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<$100 "hobby" digitally controlled soldering station, Hakko FX-888D, is it any good?

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    <$100 "hobby" digitally controlled soldering station, Hakko FX-888D, is it any good?

    Click image for larger version  Name:	fx888d-23by_1.jpg Views:	1 Size:	1.17 MB ID:	77063

    I bought one of these [new] locally for <US$90 about a year and a half ago. I do a lot of soldering these days for my customers. It's mostly extremely small stuff and mostly using my customer's very high-end stuff (including microscopes). I've been doing plenty for about five decades. I don't do much around the home office, but enough that I decided to upgrade and buy something that would do the micro-SMD and also the large RF connectors I handle. Oh and of course e-bike stuff =]

    I've gotten time enough on it to feel comfortable recommending it:

    It's a 70W unit and comes in a fisher-price blue and yellow color scheme. I understand they make a more subdued adult-themed color but it's not available anywhere I could find - overseas may be different. It has a digital readout and control. There are 29 different tips available for it and they are a very reasonable at $5 for most, $6 was the most expensive one I got for the micro work (it has a tiny little 0.125mm tip). On the large side I got a 3.2mm chisel and they offer a 5.2mm. I ended up with about five or six tips but for most folks two or three would likely be enough.

    The stand has both a little sponge and a wire ball (think steel pot scrubber) for tip cleaning. Use the sponge unless it's stubbornly gummed up (or you forgot to wet the sponge =] ).

    Setting the controls was not very easy - very convoluted "menu" but once setup it's very easy to use and after the initial setup and some minor tweaking, I haven't had cause to fiddle. I'd say this is the greatest foible.

    It has five user-programmable presets. I set mine to:

    P1 - 175°C - "sleep"
    P2 - 275°C - tip tinning, standby
    P3 - 350°C - low temperature soldering
    P4 - 375°C - medium temperature soldering
    P5 - 450°C - hot, hot, hot

    Sorry, I don't do that oddly american thing of fahrenheit...

    Changing the level is very easy, just push the up arrow to step up the level until you reach the level you want and hit enter. It then shows the setpoint temperature in the digital display and then rapidly changes to the real-time temperature.

    Since it doesn't auto-sleep like the more expensive ones I set it to P1 when I want to just let it sit around but heat up quickly. It's too cool to melt solder here so the tip won't oxidize easily if you leave it there for a very long time. P2 is a reasonable standby for sitting around for under fifteen or twenty minutes or so and heats up to P4 (my normal) in 15-20 seconds - not as fast as the expensive ones but pretty darn reasonable. I use P2 to tin the tip before putting it away.

    I've done very tiny work (0402 parts for those who know or care) with the tiny tip and done some 10AWG wires with the chisel and it works great.

    BTW - Use flux!!! At some point I may post some soldering pointers but near the top is use flux! I much prefer a liquid flux dispensed with a little needle pointed flux bottle but for the big stuff a good electronic suitable paste will do.

    Typically I run it on P4 which is on the hot side of things for the small stuff unless you are fast. But it allows you to be very fast so I run it there [as I do the high-end] with a SN63 solder and it's a good setting for those with practice. P3 is slower but less likely to damage... it's a trade-off between speed and overheating. P5 is for high-temperature alloys.

    The heating element is economically replaceable too.

    Anyway, I give this guy a thumbs up and would recommend it for a hobbyist that does more than once a year or just wants a "real" unit - i.e. a controlled temperature.
    Last edited by AZguy; 04-22-2021, 05:33 AM.

    I have had that same soldering iron on my wishlist since June. Maybe I should finally pull the trigger on this one. The digital iron I have which cost a whopping $20 has not turned out to be the great deal I was expecting, imagine that :)


      Once I started doing more than a little of the teeny-tiny stuff in the home office I didn't really have a choice. Saw this one and since it's a business expense figured it was worth a try. I've used the higher end Hakko's at my customers' locations and they have been fine although they all are a bit tricky to setup - this one a bit more so - there's no way I could figure it out without the manual. OTOH after fiddling with it a few times and coming up with that profile I haven't touched it since. Like PAS profiles it may not suit other folks but it works very well for me.

      Granted, I haven't really wrung it through the wringer but felt I had enough time on it and other Hakko's to make a recommendation. I've been very pleased with it and can do anything the very expensive ones do although I appreciate using them for what they bring to the table. The JBC I use frequently, sleeps and hibernates automatically, heats up in less time that it takes to move the iron from the holder to the work automatically, and I can change tips while hot in a second. It's a pleasure to use good tools.

      They even sell other irons that can plug into this for rework - like tweezers that are basically two irons that make pulling tiny little SMT parts off the board for example.

      This one would handle pretty much anything an e-bike would throw at you from working on the PCB's to the big high current wires.

