Categorized | fx-888, hakko, review, soldering

Initial review: Hakko FX-888 Soldering Station

Introduction

During many years of orbiting around the world of electronics and related fields, soldering was not really one of my strong points. After moving more seriously into this field it occurred to me that my choice of soldering weapons played a part in the end results. So a few days ago I pulled the trigger and ordered my first “real” station – the Hakko FX-888.

Opening…

After waving goodbye to the courier and opening the delivery carton, the following was presented:

Frankly it’s only a box and shouldn’t matter, but you can appreciate the effort involved from a retail perspective. Opening up we find a neatly and safely packaged station with the multilingual instructions on top:

Everything is included to get going without any surprises. The station itself:

This is quite solid and weighty – at 1.3kg, so will not be moved by accident. The colours are quite snazzy and in some markets you can choose different colour schemes. According to Hakko – this is a “High-performance soldering iron that, in the pursuit both “usability” and “appearance”, has evolved beyond being a mere working tool”…

As you can see the temperature can be adjusted between 200 and 480 degrees Celsius. There is a calibration adjustment below the temperature knob, and the tool for calibration (“thermal correction”) is hidden away underneath the station:

You can also see the power switch on the right-hand side of the unit (when positioned normally). A tiny Allen key is included which is used to lock the temperature control to a desired position, however there isn’t a spot to keep it – so for now I have used (once again) some blu-tac to stick it under the base (not shown in photograph). Finally there is one red LED above the Hakko logo which lights when the heater is on – however it turns off once at the required temperature.

Next we have the soldering iron with fixed lead to the station:

This is a very light iron – for me the lightest so far, with a weight of 44 grams excluding the cord. The iron ships with a 0.5mm conical tip (type T18-B) that is fine for normal through-hole work, however there are sixteen different tips available from Hakko. What took me by surprise is the flexibility of the cord bushing, no matter which direction you turned the iron in your hand – there was hardly if any at all resistance from the cord. When changing tips be careful when unscrewing the nut, it is easy to unscrew the handle instead.

Finally we have the iron holder and parts:

The holder is made from metal, although it may not look so in the image. There is space for the included sponge and brass cleaning wire. You can also use the rubber cleaner (the grey/green lip) for cleaning as well. You can fit a large cleaning wire in the holder, however only small amount is presented at any one time, so you will need to rotate it now and again by opening the bottom of the holder which reveals the wire space.

Specifications

For those who like the numbers, here they are:

  • Station power consumption – 70W
  • Temperature range – 200~480 degrees Celsius
  • Temperature stability – +/- 1 degree Celsius at idle temperature
  • Iron power consumption – 65W at 26V AC
  • Cord length – 1.2m
  • Tip to ground resistance – 2Ω

The system is designed to protect against anti-static discharge, and the handle and other parts are conductors – not insulators. For more details please see the Hakko website.

Other observations

The reheating speed is excellent, the iron can reach any selected temperature in less than sixty seconds. This also helps avoid cold joints by recovering from temperature loss at a rapid rate. Furthermore having such a light iron without the burden of an AC lead at the back allows much more tip control and reduces wrist and muscle fatigue over long sessions.

Finally, the user manual includes exploded diagrams for all parts and the matching part numbers, which tells me Hakko want this station to last and are happy for you to maintain it yourself. Unlike using my older iron, I am sure with extended use the FX-888 will be less of a physical drain and also help improve my confidence in soldering.

Dave Jones from eevblog.com has described a modification to the FX-888 that allows an LED to show when the iron is on, not just heating. (Note that this voids your warranty):

Conclusion

Although the FX-888 is not inexpensive, it is very easy to use and light-years ahead of using a normal hand-held soldering iron. If you are finding yourself doing more soldering than the occasional hobbyist or are looking to work with a wide variety or components and soldering joints then you could do a lot worse than considering the FX-888. At this juncture it was not the cheapest, however I feel it was a solid investment and will last me a long time. And here it is, ready for work:

The Hakko FX-888 Soldering Station is available worldwide. Residing in Australia I purchased mine from element14.

Disclaimer – The items in this review were purchased by myself and reviewed without notifying the manufacturer or retailer. 

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John Boxall

Founder, owner and managing editor of tronixstuff.com.

23 Responses to “Initial review: Hakko FX-888 Soldering Station”

  1. ttp says:

    I rate Hakko very high, had 936 for close to 10 years, zero trouble and nice to work with. We have lot of them at work, quite a few very old 926 ones (like this one: http://www.spiritburner.com/fusion/fbbuploads/1247818895-hakko_soldering_station.jpg) and can’t kill them, they just keep going 5 days/week, 8 hrs a day….

    • John Boxall says:

      Absolutely – I was very happy to pay for a decent station, and expect it to last me for a very long time. And the best thing is that I can depreciate it over one financial year :)

  2. Richard Vowles says:

    What I found was when you change tips, you need to recalibrate. To do that, you need a soldering iron tip temperature sensor – and the Hakko one sets you back twice the price of the FX888!

