Through the Looking Glass
USB Soldering Iron Review
After watching Big Clive’s “USB soldering iron test and teardown with schematic” video, I went out and grabbed one of these things. Insteasd of 5$, I spent the 8$ to get it shipped from CA (the same state I live in). Note that all of the images in this post link to larger versions.
It finally showed up today:
I scrounged around for something to test soldering with; I came up with one of the NAND gate boards for a transistor-based computer I built at one point. I still had a few of the NAND boards lying around, and enough spare passives that I could slap it together real quick.
The coffee bag in the back is actually a backstop for leads that get clipped off, and also how I get through the day >.>.
The board has seven passives: two headers (one 2-pin, one 3-pin), a 4.7K resistor, two 10K resistors, and two NPN transistors. The 2-pin header, 4.7K resistor, and the transistor nearest that resistor I soldered using the USB soldering iron. The other parts I soldered with my trusty Sparkfun soldering station set to 175°C (about 350°F).
The end result; in the shot of the back of the board, the three leftmost parts were done with the USB soldering iron; in the shot of the top of the board, the three rightmost parts were done with the USB soldering iron.
As per the recommendation in the video, I used a USB power pack. Mine is a Satechi 10Ah pack that provides 2A on one port at 5V. My pack tends to go to sleep quickly if no power is being drawn.
The soldering iron seems to aggressively go to sleep.
It’s hard to turn on, and it’s hard to tell how to make it turn on. I usually just pressed on the metal button (which has no tactile sense at all) until the red indicator LED came on. Usually, I did this while turning on the power pack.
It seems to work okay for these small parts. The tip I got is decent enough for small work. I don’t know how well it would do for larger work.
This seems like a small, useful little tool to throw in my tool bag for when it’s unwieldy to break out the larger soldering station. For 8$ shipped, I feel like it was worth the price. Naturally, this is all based on about 30 seconds of actual soldering, so caveat emptor.