      Even though it doesn't get used much it's soooo nice to just turn it on when I need an iron. Before I had three low-cost, non-controlled irons for different tasks, now it's just one and a handful of tips and it does a *much* better job. I appreciate good tools and this is a bargain for anyone looking for a really good soldering solution...

      Not that it's all that big a deal but I just wish they'd sell them in a different color scheme... they look like toys and it betrays their true value...


        I have a 40 and a 60w regular iron but I'm thinking of getting one of those 100/150w gun style that heat up in 6 seconds. They get great reviews.


          I haven't used my gun since I bought this and I'm just going to throw it away at this point.


            Given the amount of soldering I do at work you would think I would spend an hour or two learning about how to do it properly.

            I've literally never used flux beyond what's in the core.


            • AltaBrad
              AltaBrad commented
              Editing a comment
              I get by fine with what's in the core too but only on clean copper. If it's dirty then out comes the flux. I keep a selection of different solder sizes. I don't like fine solder on big wire (eg. 10 ga solid) primarily because of the way it fluxes. Larger diam solder fluxes nicer, I find. It's not nice on smaller wire though.

              Tinning flux works nice and fast for populating new boards. For repair work I like the liquid flux in a squeeze bottle AZGuy recommends, gotta have it. Sometimes paste works better for example if the board is overhead or vertical in situ rather than on the bench.

            Originally posted by AZguy View Post
            They even sell other irons that can plug into this for rework - like tweezers that are basically two irons that make pulling tiny little SMT parts off the board for example.
            We need this at work. NEED.


              Part leads these days are tinned with lead-free instead of lead based solder. When parts were tinned with lead based solder you could get away without flux but it still made life easier. With the lead-free it's nearly essential to get quick flow or the solder sometimes acts like putty instead of flowing nicely...

              I hear you on the tweezers - I use them frequently at customers but I haven't found the need to get some at the home office. The hakko tweezers are twice the cost of the station but when you need them you NEED them =] I haven't used these ones, just the higher end stuff that cost $500-1000. In the pictures they don't look as nice as the expensive ones but I'd have to see them in person and if I had the need I'd give them a whirl.


                I use only flux-cored lead solder at work in the lab. We all do.

                Obviously in production we use lead free.


                  I just soldered several XT90's with the Hakko... I'd done some before but not with the 3.2mm tip which is *perfect* for the task at 350°C..... what a pleasure... the pistol iron is now officially retired (in the trash) =]


                    Thanks for your review. I would also like to add to your post Hakko FX-100 review in which you can see, in addition to the advantages, also disadvantages to understand whether this soldering iron is suitable for you or not.


                      Man I been wondering for years what thread this was recommended in. Back when I pulled the trigger on it I thought to myself 'OK I am not good at soldering but would still be useful to have.' I had no idea how much of a huge difference a good iron can make.


                      • AZguy
                        AZguy commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Glad to hear you got a decent iron! I hope you have a few tips - the right tip for the right job makes huge differences too... e.g. the tiny little sub-millimeter tips can deal with the tiny surface mount devices and the 3-5mm chisels handle things like the big connectors so nicely

                        I had to change out a little surface mount part that was under this big shield that was soldered down over it and used the large chisel to get the darn shield off (that was still a bit of a pain) and then presto bang-o put in the tiny tip for the little part

                        I've been doing a fair bit of failure analysis on devices coming from really harsh environments lately and it's been getting used a lot... it's short on some of the really nice features that the higher end units I've used but it is capable of everything they are... I'm pushing four years with this and would not only still recommend it but would give a "best bang for buck" award ;-}

                      And just to make it more confusing for noobs note that this is or was the most copied and faked unit out there. Make sure you are getting it from a supplier that sells other similar types of tools and equipment. If the price is too good its likely a fake. Some of the fakes work pretty well till the short out and destroy things or burst into flames and others are just garbage that make you think you should have just spent $5 at home depot.

                      I don't find the digital temp thing to be that useful or critical to have but like 75% of the brands seem to do it even on lower end stuff like we are talking about here so you just seem to get it along with the other features that you do want. I suppose its like everything these days where it takes less than $1 of components to give that display and the buttons.

                      What really makes the difference is how much extra heating power its got and how well controlled it is. The $5 units just have their say 30 watt heating element sort of near the tip and if they have any sort of thermostat at all its not very fast responding or accurate. They also don't tend to do a good job of quickly and efficiently getting the heat from the element to the tip. What happens with those is it takes forever to heat the tip because they just have a 30w heater in them. Once its hot great till you touch it to something to transfer heat into the work (which is how soldering works). You pull the heat from the tip and its now going to take a minute for it to re heat the tip. If there wasn't enough heat and mass in the tip to get the work hot enough you are not going to get a good solder joint. If you just hold it on there its just going to slowly cook and likely damage everything on the board.

