RE­VIEW Tenma Dig­i­tal Sol­der­ing Sta­tion


When I write a re­view it’s usu­ally based on rel­a­tively short-term us­age of the prod­uct: I may have had ac­cess to the item in ques­tion for a day or two and used a bat­tery of syn­thetic tests to make up for the short timescale, or I may have had it for a week or more and been able to get some real-life us­age data. This time, though, I’ve been us­ing the Tenma Dig­i­tal Sol­der­ing Sta­tion since March last year.

For years I’d been us­ing bar­gain-base­ment, fixed-tem­per­a­ture sol­der­ing irons, and when I fi­nally up­graded to a vari­able-out­put model, it was Maplin’s cheap­est re­branded Chi­nese im­port. It served me well, de­spite its lim­i­ta­tions, but af­ter see­ing an of­fer on a proper tem­per­a­ture-con­trolled sol­der­ing sta­tion, I was con­vinced that it was fi­nally time to up­grade.

Of course, if you’re a hob­by­ist, you al­most cer­tainly don’t a tem­per­a­ture-con­trolled dig­i­tal sol­der­ing sta­tion. Need, though, is rel­a­tive – and with this Tenma unit de­mand­ing a mere £20-ish pre­mium over a good qual­ity fixed-out­put iron, there are some rea­sons to con­sider it.

The first is how well it holds its tem­per­a­ture. Two killer prob­lems when it comes to sol­der­ing are not get­ting enough heat and get­ting too much of the same: not enough and the solder fails to flow prop­erly, giv­ing you badqual­ity joints; too much and you risk dam­ag­ing the PCB or com­po­nents. Worse, the tem­per­a­ture of your iron is rel­a­tive: the larger the area you’re sol­der­ing, the more heat it will suck away from the tip. A 25W iron will hap­pily solder a small pin into place, but not a load-bear­ing leg. Con­versely, a 60W iron may run too hot for smaller items but work fine for the load-bear­ing leg.

Cheap vari­able-out­put irons fix the toolit­tle and too-much heat prob­lem with a bit of trial-and-er­ror, but not the is­sue of rel­a­tive tem­per­a­ture. How­ever, sta­tions such as this Tenma unit con­stantly mon­i­tor the iron’s tem­per­a­ture, ad­just­ing their out­put to keep it stable so, in the­ory, they bring an end to tem­per­a­ture-re­lated sol­der­ing prob­lems.

That’s the best of the fea­tures, from a hob­by­ist per­spec­tive: it makes sol­der­ing eas­ier. An­other big sell­ing point is a large dis­play on the con­trol box with but­tons that

For the money, the Tenma Sol­der­ing Sta­tion is a con­vinc­ing up­grade from fixed­out­put irons

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