it would take to get to a working temperature from cold. What is a working temperature? Well that is a personal choice. Some prefer to solder at 350 degrees Celsius, others much higher. Rather than set a temperature target, we chose to pick the moment where solder instantly melts on the tip of the iron. In the case of the hot air rework stations we chose the moment that a heavy solder joint would fully melt. All times are measured in seconds, and a lower time is better.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
NameTypeTime (Seconds)Hot Air Time (Seconds)
Tabiger 60WBasic Iron42 
Antex XS25Basic Iron116 
YIHUA 995D+Hot Air Soldering Station2492
Preciva 8786DHot Air Soldering Station4392
YIHUA 938BD+Hot Air Soldering Station33112
Pinecil v2Smart Soldering Iron10 
Waveshare TS100Smart Soldering Iron15 
Waveshare TS80PSmart Soldering Iron15 
Weller 9400PKS 120VSoldering Gun6 
New Acalox Soldering GunSoldering Gun26 
Hakko FX888DSoldering Station25 
Weller WLSK3023GSoldering Station76Row 11 - Cell 3

Basic Soldering Iron Times

The Tabiger 60W soldering iron reached a working temperature in 42 seconds, impressive for such a cheap soldering iron. (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

These basic irons are there for “plug and play” soldering and the Tabiger 60W iron gets to a solder melting temperature much quicker (42 seconds) than the venerable Antex XS25 (116 seconds). The Tabiger has basic temperature control, and almost three times the power of the Antex iron. That said, Antex is a respected brand and offers superb performance.

Hot Air Rework Station Times

The Yihua 995D+ heated up the fastest, hot air working temperature is the same between the 995D+ and 8786D. (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

These stations all feature a soldering iron and a hot air gun. The irons all heated up fast with the Yihua 995D taking first place in 24 seconds. The Yihua 938BD+ claimed second place at 33 seconds. For hot air, the 938BD+ was way slower than the others, 112 seconds versus a joint 92 seconds for the 995D and Preciva 8786D.

Smart Soldering Iron Times

Pinecil V2 heats up the fastest of smart soldering irons and it also comes in as the cheapest. (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Smart soldering irons are the F1 cars of the soldering world. They get hot, fast! Pinecil v2 took first place with a time of 10 seconds, joint second were Waveshare’s TS100 and TS80P. Any of these smart soldering irons would be a great addition to a maker’s toolbox. But for under $30, Pinecil v2 is hard to resist.

Soldering Gun Times

Weller's soldering gun is an impressive, if scary beast. It dumps a ton of power in a short amount of time. Use this soldering gun if you need to solder large joints. (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

If you absolutely have to solder large solder joints, then a soldering gun is for you. These things get hot, and have the thermal mass to dump solder onto the target. Weller’s soldering gun is impressive. It heats up within six seconds, and can sustain large solder joints for a considerable amount of time. The Acalox soldering gun is slow to heat up (26 seconds) and it feels rather cheaply made. Avoid it and pay the extra for Weller.

Soldering Station Times

Hakko's FX888D is the superior soldering station and that is reflected in the time it takes to heat up being a third of the Weller. But this quality does not come cheap. (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Weller may have won the soldering gun round, but it loses out to Hakko’s FX888D. Heating up in 25 seconds, versus Weller’s 76 seconds, the Hakko FX888D is a sublime soldering experience, but we expect that given its price. If you are going to be soldering professionally it is always best to have the right tool for the job (as Star Trek’s Scotty can attest.)

Les Pounder is an associate editor at Tom's Hardware. He is a creative technologist and for seven years has created projects to educate and inspire minds both young and old. He has worked with the Raspberry Pi Foundation to write and deliver their teacher training program "Picademy".

  • ElectronsRecycled
    I would start by deciding the power source (AC, DC, batteries, or flammable gas) and the style of soldering tool (pencil, station, or gun.) Then I would pick the tip I want (T12, T15, T18, etc.)

    My high school Electronics Technicians took second in the state last year. For repairing electronics and soldering small wires, the first rule is to run away screaming from any tip that is not a T12 / T15 / T18. The second rule is to buy a station and a lot of tips according to your budget.

    We can use old 900M / T18 tips, but they are less than ideal. On the up side, they are cheap. Pencil-type irons can be had for $14, and tips cost less than $12 for a 17-piece set on Amazon.

    I love T12 tips, but they do cost money. $35 for a station and another $35 for 10 assorted tips is not easy for some high school kids to afford.

    T15 tips are down to $20 each, and soldering stations are down to $200. I have not blown that much on one station, yet.
    Reply