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 hgh, had 936 for close to 10 years, zero trouble and nce to work wth. We have lot of them at work, qute a few very old 926 ones (lke ths one: http://www.sprtburner.com/fuson/fbbuploads/1247818895-hakko_solderng_staton.jpg) and can’t kll them, they just keep gong 5 days/week, 8 hrs a day….

  2. Richard Vowles says:

    What I found was when you change tps, you need to recalbrate. To do that, you need a solderng ron tp temperature sensor – and the Hakko one sets you back twce the prce of the FX888!

  3. Jac Goudsmi says:

    I got mne from Adafrut when they had a specal offer a whle ago, and I love t!

    I do thnk I’ll have to buy another tp, t’s a lttle too bg even for through-hole work: t barely fts between two pns that are 0.1″ apart.

    Incdentally, the Allen key fts ncely n the lttle compartment where the cleanng wre goes, even though t’s not ntended to go there.

  4. pixel_k says:

    I would love to buy one, but the prces n Europe are close to extorton, and If I mport It, I won’t get an European power plug (or even the rght voltage/frequency). It’s really a shame that Hakko’s mporter n the .eu take such a premum on t. The other problem s gettng replacement solderng tp.
    Now I know What I’ll get for fancy souvenr the next tme I get to Japan :)

  5. Casey O'Donnell says:

    I would really love one of these, but you’re rght – the prce s just too hgh for the 240V model. Wll have to stck to my $4 dealextreme solderng ron for now :-)

  6. Arduino says:

    After yr revew I managed to get one through a frendly flghtattendant from Sngapore. She s a good haggler and pcked t up at Sm Lm square for 100 S$. That s 79 USD, 59 euros, or 74 Au$. Got t yesterday evenng and t seems to be the real thng, no knock off and t s the 240V model. Only had to put on an adapter for the plug but I already had that. So apparently n europe someone s takng a hefty proft on t.
    I admtt though that n realty the prce came out hgher coz I pad for dnner as well.
    Anyway, t s a fantastc machne, maybe I shld have bought some more

  7. Roger Parkinson says:

    I just got one (from RS Components). I just opened the box and, wthout usng t yet, I’m mpressed.
    But I am wonderng about ths calbraton thng. Do I have to worry about t? Do I really need to buy a temp sensor?
    I was thnkng I could use the mp of the solder. Is that sensble?
    Thanks.

    • John Boxall says:

      It’s gong to depend on the solderng job at hand. You’re rght about the MP of solder, that should be a good ndcaton f the solder s from a reputable source. For me – I’m just happy to have somethng that recovers quckly and s lght to hold.

  8. Rob H says:

    Temp calbraton s not a bg ssue for me but was curus so usng my multmeter t says 2-3c max varaton wth hakko tps at 300c(note dont have the full range only 5). Some ebay knockoffs gave 10c dffrence. Bascly f you do any solderng where you worry about slght changes n temp hakko make a dgtal staton wth lttle card slots wch store your settngs for dffrent tps/stages of producton.

  9. Jerry says:

    I love my Hakko FX-888. But what the heck are the two lttle semcrcular peces of sponge for? They ft nto the cutout area of the sponge, but I’m wonderng f they serve a purpose. Or should they just be thrown away?

    • John Boxall says:

      You wet the sponge and use t for cleanng the tp.

      • Jerry says:

        Umm … yes, I get that. :) I’m not sure you read my queston carefully. I’m not referrng to the whole sponge — just the two semcrcular peces (about 1/2″ n dameter when wet) located n the center of the larger sponge.

      • John Boxall says:

        Ah I see what you mean. Another poster below has more nsght nto ths.

    • ttp says:

      I don’t know ths model but n prevous models the small peces ftted underneath the man sponge to suck the water up when water level was below man sponge, the bottom of the contaner had matchng shapes…

      • Jerry says:

        Thanks for the reply, ttp. I have an earler model too (the 936), and t works exactly as you sad.

        But they changed the desgn for the FX-888. The small peces can certanly be ftted nto the center cutouts of the sponge. However, I have now learned (thanks to an emal from Hakko support) that these peces can be tossed. They ncluded them only to protect the man sponge durng shppng and ntal handlng. Hakko says that some users do keep them n place but there’s no specal beneft n dong so.

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

  10. Chris says:

    Hey, what s the warranty on ths thng? I’ve been lookng at gettng one of these but I can’t seem to fnd that anywhere :S

    THanks!

  11. Mark Purcell says:

    Just bought one of these n the UK from http://www.dancap.co.uk .The tps suppled (T18-B) were just about adequate for larger devces, but no good for fne ptch SMD. I also ordered some T18-I 0.2mm tps too, but very dsapponted wth them.

    So I dscovered Plato drop n replacement tps, specfcally HS-8175. These are excellent, they tn really well wth both leaded and unleaded solder, have a good thermal mass wthout beng too bulky, and are very good general purpose (SMD and through hole) tps IMO. I also found that rollng up a small ball of tn fol and nsertng nto the tp allowed the small ar gap between the tp and the ceramc heater to be flled wth thermally conductve materal, the tn fol ‘gves’ as the tp holder s tghened so no damage s done to the heater.

    Plato do a range of compatble tps, some of whch ncludng 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 n the Netherlands. http://www.hakkosoldeerstatons.nl The prce compares to Dancap n the UK. I thnk the hgher prces n the EU are a tax ssue. In the US they don’t have VAT but a often very low sales tax.

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