Some months ago I started searching for a good cheap soldering station on internet to add to my online store catalogue. I considered many brands like Hakko, Ersa, JBC, etc., they all reputable brands with very good quality products, but any soldering station from those brands seems to cost way more than my 100€ target.
After running out of possibility with big brands, I started digging in Asian market and identified two interesting brands: Quick a Xytronic.
I contacted a Quick reseller here in Italy, but at the end retail prices where more near to a JBC soldering station than what I was searching so I decided to (temporarily) give up and try with Xytonic.
Among the many models Xytronic produce I decided to test the Xytonic LF-3000, it has a heating power of 90W, uses High Frequency technology and you can still find it at 100-110€ circa here in Europe.
After unpacking the soldering station, you will soon notice that the whole body is completely made of aluminum. The only part made of plastic is the front panel where the led display and controlling buttons are located. A mechanical on/off switch can be used to cycle on/off the station or to recover from deep sleep.
This soldering station has an optional energy saver mode that will automatically lower the temperature tip to 100° C if the station has been idle for more than 20 minutes. The station stays in energy saving mode for other 20 minutes than completely turn off the heater. Anyway if you don’t like energy saving mode you can disable it from the configuration menu. You can also password lock the temperature setting and this is a function requested by production line. Last but not least Xytronic tell us the station is completely ESD safe.
In the back of the station you will find the mains power cord an earth jack and the fuse holder. The weight of the station is pretty decent and you certainly feel your money went in some heavy metal tool and not some crappy plastic.
The soldering iron stand is made of good quality hard plastic and it feels like very solid and durable. I would be more confident if it was made of steel or aluminum, but I really cannot complaint nothing about it.
As you can see from heating curve traced by my fluke 287 multimeter (fig. 5 and 6) warm up time from ambient temperature to 360° C is just 18 second. This is a pretty decent time and it will give us also an idea of what to expect like temperature recovery during soldering. The station overshoot a little bit (up to 400° C) during first warm-up and it need first two minutes to learn how much power it needs to keep tip at the preset temperature. After this learning time, temperature will be quite stable and it will overshoot just few degree during light soldering works and bit more with heavy soldering joints. Thermal mass of the bigger tips are quite adequate to quickly melt reasonable big joints even by setting the temperature tip at 230° C. I think overall temperature regulation is quite good as also recovery time.
Tips assortment includes all fundamentals and you can choose the ones you like from a range of 15 tips. Assortment includes different sizes of flat screwdriver and conical tips as also knife and column cut for drag soldering.
Using soldering iron is a pleasure, it’s light and the cord is soft and made of heat-resistant plastic. One of the most common problems with cheap soldering stations is that soldering iron pretty soon became hot and uncomfortable, but this will not be the case. I left iron on for two hours set to a temperature of 360° C and the handle temperature remains at a comfortable temperature of 35~36° C.
If you read the first part of the review you will already know that the case of the soldering station is completely made of aluminum. To access the internal you just need to unscrew the two screws that keep on the two lateral side of the case. Once gained access to the internal of the soldering station we can see that most of the space is occupied by the transformer (fig. 11). I found Xytronic a little paranoid about the number of shake-proof washer they used, everything is nicely bolted and secured like in airplane wings.
You will notice also a lot of cable wiring going everywhere and everything is just nicely crimped and strapped. Mains wires are all inside heat resistant sleeves and grounds wires are all attached with shockproof washer. Every piece of metal body has its own ground path and you will notice a good number of metal parts where the painting was not applied to warranty conductivity. I liked all this design: it will ensure not only grounding safety, but also EMI reduction (don’t forget this station use radio frequency to heat the soldering iron).
The main body of the soldering station is made of two parts, the top part contains the controller board, the lower the transformer. By disconnecting some molex connectors you can easily slide out the top part and separate the control panel by the transformer. This give us access to the control board that appears quite simple and 100% through hole technology. This means that apart from the MCU everything can be replaced and repaired. At first sight the PCB seems well-engineered with no afterthought. Overall quality seems very good and surely nothing was left to chance.
On the control board we can notice that Xytronic has used an ATmega88PA 8-bit AVR micro-controller. The “radio frequency generator” use a IRFP360 (23A 400V) Power MOSFET, thermally bonded directly to the aluminium soldering station case. All caps are Tocon and rated to 105° C (not the best brand but at least they are rated to the right temperature).
The transformer is a 230V 36V 3A unit and considering that the soldering station will not run always at it’s 100% power it should be quite adequate for the work. I run some test with a Kill A Watt like meter and it measured a peak power of 109W when the soldering iron was over a big heat-sink. Idle consumption is 6~7 W with a power factor of 0,86 when heating and more than 0,90 when idle.
The soldering iron is quite easy to disassemble and you just need to unscrew the plastic cap near the heating element. After undoing the cap everything slide out of the handle and you can access or replace the heating element (sold apart like spare parts).
I’m very satisfied by this soldering station and at a price of only 100€ it can compete quite well with other “low” price stations. Design is quite good, build quality seems to be almost like any top soldering station. Circuit is simple and apart from not having a schematics it seems to me very repairable. It is build like an aircraft and I bet more than a bear that will last for long time.
All this 90W power will help you to work faster and comes in really help when working with a multilayer PCB where soldering/desoldering operations can be challenging with a cheaper iron.
I think this is a good product for the price and if you cannot effort a 200€ (or more) for a professional soldering station this model can be a valid alternative.
Thanks for reading this post up to here and if you liked it please share with your fiends, comment it and let me know what you think. CIAO – Domenico