Review of the Hakko FX-888 soldering station

in tools by DP | 38 comments

John reviews the Hakko FX-888 soldering station. It’s the latest iteration of one of the most cloned soldering stations, the Hakko 936. The stations are simple and sturdy, with a wide selection of tips. The tips are backward and forward compatible, 900M tips fit the FX-888 and the T-18 tips fit older 936 stations.

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.

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Comments

  1. Derek Kozel says:

    The amateur radio club I manage has one of these and it certainly works well. Be forewarned though that the indicator led is a heater indicator, not a power indicator. So once the iron is up to temperature the light is dark most of the time, only blinking occasionally. Makes for a nasty surprise if you forget its on and grab it. Also we’ve seen a big spike in people leaving it on compared to our previous Weller.

  2. Sjaak says:

    i don’t doubt the quality but the appearance is like a childs toy :)

    Nice review

  3. Jay Wilkinson says:

    “the handle and other parts are conductors – not insulators.”

    Did not know that.

  4. AndThen says:

    @Derek, I suggest you paint the indicator on the dial bright red/orange. It seems stupid the dial is all one color. someone gets a Darwin award for the no power LED also, simply brilliant.

    @Sjaak, Due to the colors and shape, I would not buy one of these. They used to be square so it was stack-able, and black so it matched everything..

    @Jay, This what makes “ESD safe”

    … (reads review) …
    Ok I was wrong painting that knobs not going to help one bit, it has a switch ON THE SIDE, Gold medal Darwin award! And the LED oh my, between the knob and cord!

    On the subject of soldering stations. Any first or second hand knowledge of the GQ-5200, (http://www.gqelectronicsllc.com/comersus/store/comersus_viewItem.asp?idProduct=4393). The price screams “You get what you pay for”, how bad can it be =)

    • Filip says:

      I have an almost identical Baku something….
      IT works, only the wiring in the hot air gun is a little shoddy… but easily fixable, just open it up and put heatshrink everywhere… Other then that there isn’t much that can go wrong on them….They are simple electronically and electrically, and the replacement parts a cheap as dirt as well. Oh and the hot air gun keeps the air temp very stable, +-1C

    • atten says:

      I do not like the color and the shape either.
      It looks too cute for a serious tool.

  5. Sleepwalker says:

    The earlier 926 was *THE* best ever soldering station, craps all over these ones.

  6. voidptr says:

    As a noob i bought this has my first soldering station . and i love it, it is so much better than junk pen style iron i was using before… , i bought it at a special price during Xmas time so it is for me a good investment… maybe i will change opinion in few years when i’ll have the chance to try other stations :o)

    btw Dave at EEVBlog hack his and put a dual color led inside :-)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtlN0b-gkic&feature=plcp&context=C3c5307fUDOEgsToPDskKUFKNtJKweN9f7B9RF4bOg

  7. Drone says:

    This gets a zero for design and usability. I really don’t want something that looks like a toy for a four year old on my bench – and the LED is so poorly thought-out, you would be excused for thinking someone designed it to deliberately sabotage the product. Be forewarned, for those that care about such things, this iron is either 110V or 220V, it is NOT switchable.

  8. asdf says:

    Hmm, I’ve never understood the “everything must look drab and boring” mindset. Fortunately for the beige brigade, they do make a version with a plain black case (though it may not be available in all markets). The LED design is of course the same.

  9. Colin says:

    “Drab and Boring” is also “Simple” in most cases. I like that, so does every Apple customer. The beige brigade does need to end, but the black cases are stylish in my opinion.

    • asdf says:

      Those Apple customers also liked their bright blue Aqua scrollbars and buttons that everyone else thought were so horrifically colorful and completely unfit for “professionals”. Heck, remember when Windows XP was being called a Fisher-Price toy because eww, blue titlebars and red close buttons?

  10. Sleepwalker says:

    The 926 (no longer made) with the 900M handle had everything in one. The stand fitted to the side of the body, the body was heavy due to the transformer inside and so the stand didn’t move if you put the iron away quickly – which you often do when working fast. There was an LED in the power switch and well as an ‘element on’ LED that was clearly visible, so you could see when the power was on from across the room. Those things are as rugged as they come and the iron had a far far better ‘feel’ than the 936 and later ones that I’ve used and even if it’s on from dawn till dusk, the handle still doesn’t get too hot. Oh and it was white with a grey base, so wouldn’t offend too many ;)
    Pity they don’t still make those, but at least you can get spares – not that you need them very often, even when used all day, every day.

