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Hakko FX-901 Cordless Soldering Iron
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Hakko FX-901 Cordless Soldering Iron

by IntelQube on Sat Jun 10, 2017 5:11 am

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The Hakko FX-901
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I've been using this soldering iron off and on for about half a year now and have been quite happy with it and wanted to share my experience with it.
When I first found this iron the $30* price tag and stellar reviews made it too difficult to resist, since the supposedly iron performed well and comes from an established brand in soldering tools.
Using four AA batteries, the FX-901 takes about half a minute to reach its non-adjustable 600F soldering temperature and hold it for a solid two hours**. The lack of temperature adjustability might be a deal-breaker for some, but I find the 600F perfectly adequate for my needs (typical hobbyist leaded solder, haven't tested with lead-free solder).
The tip is made of ceramic to prevent ESD and it seems to work in my experience. That is to say, I've never seen a static discharge while in use and/or fried any hardware or I just haven't encountered a discharge big enough by random chance. It's also replaceable with a tool-less mechanism. Hakko only officially offers two kinds of tips for the FX-901 a conical tip (default with iron) and a chisel tip. This may also be a deal-breaker for specialty work.
The cap for the tip disengages the power switch when attached.

The ergonomics are only okay, if discounting the convenience of cordlessness. The FX-901 isn't terribly bulky, but it is fairly larger and heavier than other irons so it takes a little getting used to. Also, the lack of any props, stands, or protrusions on the frame make it somewhat awkward set down if you don't have a soldering stand nearby. When placed flat down on any side the tip lies only ~1cm above and parallel to the surface on which the iron is resting. Not a problem for a hardy workbench but can discolor or warp other surfaces. Standing it up-right is also not recommended as the iron isn't stable can very easily tip over. On the plus side, there is a loop to attach a wrist-wrap.
I don't recommend this iron for absolute beginners, but it doesn't take a lot of experience to get to use it safely and effectively.

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Tip clearance on a flat surface.
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*When I bought this iron I also bought eight high-ish quality Ni-MH rechargeable AA batteries (Panasonic BK-3HCCA "Eneloop Pro") + charger which tacked on an additional ~$45 bringing up the final cost to about $75 for iron + charger + batteries. Having eight AA's allows me to work continuously for hours since I can cycle out sets of batteries as they discharge and recharge. I could have bought only four AA's which would've saved me about $18, but then I'd have to stop working to charge the batteries during extended soldering sessions.
**The Ni-MH batteries are really the only way to get the quoted two hour life span out of the iron. Otherwise, the FX-901 fairly quickly burns through non-rechargeable alkaline batteries which can be significantly more expensive over time. Four new alkalines get you a little over an hour of usage according to Hakko's marketing which is fairly accurate in my own testing.

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Basic disassembly
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This iron has now become my full-time iron. Take that with a grain of salt, my old iron was quite old and basically trash so really anything short of a blowtorch on a screwdriver would've been an upgrade for full-time replacement. This is despite its intended use-cases for quick in-the-field soldering jobs. The best possible user-experience (8 rechargeable AA's + charger) can really bring up the final cost from its deceptively inexpensive $30 base price and there are irons that can do more for less than ~$60-75. However, not having to deal with a cord has spoiled me and I would find it difficult to go back to a corded iron. I've had plenty of situations where bringing a project to my workbench was not possible or easy, so I would need to lug over my old corded iron, find an outlet to plug it in and a place to set the stand. If you're sick of this first world problem, this iron is for you.

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Please be positive and constructive with your questions and comments.