I recently purchased a Hakko FX-951 for home soldering. I was considering the FM-203 in case I ever wanted SMD tweezers, but the cost difference just didn’t add up. But, I knew that the Hakko FX-888D supported a SMD tweezer upgrade for less than $200 in case I ever needed them. But, I didn’t need the whole station, and the cost of the whole thing ($100 or so). To eBay I went, and found a “as-is” base for less than $40. It was missing the power cable, but showed to power up, and showing the “S-E” error. But it also didn’t have an iron plugged in, so that error makes sense (“S-E” is sensor error, claiming it can’t see the temperature of the iron)!
Wanting to get into more modern device repair, and realizing that my WEP 858D wasn’t up to the job (I had terrible luck getting it to remove really anything), I decided it was time to get a “real” hot air station. Now, I’m not normally one for vanity, but I do like using one company for things. It’s why I’m an Apple user for the most part, and why nearly all my modern gear is Rigol. So, I decided I wanted to get a Hakko station. Especially since the JBC option was HORRENDOUSLY expensive. The FR-801 is no longer made, but the FR-810B is, and on eBay I found an older FR-810, new, for $700. While more than I would have liked to have spent, the unit gets pretty good reviews, has a lot of tip options, and seemed simple to use (more on that later). While the FR-810B has the integrated vacuum pick-up, this just seemed like something that could break, and honestly, tweezers work. So I bought the unit, and waited for it to arrive.
The unit arrived amazingly quickly (ordered Friday, showed up Monday), and well packed (original box). The unit was easy to unbox, and set up, with a few issues. The space I have for the unit is not quite the right size for the wand holder to fit on the side of the unit. I instead removed the holder from the plastic clip, and bolted it directly to a shelf rail “below” the unit. It still functions the same, it’s just lower than the rest of the unit. The other issue is the unit came with the N51-01 nozzle, which is only a 2.5mm opening. This is extremely pointless for most work. Not enough air flows to really heat anything larger than very small packages, and even then, the board generally won’t heat enough to melt solder without a lot of time. Thankfully, I also had ordered the B5058 adapter so I could use standard “screw on” nozzles. I happened to have a 4mm nozzle that works great.
The interface on the unit is a bit convoluted, but very powerful. In general, you just set temperature, and airflow. This is done with up and down arrows on the unit. But, if you wanted to use this unit for more accurate reflow, you can set up to five profiles, and then timers between each of those. So, you can set up preheat time, soak, re-flow, and cool-down stages, and tell the unit to do all of those in a row, automatically. Sure, you’d probably want some kind of stand/holder to do this, but it’s nice that the option exists (could be very useful if you’re into reflowing PS3 CPU/GPUs).
Testing some SMD work with it, I can say without a doubt, it works WAY WAY WAY better than my old WEP. And, of course it does. It’s a name brand, high quality unit vs a cheap import. The airflow is significantly better, and I don’t constantly have to remind myself not to cover the fan intake. Really, I’d love to see it compared to the JBC. I will note that from watching videos with the JBC featured, the JBC has a MUCH longer hose from the base to the handset. I’m also a bit curious about disabling the auto-off when placed in the holder, so that I could tell the unit to heat up while it was still in the holder. But, that’s for a later date.
I really like the unit, and I will try to test it more on some real SMD work (Macbook logic board, probably) in the coming months.
Well, I finally did it. After years of soldering with an old Weller WTCPT, and an equally old Hakko 936, I decided to upgrade to a modern FX-951 (kit), and the Micro-soldering hand-piece (FM-2032). I’ve been doing more and more SMD work lately, on multilayer boards, and there just wasn’t the thermal capacity in my previous irons. And while the JBC stations looked appealing, they didn’t look $450 appealing. Also, the thought of finding parts, tips, etc wasn’t overly appealing. Where I know Amazon and even Fry’s stock tips for the Hakko.
I ordered the unit from tequipment.net, my usual source for this kind of thing. They offer the best education discounts, as well as one for eevblog members, and often will discount even more if you’re buying a lot of equipment. Sadly, I didn’t buy my FR-810 at the same time. I did buy the FX-951 Kit, the curved tip (T15-J02), and the Micro-Pencil curved tip for it (T30-J). Oddly, the T30-J shipped separately, but meh.
Once I had the unit, I also had purchased the T15-D08 tip at Fry’s earlier, and was able to immediately switch it it (the unit came with a conical tip, which are generally useless). The unit fit perfectly on my bench, and the feel of the iron is great. Some basic soldering tests showed it had a HUGE amount of thermal capacity. I was able to solder easily to ground planes, and thermal “pads”. Heck, I was even able to do some chassis soldering that previously required my giant Weller D650 soldering gun.
The best part of the unit, though, is swapping tips. I bought a couple extra “sleeves” when I ordered the unit so I could swap tips, and indeed, swapping them is crazy easy. Just unclip, drop into holder, and clip a tip in. The worst part, though, is the incessant “beep” when the tip is unplugged, but thankfully, you can disable that via the info in this document.
I love the iron. Much like switching to Ubiquiti for wireless, and never wanting to go back to consumer wireless, I am not sure I’ll ever go back to a consumer soldering iron. =)