  11. Paul says:

    Who cares about the color scheme? If that is your reason for not purchasing a great product, then maybe you need to re-evaluate your priorities. I mean really, does anyone even go into the basement where we hide all our nerd stuff? I wouldn’t care if it was pink and purple – if it functions outstanding and has a great price to match, I will buy it.

    As far as the shape of it – why would you want to stack something that gets hot (the control station) on top of other things that are likely to get hot? It isn’t like this thing is the size of the titanic, it doesn’t occupy much bench space.

    I bought one of these last year from a local retailer. Having used many different “pen” style irons and quite a few of the Weller stations (that are more expensive!) at my employer, I am glad I bought this unit. It is so much nicer in feel and build quality than the wellers that were nearly $100 more.

    It gets to the temp you set it quite quickly, and the iron is very comfortable and light. I don’t have any issues using it for long periods of time.

    The same local retailer that I purchased my station from also carries a large selection of tips as well, so it is a win-win for me (or other people in the area.)

    The power switch on the side is not an issue for me, as I never leave it mid-use so I never leave it on.

    I guess some people have nothing better to do than complain about stuff that really isn’t important.

    This is a GREAT iron that is at a very nice price point for the “beginner” or “intermediate” hobbyist/professional. Don’t let people’s overly zealous nit-picking keep you from buying one.

  12. Derek Kozel says:

    I don’t mind the color scheme but would prefer something more low key. It stands out against a bench of tan/gray/black devices. But certainly not a make or break thing for me. Stacking also isn’t something I find so important, it is quite small.

    The lack of a power indicator LED really damages an excellent product in my mind though. Its such a simple thing to be lacking.

  13. Jay Wilkinson says:

    I can’t believe all the people whining about the lack of a power indicator. This is the one place that everyone should be able to solve that problem. If you’re GOOD you should be able to do it without voiding the warranty too.

    You have been challenged.

    • ewertz says:

      But 99% of owners won’t, irrespective of your “challenge”. This doesn’t make the lack of a power-on indicator any less inconvenient (or dangerous, at its worst), nor will it prevent you from baking your tip all day when you walk away and aren’t reminded that you left it on.

      There are things that are important to know when you’ve unintentionally left them on, and this is one of them.

      If this were one’s only reservation about buying one of these this may not a deal-breaker, but it otherwise absolutely could be.

      • Earp says:

        Considering you can buy a switched multiboard with an on/off switch and light dead cheaply, it doesn’t sound like a difficult problem to solve at the point of purchase even.

  14. Filip says:

    voiding a warranty on this station is irrelevant, since the electronics inside are so simple. Even if everything inside fails, you can easily replace them

  15. AndThen says:

    I’d be willing to bet we can blame an artist and marketing persons not an engineer, for both the color and shape. High visibility colors have their places, but dangerous objects should not ever “look like toys”, it’s a safety thing.

    The larger box shaped units, I find more appealing. Flat is important really it is. Things that live on the bench effectively become part of the bench, if I can not set things on a bench it is just wasted space.

    Modular designs are also important when space is at a premium. Not only for small bench areas but also schools or clubs where the tools need to be secured in a lockup.

    Maybe I like my beer warmed! j/k Heat buildup is a much more important issue.

    How hot does the driver box heat? Is the cover the same metal type structure as the holder, cast not stamped or plastic? Does it have a duty cycle listed anywhere, like if i put this in my van and drive around death valley will it still function?

    Hmm maybe the shape was partly dictated by an engineer “Yeah if it’s going to be that small, and without my vent holes you need to make sure the manual says not to stack it”

    I was only saying that I would not purchase THIS unit. My “dream unit” is actually a snazzy silver Al suitcase, I’ve forgotten the brand (since it’s off the list price wise for me), handle in the right spot ect it was dreeeamy!

    It’s not like the color can’t be changed, replace the box or grab some paint/tape marker or whatever. Hakko is a fine brand and using the company logo colors makes them stand out in the sea of beige/black.

  16. octal says:

    btw, for color scheme, this station is also sold in Balck only, Silver only and Red/White (check HAKKO website).
    For the lighting indicator, they effectively could have added a simple led in the front panel. To solve the problem, EEVBlog propose a very nice hack for it http://www.eevblog.com/2012/02/03/eevblog-242-hakko-fx-888-soldering-iron-hack/

    • Jay Wilkinson says:

      1. Oh God, I bought a DESIGNER soldering iron.
      2. Dave is like finger nails on a chalk board. He’s no Ian for sure. But brilliant non the less.
      3. Did you notice the voltage taps on the input of the transformer? Should be easy to swap from 110v to 220v or back.
      4. My challenge above was done a few weeks ago. I suspect Dave is a time traveler…

      • octal says:

        Are you sure you can switch it to 220v without changing the transformer?
        I could’nt find a european provider for those 888 soldering stations, and if I buy it from UK, it costs more than 200 euros :( too expensive compared to the US version. If you can confirm that I can switch it to work on 220V without changing the transformer, I’ll order one right now from USA.