  3. Jac Goudsmi says:

    I got mine from Adafruit when they had a special offer a while ago, and I love it!

    I do think I’ll have to buy another tip, it’s a little too big even for through-hole work: it barely fits between two pins that are 0.1″ apart.

    Incidentally, the Allen key fits nicely in the little compartment where the cleaning wire goes, even though it’s not intended to go there.

  4. pixel_k says:

    I would love to buy one, but the prices in Europe are close to extortion, and If I import It, I won’t get an European power plug (or even the right voltage/frequency). It’s really a shame that Hakko’s importer in the .eu take such a premium on it. The other problem is getting replacement soldering tip.
    Now I know What I’ll get for fancy souvenir the next time I get to Japan :)

  5. Casey O'Donnell says:

    I would really love one of these, but you’re right – the price is just too high for the 240V model. Will have to stick to my $4 dealextreme soldering iron for now :-)

  6. Arduino says:

    After yr review I managed to get one through a friendly flightattendant from Singapore. She is a good haggler and picked it up at Sim Lim square for 100 S$. That is 79 USD, 59 euros, or 74 Au$. Got it yesterday evening and it seems to be the real thing, no knock off and it is the 240V model. Only had to put on an adapter for the plug but I already had that. So apparently in europe someone is taking a hefty profit on it.
    I admitt though that in reality the price came out higher coz I paid for dinner as well.
    Anyway, it is a fantastic machine, maybe I shld have bought some more

  7. Roger Parkinson says:

    I just got one (from RS Components). I just opened the box and, without using it yet, I’m impressed.
    But I am wondering about this calibration thing. Do I have to worry about it? Do I really need to buy a temp sensor?
    I was thinking I could use the mp of the solder. Is that sensible?
    Thanks.

    • John Boxall says:

      It’s going to depend on the soldering job at hand. You’re right about the MP of solder, that should be a good indication if the solder is from a reputable source. For me – I’m just happy to have something that recovers quickly and is light to hold.

  8. Rob H says:

    Temp calibration is not a big issue for me but i was curius so using my multimeter it says 2-3c max variation with hakko tips at 300c(note i dont have the full range only 5). Some ebay knockoffs gave 10c diffrence. Basicly if you do any soldering where you worry about slight changes in temp hakko make a digital station with little card slots wich store your settings for diffrent tips/stages of production.

  9. Jerry says:

    I love my Hakko FX-888. But what the heck are the two little semicircular pieces of sponge for? They fit into the cutout area of the sponge, but I’m wondering if they serve a purpose. Or should they just be thrown away?

    • John Boxall says:

      You wet the sponge and use it for cleaning the tip.

      • Jerry says:

        Umm … yes, I get that. :) I’m not sure you read my question carefully. I’m not referring to the whole sponge — just the two semicircular pieces (about 1/2″ in diameter when wet) located in the center of the larger sponge.

      • John Boxall says:

        Ah I see what you mean. Another poster below has more insight into this.

    • ttp says:

      I don’t know this model but in previous models the small pieces fitted underneath the main sponge to suck the water up when water level was below main sponge, the bottom of the container had matching shapes…

      • Jerry says:

        Thanks for the reply, ttp. I have an earlier model too (the 936), and it works exactly as you said.

        But they changed the design for the FX-888. The small pieces can certainly be fitted into the center cutouts of the sponge. However, I have now learned (thanks to an email from Hakko support) that these pieces can be tossed. They included them only to protect the main sponge during shipping and initial handling. Hakko says that some users do keep them in place but there’s no special benefit in doing so.

        I actually prefer the 936 sponge arrangement. Sorry for the long-winded answer …

  10. Chris says:

    Hey, what is the warranty on this thing? I’ve been looking at getting one of these but I can’t seem to find that anywhere :S

    THanks!

  11. Mark Purcell says:

    Just bought one of these in the UK from http://www.dancap.co.uk .The tips supplied (T18-B) were just about adequate for larger devices, but no good for fine pitch SMD. I also ordered some T18-I 0.2mm tips too, but very disappointed with them.

    So I discovered Plato drop in replacement tips, specifically HS-8175. These are excellent, they tin really well with both leaded and unleaded solder, have a good thermal mass without being too bulky, and are very good general purpose (SMD and through hole) tips IMO. I also found that rolling up a small ball of tin foil and inserting into the tip allowed the small air gap between the tip and the ceramic heater to be filled with thermally conductive material, the tin foil ‘gives’ as the tip holder is tighened so no damage is done to the heater.

    Plato do a range of compatible tips, some of which including the HS-8175 are stocked by Mouser:
    http://www.techspray.com/download-tds-document.php?pId=132

    Mark.

  12. rik says:

    You can now also get the hakko fx-888 in the Netherlands. http://www.hakkosoldeerstations.nl The price compares to Dancap in the UK. I think the higher prices in the EU are a tax issue. In the US they don’t have VAT but a often very low sales tax.

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