9936 Soldering Iron Review
July 13, 2012
I kind of got on the "I need a better iron" bandwagon and picked out this one off of eBay for around US $35.00:
It's basically a Hakko/Aoyue/Atten style 907 pencil and an electronic control unit somewhat like what Gareth reviewed a whiile ago. This has a built-in AC line and the read out is oriented the other way.
In any case, here's a brief summary of my review of it:
Basically I plugged it in, ran it up at 480° C (I was playing with some 98% silver solder) for about 15 minutes and I got an "SE" error, which means that it's too hot. That wasn't the top of the temp guage either, so I assume it could have gone higher. I turned it down and moments later got an "LE" error, which means it had a fault with the pencil. So I switched out tips, as the instructions indicated and cycled the power. It reheated and the error persisted. I went through this three times, and then it stopped working altogether.
Then, to make matters worse, the company that sold it "Guaranteed" it through eBay for 60 days (I didn't get 60 minutes, remember.) I tried contacting them through eBay, through their email and by phone several times. No answer, no answer, no answer. Yesterday was finally the escalation day for the case so eBay sent me a label and I popped it in UPS and am waiting for my refund.
Let's face it-for most of us, a Hakko is probably a vanity purchase. You can do what you need to with a $8 RadioShack special (my favorite is actually this puppy which I've bought on sale for as low as $1.29 on sale if you happen to be close to an HFT.) I know there are some who are convinced that a variable temperature iron is necessary for doing SMD, but it's just not-I've done SMD with the cheapy, no problem*. Temperature control is only really a factor when it comes to solder chemistry, and while I hope to see most of the world switch to silver, it just isn't there yet. I may yet upgrade, but if I do, I'll do it through a more trusted source. For example, Cobaltphoenix's Sparkfun 937 was one of the units I was looking at before in the same price range (I decided against it because according to Sparkfun, the handle isn't compatable with the Hakko/Aoyue/Attens, it doesn't have a "sleep" function and, most importantly, it wasn't in stock at the time ;-) I don't think it had the "937" on it when I looked then though, so they may have changed the handle compatabilty.
In the meantime, avoid anything being sold as a "9936" unit (any Mfr.) like the plague.
(*I hate SMD and hope I never have to do it again.)