                      A better unit will have a larger heating element that is well coupled to a good designed tip and controlled by a fast acting thermostat. As soon as you touch it to the work and the temp starts to drop you want that heating element to kick in to try and maintain the tips temp so the heat is replaced as fast as its being pulled out. This gets the heat to the work quickly so you can make the joint without heating the stuff around it too much. This can be really critical for working on circuit boards but can also be really nice if you are just soldering wires. The slow not hot enough heat from a crappy iron just seems to melt the insulation (and shrink tube you may have waiting) and you will see the solder doesn't just magically wick in and cover everything as well as it does with a good unit.

                      I didn't do a lot of board level stuff, I was mostly doing connectors and I had always used Weller's. I don't remember the model numbers but they were not the fancy station type. I know they used what I think was their design tip that instead of a thermostat switch sort of thing it was based on curie temperature. I still have both my small 30w ish one and the big 100w ones somewhere. Over 30 years of sometimes heavy use on those things and was portable working on site, not on a nice bench so they got shoved in the tool box or floated around the van so kinda amazing they are still alive. I do remember looking for tips maybe 10 or so years ago and it appeared that weller discontinued that series so you had to do NOS or what were apparently pretty low quality 3rd party tips.

                      I have used Hakko's over the years and they were fine but not so much more amazing than what I had that I thought it was worth the extra money or extra parts to have to lug around since I wasn't a bench guy. I think I looked at replacing my stuff many years ago one time an airline lost my stuff and my Weller was like $70 and the lowest priced Hakko at the time was $250 so it was an easy choice to stick with what I knew but then the airline found my case so I didn't have to deal with it. No idea if anyone makes a unit like the Weller I had anymore, I don't think weller does, I think most have gone to an electronic temp control which is fine if they do it correctly. If I was looking for something today it would likely be the Hakko.

                      Now the unit that changed my mind was a Metcal. Guy I worked with from time to time would always talk about how awesome it was just like the Hakko people talked about theirs. One day I was helping repair a bunch of arcade games before a county fair where they would all be on free play and I didn't have any of my gear with me so I used this guys stuff he already had set up while he pulled more boards out of cabinets for repairs.... Tiny little hand piece about the size of a regular sharpie marker and about the same weight that never even gets warm with a very thin super flexible light cable. Heats from cold in less than 10 seconds. Even the tiny tips can dump a lot of heat pretty quickly. I really don't understand how they work other than its actually an RF signal being sent down the wire and the temp setting is built into the tip which uses that curie magic somehow. I bought a system the following week. Its kinda bulky so really best suited to bench work and even used doesn't come cheap so likely out of the budget for a hobbyist but sure is nice to have a tool like that when you do need it.


                        I've had pretty good success with the Metcal's but definitely prefer the JBC stations

                        Tips are 10-20x the cost of the Hakkos though and the station alone 5x

                        Personally, I'm not interested in the non-digital stations - it's very useful to see the real-time temperature of the tip in big red numerals IMO

                        I wasn't so sure about this hakko being that it was so inexpensive compared to the JBC's and Metcal's - the fisher-price color scheme doesn't help with that confidence either to be frank... but after lot of time with it I've been more than a little impressed... Every iron I've had that cost the same or less got tossed in the trash...

                        The one feature I miss the most that it doesn't have is the auto-sleep... but I've really gotten into the habit of turning it down to the lowest level (175°C these days) when I put it back in the holder... the next biggest thing I like about the higher dollar JBC's is that they heat *much* more quickly from standby... but at the price I'm willing to live with both of those points


                          I love my antique Wellers and my Metcal but can't argue that Hakko really had a good value even when it (or a similar model) first came out at around $250. That was still 1/2 to 1/4 what anything with similar features cost and then that they were able to get it down to $100 and still maintain reasonable functionality and quality is just amazing. Too bad there are so many counterfeit and knockoffs out there literally burning people. You just have to do your research carefully on the product and seller to try and get a real one. I don't remember who the youtuber was but I think they bought something like 20 of them all claiming to be genuine that at least looked real in the photos and didn't seem too sketchy in the ads and I think he concluded that only 4 of them were real and there were at least 3 different manufactures of the fakes that covered the range of not terrible to almost useless with serious safety hazards.

                          It sounds like Metcal lost a fair amount of their market share, not sure if its a quality or price issue or if it had to do with the sale to Oki. Mine works great but my friend told me the specific 'bullet proof' model to search for. Yes tips are not cheap but luckily I don't put hours and hours on them so what I got in my lot will more or less be a lifetime supply. I have also heard mixed things about JCB lately, same with Pace. Guessing competing with direct from China kinda got to them. High prices with no new innovation only work for some customers.