      • asdf says:

        I have no experience of them, but Central European Trading have advertised the FX-888 for many years.

        If it weren’t for the poor availability and high markup of Hakko gear in Europe I would have bought myself an FX-888 right around when it was first released. As is, I got myself a second-hand Weller instead. I guess a lot of it comes down to the fact that unlike eg. the USA there’s no European Hakko subsidiary and they’re instead relying on smaller local distributors.

      • octal says:

        The main pb with european distributors is the final price. Why a solder station sold arround 90$ (i.e. about 63 euros) is sold more than 200 euros in most european countries? is switching from a 110V to 240V so expensive? they seem to apply the same tranformation ration (240V vs 110V) to the price :p

        I guess that if I even I buy a US version and change the tranformer (++40 euros for a 70VA version) it will cost less than buying the european version from local distributors.

      • asdf says:

        Where do you live that you are charged €70-80 for delivery? You can get packages hand-carried to the moon for that. Eg. Dancap‘s price is about €126 without delivery (€105 + 20% UK VAT) which while more expensive than in the US isn’t completely unreasonable. When looking at US prices you should also keep in mind that in some places you will get charged an additional sales tax, and when importing from outside the EU you can get stung by import duties.

      • octal says:

        well, Dancap answered my mail. Their contract with HAKKO does not permit them to sell to France (only in UK in fact).
        Seems impossible to got the HAKKO 888 at France for less than 220 euros !!! crap

      • asdf says:

        Have you been in contact with Davum? I assume they don’t sell directly to end-users, but they can probably give you a list of retailers.

      • octal says:

        I contacted them via my (brother’s) company ;) They gave me the list of other european retailers, but none have it in stock or at least have prices. One of them sell it about 220 euros without shipping fees. I didn’t checked (from the list of retailer) the italian and the polish ones, as I can’t read their websites and I’ll never pay using my Visa card on sites from those countries (for very bad reputation they have on the web).
        that’s all :) (I’ll buy one from UK via a friend I think)

  17. Jay Wilkinson says:

    I’ll open mine from Adafruit after supper and look at it and poke it with a meter. Fry’s was cheapest last I checked at $85 no idea on freight.

  18. Jay Wilkinson says:

    So. Looking at the video at this part http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=rtlN0b-gkic#t=196s

    NOTE: IF YOU DO THESE TESTS UNPLUG YOUR SOLDERING IRON FIRST!

    I see all five of his primary transformer connections have a pin. On my US model only 1 – 2 – 5 have pins. I can post a pic of mine if needed. On mine I found the following:
    1 – 2 0.7ohms
    1 – 5 7 ohms
    2 – 5 7 ohms

    Line – Neutral (with switch on of course) 7 ohms
    A person in Dave’s chat room who was in the UK said his Line – Neutral was 35 ohms. But his official voltage is 230volts there. Not 240.

    Bottom Line: His iron has 2 extra taps on the primary side of the transformer that mine doesn’t BUT they aren’t used on his.

    Anyone else outside the US have one?

  19. Sleepwalker says:

    @Octal – for that price you could probably take the train, ferry or budget flight to the UK, grab the iron, see a few sites and come back with your fancy new iron in your suitcase.

  20. Rogier says:

    Has someone actually tried to convert the US model to a EU model? And what was your result?

    Did anyone get this in combo with a 220-110 transformer? Is this station worth going trough the trouble of an extra transformer?

  21. Sleepwalker3 says:

    I’d suggest if you’re in a 230 or 240V zone, that you just get the model for that area, mucking around with transformers and / or pulling things to bits, changing cords, etc. is just too much of hassle. You should be able to pick one up for a fair price somewhere.

    By the way, I still reckon the old Hakko 926 are a far better unit than all the later models and you can probably get one cheaper, though they weigh a heap. On ebay you’ll find a lot of just the iron part that says it’s for 926/936, etc. – the 936 iron was different and not as good in my opinion. The 926 has a white iron. You can still get genuine spares for the 926 too, from reputable trade dealers.

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